Episode 4: Unified Business Purpose
This is a full transcript of Episode 4 of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, with Andy Goram and Julian Saipe, where they discuss the influence and power purpose has for entrepreneurs and what lesson that holds for the rest of us.
00:00:10 Andy Goram
Hello and welcome to sticky from the inside the employee engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier competition, smashing consistently successful organizations from the inside out. I'm your host Andy Goram and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn the lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them and create tonnes more success for everyone.
00:00:39 Andy Goram
This podcast is for all those who believe that’s something worth going after and would like a little help, and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses. The sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it. So, if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.
00:01:10 Andy Goram
Here we are again then for another episode of my sticky from the inside podcast and today we're going to discuss the topic that will probably if I'm honest, feature quite a bit from time to time on the podcast because it's a topic I love. It's a topic that I think is important to businesses and very in tune with I guess, particularly how younger people are making decisions about companies and brands, including who to work for. And because there's a lot of evidence to show it has a hugely positive effect on business performance but, also I think that there is a tonne of confusion about what it is, what it's for and we're talking about company purpose. And in particular today, I want to focus on its people unifying powers. With me through the power of zoom to get stuck into this topic today is Julian Saipe.
00:02:06 Andy Goram
Now Julian is a former opera singer and it's my first ever opera singer on this podcast. He's an entrepreneur, he's a business leader and the original founder of Zafferano, which over 15 years became one of London's most highly acclaimed food and event management brands and after that, in 2018, The company was acquired, and Julian exited, but don't worry. He's OK. He's now a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, an international executive coach focusing on leadership and executive education with the aim, and I love this, of bringing new consciousness to human performance, Hello Julian.
00:02:41 Julian Saipe
Hi Andy, it's great to be here.
00:02:43 Andy Goram
Yeah, great to have you here. My friend, we have got a lot to cover today. But I cannot leave the opera singer thing just hanging there right so please. Tell me a little bit where where's that come from?
00:02:58 Julian Saipe
Well, I grew up in a musical family and I sang as a child. I was a chorister and one thing led to another. I then took boy soprano roles with the English National Opera in Royal Opera House and it was such a formative part of my childhood and who I am, that I just made the assumption that that's what I’ll do when I grow up, I guess and when my voice broke. So, after University, I went to music college and trained and lo and behold, I'm singing at the Royal Opera House and that's what I did for 8 years before I decided that I wanted to be a businessman.
00:03:31 Andy Goram
The easy transition, right? Amazing! Brilliant I mean, we have so much in common. I was a chorister. I wore a surplus and a robe and all that kind of caper and sang for the Queen Mum, the night that she swallowed a fishbone at Westminster Abbey. Remember that night? I mean that's a long time ago and showing my age right, but Wow! I didn't know we had that connection. I mean mine stops about the age of 16 and you're clearly went on a bit, but that's nice, that's nice to know.
00:04:03 Julian Saipe
I mean? What's sad right now for me. Actually, I was just posting about it on social media, is the decimation of the Performing Arts and you know I don't sing professionally, but, I live the professional careers vicariously of all my former colleagues and to see them all not doing what they were born to do is really painful so as soon as opera and live music comes back the better.
00:04:28 Andy Goram
Well, I mean I think that's right. It's so sad to see and I think, Opera, I mean, I've had a couple of powerful experience with opera. I mean, I literally genuinely have Pavarotti's version of Caruso on a playlist in my iPhone, and if I put that on I nearly always cry. I mean, there we are proper sharing, but it's such an emotional thing and I'm not saying I'm a massive opera buff, because I'm not. I'm probably far more Bon Jovi than Bizet, I would've thought, but there's a really strong emotional connection that's given off between singer and audience when it's when it's good, right? Would you agree with that?
00:05:10 Julian Saipe
Without a doubt, and I think we'll talk about you know the human element in the workplace and actually with Bel Canto, singing which is the traditional operatic style which is about using your body to its full potential. You know your throat is open, your larynx is low, your rib cage is open you have diaphragmatic support, this is sound production using the full potential of the human body. This is this is not a fabricated pop singer sound. Albeit I think there are many great pop artists, but that traditional Bel Canto style is about maximizing the resonant potential of the physical self and I think there's something for us to learn about that when it comes to talking about the Human in the workplace.
