Podcast S2 Ep. 12 – Penny Townsend – Part 2

Part 2 of my #podcast with Penny Townsend, Global Salesforce Partner at IBM drops today.

We delve deeper into the psychology of the human psyche, which is so important for those seeking to master the art of #leadership.

I totally agree with her.

Sometimes, being paternalistic, and trying to ‘help’ isn’t helpful.

It’s saying:

I’m OK. You’re not OK.
I’m up here. You’re down there.
It makes us unequal.
And it makes me uncomfortable.
You not being OK needs to be ‘fixed’.

It’s key to remember that all of us are very different, made up of our varied background, experiences, agenda, baggage, dreams, hopes and perspectives about the world.

To begin to connect at a deeper human level, we need to meet people where they’re at.

Another really deep and wonderful conversation with an amazing lady.
You don’t want to miss this.

Spotify links here.



Pei Mun Lim 0:05
Hello, and welcome to another episode of OnThePeiroll. My podcast where I talk to my guests about things like leadership, project management, project delivery, consulting, Salesforce, and sometimes conversation veers off into a more personal space. Today, I speak to Penny Townsend again, this is part two. The first part we focus on her professional journey. In today’s episode, we dive a little bit more into the personal side of Penny. And we find out what interests are like French cinema. We talk about personal resilience in people’s belief systems. And some of the lessons she learned from some of the biggest, most painful mistakes in her life. And I always enjoy talking to people about the things that make them grow. And in the conversations I’ve had with Penny, actually, they’re the conversations that made me grow. So I really enjoyed this and I hope you want to know penning Welcome to part two of our recording on my, my, on my podcast called OnThePeiroll I thought it was a cool name a long time ago, but it’s duck. So how are you this morning?

Penny Townsend 1:33
Yeah, I agree. I think it is a really cool moment. And I’m great. Thank you.

Pei Mun Lim 1:39
I had so much fun last time, we were talking about quite a lot of things. But when it came to a close here, there’s so much more that I wanted to talk to you about. And so to the part two, let me begin by with a couple of things. One was, you mentioned off camera that you are currently doing night classes. You mentioned the last podcast that you did. I thought it was ages ago. But it sounds like you’re not busy enough. You’ve got to do full time work. Thea mom, and oh my goodness, I want to do something at night. Tell me about this night classes you’re on?

Penny Townsend 2:14
Yeah, well, it’s something I say to loads of people is that continuing education is super important. And I was forever telling the young people that precede Oh, to start doing it. Because if you can start like a nice school habit in your 20s it’s much easier to maintain. Like, it’s really hard to do that when you’ve got young children, I’m very lucky that my kid has grown up. And I had years of not doing any study. But for me, academic work uses a different part of my brain to, to my day job or to anything else. And and my daughter’s just says that I’m weird. I guess it’s completely fine if everybody else thinks I’m weird. But I really enjoy the studying. I think whatever subjects you study, it adds value to your day job because it encourages you to think in a different way. And it broadens your horizons. So I am doing two things at night school. I’m doing a master’s in international film and television with the University of Hertfordshire and I’m doing undergraduate French with the Open University. Yeah.

Pei Mun Lim 3:25
I thought it was just a one thing now

Penny Townsend 3:27
as to these, sorry. Well, my original plan was to then try and combine them both and eventually do a PhD in French cinema. But I think I probably won’t do that I would I definitely want to do a PhD. But I’ve got some different ideas about that my personal tutor for the masters. He did his PhD on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And he studied that in a business school. So he was looking at kind of a geek economy around the MCU. And I have an idea of doing something a little bit similar. So yeah, we’ll see. Oh, my

Pei Mun Lim 4:03
goodness, this this conversation is getting more and more interesting is it’s in danger of just going completely. Who wants to

Penny Townsend 4:10
talk about Salesforce when we could talk about Marvel?

Pei Mun Lim 4:15
Absolutely. I got my kids through the whole series they got Disney and through the lockdown just sat down because they’re old enough to watch it now. They’re 12 and, and the benefit of watching it through it again. And we could talk about the motive, the intent, the human behavior that drives why people do things, you know, Thanos has great character, for example, but tell me about what’s French film? What’s that that attracts you to think about wanting to do a PhD?

