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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Williams

The Lions Share - Sharon Clews

Sharon Clews is a leadership development and transformational life coach, specialising on helping people move from where they are to where they would like to be. That work is based on listening, supporting and challenging for new ideas, removing limiting beliefs, and creating greater confidence.

A firm believer that beating ourselves up to achieve our goals is so 1988. Sharon advocates a different path for her charges; a focus on self-kindness and self-compassion to unlock high performance.

Sharon began her career in Learning and Development and has worked through amazing organisations such as Warner Media and Apple, supporting leadership teams find their cadence and empowering them to feel and exist more grounded in their purpose. Her philosophy for leadership change is based on a belief that anyone in an organisation can be a leader and influencer by refining their behaviour and developing their skills, appreciating their strengths.

It's our pleasure to bring you some of her wisdom and infectious enthusiasm today as part of our Women's History Month series.

What inspires you?

I gain inspiration from so many places because I seek out inspiration from so many places. More than anything else, people and their stories inspire me. Particularly people who expose their hearts and their baggage. People who overcome adversity. People who are brave enough to talk about their emotions. People who show up for others. People who dare to be different.

But I am also inspired by scientific research that leads us to thinking differently. I am inspired by the love people have for each other, for their children, for their parents, friends and for strangers. I am inspired by people who write their own story and people who are kind and show that kindness every day in their lives. I am inspired by how people can change.

I am also inspired by being part of that change through the coaching I do. It inspires me no end to see behavioural choices be made into stronger, more positive ones. I am inspired by people who continue to become better people. How inspired is that?!

What does it mean for you to have a commitment to inclusion?

I used to think I was progressive but the past year has shown me just how much I have to learn. It is now more important than ever to understand inclusion and the shift we need to achieve it.

To me this means that I re-learn approaching difference with curiosity. It means looking back, sometimes with shame (hopefully not too much, but it is there) to acknowledge where I was before and where I am now. It means making room and making space. It means NOT speaking when there is a conversation that isn't mine. It means holding the space for people to speak, or create or question. It means listening, but listening with intent to truly hear. It means putting my hand up to say I don't know, with grace. It means that we understand there is difference. And we seek to understand those differences through empathy.

What made you dare to be different?

It might have been the crazy hair or the crazy brain - I'm not sure which one, but for me it was never a dare. I couldn't really help it - as Lady Gaga says - I was born this way!

A favourite quote is "I'm not different from you, I'm different like you". Sadly, I don't know who is responsible for it, but good heavens, it certainly speaks volumes to me. We all like to think we are different - and of course we are - we are just different in different ways. I decided to dare to be different when I realised my own shortcomings around Mindful Self-Compassion. I spent my formative years beating myself up for never doing enough, being enough, not having enough lists and generally just never achieving enough. I realised only recently that I can let myself off the hook AND still be effective and retain all of that drive and motivation I had before - but now I get to be kinder to myself. What a relief! I was always considered different - at school and at home. I just never felt the same as everyone else.

It is possible to feel you can belong in an organisation?

Yes, I believe it is- although I will caveat that. I think you can feel like you relate to an organisation and its values and standards. But it is more likely that we experience that feeling of belonging in a team because that is where belonging becomes human, instead of just experiential.

Feeling like you are part of a movement or a group or a team of people that understand and value you, what I like to call a tribe, is where I believe belonging is rooted. But once we find this place for ourselves, it's then our job to ensure the doors are wide open for other people to find us too. The most successful organisations in my experience are the ones who create a sense of belonging rooted to deep empathy through that openness and acceptance of all people who sing from their song sheet, regardless of what they look like, how they identify and where they come from.

What's the one bit of advice you'd give your younger self?

Where do I begin?!

Being different or feeling different isn't a BAD thing. In fact, it's magical. You are allowed to be different. You are allowed to feel different. You are allowed to just be who you are.

Try many things. Remain curious - and keep getting more and more curious.

Introduce variety into everything you do, food, books, learning, sex...all of it!

Learn as many languages as you can and don't be afraid to practice them even if it's bad.

Play a musical instrument - even if you do it badly. Play. Learn. Have fun with it.

Don't be judgemental about anyone or anything, especially about yourself. EVER.

Travel early, stay out late, misbehave, disrupt, challenge, make people laugh, love and care and be kind (I listened to this!)

It's OK to take time to think things through and respond later.

It's OK to love yourself - in fact, it's highly encouraged.

It's OK to figure out who you are - and practice things and push boundaries and feel all the feels (if people can't hold all of your emotions then that's not your fault).

It is PERFECTLY OK to be gorgeous and sexy and smart and funny - all at once. If people can't hold all of that at once, then again - not your fault.

Be generous - with money, love, trust, friendship and food.

Don't work so hard to be the "good girl". You will be loved anyway.

Break the rules.

Remember that when someone says something to hurt you, 95% of the time they are processing their pain. Don't let their pain cause you pain. It's not about you.

You're allowed to get angry. As long as you are respectful with it, anger can be used well. And don't let any person tell you otherwise.

Follow your gut and your intuition - they are REALLY powerful.

Get smarter. Go to university, no matter how old you are.

Do what makes your heart sing - even if you are rubbish at it. The money will come from somewhere.

Sing. Out loud. Off key. To your heart's content whether you are alone or in public. Have no fear of being who you are and who you want to become.

But mostly - stay kind and generous, gentle and free and trust the Universe, it's her job to look after you. Recognise that everyone is going through something you may never know about. Show them your compassion, always. And have fun every single day!


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