S11E08: What kills corporate efforts to rally around purpose, with Simon Mainwaring (CEO, We First)

An episode of The Impact Multiplier CEO Podcast

S11E08: What kills corporate efforts to rally around purpose, with Simon Mainwaring (CEO, We First)

We're continuing our season on "the CEO rolodex." In this episode Richard speaks with Simon Mainwaring, founder/CEO of We First, a strategic consultancy accelerating growth and impact for today’s top purpose-driven brands. Simon’s first book, We First was a New York Times bestseller and his second book, Lead With We is a Wall Street Journal bestseller and awarded one of Forbes Top Ten Leadership Strategy Books of the Year.

In this conversation, you’ll learn:

  • Whether an idea like "we first" can really thrive in today's cut-throat business environment
  • How CEOs can talk about their purpose and impact in a way that generates respect, not cynicism
  • The 5 reasons why businesses fail to create the most value from their purpose
  • The 3 "break points" that kill corporate efforts to build an engaging sense of purpose (and what to do instead)

"As long as the whole can survive, business can thrive"."

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Transcript

Simon Mainwaring
As long as the whole can thrive, the natural living systems, society at large, then business within it can thrive. So by actually serving the larger we, you actually allow the parts your business to thrive. And what we're seeing right now in the marketplace out there is natural and legal systems breaking down. You're seeing a lot of aspects in society breaking down and, as a result, business is suffering. So they actually work hand in hand. The more you get the largest number of stakeholders involved to the greatest collective benefit, the more the whole can thrive and your business can thrive within it.

Richard Medcalf
Welcome to the Impact Multiplier CEO podcast. I'm Richard Metcalfe, founder of XQuadrant, and my mission is to help the world's top CEOs and entrepreneurs shift from incremental to exponential progress and create a huge positive impact on our world. Now that requires you to reinvent yourself and transform your business. So if you're ready to play a bigger game than ever before, I invite you to join us and become an Impact Multiplier CEO. Today, I speak with Simon Mannering. Simon is the chief exec of WeFirst. It's a strategy consulting company Aimed at accelerating growth and impact of the top purpose driven brands in the world. Simon's written a couple of books.

One's been a New York Times bestseller, Once been a Wall Street Journal bestseller. And in our conversation today, we look at whether this idea of we first, Leading with a shared purpose and endeavor can really thrive in today's tough business environment. We look at how chief executives can talk about purpose and impact in a way that resonates, in a way that garners respect, and not raised eyebrows and cynicism. And we look at the obstacles that get in the way when chief execs do get serious about purpose and want to embed it in their company. So if you are interested in having a more purpose driven company and communicating that message with your stakeholders and with your audience, Then listen up for this really interesting interview with Simon. Hi, Simon, and welcome to the show.

Simon Mainwaring
Thank you, Richard. Thank you.

Richard Medcalf
So I'm curious about your company name. It's WeFirst. And yet, surely, in corporate in the corporate world, We is never first. And I'm I'm really curious. Yeah. Your leaders, they're high achievers. They're, they're very senior, corporate execs. How do they respond to a company called We First? Do they love it? Or do they secretly think, yeah, We is just a necessary way to get to my personal Pay off at the end of my career or whatever.

So that's the starting question is we first the name almost says it all. It sounds very admirable. Does it work?

Simon Mainwaring
Yeah. I think it's a really good question, and I think, a couple of distinctions I draw. One is, firstly, you know, I think there's a false distinction between Me First and We First. And just by way of background, the company started in 2008 with a global economic meltdown, where I looked at it and thought, Wow, what is the root cause of a few people doing very well, but the vast majority of people doing poorly. And it really seemed to be an overriding me first mentality. And so the counterpoint in my mind was we first. But to your question, you know, do they baulk at we first? Here's the truth. As long as the whole can thrive, The natural, living systems, society at large, then business within it can thrive.

So by actually serving the larger we, You actually allow the parts, your business, to thrive. And what we're seeing right now in the marketplace out there is natural and legal systems breaking down. You're seeing a lot of aspects in society breaking down and, as a result, business is suffering. So they actually work hand in hand. The more you get The largest number of stakeholders involved to the greatest collective benefit, the more the whole can thrive and your business can thrive within it.

