Sam Theobald on putting people first before profit

Is it possible to be a profitable and rapidly growing business and still put people first?

What makes a company an incredible place to work?

And what is the return on being a human centric company and a human centric leader?

As many of you know, I’m in the final stages of writing my book Return on Humanity: The unexpected benefits of being more human in life and business.

I’ve been speaking with people from various sectors and businesses around the world to confirm my hypothesis. And I’m happy to say, until now, it hasn’t been challenged.

But this conversation with Sam Theobald doesn’t just confirm the hypothesis. Her entire career has been focused on it. And this podcast brings the real quantifiable benefits and examples to life. It is such an incredible conversation.

Sam is an HR professional with over 20 years’ experience working with entrepreneurial leaders, bringing a strong commercial edge to the HR function, and championing a “people first” approach to business.

Sam’s current role at Next 15 spans multi-markets and provides strategic guidance to HR teams within subsidiaries across the group, as well as working closely to counsel businesses so they understand the value of great people practices and human centric leadership in high growth organisations.

She explains how it’s possible to have a commercial focus and still put people first.

She talks about the power of self-awareness. And what it means in the context of her work.

And the details of what it actually means to have a human centric approach to business.

Essentially, if you want to be able to attract great people and get the best out of them, you can’t miss this podcast.

This conversation was electric. I promise you’ll enjoy the energy! We were both buzzing afterwards.

So grab that favourite beverage or throw on those running shoes, and enjoy this conversation with Sam.

And please don’t forget to let us know what you think of this episode, leave a review and subscribe.

00:00:02:05 – 00:00:27:03
Philippa White
Welcome to the show, where we unearth new ways of looking at ever evolving lights around the world. Seen from a number of different industries, cultures and backgrounds. But there’s one thing that unites everyone I speak to. They all want to do their part to make the world better in their own unique ways. It’s a uniting passion. Whether they’re from the commercial world, third sector or public sector from the Global North or the global south.

00:00:27:15 – 00:00:32:13
Philippa White
My name is Philippa White and welcome to TIE Unearthed.

00:00:34:14 – 00:01:07:20
Philippa White
Is it possible to be a profitable business and still put people first? In my view, putting people first and profit second is what being a human centric company is. But is this just a pipe dream or are successful companies really doing this? Hello and welcome to episode 73 of Tie Unearthed. Today I’m speaking with Sam Theobald, Global People Officer of the rapidly growing global growth consultancy Next 15 group.

00:01:08:14 – 00:01:45:19
Philippa White
Sam is an HR Professional with over 20 years experience working with entrepreneurial leaders, bringing a strong commercial edge to the H.R. function and championing a people first approach to business. Sam’s current role in X15 spans multiple markets and provides strategic guidance to H.R. teams within subsidiaries across the group. As well as working closely to counsel businesses so they understand the value of great people, practices and humans centric leadership in high growth organizations.

00:01:46:18 – 00:02:12:11
Philippa White
Now, Sam and I have known each other for a few years now, and this conversation was properly a meeting of minds. I wanted to understand what being human centric means to her. What are her major challenges at work when it comes to living out her purpose, and what is the return on being human centric from her perspective? There’s so much here to throw on those running shoes or grab that favorite beverage.

00:02:12:24 – 00:02:22:19
Philippa White
And here’s Sam. Sam, thank you so much for joining us. It’s really great to see you here. And have you here with us. Thank you.

00:02:23:07 – 00:02:25:11
Sam Theobald
Oh, thank you for inviting me. I’m very excited.

00:02:26:05 – 00:02:35:10
Philippa White
Too. And it’s great because obviously I just saw you in London. It was freezing. I’m wearing less clothes now that I’m back in Brazil. Has the weather improved?

00:02:35:15 – 00:02:44:10
Sam Theobald
It’s still freezing here. I still have my jacket on. I’m still hopeful that the predictions of a very warm summer are going to come true. But they.

00:02:44:10 – 00:03:05:23
Philippa White
Will come. They will come true. Is always nice in London. I feel it’s always nice. So yes, it’s still April. So you’ve got a few more days and then it will get better. We have been speaking for years actually now and I just feel every time we meet, you know, even the last time we met, we meet, we just sort of like connection of minds and you inspire me and you just get me thinking in different ways.

00:03:05:23 – 00:03:19:11
Philippa White
And I’m just so excited to just talk about the things that both of us are really passionate about. But before we get there, I would just love to understand more about you. How did you get into this space and why does it interest you?

00:03:19:20 – 00:03:40:11
Sam Theobald
Very good question that I do ask myself sometimes. How did I get here? My journey has not been traditional and I talk a lot about that. When I mentor people moving into a job or into even even just into sort of roles where they’re progressing. I always wanted to be a teacher, right? That was that was it at school.

