Interaction's Thrivalism

Pursuing Purpose with Farleigh Performance (Graham Abbey & Sammy Burt)

September 20, 2022 Season 4 Episode 1
Pursuing Purpose with Farleigh Performance (Graham Abbey & Sammy Burt)
Interaction's Thrivalism
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Interaction's Thrivalism
Pursuing Purpose with Farleigh Performance (Graham Abbey & Sammy Burt)
Sep 20, 2022 Season 4 Episode 1

To win the hearts and minds of both employees and customers, companies today need to highlight their efforts to be good global citizens. Businesses that build and positively impact their community of employees and customers creates a sense they are a part of something larger and more meaningful than themselves as individuals. 

People who feel a sense of purpose and community, particularly where their individual values line up with the company, are more loyal, more productive and happier - ultimately the business is more successful.  

 In this episode we're joined by Graham Abbey and Sammy Burt of Farleigh Performance to explore how to build community around common purpose, how to clarify and communicate your business purpose, and we examine the benefits of doing this for employee engagement, productivity, happiness, recruitment and retention.  


Thanks for listening! Check out Interaction's website for more workplace culture content and case studies (or just follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter).

Show Notes Transcript

To win the hearts and minds of both employees and customers, companies today need to highlight their efforts to be good global citizens. Businesses that build and positively impact their community of employees and customers creates a sense they are a part of something larger and more meaningful than themselves as individuals. 

People who feel a sense of purpose and community, particularly where their individual values line up with the company, are more loyal, more productive and happier - ultimately the business is more successful.  

 In this episode we're joined by Graham Abbey and Sammy Burt of Farleigh Performance to explore how to build community around common purpose, how to clarify and communicate your business purpose, and we examine the benefits of doing this for employee engagement, productivity, happiness, recruitment and retention.  


Thanks for listening! Check out Interaction's website for more workplace culture content and case studies (or just follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter).

Interaction’s Thrivalism  - Purpose and Performance with Farleigh Performance 

Graham Abbey: “Liberating. That is quite an evocative words, but it's a better word than, say, empowering people, because, again, empowering people still leaves you with the power. The empower is the person who's giving you permission: Yeah, you can now be empowered. Go on, go away and be empowered.”


Toby Brown: Hi, I'm Toby, Head of Marketing at Interaction. This is Thrivalism, our podcast focused on creating thriving workplaces, cultures and communities. In this episode, I talk to Sammy Burt and Graham Abbey of Farleigh Performance and we get into the subject of purpose and performance. Some of it gets quite abstract and existential, and some of it is practical and applicable to any organisation looking to uncover their purpose in a way that feels authentic. So without further ado, here are Sammy and Graham. 


Graham's already warned me there may be a copious amount of swearing in this episode, so that is a listener warning and we'll see how that goes. We're here to talk about performance, essentially, say, performance culture tied into purpose and how those two things correlate and interlink. How do you find your purpose? How do you develop communities around it? How do you bring a business onboard with that journey towards purpose? Is it necessary? It's quite a lot to unpack and we're going to keep it quite short, hopefully, so I won't blather on for too long. Probably good to start with a quick overview of Farleigh Performance - Graham, you want to give us a brief intro and a bit of background to follow performance?


Graham Abbey: [00:01:43] Yeah, sure. I'd love to. I mean, as the name suggests, we work in the area of organisational performance, which means that we work with businesses around there. Their most pressing problems is where we like to start and we like to use those as ways of helping them build their long term sustainable performance.


Toby Brown: [00:02:05] Awesome. Thank you. We'll have to dig into what that actually means in fine detail.


Graham Abbey: [00:02:09] Yeah, sure. Yeah. It's the question we hate the most. So what do you do? Because most people then goes, okay, and so what do you do?


Toby Brown: [00:02:17] But that's luckily I've got those questions coming up. So we'll get right into that. And Sammy, if you want to give us a bit of your background and how you got involved with performance, what the history is there.


Sammy Burt: [00:02:27] Yeah, absolutely. So my background is a winding one, so I won't start from the beginning. But broadly speaking, I was working in brand and working in brand at a fairly deep level. I would say really unearthing authentic brand, which started over time to move into internal culture or internal brand. It's sometimes referred as or employer brand and realise that I really love understanding people more. And so I was drawn further and further into that culture side of conversation. And then Graham and I crossed paths quite a few years ago, and just before COVID hit sort of November 19, we both seemed to be setting up similar things or thinking about similar things. And we went for a coffee and never looked back.