Richard Medcalf
Okay. Yeah. I love that. That we first is not the opposite of me first necessarily. And, and perhaps it's a necessary condition for success or for thriving. So what's the problem that you solve? Right? So why do why do these companies engage around this idea of we first? So, like, What? Why aren't they happy doing what they've always been doing?

Simon Mainwaring
Well, I think there's a couple of reasons, and this grossly oversimplifies it. But I think there are forces underway out there in the world that are larger than ourselves and that are threatening business and have really put every executive on notice, the climate crisis being one of them, and biodiversity and a breakdown of a lot of on which business depends, sustainable agriculture, and, you know, all the different things that we can point to today that you see in the headlines. But, also, secondly, The problem we solve for WeFirst and, you know, we're a strategic consultancy that does this purpose, sustainability, and impact storytelling work for companies. What we're solving for is a number of things. How do you establish and differentiate your reputation? How do you attract and keep the employees you need? How do you go to market with products that consumers want and buy because you're part of the solution rather than part of the problem? And so whether you look at it through the lens of reputation, differentiation, culture, consumer purchasing preferences, we leverage the power of we to serve your higher order purpose inside a company, which then allows you to inspire not only consumers, but also employees to work with your business, to drive your growth with you, and in so doing to scale the positive impact you have again so that business can thrive more fully?

Richard Medcalf
So I love it. And I'm big into purpose, right? I really did a lot of work on my own purpose, why I'm here, what I'm up To the world for a lot of these leaders. However, it might not be playing to their strengths. I'm curious how you find this because it sounds great. Right. But there's only the risk, The sacrifice change, right? A change. What got you there might not go you to the next place. You perhaps built your successful career, by focusing on the results this quarter, by just making things happen, etcetera.

And so if you're coming in asking them to really think about this broader picture, that feels like quite a stretch perhaps for leaders. It might take them into uncomfortable areas. How do you find do do you find that they embrace this? They kind of they kind of want it, but they also don't want it? Yeah. What's the inner inner journey that you think these these people are going through?

Simon Mainwaring
I think there's a sliding scale. It'd be naive to think it was any other way. At one extreme, you've got people who say CEOs, executives, C suite who say, you know, it's the right thing to do. You know, they're thinking generationally. They're thinking about their kids. They're thinking not just as a CEO or executive, But as a father, uncle, mother, you know, they're thinking of the future generations. The other extreme, you've got those who begrudgingly realize they've got to do something different. And why? Because of the regulatory pressure.

Look at CSDR, the regulations in the, you know, in Europe and what's coming here in the US. And they realize that the market forces are increasingly rewarding those companies that are very clear and defensible about the role they're playing in the world. So they're looking upstream at their suppliers, they're treating their people more responsibly, you know, they're taking more responsible products to market. So, you know, There is a sliding scale between those who wanna do it and also those who begrudgingly do it, for sure.

Richard Medcalf
And what's the mistake That most companies are making in this area because, you know, clearly if there is kind of general consensus that either I want to do it or I need to do it. Why aren't more companies doing it? Right. And why they need extra help To to do that, what are the mistakes you see?

Simon Mainwaring
A couple of mistakes. One is, firstly, if you are doing good in the world, You talk about it in a self directed way. And the challenge with that is it ends on falling on deaf ears, whether it's to consumers or whether it's to your employees, because ultimately you're talking about yourself. And the way we we in our work at We First, we work with clients is to make sure that they position themselves as the celebrant, not celebrity of their stakeholder community, which means they're really celebrating their suppliers, celebrating their employees, celebrating their customers and consumers. And that way, you create very different messaging and content, and also people are much more interested in it because it's about them, and they share it much more readily. The other big mistake, which is really top of mind, is that they do it disingenuously. There's a lot of greenwashing, causewashing, localwashing, purposewashing, on and on it goes. Where, you know, a company might come in and just get a PR firm to do a nice messaging story around them, or they might Get their ad agency to put some sort of image campaign out, out there in the world, but they're not really changing at a core, foundational level.