00:05:55 Andy Goram
I couldn't agree more, my friend, and without wanting to sort of use a virtual crowbar to get us into the topic today, that emotional, human connection is, I think, one of the principal elements behind fashioning a workable, usable company purpose right?
00:06:13 Julian Saipe
Absolutely I was listening to something last night and it was talking about the difference between desire and vision.
00:06:23 Andy Goram
00:06:24 Julian Saipe
If I think back to my career as an entrepreneur you know, I reckon you know with hindsight, and hindsight’s a wonderful thing, I look back and I think that my drive was fueled by desire and on personal ambition and my steep learning curve was how to embrace, or rather how to sort of capture a vision and share it with people and get people on board. Because I think if you're, you know, entrepreneurs, yeah, there's a big ego trip about being an entrepreneur it’s a lot of vanity and I see it in the young entrepreneurs that I coach. You know, how can entrepreneurs step away from their personal goal and desire and share a vision to which embraces the collective?
00:07:12 Andy Goram
Well, nothing gets done without the will of the people, right? So, that's hugely, hugely important. So, from your perspective what is it going to take, or what does it take, to bring more of that humanity into businesses today? I mean, can you define what you think that really is? And does it have a difference to aligning yourself to a noble or a social cause, say?
00:07:36 Julian Saipe
Sure, well, I think, it's you know, we think of the business and we think of the goal and we think of the return on investment for stakeholders. But I think at its start, it has to start with the individual and the self and where the individual and the DNA of the founder of the business, or the DNA of the brand you know where all those things coincide, and understanding that you know, the authenticity of the person leading the business, in tandem with the authenticity of the brand and how that story, is understood and shared is pivotal. So yes, I think we can, we can touch it. It does start with the identity either of the person or of the reason for the business itself.
00:08:24 Andy Goram
Yeah, and you touch on the fact that the effect on the people inside the business outside of that entrepreneur, the leader, the driving force, and you know, I think as a as a member of the workforce really understanding your place, your contribution to that purpose can really, I think, serve as a hugely powerful form of emotional compensation if you like it. It's more than just the cash. It's another reason for being in the business that you can connect to and can help kind of drive your interest, performance, desire, whatever that may be.
00:09:03 Julian Saipe
Sure, I like to think of it as people often talk about the ripple effect, and if you think of, you know, let's use the metaphor of a pebble. The Pebble drops in a still pool of water and you get those lovely concentric circles and the pebble is the essence. It's the starting point for whatever it is, that's going to resonate with other people and, you know if we think of leadership. You know whether we want to talk about leadership or whether we want to talk about brand. But, in a way they belong to the other, that there's a there's a truth about that starting point, you know whether we want to say, you know the mission of the vision is crystal clear to the person who embodies that vision and then shares it and then the whole impact ripples outwards. You know, we all want to receive positive waves, positive energy that we can make our own, and so I think, that that ripple effect is a lovely metaphor for something that's got some truth about it and people believe it.
00:10:09 Andy Goram
Yeah, I mean, belief’s massive, right? Massively important to, I guess, the effect of the purpose. In your time in building businesses, successful businesses, and fostering a real kind of culture of can-do, and belief, what were the keys to driving that belief in the purpose, for you?
00:10:32 Julian Saipe
Sure, well, I mean I look back at my business career. I would simply divide it into 2 parts. One was ego. And there I reached a ceiling point where there wasn't a place I could go further because I couldn't take people with me. And post that sort of vanity trip, there was this realisation that I needed to create an ecosystem where everyone could show up. So, just to quickly give you a little bit of insight. In part one, as I said it's driven by personal desire. This is what I want. This is an expression of my personal energy, my vision, my goal. Come with me or you'll get left behind, or I'll get very frustrated. And you know, the thing there is, there is the stereotype of the entrepreneur that kind of throws his toys out the pram when things don't go well. And then you know for me, there was a wake-up call of, we have something very good here, but I'm not quite sure how to make it happen. And I think that moment of vulnerability and humility, and a realisation that I actually didn't know how to do it, was the gateway to me going out and attracting and looking to work with people who could help me, actually?