00:03:40:11 – 00:04:10:11
Sam Theobald
And my mum used to drive my mum mad. We had blackboards in our house. I grew up in Australia so high house with underneath the house we had big play areas and blackboards and I would sit my younger brother down for hours and instruct him on what to do. I was very studious, very academic. I loved reading and when I went through school I had an incredible English teacher who, although I did really well at all, my science and math subjects, he inspired me and I went on to university.

00:04:10:11 – 00:04:50:04
Sam Theobald
And did journalism, believe it or not. Again, loved it, had a great time, really challenged me because I’m quite an introvert. I’m actually an extreme introvert. So it pushed me to find a different side of myself and I picked up a job while I was still at university working for Channel Nine. So one of the big four TV stations in Australia at the time and I was what they classified as an overnight editor, I would go in, do the terrible shifts, take all the things that happened overnight, write them into stories, go out with a news crew and interview people and, you know, get things happening and I went through a period of time where

00:04:50:04 – 00:05:17:01
Sam Theobald
I loved it and absolutely thrived on it was going to be the rest of my life. I then and I remember it vividly, and this is over 30 odd years ago now. I was working over an Easter weekend and road accidents are really bad in Australia. You know, road deaths by traffic accidents and there was a terrible accident and I was called out, there was an accident and there was also a school of sorts off the coast.

00:05:17:01 – 00:05:40:17
Sam Theobald
Now I have a terrible fear of shock. So I didn’t take that assignment. I took the traffic accidents where there were deaths and I was asked to go and talk to the parents of a young boy that had died. And I’m thinking about it. I didn’t do it. I refused to do it. The cameraman, who was an incredibly seasoned individual, went out and did the call, the death knell, because they were called and filmed everything for me.

00:05:40:17 – 00:05:59:10
Sam Theobald
And it was at that point that I decided I couldn’t do that job. I loved writing. I loved what I’d learned about myself doing that job, but I couldn’t do it. So I did a very strange thing, packed up and went traveling for a long time, landed in the UK and picked up various different jobs. I did a lot of copywriting when I first came to the UK.

00:05:59:10 – 00:06:17:14
Sam Theobald
I then had a friend of mine who was had his own law firm and he said to me, You know, I’ll pay you more than you’re earning copywriting and you know, you can try something different. So I do some paralegal work and again was really loving just the experimentation, what I was doing. And my dad then got really sick.

00:06:17:24 – 00:06:41:12
Sam Theobald
He was diagnosed with a brain tumor. So I went back to Australia and sort of dropped everything my whole life here in the UK and started work with a company called Flight Center and they were unbelievable, like very progressive. By the time I joined they just listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, led by a very entrepreneurial man, different philosophy, sales, business, retail, travel, sales.

00:06:41:12 – 00:07:06:09
Sam Theobald
So, you know, nothing out of the ordinary, but different organizational design. The way they dealt with people, the way they structured their business, the way they encouraged us and taught us to be leaders in our own right. And that is where my passion for all things people started, and they helped me on that journey. And so you, you know, I was with them for about 11 years.

00:07:06:09 – 00:07:24:06
Sam Theobald
In the end I transferred from the Australia to the UK with them and still have many, many friends around the world who have moved on something working there. But it created a sense of culture, understanding, leadership, thinking that I’m just grateful to have been exposed to. Wow.

00:07:24:06 – 00:07:37:15
Philippa White
And that is a really interesting segway to the questions that I have because I’m so keen to understand what was it about the leadership style or the workplace that yeah.

00:07:37:20 – 00:07:57:07
Sam Theobald
It was a couple of things. One was the sense of empowerment and I say sense because as I moved up through the organization and became very senior, you do know that the CEO used to have it, but is it either your business is not a democracy. You can have your say, but you can’t always have your way. And that was a philosophy that ran through everything.

00:07:57:07 – 00:08:25:03
Sam Theobald
But as a new person, starting in the organization, you felt completely empowered to make decisions to treat your clients the way you felt they had to be treated to you, to do the things that helped you do your job better and to be yourself in your job, you know, saying this is not you know, it doesn’t have a great reputation, but the way that they taught you to sell was all about honesty and transparency and selling a dream and being there and then delivering against that the people.

00:08:25:03 – 00:08:43:06
Sam Theobald
So it sort of put that whole connection right through. So we held our suppliers accountable. Like if, if someone went on a holiday and didn’t have a great experience, we were straight on the phone to whoever it was, whether it was an airline, or to make sure that that was fixed and no one else went through that. And you felt empowered to be able to do that.

00:08:43:06 – 00:09:03:12
Sam Theobald
And it was also the flat structure. So teams were never bigger than a certain size because that’s all one manager could look after. So you had this sense of community, whichever level you were within the organization. So, you know, as a team, team might only have, you know, one team leader and then four or five people within that team.

00:09:03:12 – 00:09:20:16
Sam Theobald
And then that team would be part of a sort of local community. And there might be up to 20 teams in that community, but nothing more. And then that community would then be part of a state and it sort of just went up the chain. So you never felt too far away from the most senior person who was making the decisions.

