Podcast S2 Ep.3 – Jonathan Blair – Part 1

Podcast S2 Ep3 is out! I talked to Jonathan Blair, Solutions Architect to Mav3rik a #Salesforce partner down under.

He talked about his journey – both professionally as well as physically as he traversed continents.

We paused and explored so many different areas of his life, and we had a deeply honest discourse about how culture and background can make such a big impact on how we view the world.

We talked about humility and resilience in the face of adversity, and how he chose to stick it out in a role that would have caused others to resign.

We talked about projects, mistakes, and the learnings that came.

The bit I enjoyed most of all, were the honest conversation about the business of being human.

Not going to spoil it, but we enjoyed it so much that we recorded a Part 2! 😁

For now – you can enjoy this episode in two flavours: Video and transcript here, as well as on Spotify!




Pei Mun Lim 0:00
So hello, you’re listening to OnThePeiroll, my podcast about consulting, project management, Salesforce delivery, quality testing me to shoot. There’s so many topics I’m really, really interested about. And what’s really fun about podcasts is I get to talk about it with people that I like, who are fascinated by same topics. So today, I’m talking to Jonathan Blair. He is a Solutions Architect at Margaret, in down under, in Australia, and we talked about his journey from South Africa to learn, then moving on to Australia. And listen to learn along the way. We talked about culture, we talked about how our experiences shaped people that we are in how we bring that to the projects that we do and interact with people, and how best to approach it when we’re aware that things like that are happening. So I really hope that you will enjoy this episode as much as we did.

Good evening, Jonathan, how are you today?

Jonathan Blair 1:21
I’m very good. Thanks, Pei. Very good morning to you.

Pei Mun Lim 1:24
Thank you. Welcome. And thank you for taking the time to come on my podcasts OnThePeiroll, where I talk about all things, leadership, CRM, and Salesforce, all the things that I think you and I would really enjoy to get stuck into. But actually, what I’d like to start is ask you about your journey. If you can tell us a story about where you started, you can start from any point and how you got to where you are. I know you’ve moved continents a few times. I’m so interested to hear how you’ve moved and how you found found all of that. So.

Jonathan Blair 2:08
Okay, cool. Thanks, Pei. Yeah, I think my journey has been a varied one. If you if you see my massive a CV on LinkedIn, it kind of goes down to, to sort of 2007 2008 I think, but there’s a whole stack of time before that, that’s that I can, I can lightly touch on in terms of in terms of how I got to where I am now. But maybe we’ll start at the, at the start of my Salesforce journey, as a consultant. I had spent sort of, I think it was around eight months, in a bit of a funk. Not working, stuck in the UK, and really just having a crisis of confidence around. What kind of work should I actually do. I had been in sales since I’ve joined, you know, so I flew over from, from South Africa to stay in the UK in 2008. And that was the start of the GFC, the global financial crisis. So fell into a lead generation sales type role, very low paid, but just enough to kind of keep my head above water, and stayed in sales for the you know, for the next five years. And had a had a really pragmatic and open conversation with the CEO of the last company that worked out in sales. He basically said to me, John, you’re not a salesperson. You’re a great guy. You’re just not a salesperson, you know, and he’s, he’s absolutely right. You know, I’m the kind of sales person if I do do sales, you know, if somebody doesn’t want whatever we’re offering, I kind of go okay, you don’t want to then I’ll move on. Thanks. Whereas most salespeople would be a bit more kind of Sure. You sure you don’t want it? That type of thing? So I had a conversation with a friend of mine, Graham, he used to stay in the UK now actually stays in Sydney, down the road. And he said to me, John, you’ve got to look for the golden thread. What is your golden thread? What is the essence that you can lift out of each kind of fundamental part of your life experience? And kind of group it together and say, Okay, what does this make me? And I realized, and you know, if you want if you want me to go to less detail, just shout. But I’ve I’ve been I’ve had a career as varied as my first year out of school. I was a waiter for a variety have restaurants. I then came to London for a year and I studied a sound engineering diploma. I came back to South Africa or worked in a sound studio as opposed production engineer for audio engineering, for I think it was eight months. Then was a DJ with a friend of mine. He kind of he kind of started a music entertainment type company, which is basically both of us traveling all around Johannesburg. And, and playing, you know, DJ gigs for friends and, you know, 21st, some think there was a wedding in there too. And then decided to go to university about three years or three years after that, that a business business degree came out of that worked as a tour manager for a band, for three months, I gained about 15 kilograms in those three months from eating all the pizza and drinking all the beers. And after that, I decided to kind of fix myself, if that makes sense. So I went on a course in neuro linguistic programming, which is, you know, an approach to, to excellence and, and kind of managing your mental state, you might say in in a summary, and also hypnosis, and hypnotherapy. And I started my own company, I started my own company doing hypnotherapy and neuro linguistic programming. Interventions for people. And I kind of did a moonshot, I put a website up and said, I do business consulting, and I do personal consulting. And my dad kind of looked at me and he said, John, you know, you don’t really have experience in any of these areas, are you sure you want to be kind of leading with that, but I decided to boil the ocean. And I put everything up that. And I wouldn’t say I was hugely successful. I wasn’t. But I had a few clients. And I helped him solve a few problems.