Toby Brown: [00:03:09] All right. That sounds like a great point to jump into then. So what are the similar things that you guys were thinking about at that point, that pre-COVID point, which is a brilliant time to launch a business?


Sammy Burt: [00:03:18] I think I was feeling really lucky to have been in roles where I loved my job and I enjoyed the culture and I had either the guts or the permission either way to make changes as I saw fit or do the things that I thought were right. And I've got a number of people around me that just aren't in that position. They go to work to go to work and come home again without working for the weekend. And it just seems desperately unfair to me that people don't enjoy what they're doing and aren't drawn to it. You know that misery on a Sunday night. So I was certainly in a space of thinking, so how can I work with people in a way that will get them more joy out of their life and all aspects of it? And I think I was starting from a place of through knowing themselves better, they will get more joy because they'll be able to apply themselves or or dig into what's really important to them better.


Toby Brown: [00:04:08] And joy is something I've seen you talk about quite a lot, and I'd like to come back to that a bit later because it's really interesting that the where purpose meets joy and how those things play together. So some of that's very much a sort of people angle on stuff. And Graham, I guess your angle has come from purpose as well, bringing that to that conversation. So you were Chief Purpose Officer for Tate and Lyle, I think one of the earliest people to have that sort of job title. Tell us about a bit about that.


Graham Abbey: [00:04:33] I think I've always worked in what I think of as a sort of space between organisation and people, and that's got me working in the area of purpose because I think you work in that space, you work with individual purpose a lot, you work with team purpose a lot. And I think what we've seen in recent years is this question of what's wider organisation success. And we're seeing lots of big picture issues that are driving organisations to really question some deeper things that they're not questioned before. And I started doing some consulting work with Lyle PLC, who sold their sugar business. So we know of in the UK as being a sugar business, but they've got out of sugar in 2010 and in a way I had gone on a sort of journey of sort of existential crisis, if you like, saying, well, what are we now and who are we? And as we start to bring that together, how can we start to name that and to name something that's more inspirational, is bigger, is outside of us, stretches us, takes us, takes us forward. And I got involved in naming that and made the mistake one day of saying to the CEO, you know, you really need to take this a bit more seriously. You need a bit more in in-house resource to support the this you know, you need somebody at a senior level to take this, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then the rest is history, as he said. Well. Sounds as if you're writing yourself a job description there, so. Well, exactly. Exactly. It was really it was amazing to step from being an outsider in an organisation to an insider, you know, and having the early part of my career was all in organisations and then I've had a big chunk of time outside of organisations as it were, consulting to them. So it was a sort of salutary reminder of the complexity of being in an organisation and doing this kind of work.


Toby Brown: [00:06:23] Especially a huge one like that in the middle of an existential crisis. That must be complicated times.


Graham Abbey: [00:06:29] Yeah. And great fun, you know, and you to, to link to what Sammy was saying. You find ways to liberate some people, as it were, to unlock the joy that's in doing meaningful work. And frankly, they do the rest of it for you.


Toby Brown: [00:06:47] So we'll definitely come back to how you go about doing that in a few minutes or so. One thing that I want to nail, I want to nail a couple of things before we get into the meat of stuff. When we talk about purpose in the sense which something we're obviously referencing a lot, how you guys defining that and what do you mean by it?


Graham Abbey: [00:07:04] Hmm. Well, at an organisational level it is an existential question. It is why do we exist if we weren't here, what would be missing from the world? And they're the types of questions that have gone relatively unanswered for organisations within the quite functional capitalist system that we're in. You can survive and thrive or have been able to by doing some good business basics, by knowing your customer, providing a good service, working out the financial situation, you know, and so on. But I think we're seeing organisations step into some very different spaces now because we're in a very different environment.


Toby Brown: [00:07:44] That leads me to something that I'm sort of quite interested in something maybe this is one you could answer, but when we talk about purpose, do we talk about organisational purpose and sort of brand purpose? Are they the same thing or can have an organisation have a purpose that is separate from its sort of consumer focus, brand purpose. So say for Tate & Lyle  for instance, have the purpose of making the planet better wherever it is, but just sell sugar as their consumer purpose. So I'm a bit confused by those things.


Sammy Burt: [00:08:09] It's a really tricky one and I'm grinning and sucking my teeth at the same time because that's the purist.


Graham Abbey: [00:08:15] That's a clever trick.


Toby Brown: [00:08:17] So I'm so glad this isn't a video podcast.