00:09:20:16 – 00:09:41:13
Sam Theobald
The third thing is, was the CEO. He was a true entrepreneur, but he was also very human about and we talk a lot about this sort of human centric leadership. I could get in a lift with him. He would not even know who I was. I didn’t think he knew who I was. And he would ask me questions about my part of the business and, you know, have a conversation with me.

00:09:41:18 – 00:10:04:23
Sam Theobald
He knew everything he would walk into. You know, we had hundreds of retail stores. He would walk in and sort of almost mystery shop, but would know everything about that region, what was going on in that area. And I think it was that ability to to know but to trust that the people below him were delivering that and informing him of those things so that he could then connect with anyone within the organization.

00:10:04:23 – 00:10:05:10
Sam Theobald
Well.

00:10:05:19 – 00:10:11:16
Philippa White
Those are the kind of leaders that you actually want somebody that’s going to lead into that kind of business. Right.

00:10:11:16 – 00:10:36:00
Sam Theobald
Have you know, I think at the time you don’t realize, but as you step away and there’s some negative things with it as well, you do feel institutionalized because you feel that so only place that you’re ever going to be safe and that you’re ever going to be valued for what you do because you build such connections. But when you step away, you realize that they’ve equipped you with so much to take into that other organization.

00:10:36:00 – 00:10:36:08
Sam Theobald
Yeah.

00:10:36:09 – 00:11:03:03
Philippa White
Talk to us about next 15 men. You’ve had a huge career, but it would be really interesting to know your role as a people officer, particularly at this moment. There’s a lot going on. What is your role? And I mean, I don’t you know, I just feel like you just, you know, where where do I start? I’m sure you feel that maybe drawing on this core of what you think is important and how does that then translate into the role that you are doing now?

00:11:03:03 – 00:11:22:23
Sam Theobald
I think the thing that has kept me at next 15 is the similarities to what I felt at Flight Center. That sense of empowerment, being able to make things happen, never being too far from the top like it isn’t hierarchical, although it is getting a bigger and bigger organized fashion and there’s frameworks and structures that need to be put into place.

00:11:23:06 – 00:11:44:11
Sam Theobald
But the very people led approach to things. So one of the reasons I was put into the job and I’ve had the conversation with the CFO, Peter Harris, he couldn’t believe as an h.r. Person I was so commercial. That’s probably because i grew up in a commercial environment and learned my age all through that way of practice and he really liked that.

00:11:44:11 – 00:12:07:05
Sam Theobald
And that has actually set me up in a great position because it means I can have a very big voice for people because I can relate it back to the commercial standing within the organization. So and that’s what’s kept me going. You know, I do feel we have a voice. I do feel people are listened to and I do feel that they are you know, when we talk about people, planet, profit quite a lot, it is people first.

00:12:07:06 – 00:12:15:06
Sam Theobald
It isn’t a first. But we know we’ve got to make money. But how do we do that? Making sure that our people are on the journey with us as well.

00:12:15:10 – 00:12:33:21
Philippa White
I guess for our listeners, next 16 is going through a tremendous period of growth and I think, you know, for any company that has stuck together a whole lot of different companies, I’m sure your role as the Global People officer, I kind of feel if you are a people first company, that’s a big role. What does that look like?

00:12:33:23 – 00:12:57:18
Sam Theobald
It feels a bit psychotic at times. He’s from my life, from my point of view. You know, one minute you’re talking to a new acquisition that might only have ten people, but you’ve got to make them feel as important as one of our bigger brands that’s, you know, global and has 700 of people across the world. And I think it is that constant reminder that my job isn’t to do it for them, and a job is to enable them to grow.

00:12:57:18 – 00:13:31:09
Sam Theobald
And that’s where the growth consultancy strategy has been fantastic for the team in the center. So when you were in a head office, which is essentially where I sit, you know, at the group level, it’s at the parent company level, it’s very easy to to move into command and control. And I don’t know, I think it’s a combination of the way we operated at Flight Center, where it wasn’t you never felt like just because you worked, you know, the head office that you were more important was always the people on the front line and the businesses that were driving the revenue that were the most important.

00:13:31:09 – 00:13:53:10
Sam Theobald
And that’s exactly the same here in next. Right now, we are a portfolio organization and our brands, our businesses are the ones who make us successful. You know, they’re not successful because I sit in a job in the center. They’re successful because of the people that I operating. And we so we need to be cognizant of that all the time, that our job isn’t to tell them how to do things.

00:13:53:16 – 00:14:05:01
Sam Theobald
It’s to enable them to get the best out of them. And a CEO, Tim Dyson, always talks about, you know, being the best versions of yourself. How can we help them be the best versions of themselves as a business, as an individual?

00:14:05:03 – 00:14:25:16
Philippa White
But so yeah, that’s really interesting. So I mean, that brings us into, I mean, human centric, right? That brings us into this kind of human. And as you know, I’m writing a book which I’m talking about you actually in that book because I really admire your approach and find the way that you think and you do things so inspirational.