Penny Townsend 4:49
Well, French I’ve always been rubbish at languages and I hate the fact that I’m rubbish at languages. You know, when I go abroad to work I feel All, you know, a shame, it’s such a classic English thing isn’t it to be rubbish at languages, it’s such a stereotype. And it’s a stereotype that is true because, you know, English people, we are kind of lazy about learning languages, because we can afford to be because everybody speaks English. And, um, you know, at school, you learn a bit of language, and I was never good at it. Like, I just never had a knack for it. And you know, and so I’ve continuously tried to work at it and improve. And the main thing is confidence, I have zero confidence speaking in French. So my comprehension, my understanding is really good. And I just have to work at my speaking. And I’m hoping that studying it properly, kind of will force me into doing that. That’s the plan. And then I’ve always been a massive movie buff. So yeah, he’s a huge fan of movies. I’ve always watched a lot of films and been really, really interested in them. And, you know, when I was a kid that was, you know, reviewing movies, that was something I was interested in always watched strange movies, I was a big fan of movie drone, which I don’t know if anybody’s what used to be like, late night, Sunday night TV on BBC Two, and I was a teenager, and Alex Cox, who’s actually a movie director, and now a lecturer in film in Denver University, I think he used to present all kinds of strange old movies with a kind of talk about why he was showing that movie. So I’ve always loved film. And yes, it’s a real treat to study it. But it’s tough. It’s quite rigorous academically, it is a master’s. And so I’ve got to write 20,000. Word dissertation. There are a lot of essays to write long movies to watch. But this last term has included a lot of South American films and TV shows, which I was not familiar with. So it’s been really good blend a lot. Wow,

Pei Mun Lim 6:57
how can I how can I switch the topic back to Salesforce? But if I don’t, you know, we’ll run out of time. Okay, with that lovely detail. Let’s bring it back to the topic. What I’m interested in is your leadership style. And I loved how you talk about your team in various places that you were at. So very different companies. So you just prior to IBM, you had procedure? What was the kind of leadership style? Did you? How are you as a person as a leader? Did it change throughout the different companies that you’ve worked at?

Penny Townsend 7:39
Yeah, it’s definitely changed a lot over the years. I mean, I was really young, when I was first given kind of people management responsibility. And so I had to learn a lot through instinct. And I think, to be honest, most leaders have are instinctive, you know, you don’t learn at school or in university about how to be a leader is going to catch you by surprise, at some point, something’s can happen that you weren’t expecting. So I think most folks are kind of instinctive. And, and I guess my instincts must have been reasonably sound because I was fairly effective. And so some core principles would be around treating others as I would want to be treated myself, but with an important caveats around that, that we don’t think and like, just so what I might want might be different to what you want. But the important thing is to be thinking about how is the other person going to experience this, rather than what do I want to tell them, you know, and that’s, that’s an important kind of rule of thumb, I suppose that I’ve always tried to live by the other thing is to try and focus on being successful, what’s the end game, and always trying to make sure that in every job, everybody understands how what they are doing connects to the aims of the organization, because it doesn’t really matter what job you’re in, but that sense of belonging and how, what you do matters. So whether that is somebody processing claims in an insurance company, or somebody who’s on a call center job, or a salesperson or a consultant, they need to understand about how the decisions that they make, you know, we all make 1000s of decisions every day in our job, what those decisions mean to the big picture. Because otherwise, I think people get very bored and disconnected in their jobs. And that tends to be where issues arise, usually. So that so those are principles that I’ve had, but then I was very, very lucky. I stumbled across some really good training a few years ago. And and that’s something I’ve used a lot with other people as well.

Pei Mun Lim 10:10
Can you share a bit about that training? What do you mean?

Penny Townsend 10:13
Yeah, so I actually was really lucky to get involved in that when I was at the Carbon Trust and National Energy Foundation. It’s a small training company called Momentum consultants run by a guy called Ashley Bookman. So this is probably about 15 years ago, I went on a course, like a whole organization went on this course called task orientated negotiation. And at first, I was really confused about what this was about. It just didn’t, it wasn’t landing with me the first couple of days. And then I began to get it. And it really opened my eyes. And what, what Ashley does, is it’s bordering on, almost like therapy type work. He’s using constructs and theories from from psychology. But rather than explaining those things to people, he his method of teaching is very experiential. Right, so he doesn’t stand at the front and talk about drama triangles, or about the OK Corral, he doesn’t deliver a lecture in those and ask people to think about it, it’s very much about creating role plays and team kind of settings, where people will dialogue on subjects and then review that. And then through that review, he and his team challenge people about, about their thinking about the words that they use about their approach. And that begins to uncover, like, all of these kind of almost like facepalm moments of Oh, my gosh, you know, I didn’t realize that came across like that, or, of course, that person sees it like that. And that’s all wrapped up with lots of really good techniques, about observing yourself and observing others. And just thinking differently about the world that I found really useful. And one of the things that thinks most useful about that is it creates a common set of language that you can use in your organization across all of the leadership, that how you talk about how you do your job as leaders and managers. And that really changes things that makes it much easier to be effective. So I brought Ashley in to do work with all of the managers in Placido, and I think they would all talk about how valuable that work was. And that, that made a big difference, I think, to the culture there and to people skills, and that they will take that with them for the future. And by being better leaders, you’re actually almost by osmosis, beginning to develop some of those skills and ways of working into the people that you’re influencing. So that they are kind of more insightful as they grow in their careers. And, and that’s very much what Ashley wants to do is to kind of seed some of these bits of thinking around around organizations to just help improve the quality of how people interact with each other, which is, you know, most powerful through leadership, because that’s where people have most ability to do harm to other people potentially, but just in the way that we interact with each other day to day, even outside of those kinds of management relationships.

