What if we could turn off that critical voice inside our heads?
What if we there were no limits?
What if we were our own best friend?
What if we embraced that fear and asked what’s next?
What if we realised how resilient and capable we are?
What if we recognised our own value?
What if we lived up to our possibilities?
What would we say? What would we do? Who would we surround ourselves with?
Who would we listen to? Who would we not listen to? How would we behave? What could we achieve?
With renewed energy and time to reflect, it all seems so possible. And then we return to our busy schedules, copious emails and conflicting demands and it can feel overwhelming to think about change when so much already depends on your attention.
At Counterculture, we’re very lucky to work across the sector with incredible individuals, teams and organisations. We see people at their best, flying high when the role or the project fits; and when it’s tricky or the fit isn’t right, still achieving great things, but often at personal cost. Many of us have worked in leadership and senior roles and understand only too well the day-to-day demand of just keeping going, of opening the doors, listening to our teams and stakeholders, of reaching those audiences and balancing the books.
As a cultural consultant, I’ve worked with many organisations big and small, local, regional, national, and international. It all boils down to one thing for me. People. Individuals. Individuals who make up teams. Teams who make up organisations, who create strategies, policies, processes and achieve great things. How we go about that and the impact on ourselves and others is equally as important as the thing we want to achieve. It’s not all about the end game. Yes, we all want to succeed, to make a difference; usually that’s a given within the cultural sector; but the ‘Practice of Leadership’ everyday, the craft of leadership. That’s what’s important to me.
“Sharon creates a warm and compassionate space to think through challenges and opportunities which reveals much about a client’s inner workings. Working with her enabled me to witness progress within my business development in a new light and find confidence to keep going.”
Julia Forster Publishing & Literature PR Consultant and Founder Innerword Writers’ Retreat. 2023
Today I was reminded of the power of connection, of openness, vulnerability and new perspectives. I was speaking with two Clore Fellows, whom I know from my time running the Clore Fellowship Programme. Both women are incredible. I admire them. They achieve wonderful things and do it in a way which feels wholly them. They have embraced their strengths, can laugh at their “failings” and gather people around them to achieve a greater purpose. There was an instant bond, a shorthand between people who had been ‘Clored’.
I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on what that means…‘To Be Clored’. For me, it’s the difference I see in those individuals post Fellowship – the embodiment of their potential. The relief in letting go of the small stuff, focusing on the bigger picture. Of giving yourself permission to dream big, the confidence to share that dream with others and to invest in theirs. The chance to be part of a network of peers, who understand where you’re coming from and see your potential, even if you don’t yet.
Many of us enter the arts because we have a love, because it touches us, moves us in some way. We’re often creative, empathetic, passionate, strategic, driven, innovative, risk taking, and motivated to create change for the good. Yet the structures and behaviours we see modelled in our sector don’t always play to these strengths.
As artists and creatives, we often struggle to articulate the value of ourselves and our work. The very nature of some art forms and practices mean that we create in a solitary environment, not always of course, but for those who do, they can struggle to find the confidence to write a funding application for example, or to engage with communities, and to know where to go for help and expertise. I know from experience as an artist and textile designer in my early career that selling my work to agents and clients required a completely different skill and mind set to creating the actual work; and that was something I was ill equipped to deal with. Universities have moved on a great deal from those dark ages in the 90’s and yet we still see how difficult it is for graduates, early career and New CEO’s to make that transition.
“I began my mentoring sessions with Sharon not having a clue what to expect and was instantly blown away with the level of care, compassion, insight and expertise Sharon was able to offer. Sharon’s ability to enable me to examine myself in a secure, authentic, and introspective way and then apply this to who I wanted to be and who I could be as a manager seemed effortless.
Every session resulted in new realisations, perspectives and learnings that sometimes felt quite profound upon achieving. On top of all of that, Sharon’s ability to put you at ease and her friendly demeanour made each session a genuine pleasure to participate in. I have genuinely learnt so much and grown in confidence in leaps and bounds.
“I can only thank Sharon for everything and would recommend her services to anyone and everyone.”
Sophie McDonnell, Senior Designer, Knight Of Publishing
So, where do I want to focus my energy now? I want us all to have the opportunity to be the best we can be. To bring our whole to our work and our lives, and to encourage and promote that in others. I want us to get out of our own way. I want us all to effect cultural change.
We did that through Clore to some extent, and they’re still doing a great job along with other organisations making a real difference. But there is more to be done and not everyone can devote the time and resource to a Clore Fellowship, or a residential course. Where I want to focus my energy now is on organisations and people going through transition. I want to help create the right culture and behaviours in which people and organisations can thrive.
A colleague and I have recently been thinking about new leaders, we’ve reflected on our own experiences and those of many others. The loneliness of leadership is often talked about, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Yes, as leaders we need to take often unpopular decisions, decisions which affect real lives, mortgages and families. We need to be equipped to have challenging conversations. Fear of confrontation is a natural human instinct, but before any confrontation or conflict comes a conversation, an exchange and a context which affects how people behave; which if done well can help individuals find alternatives to confrontation.
I’m a qualified Coach, NLP and 4 Seasons Practitioner and while I don’t subscribe to the edict that coaching is the answer to everything, the skills I’ve learned through coaching has had a significant impact on myself and others. I tend to use these skills of active listening, challenge and reflection, blended with mentoring and consultancy to help clients to realise their own and their organisation’s full potential, to grow in confidence and ambition and to find new solutions and resources.
At Counterculture we’d like to invite those of you who are about to take on a new challenge or role (maybe you’re setting up a new venture, moving up to a CEO or senior position, working with a new Chair or joining a board) or just thinking about your next move, to have a chat with us and see how we might be able to support you on your journey.