And that's where you get exposed today. It's not only media activism, consumer activism, there's employee activism. And also, the other thing I'd say, Richard, is this. The reason companies are doing it and the c suite are doing it is because you always have to follow the money. And the money, the investor class, You know, Wall Street, publicly traded companies, are now looking very, very hard at whether a company is set up for long term success in terms of its impact on the environment and the people that make that company possible. So the market forces are there for the first time, And that's really kind of why there's been such a big shift in the last few years.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. I love that comment around, being the celebrant and not the celebration, I think, you said.

Simon Mainwaring
Oh, that celebrity. Yeah. Celebrity. Yeah.

Richard Medcalf
There we go. Yeah. Not the celebrity because, yes, this is a great way of actually Taking yourself out of the spotlight.

Simon Mainwaring
Exactly. Exactly. You walk into a party, and somebody is talking about themselves all night. No one listens after a while. They switch off. They're self absorbed and so on. But if you actually have you walk to an event and you're interested in the other person and you're kind of putting the spotlight on them. You get a very different reaction.

It's just human nature.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. As often said to my clients, right, be interested, not interesting. So easy to wanna be interesting and feel we need to prove ourselves and and remind people why we're why an important part to Well, we were at the party in the 1st place. Right. But that's the counter counterproductive approach. Got it.

So, okay. So the market forces are kind of happening. There's this kind of need. So where would you start? So if you're a leader, you know, these things are happening, and you know that You can have to change in some way. What would you recommend they start to look at or think about? How how would you kind of make sense of all this?

Simon Mainwaring
Well, even to get I'll get quite specific. I mean, typically, whether you're a high growth company or you're a publicly traded company or an enterprise, you know, when we start working with them, there's 1 of 5 problems. They don't know their role in the world. They've never defined it. They're a legacy brand, and they've never had to. They might have an old mission statement, but they don't really have a clearly defined purpose. Secondly, they're doing a lot of things, good things out there, philanthropy, CSR, some DNI, but they don't know how to connect the dots. They don't know that unifying narrative that holds it all together.

Or thirdly, they're a purpose leader. Like, we've worked with Toms and Timberland and Allbirds and, These companies that people look to as purpose leaders, but everyone is piling into the space. They're using the same language, and they get lost in the mix. And but in the 4th 5th would be your company culture is suffering, especially after the great resignation and quiet quitting. That glue that makes your company sticky is suffering. And then finally, if you are doing something well, whether it's, you know, ESG commitments or whether it's, You know, your commitments to the SDGs, the sustainable development goals, so you've got a good c s CSR program, and you're not getting credit for it, How do you unlock business value from the good that you're doing? So that's the that's the problems that we typically come up against. And then to answer your question, where do you start? Really, at its core, you have to define your role in the world in a way that's gonna rally all stakeholders around it. Unless there is something higher than yourself that people are gonna be committed to, you're not going to inspire them to engage and build your business with you.

And that starts by defining their purpose. We have a process for taking them through that.

Richard Medcalf
So, Simon, what's your higher purpose? Hello. I'm sure you've you've got this for your business or for yourself. What what do you turn when you to even inspire yourself about what you're doing? Remind yourself why you're doing this.

Simon Mainwaring
Yeah. I mean, when I sat back years ago, I started the company 13 years ago, I was very kind of confused as to what the root problem of business was And why it was showing up in a way that really disturbed me so much that I wanted to, you know, start my own company and get involved. And really, The shortfall that I see is this false concept of individuation, of fear, of scarcity, of zero sum gain of my success over your loss. And I think that not only hurts the individual company, it hurts business at large. So my individual purpose is to empower business to lead with we. Not just because more people benefit, but because business benefits by doing so and all the stakeholders within it. So really is this primacy of leading with we as a mindset, as a behavior, as an aspiration.

Richard Medcalf
And when you're talking about leading with we, that's from what I really understand, that's really thinking about the stakeholder ecosystem. Is that another way of saying it?