Pei Mun Lim 13:42
So in terms of the this training, and the style of leadership that you’re talking about, do you see that that’s something that is transferable to any kind of company, any kind of setting any kind of culture size, so on?

Penny Townsend 13:59
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s a really good point Pei, because it isn’t just about leadership relationships, either. Like I was saying the very first course I went on with Ashley was about task orientated negotiation. And so it’s using those same theories and how you work with clients, right? Because you could, anybody that’s watching this, any company, every company aspires to have these kinds of partnership engagements with their, their clients, everybody wants to have strategic conversations with them. They don’t want it to be transactional. They don’t want anything to be hidden. They want to be able to have these meaningful discussions and come to joint solutions with their clients. And all of that strategy is legitimate. Everybody that puts that out there really means it. Where there is a disconnect is around the ability to actually execute those conversations. Because people from Everywhere come into a conversation loaded with stuff loaded with past experiences with a sense of what a sense of what’s good or bad or right or wrong with their agenda, what they feel that they shouldn’t talk to the clients about what they feel sensitive about weaknesses, strengths. And all of that means that those conversations are loaded. And they take away from the ability to have those clear, transparent strategic partner related kinds of conversations. And, and I guess, the development that I’ve had in that hopefully, I’ve given to all these other people means that you have an ability just to wipe all of that away, right, and to have really grown up. And this is where the kind of psychology comes into it fundamentally, I’m okay, you’re okay. As organizations, as human beings, as the nature of the conversation, that means that there is nothing that is cannot be discussed, it’s purely about how we talk about these things. And that is probably one of my biggest strengths in in the in the work and, and I always feel like I’m cheating, because anybody could have that strength, if they just have the confidence to be able to release so much of this other stuff that we all carry around with us all the time. And to be able to just have a really grown up clear conversation and to appreciate the agendas and issues that the other person is bringing, and actually enable them to navigate through that instead of either treating that as something to be beaten or broken or defeated, or worked around, then it’s more about enabling those things to be solved, and actually addressed. And though those are, I guess, that that’s the skills that I’ve taken from that, and that is really important in how you work on projects, I think.

Pei Mun Lim 17:02
What are your thoughts around why people aren’t able to kind of like release that and have those sorts of conversation?

Penny Townsend 17:12
I think that is just the nature of human beings, but particularly human beings in organizations, you know, there are a real mixture of reasons, you know, there are as many reasons as there are people, there are some people who’ve got to a certain level and position in their company. And they, they have a belief about the things that enabled them to get there. And then that belief system drives how they behave and what their values are, and how they talk to people, then there are other people who have, you know, are under pressure maybe to achieve a specific outcome. And, and, and that can drive them into some magical thinking about how to get there. There are so many different reasons why people are like that. Often, for benevolent reasons, there are so many people that think their job as leaders of either people or customers is to take care of others. But the trouble is, that taking care also comes from a place of I’m okay, you’re not okay. It’s like, I have some help you need looking after you need, you know, we’re all equals, we’re all grown ups, we’re all the same, right? You know, you need to ditch all of that kind of thinking, because it’s actually really not helpful. it skews your thinking, which there’s that old saying about how, you know, your thoughts become your words become your actions? And if, if your thoughts are, I have to take care of somebody that is really disempowering to that other person, right from the get go. And, and if you have a person on the other end of that, who’s sensitive, who’s sensitive to that he finds that triggering, then that’s going to lead to a clash really quickly. And it just is, yeah, that people don’t actively think about that, that’s all happening in the background without them even being aware of it. And I see that a lot on Salesforce projects, where consultants feel that they are caretakers for the customer. So oh, we better we better take care of this for the customer. And then they rush into this kind of hidden decision making that makes the projects go off track. You know, they they’re trying to do the right thing. And in early in my career I’ve done similar things where we try and do the right thing. But that’s never the right thing. The right thing is always to talk about it not to make paternalistic people or other companies.

