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

Welcome to the Feb 2023 Newsletter

Well, we've made it into February and that's got to be celebrated right?!

You last heard from me when I was halfway up a Welsh mountain in a little cabin with no wifi or phone signal.  And it was pretty special.  Scroll down for some reflections on where it took me.

Food has been a huge theme for me  this month, with lots of good stuff coming out of our kitchen ...hasselback potatoes, celeriac & cauliflower soup, aubergine parmigiana, lentil & black pudding stew, chicken & barley stew and discovering pears baked with cinnamon - a more-than-daily thing. 

I've also hit an energy wall. This last week or so has been like someone's pulled the plug.  I think it's just seasonal.  And also maybe because I have less work this month than I've had in 12 years of freelancing - and so I'm adjusting to the space. It's not unpleasant - far from it - but it is quite new and that makes it interesting.  But I'm still swimming and eating heaps of veg and so I'm confident I'll perk up at some point. 

To start the year well - so well! - a group of 12 people joined me for a wonderful experience at the Love Lab.  And if you couldn't make that date, I'm running a second one in July - details below.  We'll be aiming once again for what one participant described as 'a proper grown-up exploration of love'.  

And in this month's Newsletter, you'll find a couple of new love-based events (as it does feel like it's time to get a bit more vocal and perhaps public about how love might help us live with the mess, difficulty and chaos were in).  Also, some very helpful models and frameworks to help us make sense of the complexity of what's happening in the world.  Some great reads, a wonderful artist, a call to get more women into politics and the importance of silence. 

I hope you find something here that interests you - and drop me a line to let me know if there's anything you want more of. 

In the meantime, hold on tight to those around you and I'll see you in March. 

Helena x

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Anger - and action

Maya Angelou once said: 'if you're not angry you're either a stone or you're too sick to be angry.  You should be angry.  And you use that anger'.

I've long spoken about how anger is form of love, and you can read a post I wrote a while back on that here.

And there are many ways we can respond when we're angry.  Many ways to act. Many ways to use that anger.  One of which is to go way upstream. And start to put things in place that will have an impact on policy and practice down the line.  Having more women in politics and in political office is one of those things.

And so take a look at the work that Elect Her do. Their mission is to get women into 51% of elected official roles, and to equip women with the knowledge, confidence, and skills they need to stand for political office.

They say: 'we work across the political spectrum, and welcome women from all backgrounds and beliefs, representing all parties and none. Representation is important. Politics doesn’t work unless it really reflects and represents communities. It’s time for a different type of politics. We believe the world will be a better place when more women are in power. We are a tiny but mighty team of women across Britain committed to building a world where at least 51% of elected officials are women.

Our workshops give you everything you need to know to start your journey in politics. Are you intimidated by the idea of standing for election? Are you thinking it’s probably too expensive or too time-consuming? Are you telling yourself you don’t have the qualifications? We’d love to change your mind! Our free workshops demystify the process, empower you to take your first step and continue to support you as you progress in politics'.

Take a look.  What they do really matters.

Love, for Tough Times

Many of us find ourselves looking at the world around us and wondering what the hell's happening, and how is this possibly going to have much of a happy ending?   Sometimes, we immediately head to Netflix in search of some soothing.  I know I do.  And other times, we might ask 'and what can I do to make a difference - what's my part to play in all of this?'

I have no idea how I answer that.  But I am clear that love is one sane and appropriate way to face into what's coming - and what's already here.  When we can't change or even influence things, there's still much we can do to create 'islands of sanity' around us.

Come along to a FREE event exploring:

  • in what ways might love - and acts of love - be a valuable contribution to these times?
  • what forms, acts and expressions of love are we talking about here?
  • where are the edges of your love - what will you and won't you do for love?

2 hours, online, on 23 March.   Would be great to have you along,  and you can sign up here

Doug Shaw

This gorgeous image is from Doug Shaw, a wonderful artist who came along to the Love Lab.

A proper original thinker, Doug's a multi-disciplinary artist working with a range of materials, techniques, and surfaces. He's currently exploring the theme of connectedness, from the hyper local perspective of the daily walk to his art studio, through to and beyond the ‘wood wide web’, a complex underground web of roots, fungi and bacteria helping to connect trees and plants to one another. He works in his studio, and on client locations all over the world helping people see what can be gained from 'thinking more like an artist'.  And YES he does commissions. See more here ...

Understanding the biggest picture

I often work with senior leaders supporting them with leading complex change / leading in complexity.  As part if that, there's generally an exploration of how the world is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.  The VUCA model has been a really useful frame for that conversation for years. It really helps leaders get the fact that the state we're in is (generally) a predicament we need to find a way to live with and not necessarily a problem to be fixed or solved.  

These days, I add a new frame to that - one that explores the VUCA-ness of things slightly differently and updates it with some new language.   People really get it.  Really identify with it and find it useful.  BANI from future thinker Stephan Grabmeier adds in the words brittle, anxious, non-linear, and incomprehensible as way to work with a 'chaos that is worse than VUCA'.   

Another term I'm finding increasingly helpful is the 'polycrisis' -  to describe a time 'when crises in multiple global systems become causally entangled in ways that significantly degrade humanity’s prospects'.  An article from the World Economic Forum is here, and here's also a good short talk from Eric Garza and a few slides from him too, as well an article from the Cascade Institute. 

I'm always looking for ways to raise the gaze of leaders up and out and really help them see what the biggest picture is.  If you have any way you'd be willing to share, I'd love to hear from you. 