00:11:55 Andy Goram
That's incredibly interesting because I think that fork in the road is the place where you win or lose, right? Because a load of guys will continue, I think, to try and push the “Vanity Project”. But, it's only going to take so many people with you. It can only get you so far. And unless you see that there is an alternative fork in the road, to bringing more people with you, you're limited, right? You're limited on how far you can go? You need that groundswell of people. You need more people to believe, more people to come with you to create its own momentum. To really take that thing to full effect. Well, that's my impression. I mean, you're a man who's been there.
00:12:35 Julian Saipe
You're absolutely right. It really was a fork in the road and you know, I took the road less, the proverbial road less travelled, and it did pay dividends. But, it was a very painful journey in the sense that you know, we had to do this whole audit on, “This is not the Julian Show.” You know what? Why are we here? We’re in a very competitive market. iI's a level playing field of companies doing exactly the same thing. You know why we here? And we did, you know, it was about reflecting, the need to reflect personally and also as a collective to reflect on, you know, people talk about refreshing your Brand and doing a brand audit, but it really was deeper than that, it really was a question of why are we here?
00:13:21 Andy Goram
That is a fundamental, the fundamental question behind purpose, right? And I think it can be seen as a quite, I don't know, ethereal, fluffy, sort of question or why are you even asking that sort of stuff? Interestingly enough, Julian, I was lucky enough to go to a Foundation Forum the other night, led by Charlie Dawson and the guys from the Foundation and some amazing speakers, including Sarah Gillard, who's Head of Mission, for John Lewis. And they are going through right now, what they call the 100-year project. You don't change your purpose that often. It's done about once every 100 years and, bless her, she has the can on this project and takes it incredibly seriously. She talked about that particular question and a real nervousness about walking around, talking to employees, customers, and suppliers at a time that we're dealing with right now, and asking this question of why do you think we're here? Why do you think we exist? And being really nervous about what the response would be in something that could be perceived, as like I say, quite airy-fairy. And she was staggered by the response. Because employees, suppliers, and customers, I mean, they all wanted to have their say. They all wanted to contribute to that. So, for anybody thinking that, that well-written question, of why do you exist, that its’ overplayed, unnecessary and a bit for the birds, you need to wake up! Because I think opening that door really can release a huge tool for driving your business forward. For really sort of driving an incredible momentum and unifying power behind the people that make it happen every day.
00:15:08 Julian Saipe
Sure, I think that you know reflecting on your “why” is absolutely fundamental. And you use the word airy-fairy, that the purpose is something sort of intangible, or it's up in the clouds. And actually, now I'm talking here from personal experience, because you know if you think of John Lewis, this sort of highly evolved organization, and I'm talking about a much smaller business. But to step back and ask that question, to reflect, and often you know where you come from? What is your personal transformation story? Why is that impactful for other people? And you know in my case it was very much about performance? It's was in the strapline of the company that I grew and it's in the strapline of the coaching work that I do that. You know performance is this lovely metaphor for changing people. We all love a great performance. There's something about it that that makes our world different. It's also about our own potential.
00:16:16 Julian Saipe
We talk about performance and I'm also very clear to point out that performance when it's talked about in the workplace, not as in terms of attainment, but much more about growth and behavior. You know how can we perform to our best? How can we be our best selves, not just achieve the best results for someone else? But really bring wholeness into what we do.
00:16:44 Andy Goram
Now I think that's that's great. I think that's good. I think actually just picking up on one word from you, it's a trigger for me and you talk about the strapline. I think that's where loads of people get hoodwinked with purpose and they believe it's all about having a funky strapline that will somehow galvanise everybody. And the reality is, those are those things are brilliant for communication, right? The straplines are very, very useful tools. But it's the detail that goes behind the complex and comes out as simple that's the real key in this. And that comes from having a really warts-and-all, honest look at what you’re doing? Why are you doing it? Who you're doing it for? Who wins? Why they win? All those things. So, it's just more than a strap-line line and this is a guy, who's loved straplines over the years, but they’re only a means to an end.