Sammy Burt: [00:08:19] Yeah, yeah. Try at home. I think the purist in me says no to the art to that really strongly and says if you have defined the reason you exist, then that should run through everything about you. And certainly there is a risk of purpose washing where we go out and say, so this is our purpose and we hope that that attracts employees and we hope that it attracts customers. But the reality is when you get under the skin, it's not true. It's not what we're doing, it's not what we believe in. And I think that's then just wrongly labelled. That's your proposition. And then there's a different conversation about whether it's an authentic proposition, and we'll do that in another podcast. Maybe that's the purist in me that says it has to be everywhere. I think what I've certainly learnt over the last couple of years is that we actually need to be a lot kinder to each other and we need to hold this idea of purpose a little bit more gently. Some organisations will approach purpose from an external perspective first. Now where I am now putting that purist to bed, I believe that that's okay if that's where they start. As long as there is intention to bring it to life elsewhere or bring it to life is probably the wrong phrase to live it and to feel it and make it alive elsewhere. And we need to stop bashing and shaming those organisations that try it a little bit and fall over. And then we say, Well, you weren't doing it right and you weren't doing purpose and does it because all that does is put barriers up for others that want to give it a go. So I think I'm now of the belief that if the intent is there to do it well and to for it to be true, then let's give people a little bit of space to play with it in different ways and see how it see how it works out for them.


Toby Brown: [00:09:59] Yeah. And I [00:10:00] almost don't mind if the intent is wholly cynical to drive sales. However it as long as the net result is still good, the actions that come out of the bucket are still beneficial. I'm sort of okay with that.


Sammy Burt: [00:10:11] Mm. Okay. I'm not only inasmuch as if the intentions are cynical, then it's not going to last very long because the next fad that comes round the corner will take over. So it won't be something that lives on in the organisation and drives their long term vision of the organisation or the long term way that they work with people. It will always be short term and you can call it purpose if you want. It won't be. It'll be a strategic way of working. So I think the cynical ones over time, my hope, the optimist in me will be shifted because the people in their organisations will say, we don't want to work in that way. If you're going to do this, we're going to do it right. And so there'll be a bottom up.


Toby Brown: [00:10:51] And something I'd like to come on to a bit is how? People drive that change through an organisation as opposed to the top down stuff. So we'll circle back to that in a bit because that's a really interesting subject I think. But let's start at the beginning.


Graham Abbey:  It links back to what it's a segue into. Well, how do you live it then or how do you start it? Because I'd say neither. That statement of organisational purpose nor the brand statement of purpose are actually the purpose. I mean they're artefacts of the purpose and we think of it at an individual level or what's when somebody says, what's your purpose? That's quite a tricky question. And actually, in truth, you know, and it's tricky for us and we're in the space. I always went elsewhere then we're in that space. But so, you know, and it's the same for organisations, it's, it's in everything that you do, it's in how you do things, it's in your lived experience, your, it's a sort of, if you like, purpose in use. So they're all just particular snapshots at a particular time and they're sort of, if you like, they are practical devices to, to move to change to your point of organisational change.


Toby Brown: [00:12:03] In terms of that practicality, how do you begin, say an organisation engages you guys and goes, right, we don't really know what our purpose is. We feel like we should have one. It's really important. We're all ethical and we want to do well. Go. How do you start unearthing that purpose? What the first steps of that process for you.


Sammy Burt: [00:12:20] Come in and calm down. It's probably the first thing. You know, it's not that big a deal, although it's a massive deal at the same time. And then I think and Graham, feel free to jump in here. Our approach tends to be a participative one. So you've mentioned there about top down, we wouldn't be encouraging an approach where we sit the leaders in a room and we work out a purpose. What we're really trying to do is to is to unearth it from what's going on inside people and to start conversations between people, between groups, with individuals across the organisation in a fairly structured, straight, messy way and encourage those conversations to keep happening with us there or without us there. Just to start people having the conversation about what is it that really matters to us.


Graham Abbey: [00:13:05] Actually, as soon as we start, we're trying to help people live their purpose and notice the purpose that they're living. And then at some point in that stream of work or activity, to name it, because people feel it's helpful to name it and often it is, I find myself starting one step before, before what Sam described, which is is to sit down with the leader, leaders, wherever this is coming from, really seek to explore why they are wanting to step into this space. What's the purpose of their purpose? You know, what's the purpose behind the purpose? And also to start to try and help them surface. They have assumptions that they're holding about why that's a good thing. So how do you think this is going to drive performance?


Toby Brown: [00:13:57] Do you find when you hit that point, some of their assumptions need correcting sometimes is what they're expecting as a result and what's actually going to happen?


