Here's to part 2

So just like that, the first half of 2020 is over.

What an incredible ride it has been, leading through the past 6 months. Ups and downs. Sadness and laughter. It’s brought every emotion possible.

I read a note I sent to our local coffee shop recently. Sent on the night we heard everything was closing for lockdown, telling them we’d be back as soon as we could for our post-parkrun brekkie, and it made me sob again. What a traumatic moment that was.

Then hearing that Clearworks had fallen through the Prime Minister’s crack in the pavement and wouldn’t receive a single penny in support, as a sole director-led limited company; then for a while, everything just fell out of our calendar, day by day. I even tried to claim a Cycle-to-Work bike and was turned down as I’ve left the office for COVID. Tough times!! I was Alice falling down the rabbit hole, skirts over her head and out of control.

I watched my friend’s funeral on You Tube in some kind of horrified trance, as if that is in some way palatable, and we saw the virus numbers spike. One of my clients’ buildings was turned into a Nightingale Hospital and we couldn’t quite compute.

And then finally the pause came, and the energy started to settle and flow back in the right direction.

People I’ve known for years in business, as clients, friends, associates, partners, started to get strong and busy. We focused and we grafted and we made diving catches. We gave each other everything we could spare in expertise, support and skills .. we talked and we considered pivots, as we exchanged ideas for Teams, Zoom and WebEx as we swapped running routes, recipes and podcast recommendations, as we contemplated how and whether to market our businesses when the world is grieving. We stood in our own truth that we genuinely believed that the work we do is useful in crisis too.

And suddenly organisations realised that this crisis wasn’t going away quickly and the most innovative and courageous decided to crack on with developing their people. Business is flowing again now and it’s a miracle indeed. We know that’s not the case everywhere so we’re beyond grateful to our loyal clients for trusting us to keep going.

The flagship Clearworks Coaching Circles even went turbo over lockdown as the new virtual format means they’ll go global from September!! Who could’ve predicted? We’d been increasingly concerned about our carbon footprint as we flew around Europe and suddenly no one needs persuading to work from home! Women in Shanghai and Toronto will benefit next time round, so here's to more inspiring women connecting in groups really soon.

There’s never been a time when being freelance has been so challenging, spine-tingling, terrifying, breathtaking. We’ve been dancing on tiptoe and testing muscles we didn’t know we had. And while I’d wish for Coronavirus and all its associated pain and tragedies to disappear immediately, I wouldn’t spend the resulting lockdown anywhere other than right here.

Some of the coaching supervision I received was off-this-planet-superb. The friendship and expertise in my Clearworks partner-in-crime Gill Martin was awe inspiring. My original “Bird Table” group (a mastermind group of women business owners from different backgrounds) started to meet weekly instead of monthly and as they say in the States, we raised our vibration.

New people I’d never worked with before touched my soul with their courage and grit, and clients broke my heart as they wept too for their people and businesses. My friend and colleague Kate Hammer turned her innovation expertise to getting PPE onto London hospital staff more quickly; Women I was coaching sat pale and glassy eyed in front of screens as they managed their babies or teens at the same time as their teams. A man I was designing with, moved his laptop to reveal two little children snoozing on his shoulder as we planned out work early in the morning. I’ve seen sides of leaders that I never get to see normally, and what a huge privilege it has been to work in this way.

We’ve a long way to go through this pandemic and for me “post-COVID” is not a thing we can contemplate yet. . Sometimes my knees knock as I think maybe we’ll look back at June 2020 and think ‘jeepers, we didn’t know what was about to happen’ but that’s totally unhelpful and out of reach. As we learn to navigate life with this virus and its potential successors I truly want to express my deep appreciation for the human spirit and the people who’ve been travelling with us so far.

Even the two big guys on their motorcycles who stopped (at a distance, sadly) to check I could get up off the A45 after I flew over my (rubbish old bike’s) handle bars after a crash. Passing tissues with huge gauntleted hands was so 2020 for me. Patient and gentle. Just as everyone I’ve experienced recently.

The compassion. The creativity. The awesome human spirit is intact and inspiring, more than ever.

Don’t be put off going freelance if you’ve found home-working wasn’t what you thought. It’s not always like this. Museums and coffee shops; business friends and co-working spaces are all there for you in normal times. But hey, it’s definitely living life in high definition and there’s nowhere to hide.

I don’t specialise in career transition coaching but I have mates who do. If you’re coming out of lockdown knowing for sure that you don’t want to go back to your previous life, I can signpost to some really good eggs, just ask. One of the best is in Canada and you wouldn't have easily considered that before lockdown, would you?

If you’re a client of Clearworks, a mahoosive thank you for continuing to work with us. I promise we’ve done our best work and your people have been doing incredible things, all.

Here’s to the second half of 2020.

We’re in better shape than ever in the business. A sharp team of expert coaches, facilitators, supervisors, designers. I’m writing more than ever, the book’s brewing - and The Circles are rolling out globally. Heck, even the website makes sense at last. Here’s to surviving and thriving.

As an ex surgical physio on ITU, Boris’ unlock plans scare the crap out of me - but as Covey insists, we must focus on the things we can control. Cheers folks. Here’s to humans, and to the future. I’m off to buy a bike from an ex Boeing 787 Dreamliner Pilot (and elite BMX rider), whose job was made redundant by COVID-19. He quickly decided to live his dream by setting up a specialist bike shop. How cool is that? And no worries Boris, I’ll fund it myself. And hopefully this time I’ll stay in my seat..

This article was written by Aly King-Smith. Aly is Director of Clearworks and writes for Clearworks and others as Aly KS & Co Ltd. Please get in contact via