00:17:30 Julian Saipe
Andy, we could have another podcast just on straplines
00:17:32 Andy Goram
00:17:34 Julian Saipe
Am I allowed to wear my coaching cap and challenge you on that strapline idea?
00:17:42 Andy Goram
I expect to be challenged. So yes! Love it.
00:17:49 Julian Saipe
I mean, I totally agree with your point that you can't change the world with the strapline and actually, it's that sort of incremental unpicking exactly what everyone wants to do, should be doing, and piecing it together moment by moment, that's the real work, of course. But, I think in the strapline there are straplines and straplines. There's a strapline line that you, you pick off the Internet for your business card and there's a strapline that really defines, intuitively, why you're in town. So, I think to believe that to come up with a strapline, and for that to be the answer to your big question is wrong. But to reflect on a strapline that is really true to your purpose and sums up intuitively who you want to be and how you want to do it, is a great starting point to then say, “Well, OK. We're in the game of big performance. What does big performance look like? How can we unpick it? What’s big performance mean to you? And then start to extract all the goodness and possibility in that one word or that one line and then start to flesh it out, a bit like the ripple effect. The stone on its own stands for nothing.
00:19:05 Andy Goram
Absolutely, I think. I think we're actually agreeing. But, I come back to, I guess the metaphor of purpose and what it's really there for and you know, why we exist. You know the stock answer for lots who will think about this is, “We're here to make money, right?” No. Money is the result of delivering against your purpose. To me, the strapline is the result of the thinking behind your purpose. So, I think it has an incredibly important place. I think it's just that it's the glitter that people can sort of focus on, but it's the depth that you really, you really need to understand, to have something that's going to work for your business and really become a kind of driving force for it going forwards.
00:19:54 Julian Saipe
Sure and you know again are we talking about businesses, SME's, large organisations? I think this is a huge subject matter and it's complex and sometimes I'm nervous about banding around abstract ideas, but I I think we are going to be seeing a shift in, and I'm going to use my own word here, consciousness, from organisations where the sole purpose is a return for their stakeholders, to organisations that, as Frederic Laloux says, embody more of a living organism sense. So that the essence of what that organization does resonates, vibrates with the people that show up every day or want to show up every day, want to bring their whole selves. You know this whole talk of intrapreneurship and collective wisdom. People no longer want to be servants of someone else’s plan. People want to feel like they're part of something, they’re part of the community. It's shared Endeavour, that creativity is a collective thing. And I think the times are changing.
00:21:23 Andy Goram
So, I think that's an interesting point to sort of get into another area, which is what is it that that is stopping more businesses taking time to think properly about what their purpose is, and what their organisational shape behind that looks like? The (Frederick) Laloux stuff about “Teal Organisations” is I mean, when you read that book it takes a while, the theory of it sounds lovely. But it's quite an abstract notion right. It's a complicated thing in essence to get your head around.
00:21:58 Julian Saipe
It just shows how conditioned we all are, doesn't it? I mean, I think there's a lot of fear. You know, what as you say? What is it, that's stopping us make this shift? I think it's fear? I think you know we're stuck in a rut of a particular model, the free market has gone mad. The free market has been a great thing. It's been a great space for individual expression. Look what we've seen over the over the last 20-30 years in terms of innovation. However, it's been exploited and we were in a dangerous place now, where if the sole purpose of an organization or business is to produce a financial return for the people who aren't even in the business, then this is where we've got a problem. But, I think the people leading these businesses are indebted to their investors and stakeholders. And therefore, as you say, why can't we just shift it? Or, why do these new ideas feel so radical? I don't think they are radical. I read them and I kind of think they make total sense to me. However, I think underpinning that shift is a lot of fear. Fear of change and a fear of well, hang on a sec. I'm sort of in it for myself and I'm in it to make someone else’s lot good… And I'm talking about the sort of the top tier of involvement here in terms of leadership and ownership and investor-stakeholders, but we've sort of left something behind.