00:14:25:16 – 00:14:33:06
Philippa White
What is being human centric? What would you say the definition of it is like in a less jargony kind of way? What does it mean?

00:14:33:09 – 00:14:54:12
Sam Theobald
The easiest way I can describe it, because I think some of this stuff is is about feeling. And I think that’s actually the easiest way to describe it. I’m just talking to one of our friends that’s about to acquire a business and they’ve got, you know, due diligence checklists. And this is what we need to take off. And and I sat there and I said, okay, how do you want this business to feel when they become part of you?

00:14:54:12 – 00:15:13:00
Sam Theobald
At that moment, the whole room changed because they all started thinking about what was it like when I came into the group? What would I want done differently? What emotions do you want them to be going through? Because essentially every piece of change that happens to us is going to elicit some sort of emotion or an emotional response.

00:15:13:14 – 00:15:30:06
Sam Theobald
How can we help almost preempt what that’s going to be or at least consider what that’s going to be? And is that the response that we’re trying to elicit with that action? So we’re going to do something we know it might make them fearful or it might make them annoyed. How can we lessen that? Because we don’t want that to happen.

00:15:30:06 – 00:15:51:09
Sam Theobald
We don’t want them to feel uncomfortable or to be annoyed. So is there a better way to frame this? Is there a better way to have that conversation? And I think human centric it comes down or a human centric approach to leadership, to business is comes down to communication and conversations and treating people as you want to be treated material.

00:15:51:09 – 00:16:12:24
Sam Theobald
You know, it really is as simple as that. And you and I talk about this quite a lot, that the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes and that includes other cultures. You know, things are run from from London. We’re doing a US acquisition and we’ve sent calls at 2:00 in the afternoon and I said, Do you realize that our team in San Francisco, that’s 6 a.m..

00:16:13:06 – 00:16:32:07
Sam Theobald
Yeah. Are you really sure that’s appropriate? Like, well, that’s the only time we can do well. Maybe we need to go back to the drawing board and think about how we do this. Then it’s just a simple things. And I suppose when you talk about my job and how I do it, I don’t see my job as a job title and a list of responsibilities.

00:16:32:07 – 00:16:52:17
Sam Theobald
My job is to hold the business to account for being people first, which means constantly reiterating that conversation of how is this going to impact these people? How are they going to feel? How do we want them to behave? And if we’re going to do this to them, we’re going to create this change, whether it be perceived good or bad.

00:16:52:17 – 00:16:55:01
Sam Theobald
How are we going to make them help them work through them?

00:16:55:06 – 00:17:22:07
Philippa White
Yeah, that’s really interesting because the bigger you get right, the more systems there are, the more processes, the more kind of it’s easier to kind of get lost in that. But like you say, we need the processes to an extent. We need the systems. Everyone recognizes that. But it’s just it’s so easy for us to just become driven by them and get dehumanized in that system and process and and no one wants that.

00:17:22:07 – 00:17:38:02
Philippa White
I mean, everyone is a human being that comes back home at the end of the day and talks to their kids and talks about life and goes on holiday. But it’s weird how sometimes in that process of work, we kind of lose that. And it’s almost like you’re a gatekeeper. It’s interesting. It’s almost like, hold on a second.

00:17:38:03 – 00:17:49:20
Philippa White
Let’s just let’s remember that we’re human. There’s so much that you have to do, but it’s actually a really important job. People get a bit confused and lost sometimes, don’t they? And it’s kind of, okay, let’s just come back to basics.

00:17:49:20 – 00:18:07:17
Sam Theobald
That’s it. Bring it back. I used to work with an article, talk many, many years ago. He used to have this. I would get very flustered with things. He was in commercial law and he would say, to stop the world, I want to get off for 5 minutes. And sometimes I feel that that’s my job, is to stop the world for 5 minutes while we we take a breath.

00:18:07:17 – 00:18:19:08
Sam Theobald
To your point, we we think about it. We slow it down. Because sometimes you need to slow down. To speed up. Yeah. When you’re in it, it’s really hard to do that. You need someone from the outside. Yeah. On action.

00:18:19:16 – 00:18:33:12
Philippa White
It’s so interesting just talking it through with you, being able to see that you talk about diversity. We spoke about it when we met up just a couple of weeks ago. I just wonder from your point of view what is the business case for diversity?

00:18:33:14 – 00:19:00:18
Sam Theobald
Yeah, I think this industry, like the sort of marketing comms sector, does not have a great reputation when it comes to diversity. I think it’s the same in any industry we often hire in our own mold. But when you work in a business that has been very diverse to start with, whether that be geographically so that you start to get an appreciation of other cultures, all the ways of doing things, it makes it much easier to see diversity not as a thing, but as part of what you do.

