In today’s episode, Hannah talks to me about building a career on purpose, and how to master your career with the skills of self leadership. We dive into strategies for being focused, present, and intentional on things that really matter. This is an eye opener, tune in and let us know what you think. Here’s a clip from the episode now; in 2015, when I did my MBA, I read a book called Frugal Innovation written by Navi Radjou about how Indians create low cost solutions, like baby incubators and fridges using the most limited means. So all of these types of solutions were coming from a place of need, they were solving real problems in the world. And I started to look at what sort of my organisations were doing in terms of innovation. And it felt like they were trying to solve problems for the brand, but not problems for the world. And I thought, This is not what we need to be doing here. Like there needs to be a real change in how we approach solving problems.
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Where Ideas Launch – Podcast and Website
My name is Katherine Ann Byam and I’m your host. What’s your purpose? And how does it integrate with sustaining life itself? For some of us this question is a deep ache that we spend a lifetime trying to find, perhaps shifting direction as we learn and grow from one path to another. For many of us, our children give us a clear definition, providing for them becomes our reason for being. For others it’s about enjoying the present moment ever so fleeting, and ever so beautiful. As for others it can be financial, status, contribution or impact. In this podcast, my guest and I will share with you tips, ideas and methods on how to build a career that integrates with who you are, and the life you want to lead. We will explore the social foundation on which to build your transition and an ecological ceiling, above which we need not climb, so that we live not just for ourselves, but for our collective ability to thrive. Welcome to The Purpose Driven career podcast ‘Do What Matters’.
Hannah Barry 2:05
Today, I’m here with Katherine Byam, Katherine goes by the personal brand; The Wing Woman to your Genius. As a strategic partner to leaders across industries, she helps design strategies for Responsible brands stewardship to deliver outcomes that favour a wider stakeholder view. In 2019, she left a stable CEO corporate career to build her coaching and consulting business, recognising that the world was about to go through a sweeping wave of transformation. She founded the Courageous Career Club in 2020, to help two cohorts annually, take control of their experiences at, and around, work. So hello, Katherine.
Katherine Ann Byam 2:43
Hello, how are you?
Hannah Barry 2:45
It’s great to have you on the podcast. So let’s start then. Tell us a bit about The Wing Woman to your Genius. Why did you choose this as your personal brand? And how does this relate to your business?
Katherine Ann Byam 2:56
Gosh, this came about sort of back to front, I’d say because I realise that many of my one to one clients in my leadership coaching work still sort of struggle with admitting that they work with a coach, or even that they have someone helping them and behind the scenes, right. And also, I think it’s because they’re kind of like having a reference point that sort of outside of the traditional organisation. So based on how my clients were treating me, I kind of realise, hey, I’m kind of like the wing woman that you take out for drinks, but not exactly the same, right. And I think the last reason is probably because I’m a generalist. So I became an accountant before I was 20. And over the course of my 20 plus years careers, I’ve done many different roles across the entire business. I’ve done finance, audit, supply chain capability, development, change, management, business development, innovation, ESG. So I’ve been pretty useful around business and people really like sort of generating ideas. I’m someone who’s experienced a lot of things.
Hannah Barry 3:57
Wow, you’ve really experienced a lot in your career already. That’s amazing. And I would really like such a wingwoman. On my side, definitely, in 2020 created where ideas launch a sustainable innovation podcast, which is actually ranked number seven in the UK for innovation podcasts, and top 5% of all podcasts globally, which is amazing. Congratulations. And it’s even been ranked in 39 countries, getting the top spots in five of them. So what drove you in the direction of sustainable change?