Simon Mainwaring
Yeah. I think, you know, There's been a lot of siloing, a lack of transparency, and here's the reality, Richard, is that the mess we're in whether it's carbon in the air, chemicals in the soil, plastic in the ocean It's the result of the aggregate of millions of small efforts by you, by me, what I ate, what car I drove, what diet I had, what Products I bought in the supermarket, the plastic and so on. And by the same token, the solutions we need out there are also going to be an aggregate of many efforts. No 1 billionaire, no 1 person, no 1 industry is going to save our future. Instead, we all need to do things differently. And just think about this, Richard. This was crazy. When I read my first book, We First, You know, Tesla was just starting and all the traditional auto industry in the US were trying to run it out of business.

And, obviously, he's a very curious character himself and never met him. But, you know, the company itself took this head on, and here we are 10, 12 years later, And the entire US auto industry is committed to phase out combustion engines. Look at the clean food industry. Look at the clean beauty industry. Look at the clean Power industry. If we think the change of this order of magnitude is hard, just look at these major industries around the world that in The short span of a decade have absolutely transformed like night and day. Why? Because the negative impact they're having is so consequential in our lives. And, b, because the people that make their businesses possible actually want them to change.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. That's, beautiful and inspiring, all those different Industries that have made shifts. You're right, that we often don't see it until we look in the mirror and start to see, actually, things have moved on. This point around rallying the stakeholders, it reminds me, in my own work, sometimes I'm often working with an executive team. And I think I do, like, a microcosm of this because I Get really getting to say, you know what, like, why does this team exist? Right? What would this team do that no one else can do? And if you didn't meet for a year, would anybody really care if you just did all your stuff in your silos. And one of the exercises I do is get them to really think, well, who counts on this team, who had stakeholder groups, getting to really think expansive. Sometimes I literally put the environment as one stakeholder. It depends on the business.

But we think about all these stakeholders and then it's like, well, What's the commission? What are they asking you for? So that actually gets to purpose. Our teams often go internally So what do we want to do? But until you go externally to say, who's counting on us only then, can you say, okay, with the team we've got, this is what people want from us. Now what do we want to create? We might not be able to satisfy everybody, but now we can kind of see, oh yeah, this is actually the impact We get to make all the opportunities that we have. It's almost like the map of options that we have available to us. And it sounds like companies might need to do that On that even bigger level, and it's what you help them with.

Simon Mainwaring
Yeah. I think, you know, we there's 2 ways of looking at this, which is the sky's falling in Business is on the hook. We've got more pressure and and media activism than ever. Or the other way of looking at it is Every one of these challenges is a marketplace opportunity in disguise. Every one of them. And you are seeing countless new companies being spun up every day that are solving for many issues, whether it be waste management, who whatever it might be, carbon, pulling carbon out of the air and making, You know, vodka and perfume and and and and net zero jet fuel. You know, that it's just a mindset. And when you look at the challenges we face as an opportunity, you're starting to see what the multibillion dollar companies, the unicorns of the future will be.

And you're seeing this in the large publicly traded companies out there through mergers and acquisitions and their own internal innovation. They're actually solving for the problems many of them helped to create in the 1st place. And all of this is good for business. It allows you to build your reputation, It allows you to attract the talent you need. It allows you to win over the purchases of a growing number of conscious consumers out there. And that And, you know, the point I'd add add, Richard, is that this is not linear. It's not increasing incrementally each year. This is exponential.

These challenges we face, like climate and others, are really compounding out in the future and hurtling back towards us in the present. And it's creating this hockey stick of expectation for business. So the more that you, as a CEO, as a C suite leader, as an executive, can get ahead of these issues, the more you'll benefit and the more you'll be thrown forward by the demands of the marketplace rather than slide off the back.