00:19:00:18 – 00:19:33:21
Sam Theobald
And I think everyone can see the value in it, but they don’t know how to get out of their own shadows and move away from that. And I believe a big part of that is traveling or at least experiencing. And you don’t have to travel too far. You can travel within your own country and experience other pockets of culture, get a go to cultural activities, to things that are going on because they happen all over the world and see how ideas and what excites people, what gets them out of bed in the morning, what makes them happy in their day to day world?

00:19:34:09 – 00:19:58:20
Sam Theobald
You can then start to link in your work and the way you do things and if that’s marketing and comms, then actually if they know how the audience is going to react, they’re going to be better at connecting with that audience or creating campaigns that will connect with that audience. And same with hiring. You know, I think you mentioned something before about systems and processes and a lot of research I did very early on in my career was around culture, and it was again back to the flight center days.

00:19:58:20 – 00:20:34:02
Sam Theobald
But we learned that’s documented now that culture is a mix of yes behaviors, but also systems and processes like those things make a culture and if you are inherently biased in your systems and processes, it’s going to be very difficult to break that unless you change those things. So hiring, for example, until you actually start breaking down the process and even the tools you used right through to who you connected with and linked LinkedIn with, you won’t be able to hire more diverse people because they just won’t connect with you.

00:20:34:08 – 00:20:57:20
Sam Theobald
So it’s almost like again, a stop the world, go back to basics and have a look at all the things that you’ve got in play and break them. And I think sometimes we don’t have time to do that. The commercial pressures on businesses mean that we scrape the surface, but we don’t go deep enough to make the change really embedded within an organization.

00:20:57:22 – 00:21:24:06
Sam Theobald
But that’s actually where I think we’re really lucky at next 15 because we’ve got such a diverse portfolio of businesses different sizes, different maturities, different geographies. We can experiment with some of that stuff and we can teach and learn. So it might not happen as fast as we still want it to happen, but it will be a bit quicker than it might be in a traditional organization because we can, you know, we can pull a small organization and say, right, let’s pull apart your hiring process.

00:21:24:06 – 00:21:27:00
Sam Theobald
Let’s change this bit of it and see if that makes a difference.

00:21:27:04 – 00:22:00:17
Philippa White
You talked about perspectives and you talked about one is hiring, but also is how you work, the quality of the output. So talking to local people, understanding what people in completely different areas of life lives. And then to bring that back into your work, I’m curious to understand, you know, what in your mind, what is the benefit of having an international perspective or broadening those horizons, whereas the benefit or the competitive advantage of that, yeah.

00:22:00:18 – 00:22:24:23
Sam Theobald
I think it’s it’s definitely connected. We all want to belong, but it shouldn’t mean that we have to fit in like, you know, we shouldn’t have to change to fit in. And that’s where I think for me belonging comes from accepting the things that you’re bringing to that partnership, that business, whatever it is. And the the international connection with that is that everybody’s perspective is different.

00:22:25:03 – 00:22:44:21
Sam Theobald
You know, I speak the same language as the Brits, but I grew up in Australia and it’s a very different environment. You know, the way I was spoken to as a junior person and I work in a great organization, I was very direct. You knew exactly what was expected of you because it was very clear and if you didn’t do it, you were told you didn’t do it.

00:22:44:22 – 00:23:01:02
Sam Theobald
That can sometimes be a a politeness that and when I first came to the UK, I really struggled because I struggled to fit in and make friends with the people I worked with because it was like, right, I was on the job and oh yeah, did I do well? Did I not do it well? Can you tell me?

00:23:01:08 – 00:23:23:22
Sam Theobald
But they didn’t want to do that. I didn’t. So I guess you’ve done it. And then if I did do something wrong, it was almost like I had to wait. I could feel it coming because they and it’s like, well, actually I’ve softened. So I found a better way to not be quite so direct. But I’ve also created an environment within my team where you need to say it as it is.

00:23:23:22 – 00:23:55:07
Sam Theobald
If you’re not performing, it’s not. I’m not saying you’re a bad person. You haven’t met expectations. How can we work to make it better next time? You know, how do we improve? And so I introduced a very much a test and learn environment so that people feel they can feel a little bit and then move on. And I think that’s where the international you know, that’s a very basic example of speaking the same language, you know, very similar in a Commonwealth country, however you want to draw the conclusions, but entirely different working culture.

00:23:55:08 – 00:24:13:03
Sam Theobald
It was nothing for me to get up, go to work at 7:00 in the morning, one because of the temperature. So and it’s probably a bit the same for you in Brazil. Right? You change your working hours according to the seasons, but go to work at 7:00 in the morning. I might still be there at 7:00 at night, but that was fine if we were doing work events.

00:24:13:03 – 00:24:37:11
Sam Theobald
So we had a conference. There were always on the weekends, never happened. During the working week, you were expected to give up your weekend to go to that event or to go to that conference. Now that might include a trip to Bali, so you were pretty excited about it, but it could also be, you know, in a conference room in Brisbane, you know, you took the good with with the not so exciting.

00:24:38:09 – 00:24:38:17
Philippa White
And.