00:23:26 Andy Goram
I couldn't agree more. I mean, I always found it tricky in businesses when I was putting together plans or communications to try and engage the workforce when the conversation was around the benefit of doing this is, “we’ll make more money for shareholders.” I can just see the crowd in front of me, as I stand up at a conference stage and deliver that. They're all on their feet clapping going, “Yay make more money for the guys with the money. Brilliant, thank you. That's hugely engaging Andy. I'm coming over the top with you.” And that never, ever, never worked and I think this is this switch. It is finding the place for the people in your business to be able to kind of unite behind something that means something to them. That adds some worth or greater worth to what they do, and that they can really see how they're contributing to it. Now that's a much easier message to go and stand on the conference stage and deliver to someone to try and engage and motivate and inspire them. And the result could actually be even better for the shareholders by doing that, rather than that kind of, I guess, myopic focus on the end result, but that's just my experience. It’s my theory, but that's what drives a lot of what I think and talk about.
00:24:47 Julian Saipe
I think we're seeing a change for sure. I mean, even in Laloux’s book, you know, he's got 12 case studies of Teal Organizations and some of them in very, very large organizations. Some of them haven't worked. Some of them have sort of compartmentalised within the business what is Teal and what is Non-Teal, but I think that it's exciting stuff. And if anything, you know, we need to immerse ourselves in these ideas, even just to challenge the status quo.
00:25:15 Andy Goram
Yeah, well, I'll put a link to Laloux’s book “Reimagining?” “Reinventing Organisations” That's it.
00:25:23 Julian Saipe
And actually, I'm gonna use his strapline 'cause I know you love straplines, “Inspired by the next stage of human consciousness.”
00:25:30 Andy Goram
It's a fascinating read, and we’ll put a link in the show notes for anybody trying to get their head around this process. But as I said the basic premise makes complete sense. Taking the leap to going doing it, is another kettle of fish.
00:25:46 Julian Saipe
Well, just to say as Laloux himself says, you need a Board, you need a CEO, you need a leadership team that are totally on board with these ideas and it might take 6 months to even a year to coach the conversation towards making these, you know, seismic shifts in how organisations are structured.
00:26:09 Andy Goram
Yeah, absolutely. OK, so we've looked at what we think is stopping us. We've looked at the theory of it all. I mean, when we’ve spoken before, you've talked about that almost heart of authenticity right at the core of everything. Can you elaborate on that? On your feelings towards authenticity when it comes to purpose.
00:26:26 Julian Saipe
Sure, I think it has to start with ourselves. It starts with ourselves. I don't think you can create a brand narrative. You can't create a structure around something that isn't real, yeah, and so I think it, you know it starts with ourselves. Forgive me if this sounds absolutely outrageous, and you're talking to a former classical opera singer. But I was watching, and this is my kids’ generation, I was watching Lizzo from Glastonbury, live. Now, she says. “We can't save the world until we save ourselves.” You know, and unless we know who we are, and why we're here, how can we inspire trust? How can we ask people to dig deeper into their creative thinking, if they don't feel safe or believe the person that's inviting them to do that? So, I think it does start with ourselves and authenticity is about bringing wholeness, all of ourselves, not just our sort of Trump Card and our ego. But bringing our vulnerability, bringing our questions. I love the work of Hal Gregersen. You know, his book, “The questions are the answers.” You know as soon as we ask a question, we create huge possibility. If we come in with the rules and saying “This is how it's going to be”, we immediately shut down possibility. So, if we're talking about unifying purpose, if I come in and tell a thousand people, “This is how it is, and this is what you will do”, where does that leave them?
00:28:08 Andy Goram
Yeah. Nowhere. Or, in a very difficult spot.
00:28:12 Andy Goram
I mean intangible, intangible things, there's a combination here of making these things work, that probably includes a bit of trust, passion, and belief. Harnessing an attitude behind it. But then, you’re still going to need the tangible things to kind of make these things happen, right? You still need some process, still need some goals and you're going to need a relentless pursuit of this thing, right? And I think those are some of the key factors that will make these things work. Will make the things real. Is that is that the path you trod? Is that what you saw?