Richard Medcalf
I hope you're enjoying this conversation. This is just a quick interlude to remind you that my book, Making Time for Strategy, is now available. If you wanna be less busy And more successful, I highly recommend that you check it out. Why not head over to making time for strategy.com to find out the details? Now back to the conversation. It sounds like there are these 2 kinds of leaders. So So the ones who are kind of doing it out of necessity and those who are in the driver's seat, would that be right in thinking that if you're the chief executive And you feel you're doing it out of necessity. It's not going to quite work that it's going to service.

Simon Mainwaring
Yeah. There's always that risk. If you're sitting on the fence as to whether you're really committed, that level of commitment, consciously or not, gets transmitted to your executive leadership team, to your company at large, that hesitancy. Because you probably show up well at certain times and not so well at other times. And I think like in life, we were talking about the party before, the more self assured you are in a room, the more clear eyed about who you are and what you do and don't do and what you say and don't say, The more people can orientate themselves around you, the more they can know you better, the more they can trust what you say, the more they can buy your products. And so if you are sitting there on the fence and you're just Paying lip service to it. You will come unstuck. And there are so many examples of, you know, not only companies trying to take a position but doing it in a halfhearted way, But also companies trying to take a stand on an issue at it when there's a cultural flashpoint, whether it's same sex marriage or whatever it might be.

And when it comes out of the blue like that, people go, wait a second. We've never heard you talk about this before. And you can't play cultural whack a mole and just Say, oh, this is an important issue today, and therefore, we're gonna throw up and head out there about it, then you get a lot of pushback. So the more The more clear you are about who you are and the more consistent you are on how you behave, the more the the better you're understood in the marketplace and trusted.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, that's a great point. I think that there's so many pools on CEOs now for comments on so many of these topics, which traditionally would never been Never been seen as a business issue, and so I guess it's important to really choose wisely, right, about where we're gonna actually What do we really wanna support here?

Simon Mainwaring
And and this is the work that, you know, we do with companies. As you you sit down and go, what is your purpose? What are your core values? You know, What when do you stand up, show up, and speak up so that, outright, you know what to say, but also when there is a flash point out there. For example, the tragic murder of George Floyd here in the US, some years ago, and and, you know, all of these issues might be a climate emergency, you know, it might be, you know, The fires in Maui and people are talking about the climate crisis and so on. You have a point of view because as we know from social media and the digital world that we live in and the mobile world, People expect a reaction really quickly. They expect, you know, a CEO or some representative of a company to have a point of view. And it's not just consumers or the media. It's actually your employees. They're like, well, wait a second.

What do we think about this? What where do we stand on this issue? And you so they expect there's nowhere to hide as an anymore. You have to be really, really clear about these things.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Yeah. This reminds me actually of, one of my clients, who's a CEO of a multibillion dollar company. And But with him, as he onboarded into the role, made some big transformations, it was all been going really well. Ups and downs, obviously, any transformation, but he's done a great job. And you had this one conversation where I remember he said we had a conversation about his own purpose, and, it really Catalyzed something in him. He came back a couple of months later and said, you know, this has been a transformational journey. I've actually really For him was environment.

He really got he said, you know what? I've really been looking at this in more detail because you made me think, yeah, I'm running a $2,000,000,000 company. I need to, but this is my time, perhaps. What do I want to do? And I'm really serious about the environment now. I've Committed my family to being net zero. You know, like, we're making big changes. I'm gonna commit my company to net zero in a certain time frame, and so that and we're working on that. And And, actually, I'm gonna be part of changing the way my industry does this. You know, I wanna let's start working on that, how we do that.

And it's really fascinating because He was on fire. You know, this was a commitment, an internal commitment he'd really made. It wasn't because he felt he should do it. I mean, well, it was, but it wasn't because he felt he would get a whatever benefit from doing it. He was like, this is the right thing. This is what I'm going to take a stand for. And of course, He was so credible to his team, to peers in the industry, because that's what you, that's what he stood for. He was really clear.

And I was gonna say you can't move others until you moved yourself. You can't inspire others until you're inspired yourself. And I think that's kind of the inner ignition. You know, I would say if you're going to take your company on this journey of, of purpose, it's like that is perhaps the deep work to be done so that you feel you you're doing it from that position of real authentic commitment.