00:24:38:24 – 00:25:08:16
Sam Theobald
But now for us, you know I was talking about doing an away day with my team and I said, do you think that the activity would have been better sort of for a whole day? And so do you think they would go on the weekends? And that was a categorical no. And so there’s things like that. And I think if we take the time to let some of those cultural things from our from our international colleagues come into our work, it could add a huge amount to the way we operate.

00:25:08:22 – 00:25:31:02
Sam Theobald
It’s only valuable if we listen. And again, that’s something you and I talk about a lot. You know, I think one of the biggest lessons I learned and the team that I was with when we did Thailand was, oh, my goodness, we don’t listen enough. You need to really hear what other people are saying. And once you do, that changes your entire perspective on that totally.

00:25:31:12 – 00:25:52:03
Philippa White
And and being open to those differences isn’t it. And it’s only through those experiences that you are able to it’s like practicing anything right. Yeah. So even practicing listening, I mean, you can hear everyone can hear not everyone because some people are deaf, but if you are able if you are of hearing, if you’re able to hear, everyone can hear.

00:25:52:03 – 00:26:15:00
Philippa White
But the act to listen and to understand what that person’s saying is very different. And it’s a skill and it’s something that you need to develop. And also just to be able to have that cultural intelligence to be able to understand those differences. I mean, I just find it fascinating because even that cultural intelligence, you develop that, but someone has to give it to you.

00:26:15:04 – 00:26:26:07
Philippa White
Someone has to almost you have to have gone through the process of having those experiences for someone to almost give you that present of having it. Yeah. Because you just have it by going somewhere.

00:26:26:18 – 00:26:47:01
Sam Theobald
No. And I you know what, I think that’s absolutely right. I think you know, I think you you get it or you learn it quicker when you’re you’re forced to because you’re, you know, you move and you change countries and you all of a sudden have to do that. And therefore, you become much more aware of it when you are interacting with people.

00:26:47:11 – 00:27:02:21
Sam Theobald
But as you say, there’s I know plenty of people who have lived in other countries and never, never thought of because they’ve stayed in in a particular community or they’ve isolated themselves and they live in a bubble and it doesn’t it doesn’t. It’s not the same. No.

00:27:03:10 – 00:27:16:20
Philippa White
It’s not the same. Talk to us about self awareness because it has everything to do about diversity as well. Actually, it’s a power. What is that power of self awareness? Why is it important in in the world that you are passionate about?

00:27:16:23 – 00:27:38:13
Sam Theobald
Again, I think it’s a skill and I think it sometimes it takes a lot to be taught self-awareness. And I think it’s a practice. I think we can forget about it. I think you probably go through phases in your life where you’re more self-aware than others, whether that be because of something that’s happening to you or what you’re going through.

00:27:38:18 – 00:27:47:01
Sam Theobald
But I think self-awareness is it’s critical to happiness. I think that that’s going to sound really corny.

00:27:47:10 – 00:27:51:07
Philippa White
No, it doesn’t sound corny at all. Fulfillment. Fulfillment. I mean.

00:27:51:07 – 00:28:11:07
Sam Theobald
It is it’s that sense. If you know yourself, then you are going and you know how you going to react in situations. You can then prepare yourself. You can then make decisions about whether you will put yourself in those situations or you know, and I think I was telling you the story of my son, who’s nearly 20 and incredible at debating only child.

00:28:11:07 – 00:28:33:06
Sam Theobald
So he’s always been treated as an adult. So I’ve got that hyper sense of confidence and everything else. And and I sort of said to him, you should be a lawyer. You would you hands down, being a my amazing barrister, you could stand up in court and win any argument. He said, Mum, I couldn’t, he said I couldn’t defend somebody if I knew that they they’d committed a crime.

00:28:33:10 – 00:28:54:09
Sam Theobald
He said I had such a sense of moral compass that I can’t do that. And he said just the same way, studying chemistry. And he said just the same way. I couldn’t work for certain pharmaceutical companies and it was a real eye opening lightbulb moment for me to go, Wow. He’s learned self-awareness very early on in his life.

00:28:54:09 – 00:29:20:16
Sam Theobald
Now, I hope, like I said, that he continues to practice that and it stays with him through each phase of his life. Because if we had some of our senior employees who were that self aware and didn’t put themselves into positions, I think they’d be they’d be a lot happier in their jobs. They put themselves through so much pain by trying to think that they will be able you can’t you’re not going to be able to change your reactions to things.

00:29:20:16 – 00:29:30:03
Sam Theobald
You can control them. You can’t change those. Those things that are inherently part of. Yeah, there’s sort of what’s genetic and what’s learned.

00:29:30:09 – 00:29:52:07
Philippa White
I think as well, why it’s so important to have people that get this stuff running these companies and departments of companies, because like you say, it’s what leads to fulfillment, it’s what leads to happiness. If you’re doing something in the way that really brings out the best in you and then you can really shine at that and people see that.