Katherine Ann Byam 4:31
It’s been quite a journey. Getting started with that. And I’d say that it probably started way back in 2010. This entire migration, I would say of my career toward more purpose. And it was because I had my first trip to Africa. So you can’t see me on the podcast, but I’m originally from the Caribbean. I have African origins. But for many of us in the Caribbean, it’s very hard for us to trace our origins and our family stories because of the history of the Caribbean and migration there and Uganda was the first African country I visited. So it was the first time I experienced Africa outside of a textbook and outside of every story that I’ve ever heard. And I really do think that we’re kind of ignorant until we have a lived experience. This is actually how I feel about most things in life. And I really appreciate what travelling does to sort of open minds. But I met these real people who were sort of hustling to survive from, you know, the food vendors in the marketplaces to those making arts and crafts and wooden huts, to hopefully sell to tourists. During the tourist season it’s good for those farming with their entire families, right? And, you know, in the world, we look upon child labour as the bad thing. But in history, we’ve always seen this sort of family relationship and community relationship around food and feeding each other. And so I, I’ve always had this, I guess, opposing relationship with these ideas that kids should go to school, but there’s education that also comes from sort of working in family units, and making sure that those things are kind of supporting everything that a child needs. It’s not just about the education, but it’s also about that experience of being in a community. I experienced that in several countries. So after that, I went to Pakistan, I spent a couple of months there in Cambodia, as well. And I really kind of started to internalise what inequality really meant, I think, coming from the Caribbean, in an oil rich country, I hadn’t really experienced that level of poverty or suffering. And that started to really hit me, like what I was doing for work wasn’t necessarily adding enough value to these people. So after experiencing that, I took a step back and reflected. And in 2015, when I did my MBA, I read a book called True God innovation written by NaVi Raju about how Indians create low cost solutions, like baby incubators and fridges using the most limited means. So all of these types of solutions were coming from a place of me, they were solving real problems in the world. And it started to look at what sort of my organisations were doing in terms of innovation. And it felt like they were trying to solve problems for the brand, but not problems for the world. And I thought, This is not what we need to be doing here. Like there’s there needs to be a change, it needs to be a real change in how we approach solving problems. I’ve always been sort of committed to business, I’ve always been a student of business and of people I would say, but I decided then to add natural systems to my experiences in background in terms of the things that I wanted to study, etc. So that I can create solutions that were more all encompassing,
Hannah Barry 7:36
That’s really interesting, and very true, I think we can all agree that travelling is a real eye opener. I also climbed Kilimanjaro back in university and went to Africa, Tanzania, and was also quite shocked to see the people carrying things on their head and walking without shoes and going through the markets is crazy. And we should all have that kind of experience. And you’re right that it’s important that we all do something about it. Depending on what job you have, you can always make positive changes. But you mentioned you felt that you worked at companies that maybe weren’t doing enough or helping people in the way you wanted to. So what would you say are the top three barriers to change for organisations today, when it comes to the sustainability transition?
Katherine Ann Byam 8:22
Yeah, there’s so many, but I would say that the main thing is that sustainability is complex. And business by nature has a compelling drive to the symbol. So we aim to simplify, to automate, to make it cheaper to make lean systems. And disruption can be inconvenient to a very lean system, right? And there’s this idea of inertia and momentum, it’s hard to slow things down, it’s hard to get to a point of using less plastic when plastic is so convenient when all of our machines are configured to make plastic a way that we get things safely from A to Z. Getting to this point of change takes a huge undertaking, a huge change management undertaking and potentially some initial losses before we gain again, because we have to do that conversion or at least slow down you know, you know returns and the stock market won’t allow us to do that right. So that stock market pressure becomes a real driver for decision making in many organisations and what you find is that not to be unfair to older boards, but older boards tend to struggle more with making these types of decisions than younger ones. So what we see today is that startups start today with green solutions in mind with purpose in mind and design around that sort of tech first green first ideas and principles. Whereas older organisations are having a harder time to pivot their entire business models to give up on the gains they’ve made using processes and systems and resources that aren’t necessarily used in the most renewable fashion, making