Graham Abbey: [00:14:05] Yeah, I mean, correcting is a very strong word, but certainly exploring, challenging, presenting some alternatives because I think much of the true benefit of entering this space of working with organised organisational purpose is actually about shifting many of the assumptions we have about how performance is generated in organisations.


Toby Brown: [00:14:29] That's a really interesting area, so let's sort of move on to that. So when they, when they say if we do this project and we uncover our purpose and we commit to it and we live it, what would the benefits be to our organisation? What are some of the things they're going to see happening?


Graham Abbey: [00:14:43] I mean there's now a good, strong body of evidence around benefits in internally, in the way in which people feel and act in the organisation. I mean some of your previous podcasts have really brought that, brought that to life guys from X Ledger, for example, I thought did a really good a good job at describing what it means to coalesce around something that matters to you all, and also how you're connecting more widely to customers and to communities. And I think that community element is becoming more and more important. So I think there's plenty of evidence around that. I think what we want to get into early is people's sense of the gap between those two things, because simply naming a purpose doesn't on its own, open the doorway to that set of outcomes. And therefore, what do you think you're going to do with your purpose once you've got it kind of conversation? Because there seems to be a correlation between having a purpose and getting all these outcomes that doesn't say having one causes the other.


Toby Brown: [00:15:49] It can be a bit like putting your values on the meeting room walls and expecting everyone to.


Graham Abbey: [00:15:53] It's exactly. That it's got the potential to be a helpful step at some point in the process. As I say, my preference is to do it later rather than earlier. I mean, if we go back to Tate & Lyle, we never formally launched the purpose. You know, we did some work. We got a group of people together from across the organisation to start to explore what might be the purpose and how it might be. And we and we ended up naming something and we started to do some experiments at different points in the organisation around that and we allowed it the space to grow and shape itself and to draw almost like a snowball effect to draw others into it. And then at some point it appeared in the in the annual report, it went external and it just felt, well, that's the obvious thing to do because this is what we're doing. And so there was there was, in fact, no formal launch of it. Again, I think we miss back to my point about what is purpose. We can misconceived conceive purpose and therefore we put lots of effort into naming it and then some big fanfare and trumpets to launch it into the organisation. We're going to roll it out as if it's a sort of neat little red carpet that we sort of roll out through the organisation and again misunderstands what performance is.


Sammy Burt: [00:17:14] For me, I think that's one of the preconceptions that people often come with is that at some point you'll have this phrase or no more than five words. So it's memorable because that's really important when we're having conversations about purpose and that the day after the launch everything will have changed. There'll be this shift and everybody will suddenly be pulling together and going in this single direction. And the reality is, when purpose is truly authentic, it's much more of an aha moment than wham bam party launch moment. You know, it's something that feels right. It's something you relax into because it's like, Oh, okay. And the reality is as well, more often than not, when you start having conversations about purpose, it's being lived. People are working against this unnamed purpose in many ways around the organisation, either overtly or kind of just in the way that they do things, which is why it's true, and which is why it becomes so much easier for people to go, Well, yeah, of course that's our purpose. That's who we are. It just brings them together to say, Okay, we never put a label on it before. And as Graham said, that's not the thing that we think is most important, but it is a very useful tool to say, okay, so now guys, we all realise that we were all kind of doing this same thing. We never really had a conversation about it because again, society tells us we probably shouldn't talk about that stuff. And now that we can, we can be more directive with it and we can start taking it into our strategy as much as just being much more open about the way that we're living ourselves.


Toby Brown: [00:18:40] So I'm getting the picture, this sort of 1000 tiny motors constantly rather than a single big explosion or idea or hot air balloon.


Sammy Burt: [00:18:49] Absolutely. Yeah. And those motors are working in isolation.


Toby Brown: [00:18:53] Until you bring them together.


Sammy Burt: [00:18:54] At the same time. This is where it gets well, until you bring them together. But they're still in isolation. So what we're not trying to create here and this is where it gets a bit heavy is this singing from the same hymn sheet thing where we go, okay, so everybody used to walk around in the I'm going to mess up my history here. But in the fifties, maybe it was the thirties in their bowler hats and they left themselves at the door when they walked into the office. And the risk with the purpose wave, if we want to call it that, is that we're asking them to wear just a different bowler hat and we're asking them to come into the office and just align to an organisational purpose. It's exactly the same. Come in and make money, come in and change the world. But please, if you could just leave the things that are important to you outside, that be really convenient for us as an organisation. And what we're saying is that to make this true, to make it sustainable, to make it lived, to make it fun and joyous, it needs to be all of us as individuals, just rubbing along next to each other rather than trying to connect us all into this giant machine. I don't if any of that makes sense.