Simon Mainwaring
Yeah. I mean, I have to say, I mean, I I'm lucky enough to do a bunch of speaking in this area. And One of the things I've asked occasionally is everyone who's watching, you know, in the audience. Could you look at your phone? You're normally not supposed to look at your phone when you're, You know, listen to someone chat, talk. And look, take out their phone. And if you have a picture of some person in your life or family On the screensaver of your phone, please hold it up. Whether it's a daughter, sister, brother, uncle, friend, whatever it might be. And invariably, 70, 80% of the people Hold up their phones.

And then I asked a similar question in terms of your responsibility to those people That you've chosen to be on the cover of your phone. That thing you look at too many times a day. How would you do what you're doing differently to express your responsibility, your love, your concern for those people. And so when you look at the role that we have as a CEO, as an executive, inside a company through the lens of not just your hat as CEO, but your hat as stakeholder in the future, as family person, as someone has read, Everything changes. And I think that's been so powerful about COVID in the last few years is that it's given us permission to be more human, more vulnerable, more accessible. And, also, we've been made acutely aware of the the frailty of the human condition. And, also, obviously, we're very aware of the challenges to the planet, in which case, I think a lot of business leaders are really reassessing their role. And like the client, They're really showing up in a very, very meaningful way.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Yeah. There's, there's lots of stuff in that that's, I'm thinking about. So one is, Actually, the second one is a personal one. I'll come back to that. The first is actually I think it was something like GK Chesterton or somebody. They had a whole phrase about the definition of the madman. This is pretty 100 years ago.

They wrote this off the nail 50 years ago, over 50 years ago. And they basically said the difference between the madman and Same people is that the man man operates in a ta a totally rational world. It all makes sense. It's all logical. It's just that the world is too small, so they don't see, but it, like They see the people looking at them and they get paranoid. They don't see all the people who are not looking at them and are ignoring them, For example, right, it's like we in the narrow frame of reference that they're focusing on, they have a story that makes sense. Fully explains quite a lot of Theories as well, right? When you start to zoom out, all sorts of other things become possible. I think it's a similar thing you're saying here.

When we expand out our vision from whatever fearful thing we're focused on, like, we've got to get this result on this date, otherwise, etcetera, etcetera. And that's what we think about when we start to zoom out through time and through space, throughout different relationships, take the bigger picture.

Simon Mainwaring
Things change. They do change. And I heard an expression the other day that struck me, which was someone said, so much of our lives, We're always looking outwards to go up instead of looking inwards to go deeper. And I think as leaders today, There's a lot of challenges that put us under a lot of stress. There's a lot of uncertainty. You don't know, you know, every time you try and make a confident step one way or another, there's different, you know, pressures on you. But I think as we dig deeper into who we are as leaders and how we wanna show up in the world and how we can leverage our role at the helm of a company, You can suddenly start to have a lot of confidence about how you show up and what decisions you make. And this all comes back to this idea of leading with we.

I mean, I'm My my great concern, Richard, is that we're not moving far enough, fast enough to fix our future. We're talking about our kids before. I've got a 24 and a 21 year old daughter. I'm worried about their future. And, you know, everything I read and and a lot of the materials I see out there and the headlines you see every day talk about how we need to do things differently sooner rather than later, and that timeline is contracting, in which case, what are we gonna do? You know, how are we gonna show up differently? And, you know, Leading With We is My articulation of how we can move further faster to scale our response so we can meet these challenges with equal force.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. That's I feel I feel that when you you talk thank you. I feel the the passion, in that. Yeah. Because there are big challenges. And I think what you said is it's not just about Going up is going down, going deep, and there's this tension. I think it's very much what I, what I do actually. I'm working with leaders on their big goal.

When When I started my business, I thought, yeah, they just need more strategy and more support there. Very quickly I realized, no, no, like, yeah, this, I challenged their thinking, I pushed them in other ways, But actually, there's this whole journey. The reason they're not going beyond that level is because there's the fears. There's the what are they trying to prove to whom? There's The self, am I worth it? You know, am I even enjoying this journey? Is it is it purely grinds to me? All those things, they actually get in the way. And suddenly it puts a limit on where we want to go because it just doesn't feel possible or necessary or desirable, or it's going to be too tiring To actually go above at this point, so we start living this contracted universe. Yeah. Yeah.

