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

Welcome to the August 2022 Newsletter

Hello all, especially newcomers, and welcome to August's offering.  This month, as you scroll through, you'll see:

  • A bit of a theme of stories and storytelling, in different forms.
  • A way to bring more reflective practice into organisations and to honour the emotional elements of leadership.
  • Two podcasts, one with me as a guest of the wonderful Pete Clark where we talk about freedom, and my research on love  - and a second one (of mine) where I talk with Steve Hargreaves about the really practical work he does with compassion in organisations. Some lovely commonalities in these two as they both talk about the centrality of self love and self compassion. 
  • The importance of building a strong and comfortable base - a new blog on that theme.
  • And some amazing resources for those of wanting to develop our poetic parts...
And for me during this month:
  • I put on a gown and cap and headed to the Brighton Centre for the Graduation Ceremony of a group of students from Roffey Park’s MSc in People and Organisational Development.  Not normally a fan of pomp, it was a really moving experience and such an honour to have accompanied Susan, David, Gemma and Mireille for those 2 years - which were quite the ride.
  • There was a funeral.  For a lovely man.  And there are not that many people who could carry off Maya Angelou’s When Great Trees Fall.  But it felt just right for Bob.
  • I finally upgraded my phone and moved from an iPhone 8 with a broken screen to an 11 Pro Max.  Not only can I now type as fast as I could with my (beloved) Blackberry but the camera is a delight.  Almost all the photos I use here are mine and so you might notice some slightly better pics now.
  • Finally made it to see a Punchdrunk Show.  The Burnt City was amazing.  I didn’t know what was happening most of the time, which was part of what was so wonderful about it.  And in the queue, I got chatting to someone who was on his 13th visit of 45 booked tickets!  
  • And two weeks on Gower.  Staying in a friend’s caravan right on Rhossili beach, it’s (and you all surely know this by now!) my all time #HappyPlace.  Walks and swims and reading. And repeat.  Although a caravan in 34 degrees was not my best experience!
OK, so stay well, seek out moments of peace and ease, and I'll be back with more in September. 

Much love in the meantime.

Helena x

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New blog
Are you sitting comfortably...

I don’t really know if it’s true that the Dalai Lama said: the busier I am, the more time I make for meditation.  But it does feel right to me that the more complex our lives get the more important it is to pay attention to the small things, to our foundations, to where we might begin - to the micro ways we might find to bring in a bit more comfort and ease.

Tiny adjustments can make a huge difference to the way we show up, to our presence and our connectedness - and I have a new blog post that gives you three-things-for-presence that I’m focusing on right now for me and with my clients - and that you might try out too. 

You can read that piece HERE

Podcast - Love
with Pete Clark

Pete Clark and I are both Associates of a small consulting practice.  Pete is a Scot, living in Australia and we haven’t really connected or even really said hello in the two years or so I’ve been part of that group.  

But somehow, we learned we both had a podcast.  Let’s talk, we said!  I went first (my podcast with Pete as my guest is coming soon ... hopefully in September) and it turned out we had so much in common, so much to explore.

We started with 'what do we mean by freedom?' and then went on to explore putting joy at the centre of our lives, and how the importance of self-love shows up in our work over and over again.  I walk through the key findings of my research on love in organisations.  And find that the questions Pete asks me at the end take me completely by surprise!

Here's the episode, from Pete's website 21Whipsers.   

Podcast - Compassion
with Steve Hargreaves
And a second podcast for you.  This time, one of mine, and a great conversation it is too with Steve Hargreaves, whose book The Compassionate Leaders Playbook, forms the basis for our conversation. 

We explore how people respond to the word compassion, what it looks like in practice, how the workplace is full of suffering and the way that managers need to ask how they might be contributing to that, and how self compassion is absolutely the place to start.   Oh, and the chickens never did appear. 

I was travelling to Wales and had stopped off at my step-mum's to record this.  And so if you can tell I was perched on the edge of her spare bed, trying to get the microphone to stand up properly on her dressing table ... well, apologies!

And Steve mentions the great work on compassion that Meysam Poorkavoos did at Roffey Park and you can download that research report here.  

You can listen to the full episode HERE.  It's Episode 12. 
Schwartz Rounds
Part of my leadership development work is about finding ways for people to reflect on their practice – on the choices they make, on the ways they show up in their work, on the impact someone or something has had on them, on what they think and how they feel.

Hungry to find new ways to bring this into organisations, I have just finished my training as a Schwartz Rounds facilitator.  Schwartz Rounds are conversations with staff about the emotional impact of their work. Schwartz Rounds provide an opportunity for staff from all disciplines across an organisation, usually in healthcare, to reflect on the emotional aspects of their work.

It follows a particular structure. 

Three people (the ‘storyholders’) take about 5 mins each to tell a story from their working life.  These stories are based on a chosen theme for each Round.  Perhaps ‘someone who left an impact on me’ or ‘pushing against boundaries’ or ‘a time I felt stuck’ or ‘a time I was thanked’.  The brief is to convey the emotional impact within that story. 