that Change is hard. The other thing I would say is that many organisations, while they’re starting to embrace this whole idea of agility, they don’t necessarily know how to make the whole thing work together. And this is where I want to reference a book that I read an actually a course that I attended in 2020 from Alex Osterwalder, he’s famous for the business model canvas, he wrote a book called The Invincible company, where he talks about organisations starting to embrace two models of operations, almost having two businesses, one that says Explore so you explore new solutions, these could be green solutions, these could be future relevance, social impact solutions. And you also exploit existing models. So you pay for the exploration party with the exploitation party. And the exploitation is about making the things that are working well more efficient, while you explore creating the new future that you want to create. And blending the two mindsets doesn’t always work in the same person. So what some companies have done and he referenced a company called Ping An it’s a bank, I believe in China, where they actually have a CEO running the exploit function and one running the explore function. And through the lens of the different needs of those types of businesses, the different mindsets, of those types of ways of running a business, they’re able to bring more solutions to the table and scale things a lot faster. So also, one thing I’d like to add, when we start looking at the world is scarce, it completely changes our lens. So for the last 60 years or so we’ve kind of lived with this idea of abundance. You know, I remember reading some of these older books, like “think and grow rich”, and if you’ve ever heard about this book, you know, the guy talks about abundance all the time. And this idea of abundance has always been false. But we didn’t understand that until more recently, you know, I think it was in 1974, when the Club of Rome wrote its first report on resources, and it was largely laughed at by all of the organisations who read it. But now we’re seeing today how impactful that has been. And we have basically this decade to turn things around. So to survive in business, there’s still this need for competition. And when you’re talking about growth, and you’re talking about scarcity, you’re basically talking about trading off one for the other. So having this kind of conversation can’t happen without the social contract. So you can’t only think about the environment anymore. It’s not just about creating positive environmental solutions. It’s about creating social positive solutions as
Hannah Barry 12:38
well. You’re also a career transition coach, why did that become a problem you wanted to solve?
Katherine Ann Byam 12:44
Or one of the things that I reflected on when I sort of looked at my career and my life, and what I wanted to do is that I’ve actually done some things that probably not many people are brave enough to do so completely moving function from finance background to supply chain was a big step. And then I continued to make those big steps after I made the first one because I realised I could do it. So one of the things that occurred to me is that we have these transferable skills. So business business has a lot of transferable skills. And what you need to add on top of that is just a few technical things, that if you have strong enough foundations, if you have a strong way of approaching problems, you can tackle just about anything, maybe except rocket science, it’s not a gift of mine. But I thought I could add something to people’s lives if I can show them that this isn’t as hard as it looks if you feel like you’re in a career and you’re stuck, or if you really wanted to be doing something else. I mean, a lot of us choose careers, because perhaps our goals were different at that time, you know, maybe it might have been a money incentive, perhaps it was a purpose incentive. But sometimes your life changes, you know, maybe you have kids, maybe you don’t, whatever it is, you come to a point where you feel like you need to make a change, but you’re fearful of that change. So I’ve done a lot of work in terms of codifying how I went about doing these things, and what helped me to get through those moments. Because I really would like to see more people pivot for purpose. That’s something that I’m really passionate about. And some of the tips I could give, there’s spending that time on looking at who you are, but also looking at where you want to be, you know, so that five years down the road, where do you see yourself if you can see your future? Where do you see yourself and it’s really about mapping the road from five days coming backward as opposed to now going forward. Because if you do now going forward, you kind of continue where you are. If you are five years ahead, looking backward. You see the changes that you need to make.
Hannah Barry 14:49
I totally agree I love journaling at the minute. I think it’s quite a trend and I think it’s really important to always keep self reflecting like you said we change our goals actually I think quite a lot more often than we I think we’re down. So it’s really important to kind of ask yourself these questions of what you want and keep reflecting and altering your actions to make sure you reach these new goals and to not feel guilty for maybe the fact that the ones you had before have changed. So I definitely agree. And in your work, you talk a lot about self leadership. How do you achieve self and Korea mastery?