Toby Brown: [00:19:55] That leads to interesting frictions, doesn't it, as well? Yes. Frictions can power business change in many different directions. [00:20:00] And trying to eliminate those through a shared vision of bowler hat is is counterintuitive.


Sammy Burt: [00:20:05] Yeah, absolutely. And it's back to your original question of what do we mean when we say purpose, it's that it should be a live conversation around organisations. What do we mean when we say our purpose? Because everybody will have a different understanding, a different way of living it, a different definition underneath those five words that we deem to write on the wall. And so it's really important that we don't just assume everybody understands our purpose to mean the same thing. Actually, we just keep talking about it over and over and over again.


Graham Abbey: [00:20:33] And for me, we're now into the territory of what we believe about driving performance. This performance comes from the liberation of people, not from the control of people. We've run organisations for a long, long time, fundamentally with a control mindset and we wonder why everybody's desperately unhappy. I mean, because we all love being controlled, don't we? So and that's back to the sort of conversations you start to get into. You're starting to get into a conversation of, well, actually, to what extent are we ready to be liberating people within our organisations and liberating. That is a quite an evocative word, but it's a better word than, say, empowering people because again, empowering people still leaves you with the power. The empower is the person who's giving you permission now to be. Yeah, you can now be empowered. Go on, go away and be empowered. Well, until I decide otherwise. Yeah. So I'm still holding the power because I've given you the power. Now, liberation is a different I think it's a has a different quality to it.


Toby Brown: [00:21:44] So it does. But that makes it a challenging term to try and squeeze by the board. Right. If you say to them you've got 1000 people, I'm going to liberate them all. Here we go. I can imagine there's pushback on that.


Sammy Burt: [00:21:55] Yeah. So Graham's job title just and we've stolen this from Maiden, by the way, just to credit them as CEO. He has about four bullet points broadly, but the one that I always remember is most relevant is to get out of the way. That's probably I agree. I'm going to speak for you. Probably one of the hardest things I would say as a leader, maybe not for you because you're in this space. But if we said to every CEO, your role is now to get out of the way. That's a really big ask. And that's why it's quite frustrating, frustrating when this work is seen as the soft stuff because this is the really fucking hard stuff, like to ask leaders to stop parenting their people and to trust them to do the thing that is right when the thing that's right needs doing and forgive them when it's the wrong thing at the wrong time is really big. That's a that's so much harder.


Toby Brown: [00:22:44] How do you navigate those conversations.


Graham Abbey: [00:22:47] It's not a hole in one solution. You can't go here we go, boom now. And people enter this in all sorts of different places and all sorts of different, different journeys. I mean, my journey with Tate & Lyle was over a 6 to 7 year period. And actually they've done some of their biggest things and greatest work since then in the last and the last five or six years. So, you know, this is it always sounds a bit naff to say that it's a journey. You know, you've got to in our view, you've got to meet people where they are, you know, and you've got to meet people where they are and not collude fully with where they are and build trust, build relationships, do good things. And that's why the at the heart of our work is really finding something that's very pressing now to be the focal point, because the real work the real work happens over time. But actually to say, look, the benefit for this is in ten years time, pay us now have never really been a winning strategy in any business context.


Sammy Burt: [00:24:11] It's a bit like trying to lose weight, isn't it? Like if you lose a good amount of weight in the first couple of weeks, you're more likely to stick to the diet. So working with organisations, what they're really struggling with now and creating some wins they are creating, not us, will help them stick to that new diet if you like.


Toby Brown: [00:24:27] So I was going to say sort of giving them the wins that they've defined but aren't really wins in your heads with the view that the wins in your head come further down the line, the actual wins.


Sammy Burt: [00:24:37] I have no idea what you just said.


Toby Brown: [00:24:39] That makes two of us.


Graham Abbey: [00:24:41] Look, I was going to I'm going to say we're sitting here at at Farleigh House, home of Bath Rugby, a win is a win. I mean, let's not underplay the importance of winning. So winning being built momentum, winning builds excitement, winning shows progress. And therefore the very act [00:25:00] of winning is and then really understanding why it is that you're winning and how it is that you've won differently this time and therefore how you might do it differently. So I think it's a central part to what we do, even though the long term game may be in some other place.