Writing a book

Well, not quite writing a book.  And maybe never.  But just maybe the first step towards the possibility of a potential book!  Maybe.

For Christmas, a wonderful friend bought me a ticket for the 10 Day Book Proposal Challenge run by Alison Jones of Practical Inspiration. Joy had been through this process herself when she wrote Don't Fix Women last year and knew how useful it was.

It coincided with two weeks of very intense client work.  And between that and sense of 'and what have I got to say anyway', I would almost certainly have bailed out half way if it hadn't have been a gift.

But I didn't.  And now I have a book proposal.  Yes, a scrappy one that still needs more work.  And true, I think it might be two books and not one.  But done is better than perfect and I'm delighted with where I got to. 

So this is me saying that if you even think you have an IDEA about a non-fiction book and want a structure that holds your hand, with some great feedback and support along the way, then do take a look at what Alison has to offer.  I can really recommend it.  It next runs in April.

Protecting Space
So yes, those 4 nights in my little Welsh cabin were a gift.  Not least because of the silence.   Which I'm increasingly needing, I notice. 

I mean it wasn't silent. I had howling winds. There was a regular blackbird and a very chatty tawny owl.  The sound of the log fire. The little stream just outside.  But to not hear my own voice was wonderful.  Not to have to speak at all. To anybody.  About anything.  For 4 days.  Bliss. 

I often start meetings or coaching sessions with a few minutes of sitting together in silence. Almost everyone says how much they needed it, and how counter cultural it is. When someone arrives at an 0930 meeting and tells you it's their fourth one of the day, a few minutes of silence is good medicine. 

So you might like Sara Maitland's book exploring her relationship with silence.  I might re-read it myself. And also Pablo Neruda's glorious poem Keeping Quiet on the impact more silence could have. 
Events and Worshops
As I said above, I have a date for a second Love Lab, and it's 
6 July.  Full details are here and I'd really appreciate it if you could ping it around your network and share news of it. If you want a feel for it, a participant from Jan emailed me last week and said it was 'the most inspiring and thought provoking experience which has continued to positively irritate my mind ever since!  It has caused me to think, reflect and act with a stronger sense of purpose and connection as a partner, coach, consultant, mother, daughter and friend'. 

 that book proposal?  I have no idea if I'll ever write the book.  But I AM committed to keep talking about the state of the world we find ourselves in, how difficult it is to know what to do and how to play our part -  and to firmly advocate for love as the only sane response.  Acts of Love for Tough Times.  Come and join me.  A FREE online event running 23 March, 9-11am, and you can sign up here

Matt and I still have some spaces on our 16 March workshop on Working with Complex Change and we've decided to keep the Early Bird price for another week or so.   A really useful workshop for anyone in the middle of change in organisations (and frankly, who isn't) introducing a range of practical tools and lenses from the field of systemic constellations that are rarely used in organisations - and are very helpful. Details are here

And you know how much I value shadow work, both personally and professionally.  Well, there are a few spaces remaining 3/4 March at Emerson College on a shadow weekend with the wonderful Liz Remande and her colleague Nick Klyne. It'll be wonderful.  More details here (scroll down - second one on the list).  

In Praise of Craziness of a Certain Kind

On cold evenings
my grandmother,
with ownership of half her mind - 
the other half having flown back to Bohemia -

spread newspapers over the porch floor
so, she said, the garden ants could crawl beneath,
as under a blanket, and keep warm,

and what shall I wish for, for myself,
but, being so struck by the lightning of years,
to be like her with what is left, that loving.

Mary Oliver

A few good reads 
In the cluster in the picture, only Ritual was new - but it linked very much to the other two.  All about how ritual and doing things together contributed to social cohesion and to a sense of belonging. 

And for those of you who like a bit of Margaret Wheatley, Joanna Macy, Satish Kumar, Jem Bendell ... on the state of the world and how we might respond, you might like At Work in the Ruins from Dougald Hine.  It's excellent. 

And yes, I read Spare.  I know.  Drawn in to the soap-opera-ness of it all, for sure, but also the historic moment it represents, as well as the psychological study of someone massively damaged by the trauma of death and still living it today. 

In The Country of Men from Hisham Matar was a beautiful and sad read.  The story of boy in Libya, during the brutal regime of Libya.  One line really struck me: ‘How readily and thinly we procure these fictional selves, deceiving the world and what we might become, if only we hadn’t got in the way, if only we had waited to see what might have become of us'. 

Bewilderment from Richard Powers was also excellent.  Exploring climate and biodiversity collapse but also the relationship between a man and his neurodiverse son.  Loved it. 

And loved it less, but a decent bedtime read was my first JoJo Moyes, The Giver of Stars.  
And at work
A busy start to January, the first two weeks, and then some space.  I am quieter than I have been in over 12 years of working for myself.  No bad thing, of course! But what's lovely is that the work I have is all so interesting:
  • A series of workshops exploring empowerment, finishing 15 months of senior leadership development with my global manufacturing client.  Seriously joyful as well as impactful.
  • Designing a new women's leadership for a Civil Service department, and getting ready for Module One of another senior Civil Service leadership programme, this one focusing on 'systems leadership'. 
  • Supporting an OD team in a County Council as they explore culture change within the leadership of Residential Children's Services. 
So that's me for February - and I'll see you in early March.  Thank you for reading, and for being here. Oh, and there's a chance I might move this Newsletter onto Substack at some point this year, just to give you a heads-up. 

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.

Helena x

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