00:29:52:17 – 00:30:14:04
Philippa White
And then knowing that diversity is so important because, you know, this whole talk of, oh, we need to have DNA, it’s, you know, God, we have to take that box and know it’s a competitive advantage. You have a diverse team of people that are really able to do what they’re amazing. And you’ve got a diversity because I’m you know, I know what I’m good at, but I can’t do those other five things, but I now know what I’m good at.

00:30:14:04 – 00:30:32:13
Philippa White
So therefore I’m going to hire these five people that can do what I can’t do. But I only know what I can’t do because I know who I am and what makes me tick, right? And then it’s kind of having that amazingly diverse team of all these great thinkers making amazing things happen. I mean, it can all be a good thing.

00:30:32:13 – 00:30:42:13
Philippa White
But again, it’s also interesting because then it plays into that. Okay, that’s why active listening is important, that cultural intelligence important because the chances of those people probably being very different to you are quite high.

00:30:42:24 – 00:31:14:11
Sam Theobald
Yeah. Yeah. And I think that’s exactly right. And you see it sometimes that it can happen by accident rather than design. A lot of times, you know, you see leadership teams where someone new will come in and all of a sudden the dynamic will change and it will be a great thing at first. But then it starts to get into a rhythm and it’s like, this has changed because you’re accepting this totally different point of view and it’s enhancing what you can produce as a team rather than it all being one dimensional.

00:31:14:20 – 00:31:24:03
Philippa White
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Really interesting. If we were to talk about the return on being human centric, what would you say?

00:31:24:09 – 00:31:54:21
Sam Theobald
It’s a really good question. I think I think the pandemic is like any major global crisis. I suppose it’s created that stop. I want to get off for a while, moments for a lot of people and a reassessment. And I think it’s being driven by the personal needs of the film. And so I think as an organization, even things that everybody’s struggling with, like the great resignation and all these things, they’ve always these things happen through life.

00:31:55:01 – 00:32:21:22
Sam Theobald
Quiet. Quitting is not new. It’s been there, but never it just never had a label before. It’s now being marketed where it wasn’t, you know, big name 20 years ago. But I think they’re all being driven by self-fulfillment. And therefore, if we don’t start looking at human centric management, leadership, organizational design, you’re just going to feel like you’re not going to be able to attract people.

00:32:21:22 – 00:32:42:12
Sam Theobald
You’re not going to be able to get the best brains, the most. You know, those people who are going to be the future. They were already making their decisions about what type of organization they want to work for, how they want to feel during that time. It comes back to that very first thing. You know, for me, I always ask the question of how do you want them to feel?

00:32:42:22 – 00:33:05:13
Sam Theobald
Yes. What do you want them to do? But how do you want them to feel when they go when they go through this? And I think that’s where the me human centric design is becoming more and more critical. I think it’s always been critical, and I’ve been lucky enough to work for organizations that have also put it on in center, which has allowed me to develop my thinking and to experiment even with things.

00:33:05:19 – 00:33:22:13
Sam Theobald
It is just going to be the norm. It’s like, you know, leadership, one or one. It will be you don’t know how to be human in the way you run your business, the way you bring yourself to work, the way you interact with your friends. Your life’s just going to be unfulfilled.

00:33:22:13 – 00:33:33:01
Philippa White
Yeah, yeah. Really interesting. So you’ve been a client of ties for a few years now. Just in your mind, I’m just curious to know, what do you see the importance of tie?

00:33:33:06 – 00:33:59:20
Sam Theobald
It teaches you very abruptly the importance of listening and really listening to other people, putting yourself in their shoes, because we can’t begin to imagine what it’s like for every individual in every country and every situation. But we can hear it from other people, listen to their stories, try to understand what they’re going through. That, to me is where Ty is unique.

00:33:59:20 – 00:34:22:20
Sam Theobald
I don’t know any of the I’ve never worked with another organization that has the ability to do that so pointedly with with a group of people and it taps into them. You know, we talk about cultural intelligence. We talk about emotional intelligence. I test those things. Yeah, it really does. It really pushes you. Yes, it looks at you.

00:34:22:22 – 00:34:48:20
Sam Theobald
There’s lots of coaching, lots of leadership development, but there’s that cultural intelligence that you start to learn about the importance of it. You learn about the importance of emotional intelligence and the feelings that are evoked, the self-awareness. I always love listening to the time podcasts and listening to people’s and the emotion that you manage to bring out through people that maybe have never behaved like that before in a work environment.

00:34:49:08 – 00:34:53:07
Sam Theobald
It’s incredible, but it’s because it goes back to the core.

00:34:53:16 – 00:35:02:10
Philippa White
Of the person. Is there a story that stands out from the sort of the last experience that we had just in your mind, just off the top and.

00:35:02:19 – 00:35:22:08
Sam Theobald
Then, oh, god, there’s so many. It was when we presented the last final, you know, there was not one of us that wasn’t crying and we couldn’t speak because we were so we’re so proud of what we’ve done. But we were also it had taken us all to a place that I don’t think any of us had expected.