And then decided to move to the UK on a little bit of a whim because I got a, an inheritance from my grandparents passing. And I decided South Africa is not the place for me anymore, I moved over to the UK, and financial crisis and right into it. So the golden thread that you left out of that is, you start off in waitering customer service, how to find out what people want really quickly. And to give it to them without too much fuss or hassle. You look at the audio engineering side, how to troubleshoot how to look at the signal flow between the microphone and on the desk four in on the stage, and follow the train over the electricity through the stage underneath the stage through to the the kind of audio splitter box into the mixing desk, out into your speakers, which store your monitor speakers and out into the main speakers of the actual venue or whatever if you’re doing kind of live music production. And also process management, if you think about that as a process. You know, my NLP and hypnosis work to you know how to how to find out what not only the symptoms of a problem are, but also the causes. And to dive into that and actually, you know, be outcomes focused and do that. So following that kind of golden thread all through that process, working in sales and lead generation sales, but you have to deal with a lot of tech customers. And so you have to learn surface level a lot of what each each company has to do, and then try and sell that over the phone to get a meeting for that particular company. And then working in ethics and compliance, sales, culture building, sustainability research, and then into Salesforce finally, where these two guys who started a company called tell associates decided to give me a chance. And I was employee number 12. And yeah, after a job, job hunt of about four months, managed to get my admin certification and start on the South was kind of road and that’s me there right at the beginning of that journey. So I’ll give I’ll give it a pause there just come up with air and

Pei Mun Lim 9:43
that is a really, really interesting journey. To be honest. I like the fact that you’ve managed to plot your golden thread in its Can you tell me a bit more about how Oh, perhaps you’ve been able to translate. Is there any learnings from say, the gigging that you’ve done? As as a DJ? That? Is there anything you bring with it in your current world? In Salesforce?

Jonathan Blair 10:19
Yeah, I think so. Because as as a as a kind of gigging DJ, you’re, you’re self sufficient. And when I say gigging DJ, I mean, that was just me and my mate. And we had, we had a couple of big speakers, a couple of, you know, CDJ decks, and, you know, there were his, and then his, his, his mixer, and then I think I’d bought the speakers and, and he had the amp. And we used to just cart this around everywhere. So very self being self sufficient. And also, you know, the, maybe the reading of a crowd, bringing other people in the room to say, are they actually interested in what you’re saying? And try and put something forward that they might be more interested in, in the next statement, or, or interaction, I suppose. Yeah, that’s off the top of my head, I think.

Pei Mun Lim 11:16
Fantastic. That was that was a parallel I was trying to draw because if you’re a solo consultant in I think when cloud social started, it was quite small. In there for consulting, it goes on site has to do everything, you’ve got to be the project manager, you’ve got to be the BA, the person who does the build, and the test and the training, and also handles some of the scope management and expectation management that your sales team may or may not have promised, and where your client may or may not have got the expectations, right. So you’re juggling so many balls. So I was, I don’t know music very well. And I don’t know. But I kind of imagined that that might be the same thing. If you were going to do something for let’s say, a wedding. And the bride tells you, this is what we want. But things change during the day her mood changes the audience might change your kit might go wrong. So it from what I imagine being able to do that being able to troubleshoot on your feet while your customers in front of you. Probably stood you in good stead is my thinking.

Jonathan Blair 12:40
And being adaptable. And I’ve got to say at that age, probably the tequila. That helped also right.

Pei Mun Lim 12:53
Hopefully you weren’t drinking on the job. When you started being a consultant.

Jonathan Blair 12:57
No, not not not as a consultant, but definitely as DJ 2122 years old, I think so.

Pei Mun Lim 13:06
So tell me Yeah,

Jonathan Blair 13:08
yeah, no, I’m

Pei Mun Lim 13:09
sorry. Sorry.

Jonathan Blair 13:10
I interrupt. No, no, no. Overton, follow your thoughts.