Pei Mun Lim 19:50
Penny I have to say you come across as such a together person you have your everything is under control can You share a situation where you’ve encountered crisis. In looking back, you think, Oh, I could have handled that a little bit better. You have any of those crises, over many

Penny Townsend 20:11
crises, so many crises is is constant. And as I’m getting older, it’s almost this is not something I’d advocate to people. But almost the worst the crises are you go through kind of the worst it has to be before qualifies as a crisis anymore. So and that, that builds great resilience. And I think for young people, especially coming into their careers, to quite small things can seem like a really big dramatic crisis. And as the years go on, that you’re you moderate your own expectation of actually what disaster is and what risk is. And I think that that is something that you just get from age and experience. But in one of my very first jobs from the actually my first job, I was in a situation where I was leading a consortium to bid for money for a project. And I was very young, very naive. And we did a great job in bidding for this project. And the funding body called me up and said, We’re going to award you the project, but we’re not going to give you all of the money that you asked for. We’re going to give you like two thirds of it. And I was just like, Oh, amazing. Yes, definitely, of course, we’ll take it. And I was just so happy that we’d won this. I was over the moon. And I was kind of busily telling everyone Yeah, yeah, we’ve won, we’ve won. And then as the rest of the consortium found out that we didn’t have all of the money, we’d only won the two thirds of it. Actually, I started to get all of this feedback from everybody going or what have you said yes, for? If we’d known that, you know, there’s we just said, No, we just said, No, we’re not, we can’t do it. We can’t just it’s too much of a compromise. You know, we’ll have to compromise on this. And it’ll be a moral compromise on that. And this would not be right. And actually, there was a whole debate that needed to be had about whether we would do the project under those circumstances or not, that literally hadn’t even gone through my mind, I had only seen the positive about it. And my personal approach would have been right, we’ll figure out a way of, of doing it for that money, which was valid opinion, but not the only opinion. And that really was like a big slap in the face as a mistake. Like I had some big fallout from that mistake. And what it taught me is that the communication is the most important thing, regardless of wrong, right? Decision Making. You know, regardless of whether people’s opinions are just way out outrageously inappropriate, it that’s almost secondary, the fact is that you actually need to have the conversation. And that was my big mistake. And I learned a lot from them.

Pei Mun Lim 23:03
How they did had, as you’re going through that, how did you manage things? Because as I’m listening, I’m thinking, oh, you know, probably wigged out during that time. As soon as I found out, how did you that that period must have been quite tough. Did you have any support? Was it just you trying to wade through all these people coming back to you and asking all these questions?

Penny Townsend 23:27
Yeah, it was very lonely and very scary. And that’s the other thing that I’ve learned as I’ve got older, is not to not to let yourself get in that situation so much. So at that time, I felt hugely ashamed about it, you know, I felt it, you know, that was when I was, before I before I’d kind of learned about anything. So at that point in my life, my self esteem and my job were really knitted up together. And, actually, it was having my baby completely changed that right like that, that I feel like that was also very lucky, because that forced that that break, whereas a lot of people have to work over a long time to separate their self esteem from their career in their work. And it’s, it’s difficult to do and and so at that time, it that all of that negativity about that decision on that project that felt like it was about me, it’s not about me at all, it was purely about the work and the decision making, but at the time, it felt like it was about me, and that was that made me really upset. And you know, and I’m really good at being tough and doing stiff upper lip and battling on but those kinds of experiences when I was young, they really, they really hurt and I think a lot of young people particularly struggle with that. You know, when you’re in your early 20s And you want desperately to be successful, any knocked back To hurt jobs, you don’t get things that go wrong. And you also have that tendency just to work all the hours to say yes to everything, to never argue that’s going to catch up with you someday. And it’s also not actually the route to success, like that is the route to burnout. It’s definitely not the route to success. And the way that you add value by by challenging things, and by suggesting different ways of doing things, and by that core separation of you are not your work. That is something that’s really difficult for a lot of people to learn. And I only learnt it, because, you know, I woke up one morning with a baby, and she was not prepared to let me be your work anymore. She was like, no stick work where the sun doesn’t shine. I am you now, everything. Everything’s gonna depend on how loud I scream and forget everything else that used to define who you were. And that was, in a way very fortunate. And I had this chat recently with a girl in my team. And she was like, So Penny, are you telling me that I should go and get pregnant? And I was like, No, it’s definitely not the solution to the problem. Not having the baby was my kind of way round this is, the harder job to do is to figure it out for yourself. But that’s what everybody needs to try and do is to find that separation. And actually, the studying is a good way of doing that. Because it’s another outlet for for who you are. That is not your job. And that’s so important, I think.