Sammy Burt: [00:25:16] Yeah, it makes me think of an organisation that we were working with last year. So 4,000 people I think globally an organisation that at its earliest is about 180 years old but has grown through merger and acquisition etc. So it's become a lot bigger and is split by culture, by language, by who does what in which factory, etc. and time zones of course. So loads and loads of reasons for them not to behave as one organisation and they embarked on unearthing their purpose with us. And the process that we went through was a very inclusive, participative one that brought people together across those, all of those divides to have. Conversations about what really mattered to them, and despite there being perceptions ahead of time that we're all really different. What we want in China is completely opposite to what they want. In Scotland, once they started having these conversations, they realised as individuals, as people, just human beings on this planet, we want loads of the same things. And so the quick win, if you like, that we didn't give them, but we helped to create an environment that it happened in, was this understanding that actually we are all in this for the same reasons, and once the barriers started to go down, we started to take ourselves or they started to take themselves a lot less seriously as individuals. You know, we're not up against each other. We can have conversation, we can have fun, we can collaborate, we can ask for help. So the naming of the purpose was one of the deliverables, if you like, of that process. But the really big immediate benefit was they had an organisation that suddenly understood why it was one organisation and not five or six different ones. So the conversations that started aiding their performance as an organisation very, very quickly, regardless of whether they had that purpose named, polished, copy, written and painted on the wall.


Toby Brown: [00:27:04] So the process was the benefit rather than the actual result almost.


Sammy Burt: [00:27:08] Absolutely. And a year and a half on the result is benefiting them. So they are directing themselves toward it. But certainly what they learnt about each other and about how they can have better conversations benefited them in the short term and is and is paying dividends still both to their retention and their performance as an organisation.


Toby Brown: [00:27:27] But that really ties into a point though I wanted to touch on actually, which is obviously remote working, hybrid working loads of the people we talk to, really keen to understand how to keep a solidified infused culture, a sense of togetherness, a sense of community. What's the role that purpose plays in helping businesses do that?


Graham Abbey: [00:27:46] I mean, in some ways I think it's the same role as to whether you're in the office or not in the office. I mean, I wonder whether this is just about to move us out of ever getting to do any work in hybrid working, isn't it? I wonder whether it's a bit overblown in a way. It's very much our focus of attention at the moment because it's been quite a it feels like it's been quite a radical shift. And for many people it has. And I mean, our general experience is that managers particularly are a bit stumped because they don't know what to do. Now, can I ask people to come in? Is it okay to come in for this period of time? Do we need rules? Don't we need rules again? Well, let's just create such a compelling workplace that will people want to come in and those sorts of things. Actually, this is an amazing time because what's happening is all those hidden conventions, those hidden assumptions that we had about our working relationships, have just been blown apart. So it's not the hybrid working that is important. I think it's that actually it's shining a light on what essentially has been a very archaic parental way of being in organisations. And actually we've now got a chance, not just a chance and need to re contract. That purpose can be part of that can be very helpful part of that because it takes you into a different domain which is just well why are we all really here? So it's a very fertile ground for purpose, you know, actually now rescuing my opportunity to work in hybrid, working again, it could be one of the frames of reference that really then allows you to explore this question of liberation again and this question of, well, actually, what does this mean for people to have more choice in what they do and where they do it and how they do it? And how do we support and equip them in making smart choices and choices when they can do things apart, when they can do it together and so on.


Sammy Burt: [00:29:47] If I can just ground that in an example, I think one of the big concerns that a lot people have got about hybrid working is that the experience people stay home and the only experience people have no one to learn from just by being near them. [00:30:00] This kind of office osmosis, you know, that we overhear conversations or we have a little chat. And I know that's a big concern for a lot of organisations and there are conversations going on about so do we need to tell the experienced people to come in exactly as Graeme just said? But what we try and create and what we believe is is more valuable might be a conversation between an inexperienced person and experienced person. So how does this all feel right now? Now if that experienced person starts to understand the value that they are to those junior people or those grads or whatever it might be, and the inadequacy or the hunger for learning or whatever it is that's going on from that junior person, you're more likely to get up in the morning and go, Yeah, maybe I'll go to the office today because I really know why I'm there. As opposed to come in on Tuesday because all the young guys are in and I need you to teach them X. So again, it's not naming it, it's just creating this understanding and empathy between people about what's important and how they benefit and value each other.


Graham Abbey: [00:30:57] So you're shifting relationship, aren't you? That's the other thing that's happening here. Again, the idea of an organisation is a funny old one because it really is this set of dynamic relationships and we I like it as a verb rather than a noun. We're constantly organising and we do that through the nature and the way, the way in which we relate to each other, which comes to a conversation as Sammy's so clearly put.


