Helena Clayton Newsletter - View this email in your browser
Leadership Developer • Coach & Facilitator • Writer

Welcome to the May 2022 Newsletter

Hello there, and I hope all's well?

I hope you enjoy what's in the Newsletter this month.  There's a wonderful podcast conversation with Stefan Cantore;  a new blog on how OD might be a healing influence in organisations; a reflection on what I (maybe you too?) need to do to keep sane in these very difficult (and not getting easier) times;  a new model to replace VUCA that I'm finding really useful and, as ever, a poem and some great books and podcasts.  

It's been another gentle month for me.  I kept a couple of weeks free of work as we were expecting Dom's first knee replacement (postponed due to Covid) so I found myself with space and time.  Although I ended up with a couple of short calls each day which meant I couldn't do much other stuff.  Bad planning!  But some good walk on the Downs and some swims and plenty of yoga. 

And as it often does,  the quiet also brings up for me an ongoing question: who am I without my work? I love what I do and I generally do a lot of it.  A big part of my identity is caught up in that. So I'm enjoying the space to ponder that.

I also had Covid and the post-viral-needing-to-rest reminded me of when I had CFS way back.  I can really feel it after a walk or a swim and it's reminding me to feel deep gratitude for my health!  

My exploration of poetry continues even though the City Lit course has finished.  Both reading and writing. I've booked onto a week-long writing workshop in the autumn at Arvon, and also this wonderful poetry camp with Tom Hirons in August. 

And hopefully, when you're reading this, I'll be having a week's downtime in a friend's caravan right on the beach in Gower. A favourite place.  No wifi, plenty of books and long walks.  A reset. 

See you in June ... and much love in the meantime.

Helena x

I'd love to hear from you, by the way.  You can email me using this link.  I read everything, and always reply.  And if you received this email from a friend, and would like to subscribe, please go here.

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A conversation with Stefan Cantore

I think you'll love this conversation with Stefan.  He's someone I've known for a while and he has always challenged my thinking.  Stefan is an academic and a Big Thinker. He's also an OD practitioner and a Christian. And a writer.  And so much more.  And he has things to say about love in organisations. 

In this energising episode, we talk about:

  • our hunger for greater intimacy in our lives and how we might create conversational spaces in organisations to meet that need
  • how love in organisations is radical and a disruptor, especially to power
  • the role forgiveness plays in developing connections between us
  • the importance of getting to know - and sharing - the many parts of us including the wounded child, the hurt teenage or the workaholic
  • how love is contagious and the impact that 'being more like John' could have ...

  You can listen here... Season: 2 - Episode: 5

If you like the podcast, please do share with other podcast listeners you might know - and let them know they can subscribe via Apple or Spotify.  As can you, of course :-) 

How do I stay sane?
I notice I have two strong pulls right now. 

First, towards the horrendous stuff that's happening in the world: the likelihood of 3 degrees of global warming; tortured bodies dug up in Ukraine; stories of daily hardship of the choice between heating or eating; the prospect of the Rwandan scheme.  Many people say they can't look at it.  I get that, I really do.  But I have to.  I can't not.  For me, I think we need to bear witness to the horrors and trauma and grief as a way to honour what people are experiencing.  And also not cauterise emotions that might be deemed negative

But I can only do that if I respond to the other pull. I can only do it if I intentionally amplify love, wonder, delight and gratitude.  The pull towards the delights of the mundane and the sacred, really revelling in ... homemade (not by me!) semolina gnocchi; the thrill of a bouncy sea swim; laughing like a drain at Derry Girls; my electric blanket on my cold feet; putting some stuff into the food bank;  the stunning colours of the tulips we planed last year; a belly-laugh with a friend...   This stuff matters equally.  

When I come up (hard) against wondering how I can make a difference, or what use I am (perhaps not much), I keep coming back to the importance of an intentional focus on joy and love, awe and wonder, gratitude and delight. I remind myself of what I wrote a year ago about joy and its links with love (worth reading for the wonderful poem in there) And  I find others also have plenty to say on this:
  • Like Ben Okri who advocates for 'the importance of 'creativity at the end of time' and for 'a special kind of love for the world, the love of those who discover the sublime value of life because they are about to lose it'.
  • And Sadhguru, a guest on Jonny Wilkinson's podcast who says even when you're carrying a heavy load, if you really want to be good to life around you it's really important to be joyful. In fact, 'the only thing people expect from you is that you're a joy to be with - what else do they expect from you ... they want to experience the joy of being with you' and not the weight of your heavy load. 
  • Hermann Hesse (via Brain Pickings) who advocates focussing on '...many other small joys, perhaps the especially delightful one of smelling a flower or a piece of fruit, of listening to one’s own or others’ voices, of hearkening to the prattle of children. And a tune being hummed or whistled in the distance, and a thousand other tiny things from which one can weave a bright necklace of little pleasures for one’s life'.
  • Anne Lamott who goes quantum with the view that, in the face of horror,  every small act of generosity or kindness adds something good to the energetic field.  She says 'I’ll shake my head with wonder, which I do more and more as I age, at all the beauty that is left and all that still works after so much has been taken away'. 
  • Joanna Macy when she says that joy, gratitude, awe and wonder have to be amplified and magnified in our lives, now that so much is collapsing around us.. 
  • Professor Jem Bendell's work with Deep Adaptation which anticipates climate collapse, recognising we might be 'entering a period where there will be more disruption and less ability to control, or to think or to pretend that we can control' and stresses the vital importance of connecting with joy and love in such times.
  • Margaret Wheatly when she says that even if we're only creating small islands of sanity around us then that's enough. In fact, it's more than enough when it's realistically the only thing we can do. 
So. Keep your eyes on the tough stuff.  Don't look away. Face into it. Take responsibility.  Step up.