00:28:45 Julian Saipe
I mean, I'm thinking of the here and now in Covid, and I've talked a little bit about this, how do you show up as a leader or how does an organization show up during Covid? Asking these questions, rather than panicking, or some knee jerk reaction that creates a plan that no one really believes, and instead sitting with the uncertainty. And that is real. If we're talking about authenticity, it's authentic to sit with uncertainty and discomfort when the way forward is unclear. That is real. That is authentic. Unless we allow for that space, we won't know what could have emerged. So, I think authenticity…, I think we think of purpose and potential and performance's often doing things. You know, I'm gonna be my best self and I'm gonna do this and I'm going to hit that goal. I'm going to get that return. But, sometimes authenticity and potential is about just holding the space. Just being present. I feel, even in this moment, we've addressed this issue and I can feel there's this, there's a little bit of powerful silence here.
00:30:07 Andy Goram
00:30:08 Julian Saipe
And that's real and authenticity is about being real and unless we explore that, we sort of shut down where we could go.
00:30:19 Andy Goram
The silence is I mean, if this was a really good mic, you’d just hear an awful lot of brain cogs whirring Julian, which happens every time I sit and listen and speak to you. So, I'm actually quite pleased I've got, you know, a pretty basic microphone here because you’d just hear rusty cogs whirring, whirring, whirring. It's very, very thought-provoking and it's the fastest half an hour I think I've had in, goodness knows how long, which means I'm fast running out of time and we've barely sort of scratched the surface, but I want this podcast to be a real practical tool for people. Even on, you know, some would say, abstract topics like purpose. I don't think it's abstracted at all. I think we've discussed that it's not abstract at all. It's a very real thing, It's a really galvanizing business tool that more people should take advantage of. But I have this part in the podcast, Julian, that I like to call “Sticky Notes”. Right, so this is the attempt to sort of get theories onto 3 sticky notes. Because you know, I have not a massive capacity for taking information away and 3 sticky notes normally works for me, and so, after every guest has kind of blown my mind, I ask them for 3 sticky notes. These are the things that my listeners can practically take away and use to start moving forward with engagement or improving their workplace culture or even things like defining a purpose, so, if you were to leave behind your 3 sticky notes on the virtual wall of Sticky Studios here, what would those be?
00:31:48 Julian Saipe
Well, I think all 3 come under the banner of space. OK and I think that the first, one would be – “Allow some time to stop and reflect.” That's my first sticky note, and that could be a regular practice, or it could be a considerable chunk of time. You'll know what's right for you.
00:32:13 Julian Saipe
I think then in the name of space, “Allow space for yourself in terms of your self-management.” And just asking that question of “Why?”, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”
00:32:26 Julian Saipe
And then the third sticky note is "To create space for other people.” We've asked that question of ourselves and now I ask that question of you. “Who are you?” and “Why are you here?” And to create that space and when we both understood who we are and why we're here, how can we align those 2 - sticky note number 2 and 3. How can we bring our 2 spaces together to create something special?
00:32:53 Andy Goram
More silence from me, while I take those sticky notes in. Amazing. Amazing stuff. A lot to think about there. Julian, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts today. I'm going to have a headache after this as I go away to create space to have a think about things. I think my take-out from this conversation today, is that having a common, human-focused purpose is not just about being en vogue or having a rally-cry. It's a genuine, real opportunity to encourage alignment of effort and resources, but to affect a really concentrated potent result in the end.
00:33:37 Andy Goram
Amazing great Julian. Thank you so much, my friend. Thank you very much for being here today. I really appreciate that and I've absolutely loved talking to you. Thank you very much.
00:33:47 Julian Saipe
00:33:49 Andy Goram
OK speak to you soon, take care. OK, If you'd like to find out more about Julian and some of the things that we've spoken about today. You can find some really useful links in the show notes.
00:34:04 Andy Goram
So that concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting, and heard something maybe, that will help you become a stickier more successful business from the inside going forward. If you have please like, comment, and subscribe. It really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the sticky from the inside podcast, until next time. Thanks for listening.