Simon Mainwaring
And it's so interesting, the self limiting beliefs that we have in a leadership capacity of any company, you know, and I also think part of the power of leading with We is to actually break through that. You don't need to do it all yourself. This whole idea, the power of we and then we're talking about your suppliers, we're talking about your employees, we're talking about your partners, We're talking about your customers. This is nothing theoretical here. We're talking about the meat and potatoes of your business. All of them can be a force multiplier for your business If you get really clear about the role you want that business to play, get very clear with what how they can contribute to that, and then communicate with them effectively about how you're moving forward, the progress they're making, the contribution everybody's making, then suddenly it becomes this force multiplier where you get Synergies between those efforts and the results compound, and then it takes on a life of its own. And a lot of the work that we do, Richard, is about Movement building inside organizations, like, how do you get a company to become a movement? And what I just described is a big part of that.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. I wonder where to go here. I'm gonna oh, yeah. May I ask you? So what does it mean for a company to become a movement, and how would you even start?

Simon Mainwaring
Well, I mean, I think we've all anecdotally seen companies out there that have taken on a life of their own, you know, where they just got this momentum behind them. Everyone from privately held companies like a Patagonia which is so clearly committed to certain things and has been consistently so, all the way through to, you know, You've got companies like Salesforce. Now you got companies like Microsoft. You got companies out there of all sizes where they seem to be very clear About who they are, the role they're playing. And they've got that, alignment of efforts between all of their stakeholders to that end. And a movement can be seen in a couple of different ways. If you're an enterprise, like a big publicly traded company, You've got a lot of portfolio companies within it. Then you can be a movement of movement.

So, for example, we worked with VF Corp, which is a $14,000,000,000 apparel and Footwear company here in the US. At the enterprise level, we worked on rolling out their purpose. But then at the at the portfolio level, where they had Timberland, The North Face, Bands, each one of those companies had their own purpose, so they become a movement of movements. The enterprise purpose and then the purpose of each of the individual brands. So it's not just a singular movement in the sense of getting all stakeholders involved. It can have another layer of complexity between an enterprise and its portfolio companies. And it's really about getting everyone pointed in the same direction, getting clear about their respective roles and communicating with them effectively as to the progress to that end. And when you do that, it takes on a life of its own.

And then you look at those companies and go, What are they doing that's different? How has it just got this own momentum despite themselves almost? And that's because everyone's pointed in the same direction.

Richard Medcalf
And how do you find what do you find is necessary to get people pointing in the same direction? Because we've all seen people try and do values and and and vision and purpose, and it's Whatever it is, what it is, a poster on the wall. So what have you found as you know, do you find it's very much a democratic process? Do you find that it's More top down, but it has to be completely embodied by the leaders. Yeah. How do you what have you found works in this area?

Simon Mainwaring
You know, we've we've seen a lot that doesn't work Over the 13 years that we've been doing this a we first a couple of things. These are all breakpoints which mean it does or doesn't work. Do you mean it? Number 1. At a leadership level, do you mean it? If it's just performative, as you say, and you're not really committed, it's not going to work out. Do you really mean it? That is the foundational question. Then secondly, are you approaching it with the same mindset that created the problem? Which is, oh, we in the leadership or management capacity are the ones who are going to fix it, and, you know, the employees just do their thing. Or is it a co creative exercise? Have you set it up in a way where you go, We are going to leverage the power of we where we've got this stated goal? Everyone has a shared responsibility to achieve it. They've all been given very clear directions as to the meaningfulness of their role within that larger goal, but also how to go about it.