Pei Mun Lim 26:43
So here’s a question if you had a time machine, and you could go back until the younger penny would not do,

Penny Townsend 26:51
would you? That is such an interesting point. And that’s actually something I’ve given some thought to, there is a really terrible Richard Curtis movie called about time, I really don’t like that movie at all. But one of the interesting things about that is that when this young man goes back in time to change things, an unintended consequence of that is that is kids turn out to be different, right? And I think that would be the thing that would put me off going back in time, because I have thought before, if I could go back in time, there were there are things I would love to change about the way my life is now that I know in hindsight, you know, there are people I would be with or not be with that I could go back in time. And I could correct that. But if I did that, I wouldn’t have my daughter that I have now. And that would be such a big deprivation for me and also for the world because we wouldn’t have her in it. And so I think I wouldn’t actually because of her, I wouldn’t change anything.

Pei Mun Lim 27:51
Just on that particular example, you gave brown consulting project. About that. Just going back. Oh, if I was just continuing, yeah, just I think because what I’m trying to draw out is, what were the lessons that you learn from that experience that was so big and so valuable, that it was worth the suffering and the pain of going through the mistake?

Penny Townsend 28:15
Oh, everything pay? I wouldn’t change any of that, you know, I’d go back and have all my disasters, all my conversations that went badly, all the mistakes that I made, I would I would continue to do them all really, because I learned something from from all of them. I think there is one actually there was a conversation I had a couple of years ago. And where I was, I went against my instincts as to how to have the conversation. So one of the most difficult things that you ever need to do as a leader is when you have to dismiss somebody from their job, right. And there are myriad circumstances where that needs to occur. Everything from a big redundancy program to you know, gross misconduct. And the reality is that most situations fall somewhere in between that, where maybe you, you know, your your business has declined and you need to lose headcount or you’re having a reorganization, or somebody is just not performing in their role at the level they need to maybe somebody has been on a performance improvement program and it hasn’t worked out and you have to let them go. Those are all incredibly difficult conversations. And

I used to think that that would get easier as I got older. I used to think that the more of those you did, the better you’d get at them and the less that they would hurt you. But in fact, it turns out I was wrong about that. You get the worst to get. And I think they get worse because you read you become more aligned with the other person It’s easier to think how much that would screw up your life, if you were on the other side of that table. And lots of leaders make the mistake of, of prioritizing their own ego in that conversation, they kind of want the person being dismissed to feel sorry for them, or to, you know, to feel the pain of dismissing someone, My instinct is not that at all, I want them to be angry with me, I want them to hate me about it, I want them to feel mad about it. Because I’m the right person for them to dump that on. I don’t want them to feel mad with themselves. This is a learning opportunity, not an opportunity to hate themselves. Like they, they need to find somewhere to put that anger and that upset, that isn’t on themselves that isn’t going home and being angry and upset with their wife and their kids or their family certainly isn’t pouring it into self loathing, it needs to be a chance for them to be able to look in a really task orientated way, like, what went wrong, what could I have done differently? What will I take away from this to do differently? What’s my strategy now for how I get my next job, and how this doesn’t happen? To me again, that’s what I want them to walk away feeling. And that means that they probably need to get all that anger and upset out of their system and have a really good place to direct that too. And that should be at the business at me at the rationale for why we’re losing them. And, and this one time, I didn’t do that. I went with the strategy my colleague evoked which was much more Oh, this is so sad. And you know, it’s just not quite working. And, you know, you know, really was so sorry, and all of that stuff, and, and that the conversation itself went really well. And the person was like saying all the right, the right things that you say, well, I totally understand, I know how hard this is for you. And, you know, I understand what you mean, and why it’s not working. And then, and then they got angry two weeks later. And then when they were angry, it was irrational anger, they felt like I tricked them, when I’d fired them. And, and they could struggle to get past it. And, and that’s what I realized happens when you have the conversation that way. That it’s like there’s something slightly dishonest about it, it’s much, much better to be to be direct to be task orientated. This isn’t about you, the person, this isn’t about me, the person, this is about this situation, this set of facts, this is the only choice that we are making. And I’m being really clear with you. A, B and C are going to happen because of D, E and F, this is what you can do about it, this is what will happen next, and then all that anger comes out there. And then and it’s dealt with in that over it. Whereas by being the whole, so sorry, but you know, and trying to bring them along and have them share in your decision making. It just extends the pain, and actually think that that guy probably took him months to get over that. And I really regret that. And I would go back and do that differently. And I would go back and change that. And do it my way. And not have it be like that. Because that kind of over emotional stuff that wrapping things in us as human beings. That’s not fair. Because then all of those kind of social norms about not hurting other people’s feelings come out in the way that the person responds to it. And it’s not fair to load that on them when they’re in a really difficult situation. And so that that would be the one thing I’d go back and do differently, actually.