And also do EVERYTHING YOU CAN can to amplify the delights and giggles, moment of joy and moments of connection, deep gratitude for all that you have, wonder at the very fact that you're alive right now, and (probably) have all your fingers and toes and hot running water, watch the daftest box set and love every moment ... it really matters. 

It doesn't matter what you do to keep sane.  Only that you keep doing it.  
Healing in organisations
I often say that I'm interested in 'developing organisational cultures that do more good than harm'.   I see a lot of cultures that have some pretty shocking practices. 

OD is considered part of the helping professions and with an underpinning assumption of supporting people and organisations to put more back in than we take out, consider regenerative practices and find post traumatic growth. 

Going further, in this piece I ask what might OD have to think about and do differently if we went a step further.  What if we we were focused on healing?  Healing means 'to make whole again', to repair and includes a therapeutic component as well as spiritual dimension.  

So in OD, what if we thought of ourselves as enabling healing?  As healers? What might that add to the ways we currently work?  What might we gain from adopting the role or mindset of healer within or with an organisation? 

Are you drawn to that idea?  Or do you think no way?  Either way, you can read this piece here
Blocks t0 Love - free event 17 May
LAST CALL for this event, which is almost full (and with such a great mix of people, I can see). I've started to pull together what I want to cover - and really enjoying the planning. 

Designed for anyone in a change role, perhaps an OD role or a senior leadership position... those who: 
  • want to build in more humanity in the workplace and wondering what's getting in the way of that
  • lead change in organisations and wondering why it's stuck or sticky
  • wonder why (the heck) it's so hard to talk about love (or even care and compassion) at work
  • want to understand the hidden aspects of their organisation so that they can influence change.
You can find details and sign up here.
Brittle and Anxious

Many of us used to introducing groups to the idea of wicked problems, complexity and emergent change use the VUCA framework.  But I've started using a different model alongside that one, and one that really resonates with groups. It moves things on a bit. You could say that we've moved on from a VUCA world to a BANI world. 

BANI stands for Brittle, Anxious, Non-Linear and Incomprehensible.  So you can see how it fits with a VUCA conversation.  But for me, in explicitly exploring Brittle and Anxious, it brings something different.  Not least, and vitally important, with Anxious, it allows us to explore the fear that's increasingly at play in our organisations but rarely gets acknowledged let alone discussed.  

You can read more about it here
Still Possible, by David Whyte

Back in January, when I had a few days of deep hibernation in a shepherd's hut in Wales I took David Whyte's new book of poetry with me and I have such lovely memories of reading it by the light of a log burner.

Here's a section from the poem that gives the book its name.  It's the first stanza and the final one - and there's such beauty in between...

Still Possible

It is still possible to be kind to yourself, 
to drop constraints and fall often
to your knees.  It's not too late now, to bow
to what beckons, the  world still swimming
around you as you kneel transfigured
by what sweeps on.  It's still possible
to leave every fearful former self
in the wake of newly-heard words
issuing from astonished mouths.
It's still possible in the end
to realise why you are here
and why you have endured, 
and why you might have suffered
so much, so that in the end, 
you could witness love miraculously
arriving from nowhere, crossing
bravely, as it does, 
from that great and spacious stillness
inside you, to the simple
light-filled life of being said.


I can't find the poem online - it looks like you'll have to buy the book to read the whole thing.  But it's worth it, IMO and  you can buy the book here.  

Books and Podcasts
And talking of books ...

Personal Consultancy explores the growing connections in 1:1 work between coaching and therapy.  Historically, coaches have clearly drawn a line between their territory and that of the therapist.  But more and more coaches find that it's an artificial and unnecessarily hard line.  This book takes the approach that there can be a helpful blend of the two approaches and looks as how coaching can integrate therapeutic approaches without being therapy.   

For fiction, The Book of Form and Emptiness from Ruth Ozeki is about someone who hears voices and Ozeki's researched 'perplexing states and unshared experiences'.  I love that description.  And then Kazuo Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun dips into what it means to be human - and I'm finding that Klara hasn't yet left me - such a wonderful character. 

And a good new-to-me podcast with Simon Western - Edgy Ideas.  I especially liked #31 with Joan Lurie on the ways we need to be organisational ecologists and less psychologists; #23 with Richard Claydon on how we've created such absurd working systems for ourselves; and #20 with Gianpiero Petriglieri on humanizing the workplace. 

Needless to say that I've come away this week with way more books than I could possibly get through. I'll bring you best of them next month. 
And at work
A relatively quiet month, what with Easter too and highlights included: 
  • a couple of new coaching clients including in a sector that's quite new to me
  • scoping out a possible new offering exploring intimacy and connection in organisations - building on the Love Lab session I ran the other month. I'm very excited about this one!
  • the final day of an OD programme in the Civil Service, one of my favourite pieces of work
  • designing and thinking about the Blocks to Love event coming up in May
  • Action Learning sets with a group of Partners in a consulting firm providing much valued reflective space.  They say they never get the chance to be and think 'unedited' together and they're loving it.
  • and three days of the final module of my systemic constellations training... and I've signed up for Part 2 which starts in June.  
And if you think a conversation about how I might support you, work-wise, might be useful, please do get in touch.  You know where I am on Twitter and LinkedIn, or connect via Email. Or call me of course, whichever suits.

Thank you for reading
Helena x

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