Katherine Ann Byam 15:23
I liked what you talked about in terms of journaling, I think, I think journaling is an underestimated skill. What it does is that it helps you to contextualise a lot of background noise that’s happening in your head all the time. And being able to come face to face with that is a great way to see yourself for who you are. And you have to do it with a high degree of honesty as well. And I think challenging yourself, to be that honest with yourself can only be good down the road. And there are a couple of tips with this. You know, when you’re doing this sort of goal setting, I like to tell people don’t just look at a goal. Look at a lifestyle. You know, it’s like what they tell you when you’re on a diet, right? These are lifestyle changes that you’re probably wanting to make, you know, how do I, how do I want to live my life? What do I want to have in my life, and you want to give yourself that time to sort of reflect that time to explore as well, because you know, some people take gap years, and they have such an incredible experience, I met so many people on my trip to New Zealand and Australia. And so many people were just discovering themselves. While you know, sleeping in a van and a camper van, moving from city to city and really starting to find I have this connection to the environment. For example, this is going to be important for me going forward. I like the outdoors and I value people. A lot of people come to business with this thinking that, well, this is business and this is me. But I’m sure you’ve heard the saying how you do anything is how you do everything. If you treat business as separate from yourself, you grow with a conflict. So this idea of matching purpose to what you do every day is always going to be important. And then the other thing I’d like to sort of mention is this idea of conversational leadership. And this is something that we’re losing a little bit of. So the pandemic hasn’t helped, obviously, because we’ve spent so much time online. And you know, like the move toward the metaverse and, you know, creating these sort of online spaces and gaming and stuff. Whilst it’s all good and fine and safe. There’s an art to conversation that I think we miss in some regard. And I think that there’s so much growth that comes from conversation, that you want to make sure that you’re encountering different people all the time, whether it be you know, diversity in terms of age, in terms of background in terms of career path in terms of focus, having conversations with people different than yourself, will help you to reflect on who you are as well.
Hannah Barry 17:54
Yes, definitely. I agree, I started my journey, actually, in the midst of the pandemic, I just finished university. So I never had any experience really going into an office working with people. And I definitely think since I came back to the office, it really helped to speak to people in real life and have those conversations. And just going back to the first point you made about kind of figuring out who you want to be resonates with me, I read recently, atomic habits by James Clear makes a really good point about casting votes for who you want to be. So say you want to run a marathon, you shouldn’t be thinking about the end goal that I want to run and finish that marathon, you have to think I want to be a runner, and not just you want to be like I am a runner before you even aren’t. And I think yeah, that really resonates with me to think about who you want to be, who you are, and not just the end goal. Absolutely. So how can we infuse more purpose into the work that we do every day, in your opinion?
Katherine Ann Byam 18:53
I think start with why that’s always going to be important. The why of that piece of work and the why of you in that piece of work, do things with intention. I think intention is something that underestimates the power of doing things sort of on autopilot. But the more intention we put into a task, the less time we will meet for it. And I think this is a big part of how we could refocus our efforts, redirect how we interact to make sure that we get the best out of what we’re doing. So that’s one the other one would be to look for those employee resource groups that are meaningful to you. So looking for the groups that really resonate with what’s important to you, will also help you to navigate the space of work and comparing and combining work with a greater long term purpose. So getting in touch with that would be essential and then there’s what you can do outside of work. I’m a big fan of being the same person in and out of work, but I recognise that outside of work. We can also have other passions that are completely unrelated. So for those of us who are artists, we are musically inclined. etc, you know, they might want to tap into a space where they can give and share their talent with people who may appreciate a different approach, a warm embrace, you know, something, something creative, something funny, because maybe their lives are experienced in a different way. So you can look at how you can volunteer, how you can do community, community art projects, even agriculture projects, or things like this to help your local community to thrive better. So I’d say it’s a bit of insight. It’s a bit of your immediate surroundings, that sort of local environment to you in your workplace and that local environment you live in the space that you live, and seeing how you can intentionally interact with each one of those spaces to make it a place that you feel like you’re making a bigger contribution. I think that’s what we all want. Right?
Hannah Barry 20:53
Yeah, definitely. You mentioned being the same person and your business life and your personal life. Do you have any tips on how to do that, but also remain a work life balance?