Pei Mun Lim 34:03
The fact that you say that it doesn’t get easier as you grow older. Right, let’s follow that line and solve what does get easier as you grow old?

Penny Townsend 34:16
is a great question. I think what gets easier is you get more confident, for sure. So I’m more likely now to call things out earlier, that are going a bit wrong. I’m getting much better at having that confidence of not just letting things run and take their course. But if saying I think we need to talk about this, or I think we need to put that on the table for discussion or I think where you’ve got that as green. It probably is Amber and we probably need to talk about it. Or if that’s a rescue for seeing a few months. We should talk about it right now. out. And I think that having the confidence to spot those things and to pull them out early is the thing that definitely gets easier. That’s, that’s the main thing I would say. And, and also, as you get older and more experienced, if you’ve, if you’ve grown as a person in the right direction, then becoming task orientated and deep, making it not about your feelings gets easier and easier. The trouble is that what’s difficult is that you’re working with more and more people who have grown the exact opposite direction, their feelings have become more and more and more and more associated with work and, and they are more and more sensitive. And that’s, then those are quite difficult people to work with. But, you know, there are always ways around everything.

Pei Mun Lim 35:50
Talk to me about your values growing up has any is any of them changed?

Penny Townsend 35:58
That’s an interesting question. Our values, I, we weren’t a particularly values loaded family. So, you know, we weren’t, there was no religious morality or anything like that. And I think having had some difficult situations early on, and that the values that we had, were really distilled down to like minimum viable product level of values. And, and I think that that has probably changed, you know, changed a little bit for me, but I’ve probably kept a lot of those core values. So I suppose one of my core values is not to particularly have any values, because the problem with having values is that then you’re setting yourself up into opposition to somebody else. So for every value that you hold, somebody else is going to help the opposite one, right. And then that is just incredibly polarizing. So I suppose my core value is that all values have some rightness, and some wrongness, there is nothing that is truly right or wrong. Everything is dependent on the circumstances. And, and I try not to hold any really strong values and have respect for everybody. So then that respect becomes like my core value. Respect, and I’m trying to not make any assumptions becomes my core values. And I remember when Nazi was a very little girl, actually, and, and my boyfriend was getting really angry, angry with somebody else about something or really lost his temper with somebody, and she said, is just being his self. And that’s what I realized, is so powerful, is that when you see the world and other people like that, then you have incredibly resilient to being hurt by other people. Because when you understand that everybody else’s behavior is about them and not about you. It makes you a lot less egotistical, but it also makes it just an awful lot easier to live in the world. Because you’re not constantly thinking, Oh, this person’s doing this to me, or they’ve done that, to me. It’s No, nobody’s doing anything to anybody else. Like, in that sense. It’s all about them. And, you know, at the massive level, even this whole Russia Ukraine thing, it’s not really about Ukraine, like that’s just the PR, it’s about Putin, and it’s about Russia, it’s about them, and what his own politics, probably incredibly local, probably incredibly down to the 10 people he spends the most time with, is probably really the whole driver for this whole thing. And, and that’s true, from the micro to the macro level that most people are driven by what’s going on inside them, rather than, than what’s around. And that’s, I guess, my core value.

Pei Mun Lim 39:07
So, if you’ll allow me to share what I think your values are based on the conversations that, you know, the last two conversations we’ve had, it’s it sounds like you’re very strong value about what’s right. So you’re you’re sharing that story about having to let someone go, there is a sense of justice, what’s right, for the other person does respect seems to be one of your core values. The other the other ones that came forward was, how independent you are, and how unwilling you are to compromise that in a lot of things that you do, and freedom as well. So these are just a few that I’ve gleaned from you in those comments. nation and III to say, This is my observation that you don’t have core values because you believe everyone has their that you don’t want to be in opposition to other people also tells me about the fact that you are so I can’t find a word but not collaborative, but you know that everyone is equal just from everything that you’ve said that you’re very inclusive in everything you do. And that is quite unusual. Because a lot of people when I ask them what the values are, they come up with quite a few things that are truly important to them. But it sounds like when I asked you the question, you’re thinking about the other person whose value might be opposing to yours, in not wanting to upset them or offend them, if you’re on the opposite end. Does that sound about right?

