Helena Clayton Newsletter



Leadership Developer • Coach & Facilitator • Writer



Welcome to the April 2024 Newsletter

Even though the still-hammering rain and winds keep me in my winter coat, my first tulips showed themselves to be trusting of the Spring. And it's true. It won't be denied. This last weekend has given us some hope for a bit of dry weather ...



I've kept this Newsletter a little shorter than last month. It was very long.  I had 6 Unsubscribes, which has never happened before, so I think I might have bored the pants off some people.  If you do go (and I'm sure you will at some point) if you could spare a minute to tell me why, I would really appreciate it.  

But as you're here now, you might as well keep reading, don't you think ...:-)

If you do, you'll find:

  • a new solo episode of my podcast - an experiment that I quite enjoyed.  Let me know what you make of it.  
  • something about transitions and how we let go of (or move on from) versions of ourselves that we are outgrowing.
  • two things about change: how wolves help us understand it, plus a model for looking at change in terms of what needs hospicing and what needs a midwife.
  • a reminder of the impact of Boarding School and the 'psychological trauma of the 'privileged' child'.
  • and as ever, a poem, some great reads and a quick update on current work. 

I'll be with you in May and hopefully casting some clouts by then. In the meantime, keep your eyes on all the beauty in the world. 

With love
Helena x


Who Am I Becoming?



For many of my coaching clients, the question of 'who do I want to be?' also has an element of 'and who am I becoming?'. I like this, not least because it invites us to notice and be curious about what's happening in us and for us regardless of conscious effort to bring anything particular about. 

It reminds me too about the focus in systemic constellations work on the emerging future with the implication that the system itself has an organic and natural movement towards what it needs. 

For those sorts of conversations, I often find Harthill's Leadership Development Framework helpful, with its focus on our development momentum, the transition we might be in, how our context is shaping the current version of us, and what might be ready to emerge

And then I read this article in the Guardian about people whose identity had been pretty fiercely formed around something - and then who had changed, and changed their relationship to it.  And while the focus of this article is on influencers of some sort, I'm also thinking about ways that we each might become very attached to who we are and how it then feels when it seems that we no longer are that person.  The article is called the 'influencers who pivoted', and I wonder about those first moments when they realised they were changing and that they'd need to go public on that change. 

I think I might be feeling the first stirrings of a change in identity myself.  What wants to emerge and who am I becoming feel good questions for me to sit with this year. 


Acts of Love for Tough Times



As you know, I'm now running Acts of Love for Tough Times as a monthly session.  Dates below.  And (always) free. 

You still have time to book onto the April session, which will focus on the connections between love, grief and joy.

And the May session is also now open for booking - exploring how boundaries and generosity are forms of love. 


Please do spread the word by sharing the details - I'd love to see this community grow and I know how much people say they appreciate the space and the conversations. 


Love: a new podcast episode



It was an experiment. And overall, it went well. 
On my podcast, I talk to some wonderful people about love and its role in leadership. This month, I had a go at my first solo episode.  Just me.  I'd drafted some notes and reckoned it might be 25 mins.  It ended up being closer to 40 mins.
At the end, I said to my wonderful podcast producer: ‘how was that, Sam.  OK…?’
And he said ‘yes, great’.  Then paused and said: ‘er ... and would you mind if I edited a little bit…?’ 

So if you fancy (now less than) 40 mins about how I ended up exploring love in the first place; how it feels very different now to be talking about than it was back in 2017; what my original 2019 research told us about what love looks like in an organisational setting; and then what I am seeing now as forms of love that we need to cultivate for these tricky times we find ourselves in ... you can listen to it here. 

I'll be doing a follow up solo episode soon on the difference more love makes, as well as the blocks to love and why exploring how we might have more love is (understandably) problematic.



Wolves and change



Running a senior leadership programme recently and exploring 'system leadership' and the challenges of trying to change or create movement in a complex system that has many entangled and moving parts ... we introduced the group to things like adaptive action, and the principles of emergent change.  

Plus we used this short video clip about what happened when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park as a jumping off point for some discussion about experiments and 'next adjacent steps' and the importance of seeing actions as being as much about research and learning as about progress and change. 


'When disasters hit, it invites out the best parts of us'

Rebecca Solnit



My husband was sent to Boarding School at 8 years old.  Until about 15 years ago, he thought he'd been lucky and privileged in that regard.  He's since connected with a very different story which feels much more true: that the experience did grave and long lasting damage to him.  