Toby Brown: [00:31:20] Sammy, I think you probably touched on it a bit in your answer there, but obviously when you go into a big organisation, you will have cynics in the ranks who hear the word purpose and just tune out and just aren't bothered about going on that journey by creating some of those conversations. It sounds like that's one way to sort of get them onside and get them to think about what you're doing in a different way. Is that something you find much? And if you do find cynics in the ranks, how do you tend to deal with those?


Sammy Burt: [00:31:46] My God, I love a cynic and it's quite disappointing if you have a I have a room that everyone's already a comfort because where's the tension? And I mean that very seriously. If everybody is already on board, then there isn't going to be that rub or that grit where this is truly real. It's not going to be challenged. You know, the ideal, my ideal when I write anything is to give it to someone who throws stones at it. So, you know, it's rock solid. And so to have a cynic in the room who is challenging it constantly is really, really useful because often they're voicing what many other people are afraid of saying or the internal conflict they're having themselves. You know, is this really going to do that? Is this really going to do that? And often when that happens, someone says, oh, well, how is this really going to benefit? You know, we're sitting around talking about blah, like, great. Well, let's talk about why we don't think it's valuable to sit around and talk. And often then what will happen is they will have a moment where something is revealed to them or they will reveal something. Or there is a little just a little glimmer that you see where they go. Okay. I got a little bit of value out of that. Okay. I'll try a little bit more. And the way that we work also invites experimentation. And so we don't believe that you sort of do something, then you can just go off and run with it. We encourage people to practice and create safe to fail experiments. So certainly with the cynics, that's a very useful way for them to poke and prod at the work and to try it out, you know, and there's some ego challenge in that as well. If you're getting it, I'm not even going to experiment. Well, you're not setting a very good example for your people, but I'll say that under my breath.


Graham Abbey: [00:33:16] Or directly to people. So I think, again, what you're describing beautifully, Sami, is what Toby you were referencing earlier around the tensions that then get exposed as you shift from trying to control everybody to one of liberating the joy and energy and capability in the organisation. Of course you're going to have tensions. The notion of the cynic or resistance people go into change and we've got to fight against the resistance. We're framing it as resistance simply because we're holding a relatively naive view that you can introduce something major and it's just going to flow through the organisation. And as Sami puts it, you'd be pretty worried if that happened. To be honest, actually you want because resistance is a sign of engagement. Yeah. If I can be bothered to argue against it. I mean, the worst thing in working with any organisation is everybody going, Oh yeah, that sounds great, great.


Toby Brown: [00:34:10] It's very hard to counter apathy as well as at least resistance means there's energy and engagement, even if it's not focussed in the direction you need it at the time.


Sammy Burt: [00:34:17] And often those resisters, when they when and if they, they flip or something happens, something shifts in them. They are the biggest advocates as well because they have pushed this to its absolute limit. You know, they've pulled that elastic band so hard to see how much it will take. And so when they go with it, they are just alive with energy for whatever it is they're trying to shift.


Graham Abbey: [00:34:41] And going with it becomes the main thing because if you like, the cynic is a particular type of resistor, you know, and that's that it usually it's that person who's willing to throw stones but isn't willing to actually do anything about their position against something. So what we would typically be trying to do [00:35:00] is find ways to make them more active and to hold them to account to that, to call them out. So if that's your view, what are you doing to to move that view forward? Because there'll be a legitimate issue at the back of that. But you've got to own that. You've got to be accountable. You need to be liberated to, you know, actually standing on the sidelines, you know, being on the outside of the tent pissing in is, you know, is a very safe place to be. So liberation sounds amazing, doesn't it? But it comes with a lot of accountability. It's a tough environment to work in. We've all become very comfortable in working in organisations where our boundaries are quite small and limited because it feels quite safe. It's dull, dull.


Sammy Burt: [00:35:43] Safe and it's never finished. You never sort of make that shift. And then, well, great. So I'm liberated now. Only a couple of weeks ago, the way that Graham and I were working together shifted. And after two years of working together in a very open way, I felt a need to report on what I'd done one day. And I wrote this very long message to him, and and I sat there like, what the hell am I doing? And I deleted it all. And I sent him a message saying, I just wrote you a really long message and then realised You don't need to know what I did today. But it's, it's really interesting because something in me was saying something shifted this week and he's now my boss. I now need to tell him everything I do, which is just crazy. If he didn't trust me to be doing the thing that needs to be done at the right time, he wouldn't be having me in the team, you know, if that trust wasn't there or we'd knowing Graham, we'd probably just be having a conversation about it. But he wouldn't kick me out straightaway. We revert to type often and we revert to what we think someone else's expectation is. And we don't take the time to consider if what we think is true is actually true, or if it's an assumption based on our own experience or where we've worked previously.