After hearing all three stories, the audience - groups of maybe 20-30 or sometimes as many as 100 - reflect back, through a facilitator, what they heard in each story that resonated with something in their own work experience.

Schwartz Rounds are mostly used in healthcare setting, where reflective practice is part of the training, and where processing trauma and acknowledging feelings and working with the human aspects of work is so important. But I’d love to see how this approach could be applied in a non-health-based organisation, as part of leadership development.  Much of my work is supporting leaders to recognise the emotional component of their work and this could be such a powerful way to support that.  

You can learn more about Schwartz Rounds from the Point of Care Foundation
A poetry apprenticship
I’m not great at dealing with disappointment, truth be told.  Catastrophe and disaster, I’m better at. But setting out a plan, attaching myself to a particular outcome… and then that not happening… I find that harder to deal with.  I have to work hard at equanimity. 

So when I learned that neither of my applications for an MA in Poetry was successful, I was disappointed.  Although not surprised.  It was a VERY long shot indeed. 

I’ll try again next year.  And along the way l’ll do a few things, most of which have been booked in before the idea of an MA came my way.  I’m sharing them here in case any other (would be) poets might also be interested.
  • A week-long Poetry Camp in August with poets Tom Hirons and Rozi Hilton (still a couple of places available, I think)
  • A week-long poetry writing week at The Arvon Foundation in October.
  • A Summer School with storyteller Martin Shaw and The School of Myth  (see his book below) next June.
  • Some 1:1 mentoring with eco-poet Helen Moore, whose class last year sparked all this off in me.
And when I wonder 'why poetry', I think I'll turn to this, from Ben Myers, written by one of his characters in The Offing:

'Trust me when I say that everything you’ve ever felt has been experienced by another human being before you.  You may not think so but it’s true.  That’s what poetry is.  It exists to remind us of this very fact. Poetry is mankind’s way of saying we are not entirely alone in the world; it offers a voice of comfort to resonate down through the ages like a lone foghorn’s mournful call in the nautical night. Poetry is a stepladder between the centuries from ancient Greece to tomorrow afternoon.'

Lovely, no?
A Way of Being Free
by Ben Okri

A Way of Being Free

The old storytellers were the first real explorers and
frontierspeople of the abyss.  They brought the word within
our souls. They made living within and without as one...
And I think now, in our age, in the mid-ocean of our days, 
with certainties collapsing about us and with the dark
descending nights ahead - I think that now we need those
fictional old bards and fearless storytellers, those seers.
We need their magic, their courage, their love and their fire
more than ever before.  It is precisely in a fractured, broken age
that we need mystery and a reawakened sense of wonder.
We need them in order to be whole again. We need to be reminded 
of the primeval terror again.  We need to be humble again.
We need to go down to the bottom, to the depths of the heart
and start to love all over again as we have never lived before.

​​Ben Okri

Some good reads
Well, I’ve been on holiday, with no WiFi for a couple of weeks and so this is rich pickings.

Fiction first?  Both Still Life, by Sarah Winman and Crow Lake, from Mary Lawson were excellent.  About human beings, and how our pasts trail behind us shaping us every step of our way.  And The Offing, from Ben Myers was a delight from start to finish  If you love nature, enchantment and stories of how two people can unexpectedly shape each other, you’ll like this.  And Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmun was a treat, from start to finish.

Also Second Place from Rachel Cusk and The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller.  I didn’t love either of these and they ended up being books I finished because I’m the kind of gal who finishes a book.  Not that they weren’t good – they just weren’t (for me) all that great.

And then work(ish).  Take a look at Coming Home to Story, from Geoff Mead.  I bought this because I had heard Geoff describe it as a book about stories that went beyond the ‘hero’s journey’ version of stories, which are so limited in their scope and don’t really reflect the rarity of a happy-ever-after life.  It’s a wonderful read.

And while we’re on stories, we can also include myth with Smokehole from Martin Shaw.  Another strongly worded call for why we desperately need the old stories to help us with the life we’ve ended up with today.

And then Enchantment: Wonder in Modern Life, from Patrick Curry.  If you enjoyed Barbara Frederickson’s Love 2.0 you might like this too.  Exploring how modern life will draw us into disenchantment, if we let it, this explores the many places and spaces that can keep us connected to wonder. 
And at work
Not so much of it this month as the balance was tilted towards holiday.  But nevertheless:
  • The final few of those wonderful Modern Leader workshops for a client that I have loved so much (and have gone down SO well) and starting to scope out the next phases of the work with them.
  • A new coaching client - a CEO, who from the start was clear he wanted to find someone for a long term relationship to support him in a big new role. That's so rare - for someone to be so clear about the value of having a thinking partner beyond the short-term. 
  • A new Action Learning set with a big consulting firm.  We started by telling our stories using: 'where were you born', 'where are you in the sibling order, 'what has shaped you to become the person you are today'  and 'what's the strangest job you've ever done'. As ever, the group loved it and commented how rare it is (ie never) to spend time getting to know each other as human beings before diving into ‘work’. Yes, they said.  This IS the work.
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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