Penny Townsend 41:05
Yeah, definitely. I think freedom probably, I would say is, is a value of mine. For sure. I think Justice is more complex, because justice is very much in the eye of the beholder. And one person’s justice is another person’s you know, it’s like one person’s terrorist is the next person’s freedom fighter, right. And it’s very true with justice. And actually writing my essay, this term, this terms course in my MA has been screened violence. And I’m writing my essay on the last episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, and I don’t want to kind of give it away, but it’s very violent, very bloody. And I’m writing my essay as a discussion about whether that was a capitulation to the values of this repressive regime and Gilead, or whether it was an act of freedom and emancipation, because you could interpret that incident either way. And I, my interpretation is that it was an act of freedom and emancipation. But that is up for debate. And lots of critics have said the opposite, that the people involved in that act lost their moral high ground by committing this violent act, which is an interesting debate. And I think, while I am have my view on it, I, I see that debate, and I think that that’s true of everything with with justice, I think there’s a good, yeah, there’s, it’s always up for debate. And

Pei Mun Lim 42:32
I’m loving where this conversations going, because I’m a history buff. So but I don’t have where I get my information from, because I used to drive lots for to go to client site, you know, three, four hours to Manchester and Wales. And I put the teaching company lectures on Rome, and the Greco Roman history and all sorts. And what I have come to understand is history and the concept of justice and who’s right and who won. And all of that is very, as you say, very up for debate. And I can’t remember where I read. But like, if there’s an event happening, as you say, the last scene of the hundreds that which I haven’t watched, you could put a lens on somebody and step into their shoes. And their view and the opinion about what’s happening is vastly different from somebody else in exactly the same scene because of the background context of the character and what’s happened to them. And so as you say, you know, justice is so nuanced, in context event. But what I was trying to get at was, you had a strong belief in what was right. It sounds like that’s something that’s driven a lot of your decision making process. Do you do you feel that that’s true?

Penny Townsend 43:57
I guess it’s maybe about in the circumstances, I don’t think that there are kind of big rights and wrongs. But I think the objective in any interaction is about what’s the what’s the outcome that you want to achieve? And how do you best get to there? Rather than what makes me feel good? Or what’s going to make them feel good? Or what’s going to get through this conversation? The easiest way, it’s much more about kind of what’s, what’s the end goal. And even if that’s something really difficult, that’s the thing that you need to talk about, rather than, you know, we all go to so many meetings that are just that don’t talk about anything real and, and especially on projects with clients. You know, I think we’ve all seen those projects where you go week after week after week after week with a green status report or maybe green and a bit Amber and everything’s fine. Everything’s fine everything and then all Have a sudden, it’s totally not fine. And actually, it never was fine. And it’s just that nobody really talked about it. Because, you know, what was the purpose of that meeting to get in and out cleanly or to talk about the difficult stuff? And that’s where, for me, I guess your point about rightness is that I would say, well, the right thing, the real purpose of that meeting is to talk about the difficult stuff. But it’s not so much that I know what’s the right outcome from that, or I have strong feelings about that. It’s just that I think there’s no point having the meetings, if you’re not going to talk about the really meaningful stuff, and all those kinds of things, I suppose I do have quite a strong sense of what’s the what’s the right thing to do, rather than what’s the right outcome necessarily. And I’m, I can be quite brave, about being the only person that will say, Hang on a minute, but what about this, and, and open up the difficult conversation. And the difficult thing when you do that is to then not being left as the person who’s kind of responsible for it, you know, it’s, it’s trying to enable a conversation. And that’s probably one of my weaknesses, I’m probably too liable to end up taking more responsibility when everybody wants it.

Pei Mun Lim 46:18
I am very mindful of your time and be respectful. But this conversation is so interesting, I’m just going to throw something else in there. It’s my curiosity, and it’s slightly controversial. So you know, feel free to not, you don’t have to answer. So the the topic of diversity and inclusion. And growing up in Malaysia, where formative action is something that that is reality. And me being Chinese, is kind of second class citizen to the local Malays, and the Muslims. So that’s a reality that I kind of grew up in. And in the creation of organizations and things like that there is a you know, we have to have a quarter to difficult quarter for universities and on board. If you want to set up a company that you there’s a race quarter, as an example. So I’m coming from a country where we’re seeing things from the other direction, and I come here. And it’s great to have active inclusion and diversity as a great topic to give opportunities to those, you know, from the non white, slightly less privileged background, and I can see that, but my personal feeling is that jobs should go to the person who’s best qualified. So if you were hiring, and there was some policies around diversity and inclusion, how would you how would you kind of make the decision? Would you follow the line of the policy? Or would you get the best person for the job? Even if it doesn’t fall within that? Identify?