Toby Brown: [00:36:50] Matching up with the other side.



Graham Abbey: [00:36:52] This is what purpose starts to open up for you so it takes you into space that you're not usually in. And what we would be trying to find is very practical ways, workshops, conversations, whatever it might be, often around particular recognisable outcomes to get into more of this kind of conversation, to start to recognise, well, what's really going on here, what really matters to me, how am I willing to step into doing something about that perfect?


Toby Brown: [00:37:21] I think that is a really good place to start to draw to a close. So much interesting stuff in there. Thank you. I do want to ask one last thing, Sammy. We mentioned Joy at the beginning, and I think Joy is a really nice thing to talk about. So what's the link for you between joy and purpose and how can we have more joy in our lives?


Sammy Burt: [00:37:37] Oh, my goodness. How can we have more joy in our lives? I mean.


Toby Brown: [00:37:41] I think that is a very tough question to end. And I just sprung it on you. Just pull it out of the blue.


Sammy Burt: [00:37:47] Just a nice easy one to round off.


Graham Abbey: [00:37:49] I'd like to close. Yeah. Could you just close off in, in I think a couple of sentences. Yeah. I think that's what Toby is asking.


Sammy Burt: [00:37:57] Okay.


Graham Abbey: [00:37:58] If we were in a conversation we were working with you, we'd be now sort of saying something like Oh, that's really interesting.


Sammy Burt: [00:38:03] Toby, what makes you ask that?


Graham Abbey: [00:38:05] Yes.


Sammy Burt: [00:38:06] I'd be completely deflecting the question, I think. Joy to me is really important because I believe we have one life. I think this is where it gets a bit heavy. Toby, you might regret this. I think we have one life. I think we therefore have one opportunity to make as much of it as we can. And so joy sounds like a really short word and perhaps very flippant at times, but I think having joy in our lives is just so important. It just it allows us to be in the flow of who we really are. And so personally, the way that I've going back on everything we've just said named, my purpose is around creating greater access or removing the barriers to joy in all that I do. So in some organisations that may be people that are more joyous or more liberated, or some lots of things that we've already discussed and going again. So how do we get more of that in other organisations? It might be about removing the barriers to that. So what's standing in our way of having joy in our lives and how do we get those out of the way? And that's come into play a lot in my background in working with charities as well, what's standing in the way of others around the world, because there's potentially a lot of financial privilege that comes with a statement like Let's have more joy. It removes the idea that there are people that don't have the time or energy to think about how to be joyous. But actually, if we think about removing the barriers to it, that that focuses us from an active level at getting those out of the way and bringing more joy, I don't think that answered it at all.


Toby Brown: [00:39:34] Thank you so much. Thank you so much. It was great.


Graham Abbey: [00:39:38] It's a natural, healthy way of being. And I think a lot of this conversation we've been having is around how do you remove those things that we've built into our organisations, our society, our ways of being that stop us finding that natural, that natural state, that state of joy, that's that state of being present and so on. And [00:40:00] they've got whole industries growing up around. How do you meditate your way to it, how do you know, etc., etc. And they've all got a really important part to play. At the heart of it, it's coming back to Why are we here? Why do we exist? What do I want? How can I remove those barriers? And that's the question of purpose.


Toby Brown: [00:40:20] Lovely. What a lovely way to summarise, I'm going to go and remove all my barriers to joy and probably be arrested by about 3:00pm


Sammy Burt: [00:40:26] I’ll bail you out.


Graham Abbey: [00:40:27] Graham.


Toby Brown: [00:40:30] Graham, Sammy from Farleigh Performance, thank you for your time. Thanks to having you on. Where can people find you if they want to find out more about your work, where should they head?


Sammy Burt: [00:40:39] Or you can find us on LinkedIn as well.


Toby Brown: [00:40:42] That's the place to be. Thanks so much. Cheers.


Toby Brown: [00:40:47] Well, I hope you enjoyed that chat. I still enjoyed recording it. If you like what you heard from Graham and Sammy, have a look at for a bit more info. If you like the episode as a whole or the series in general, do give us a good review on your podcast platform of choice. It really helps. Thank you and see you next time.