Katherine Ann Byam 21:07
Yeah, one of the biggest challenges that I see is, is noise in organisations, since I became an entrepreneur, you know, like, I sometimes go back into into organisations and I see the level of noise that people have to deal with in terms of email traffic, or messenger traffic, especially working from home, right, it’s like now the only way to interact is is sort of true, quick messages. You’re trying to avoid the meetings, but then you end up spending, you know, a big part of your life in Messenger chat, there’s a role of boundaries, when it comes to managing this sort of life of work, peace of mind for yourself, and who you are as a person, you need to be able to establish boundaries. And contrary to probably what you might fear, if you put up some boundaries, if you communicate with your team, your boss, your, your, your direct reports, some boundaries, people have a lot more respect for that than you think. And people work around it generally. So I think it’s really essential to set that up. I was talking to a guy a few months ago, he was developing an app that allowed you to input your own personality profile on to an application. And then whenever someone tried to message you, or email you, that app would actually tell you know, how to address this person, like for example, personal pronouns, but also your disposition and how you like to be communicated with your style of communication stuff like this, so that people get things right and do the communication better, and quicker. And I think this kind of technological sort of integration with the human experience is another way that organisations can step in to help us achieve a better work life balance when things are so hectic and noisy.
Hannah Barry 22:51
Yeah, definitely. And I think its boundaries are something that comes with experience. Yes, definitely. Um, you also create a pin podcast that has inspired many, what, if anything, has this journey contributed to you personally?
Katherine Ann Byam 23:06
Yeah, I’ve had some really fascinating guests on my show. And for me, it’s not just about the relationship or the knowledge, but it’s about building something that other people can benefit from and get inspiration from. So one of my guests just as an example, he, I found him when I was watching on Amazon Prime, I was watching a show called Living the change. And he was one of the lead guests. He was an expert in ecology. His name was Shane ward. And I found what he had to say so interesting that I decided to reach out to him on LinkedIn and say, Hey, would you like to come on my podcast? You know, it’s relatively new, but I’m really passionate about sustainability. And I’d love you to share your thoughts. And he was like, Yeah, I’d love to. And I thought, Oh, my God, this guy’s an actor. Why is he coming on my show, right? And I found this story so fascinating, because he just decided to completely uproot his life. And today, like I now connect him with other guests that I have. So I have a young lady in Namibia, who’s also doing some regenerative farming work with her local communities there and she was looking for support and advice. And I connected these two together so true, this podcast, I can make so many things happen, and inspire so many people and impact other countries as well. So I think it’s just an immense space for personal growth, but also for sharing.
Hannah Barry 24:27
And for someone interested in a career in sustainability. What advice would you give them,
Katherine Ann Byam 24:33
you’re going to need to make a trade off between doing that work and that impact within an NGO or doing it in corporate. It was Anna Darren over Hardman, actually, who gave me a lovely message on one of my podcasts as well, where she said, put the money and the impact together. So she looked for opportunities to bring the sort of private corporate world together with the NGO space and try to connect those dots. But I think for most of us, we start off wanting one thing or the other, perhaps we want to have a certain standard and quality of life. And therefore we might prefer to choose a corporate path first. But even in that corporate path, you can do things that contribute to the greater good. So for example, I’ve always worked in controlling sort of feelings. So I’m always looking out for the integrity of our actions in terms of internal audit, and finance, etc, in those sorts of roles. But you can also get into ESG, and things like that you can also go into the NGO space and dedicate your life to service. And there’s nothing, there’s nothing wrong with that. It just means perhaps, that the income levels won’t be the same. But if you have decided on what you need to live, and you’re happy with what you need to live, then you want as well, right. So I think it’s really about deciding what’s important to you, and then choosing the path that gets you there. And being okay, if that path shifts at some point in time.
Hannah Barry 26:00
Yes, I definitely agree. I know for my sister as well, she chose music when she was very young. And she always said, even though she got A’s across the board, you could never imagine sitting in an office she just wanted to sing. And with COVID and everything that’s been very hard, but she’s really happy that she followed her passion. Yeah, I think you make a really good comment there just to follow what you want to do. And if you’re interested in sustainability, just reach out to anyone in the company that’s doing a little bit on a topic and ask if you can support and help and it’s a good way to get started. So yeah, thank you so much for all your answers today. It’s really insightful.
Katherine Ann Byam 26:38
Thank you so much for having me. This episode was brought to you today by the Courageous Career Club. Have you picked up your own copy of ‘Do What Matters; The Purpose Driven Career Transition Guidebook’? To find out how you can get your copy, as well as resources that go alongside it; visit my website, www Katherine Ann byam.com or engage with me on social media. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.