I often talk about this when I talk about love.  That we assume that we can all be more loving - or we can all let love in -  if we just try harder.  But there are some experiences that are so traumatic to us that they get in the way of us doing that.  

You can read a bit more about that in my Leading from Love research. But you can get a much deeper understanding of it by following the work of Nick Duffell , Piers Cross (like this interview he's just done with Charles Spencer, for example) ,or Joy Shaverein, whose Boarding School Syndrome: the psychological trauma of the 'privileged' child'  is one of the most accessible and helpful books on the subject. 

Also, follow Sara WarnerKaren MacMillan and Amelia White on LinkedIn, they also explore how this is similar-and-different for girls who were boarders. 

You might wonder if this is relevant to you if, for example, you're not married to an early boarder, as I am.  But once you learn how many senior leaders in our organisations and in political positions went to boarding school, it might make you want to take a look.  



'There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.'

Albert Einstein


The Two Loop model



Part of my work in leadership and organisational development is working with systems in change.  Either supporting people who are trying to lead and make sense of what's happening in the middle of that change.  Maybe supporting leaders in trying to nudge a system in a particular direction.  Or leaders who are trying to find their right place in the system, in order to best be useful.

Some of you will also have spotted that I have a growing interest in death and dying, in endings, grief and letting go, at an individual, organisational and systemic perspective.  So when I was introduced to Emily Bazalgette (thank you David...) and she introduced me to the Two Loop model from the Berkana Institute, I recognised something that felt deeply familiar and also useful. It sits well with Theory U and the stuff about emergent change, but I like that it specifically makes room for exploring what's dying, and what needs to be hospiced. 

There's an article about it here and here.  

Two other things:
1. The Berkana Institiute is also the home to Meg Wheatley's Warriors of the Human Spirit training.
2. The next podcast I'm recording will be with Emily exploring the connection between love and grief. 



'Social movement require social movers'

Barrett Emerick





To come home to yourself

May all that is unforgiven in you
Be released.

May your fears yield 
Their deepest tranquilities.

May all that is unlived in you
Blossom in a future
Graced with love. 

John O'Donohue


Good reads



Just couldn't get on with The Whalebone Theatre, so abandoned it and dropped it into the charity shop.  But really loved On The Beach by Nevil Shute after hearing about it on A Good Read while driving to Stratford upon Avon.  Then Yellowface, also good, about literary fraud, recommended by a friend who only reads crime fiction. And finally Tara Westover's Educated that I just couldn't put down. 

I'm fundamentally lazy.  If my Book Group wasn't three doors down from where I live, I really would have stopped going years ago.  But I've been going round to my neighbours house (usually in my slippers) for 10 years now (and it was going 10 years before I joined) and still love it.  We take it in turns to choose a book, and we bring food featured in the book. So I just finished Gina's choice,  A Spell of Good Things, from Ayobame Adebayo.  Excellent, although the title could have easily been A Spell of Really Bad Things. 

And for another book group (an online one - the one I read The Myth of Normal with) it's Citizens by Jon Alexander.  Half way through and whilst I like the idea of the book, I'm not sure about it as a book yet.  I'll let you know. 



And at work



I'm having to find adjectives other than 'busy' when asked how I am because my work is still quieter than it's ever been.  That's no bad thing, definitely. I haven't been happy with my working patterns for a time but lacked the courage (or something) to change them.  It seems I'm now getting a taste of a more balanced working life - and I rather like it. 

March had modules in Oxford and London for two leadership programmes I'm involved in with Senior Civil Servants.  One is for senior women leaders and we had two very senior women in public life come and join us for the day.  This was especially wonderful as we had said to the women: 'who do you want to hear from, how will you reach them, and how will you get them to come'. They did it all. Strategic networking in action. 

Another module with a global charity on a bespoke Leading from Love programme, working with a group across Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi as well as the UK, which ensures we work with perspectives and sources from Africa.

Plus plenty of coaching and coaching supervision. Have I already said how much I'm enjoying the supervision work?  I have two spaces available if you're a corporate coach and looking for a supervisor.  Do get in touch if you'd like an exploratory conversation.


Do get in touch and let me know how you're finding these Newsletters, or if you'd like to see more info on anything I could include.   I love hearing from you.  You know where I am on LinkedIn, or connect via Email. Or call me of course, whichever suits.

Helena x

07771 358 881

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