Penny Townsend 48:13
That is such a tough, tough challenge that so many of us are facing all the time right now about how to do diversity? Well, it is a very, very difficult question. And I think affirmative action is brilliant, in like a big bang, for suddenly making a transformation to an organization or an industry or the world. And if everybody could just all be aligned, and we’ll just boom all do it on the same day, then actually, that would change things for the better. But the problem with it when it’s done by different organizations, or different countries, or in a staggered way, is that then all that happens is you create a two tier system within that company or within that team. And you end up with a kind of caste system. And you end up with people being referred to as the diversity candidate or the diversity hire. And that then really diminish it diminishes their power and makes things worse than if you hadn’t had the affirmative action in the beginning. And that those are things that you can’t just train everybody else to solve that problem, because you can train them to say the right stuff, you can’t train them to think and believe the right stuff that takes decades of work to move people to that place. So I think it is very difficult. I would agree with the fundamental idea that you want the best person for the job. I think the problem that we have is that we then set up ways of working that advantage specific people over others. So that then the criteria we may set make it much easier for one group of people to meet those than they do another group of people. We also are not very good at I’m looking at facts instead of the way people present themselves. So, you know, men are much better at basically lying in their interviews, a man will come in, and he doesn’t even think he’s lying, because it’s what he’s been taught to do since he was three years old. It’s not lying, it’s big in yourself up, it’s being confident, it’s hard being, you know, self assured, and it’s telling the other person what they want to hear. That’s not lying. So they’ll come in, and they’ll big up the job that they’ve done and talk about the brilliant role they had. Women who, since three years old, have been brought up to be very respectful of others, minimize themselves push other people forward, we’ll talk about the exact same situation has been, Oh, what the team did what this person did what that person did, and they’ll minimize it, you know, a man will round up their sales figure, the woman will round it down, right. And so if you’re comparing like, for like, men, it would appear that the man is the best person for the job. But that is not true. That is just skin deep appearances. And that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. And I think that the thing we need to work on is to enable women to beat men at that game, right? Because actually, I think if we can upskill women to defeat some of that stuff, we can, we can kick their ass like, honestly, women with the you know, the range of skills, that extra perception that women have that is not genetic, or anything like that, but that we have to have in order to stay in survivor work, that we can use that to our advantage. And I think that’s true for so many different groups. And it makes until we until we change until we have more leaders who are more diverse, who can see through that stuff. And until we can enable minority groups to use their skills for their success, that the trouble with that picking the best person for the job is it’s always skewed to the kind of the group with the most power to begin with. And, and that’s, that’s a big, that’s decades generations, it’s going to take to shift that which, you know, it’s not cool. We want to do that much sooner.

Pei Mun Lim 52:17
Like that answer. Thank you for that. It’s, it’s much bigger problem, as you say, you know, in terms of country wide, you know, government’s having initiatives to put people on the similar playing field of those, maybe minorities and women’s and returning moms and things like that. So that’s, that’s one prong to attack it. The other one, I guess, is from the recruitment side is to dig much deeper into the candidates to see if how they’re representing themselves are correct on and accurate. And maybe the third one is, from an organization point of view to say, Are we willing to invest in someone, maybe a woman who has not had the same opportunities as her counterpart, and help accelerate and augment her strengths? So that, you know, maybe in a year’s time, she would surpass the male counterpart. So that’s really good. Thank you for helping to clarify that, because that’s something that I’ve thought about for a long time, but unable to have that open conversation with a lot of people. Because I feel, you know, coming from Malaysia, I feel that we could do better by being more merit meritocratic. And it just was a conversation around race around capability. That wasn’t something that I could have that open conversation. So thank you so much for that. This has been such a fantastic hour with you. And I wish we could have more than maybe we can have more when when you have more time. So I do appreciate this, this this time that you’re spending with me today. And thanks

Penny Townsend 54:09
so much. Pei, it’s lovely to chat to you. I agree. I could chat to you about this stuff all day.

Pei Mun Lim 54:14
Thank you. I’ll let you know when it next comes up. Thank you