00:35:22:09 – 00:35:44:16
Sam Theobald
And that group was quite unique as well in that we were all people living in countries that we weren’t born in. So it was the cultural differences were huge and the people that we were working with were so grateful and so humble about what we’d done. And all we’ve done is six weeks worth of work and we, you know.

00:35:45:00 – 00:35:46:14
Sam Theobald
Yeah, it was life changing. Yeah.

00:35:46:14 – 00:36:12:15
Philippa White
That’s amazing. Just to echo what you’re saying, because I mean, for me, that last meeting was incredible. And I think just what I found amazing was everybody being ex-pats, everyone living in other countries that they were not from, other than, of course, the organization being based in Kenya. But just hearing how everyone it was kind of like we’re we’re just also similar.

00:36:12:24 – 00:36:34:21
Philippa White
We’re also similar. And it was just extraordinary because it takes those weird moments where you know that in the sense that you’ve lived in a other place. But sometimes it takes these moments to sort of connect people. And suddenly you see these similarities and these moments, too, to sort of realize, oh my gosh, one, we’re so similar to God.

00:36:34:21 – 00:36:55:16
Philippa White
We’re also interconnected. I mean, I have these feelings. I’m here. I’ve lived here forever. We’ve never come across each other. You’ve had a completely different upbringing, but yet we’re coming together at this point and we’re so similar. And I just think if the world had more of that, we would be in a very different place.

00:36:55:23 – 00:37:12:16
Sam Theobald
Yeah. And understanding the shared experience. So, you know. Yes, but as you say, you might grow up in different places, but there was so many stories that were told from both the organization in Kenya and us as individuals around the table. And we had that. And you’re like.

00:37:12:23 – 00:37:32:00
Philippa White
Yeah, I think that’s so weird, of course. But it’s that because yeah, I mean, it’s amazing. Now I love quotes. We’re coming to the end of the podcast. I love quotes. Is there a quote that you can think of that sort of sums up just our conversation or one that you like to kind of think back on?

00:37:32:00 – 00:37:53:07
Sam Theobald
Sometimes I’m big on quotes, there’s loads and loads, but I think the thing that is in my head at the moment is more driving me to action is carpe diem, like seize the day, take the opportunities when they come. We could have put off our what we type because it’s never a perfect time to do anything. You just need to seize the day and lean into it.

00:37:53:07 – 00:37:59:16
Sam Theobald
Honestly, what you get out of things is sometimes not just surprising, but astounding.

00:37:59:19 – 00:38:07:17
Philippa White
Yeah. Oh, my gosh. Now, is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to tell our listeners as we wrap up?

00:38:07:20 – 00:38:29:07
Sam Theobald
I think that whole seize the day, like there’s never a perfect opportunity. I think business is, you know, you’ve got deadlines to meet, things to do at certain time, but you have to have flexibility to take opportunities when they come because and that’s it from a career perspective that from a client perspective, you have to be open to those things.

00:38:29:07 – 00:38:51:05
Sam Theobald
So, you know, be self-aware enough to open up a little bit and be comfortable with the uncomfortable at times. It’s scary moving countries, but the things you learn from living in another place or working in a different department or working with a different group of people, you can’t replicate that. It’s going to be different wherever you go. I have not had a traditional career.

00:38:51:12 – 00:39:13:17
Sam Theobald
You know, I started out one place, I’ve ended up somewhere else, but every step that I’ve taken along the way, I’ve learned something from. And it’s made me who I am today. It’s made me good, I believe, good at what I do. And I think, you know, that’s okay. It’s okay to have a plan B and a plan C, and if everything doesn’t go to plan, take the different path and see where it goes.

00:39:13:19 – 00:39:37:04
Philippa White
Yeah. No, that’s really interesting. And I think just to sort of bring it back to where what you were talking about at the beginning about the power of empowerment and of people realizing that change can come from them, ideas can come from them. And I think particularly just with all this change that’s going on next 15 right now and all these different companies come together and it’s a whole it’s quite unsettling.

00:39:37:13 – 00:40:01:01
Philippa White
But I think just people first, how can we make people feel? But then also saying if things need to change, then they probably do because with any kind of change, lots needs to happen to make it right. And it’s in your hands like it’s it’s up to all of us. And I think, yeah, it’s, it’s amazing. The company so lucky to have you leading that because I couldn’t think of anyone better really.

00:40:01:01 – 00:40:11:12
Philippa White
So thank you. I mean, thank you so much for your time and just your enthusiasm and your inspiration and just being you because, yeah, we’re all lucky to know you.

00:40:11:16 – 00:40:15:22
Sam Theobald
Thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been a great conversation.

00:40:16:14 – 00:40:17:01
Philippa White
Thank you.

00:40:17:10 – 00:40:18:10
Sam Theobald
It’s easy.

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