And then the 3rd area, which really is to whether it works or not, is on the way through, are you creating an effective feedback Because whether it's customers or consumers or employees, if you engage people in service of something larger than themselves but you don't then recognize their efforts, Show them the progress they're making and keep that dialogue going with them. They may be interested for 1 month, 3 months after the latest all hands meeting and then some executive announcement. But then that balloon slowly sinks to the ground, and they won't believe you again because it wasn't. So they just took a few ways to

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. I love really helpful, 3 breakpoints. Really great, great questions, hard questions to ask. Simon, I know that you say you're on this mission to to create this we first culture, across companies. What's it gonna take for you personally to multiply your impact? Right? I know you're already impactful person. You got best selling books. You're running this company, Working with high level leaders. And yet what's the stretch for you? Right? Where where are you gonna need to go deep so that you can go beyond?

Simon Mainwaring
That's an interesting question. You know, I will admit, candidly, after 12, 13 years of running the company, I think I've challenged myself very, very recently to start to think about who the right partner is, that we we first can work with, whether it's, you know, could be an ad network. It could be a consulting firm and so on. But as a privately held company like we have right now, I think there is a force multiplier dimension to a larger partner out there, And I haven't entertained that for a 1000 years because I was focused on doing it with integrity and proving out the model and building the case studies and success stories. But now as I look to solving to this foundational issue, which is our speed and scale of response, For the 1st time, actually, just in the last month, I'm like, wow. Who is gonna be that right partner out there? And, so that's a big a big shift in my mind for me.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. That's there was so much wisdom in that. I had the same reflection. I've got a very tendency to be a lone wolf. Yeah. Sometimes it's worked well for me in many ways. And yet I realized that partnerships and collaboration Is the way for exponential impact. So that's an edge I have to lean into.

I do. I am learning too. Very practically, you know, there's a number of projects I'm doing, which I wouldn't have done it the same way a few years ago. And so, yeah, so that sounds a really exciting part for you. And I suppose it's just going to be that question of how do you not dilute everything you've built up As you do that, right, and and maintain the build a rope.

Simon Mainwaring
Yeah. It's always been about the integrity of of the you know, and and the and the thought leadership and writing the books and articles and and speaking Podcast that I have lead with We, it's always been about doing it with integrity, but also, you know, taking the We First approach inside companies and all their stakeholders. But now for the 1st time, I'm looking at it and going, wow. Is there a partner who could be a force multiplier for what we're doing where you Reach more of their clients more effectively. So, you know, I'm always mother nature is the advertising agency for the need for business Change right now. Doesn't matter what day of the week is, what you read, what your politics are, whatever it is, you look at the headlines and you go, wow. This is not headed in the right direction. We need to be doing something differently for our future, in which case, how do we do that? We go further faster.

And it's Always that all that is you have to do it together.

Richard Medcalf
Beautiful. So, Simon, it's been a great conversation. I've really enjoyed it. If people wanna get in touch with you, what's the best place them to find out about you and about We First.

Simon Mainwaring
Yeah. Thank you. You know, if people have questions about their business or questions about, you know, what I shared today, they can always reach me directly at simon@wefirstbranding.com. If you wanna dive deeper into the thinking and the case studies and the research In and around leading with We as a force multiplier for your business, please do check out my most recent book Lead with We on Amazon and all the usual places you get books. And also, I have this podcast lead with We, where I invite, you know, and speak to global CEOs and CMOs and CSOs about how they get it done. So I'd invite everyone to listen to, Lead with We. But, you know, if it has anyone has any questions, feel free to email Leland. Just happy to support in any way I can.

Richard Medcalf
Beautiful. Simon, thanks so much. Feeling a great conversation. I look forward to following you along as you, continue your mission to create a We First culture in the world.

Simon Mainwaring
Thank you so much, Richard. Thanks to everyone this week. Really appreciate it.

Richard Medcalf
Thank you. Well, that's a wrap. If you received value from this conversation, please do leave us a review On your favorite podcast platform, we'd deeply appreciate it. And if you'd like to check out the show notes from this episode, head to xpondrant.com slash podcast where you'll find all the details. Now finally, when you're in top leadership, who supports and challenges you at a deep level To help you multiply your impact, discover more about the different ways we can support you at xquadrant.com.

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