Pei Mun Lim 13:14
Okay, so did you have to make a major switch in your mindset when you move from sales into consulting? What was that’s, you know, change is very different working consulting. But I wanted to get your take on it. When you first started, what was it about your first job cloud socials that made you think, oh, right, that is such a different way of thinking. I’d like to hear some of the challenges that you had when you first came on.

Jonathan Blair 13:53
Several think I was just so desperate to, to do something of value and have meaning the sales lifecycle is challenging for and I’ve got a lot of respect for salespeople, because they deal on a monthly reset or a quarterly reset. So the phenomenal amount of work phenomenal amount of effort sometimes get treated, you know, and sometimes justifiably so, as you know, somebody not to be dealt with or spoken to or the southern next thing because if I get a phone call from a sales person, and they just want something from me, I’m also kind of be quite distant from. You do develop a bit of a thick skin, I did struggle with it for a long time. But essentially, in my sales role, I started to find and do things that were more consultancy, kind of focused anyway. So in my one sales role, for example, we were using Salesforce and I was spending a lot of time putting the reporting and the dashboards together. So I had a lot of kind of interactions with Salesforce and CRMs, prior to that, you know, in the old classic interface, putting the console view in place, for example, when doing high volume phone calls, at say, I actually timed it, remember timing it, you know, going through the regular route of going page to page to this view to page, and so on and so forth. I shaved off, I think about 40% of time, like bringing on the console view and being able to like phone, click the next month phone, click Next on the phone, and so on and so forth. So it’s bring a lot of that kind of in already, maybe naturally. But the consultant thing really, I started off really well. I think I had a really good trajectory over my first sort of six months. And the company was growing really fast. And we got to January of 2014, or 2015, you know, anything passed last week, I sort of forget the proper dates. But it was the January’s sort of shift, the financial year end of Salesforce, where they often do a lot of deals. And so we had a massive month, at the same time as the person who was kind of looking after professional services, decided to switch jobs to sales. And I thought Asda can handle it. This is this is pretty easy peasy. I’ll do this. And I put myself into the professional services, some sort of manager role, completely unprepared for the organization as a whole, I think we were all quite naive to the challenges around that level of growth. And, you know, the sales thing is, tell somebody you can do something, even if you can’t yet, you know, salesperson will go, oh, you know, we’ve got this platform, blah, blah, and the client says cannot do cannot, you know, design a rocket for me? And we’ll go, oh, no, yeah, sure, we can design a rocket for you. No problem. No problem. This is we’ll get back to you on how long that’ll take, you know, and then you kind of go home and go back to Office? And how do we do that? How we figure it out, and all that type of stuff. And that is the worst? The worst thing that a consultant I think can do. Personally, I think the conversation to have is, I think we can possibly do that. Let me go away and have a look and come back to you with a definitive answer. Because it’s bitten us in the behind so many times. And by us, I mean, me and my colleagues and other people that I’ve seen have had this happen. Where you get stuck in a situation where you just have no white hat, you’ve promised some things you can’t deliver them. And, you know, I got I got smacked down pretty quickly by justifiably so from from, you know, what, but one of the particular clients I was working with, where I kind of not understood the scope had not understood requirements. And, you know, at that stage, we will also put into those situations, just blindly ignorant of the fact that there were these things called user stories, there were these things called functional and non functional requirements. There were these things like called solution design documents, for example, we were working on like, something called proposal items, and they were like high level epics of, I think it’s kind of this stuff. And then you figure in, there you go, I think that’s 10 days, or that’s, you know, five days or whatever. And so that come, you know, that, combined with the pressures of, you know, too many projects in flight,

I had 12 projects against my name, and I was saying yes to too much stuff. And, and I find out now, that’s actually a natural response to plot to trauma, but to, to anxiety and fear. And, you know, a threatening situation where you get your fight, flight, fear or form. And that form is that people pleasing side come up. And I bet you’ve got some stories about that. That kind of people pleasing. Let me just say yes to everything now, because it de escalates the situation. And then we’ll figure it out in two weeks time, and maybe they’ve forgotten about it by then that type of thing. I don’t know if that answered your question, to the degree that you were looking forward.

Pei Mun Lim 19:37
It is all perfect because it goes into territory that interests me anyway. What I found you’re absolutely right. I think for a lot of the smaller partners who I think there’s a book called E Myth, which is where everyone who does a business who are in a business in let’s say, deliveries or a hairdresser will cook and they think, you know what the owner of this restaurant or the owner of this hairdressing salon is making so much money off me, I think I can go away in, I can run my own salon, or ramen restaurant. But what happens then is they go ahead and do that. And they aren’t experienced or skilled in managing clients and the expectations and all the commercial bits around it. And so the smaller partners, what I have found is that, as you say, they say yes to everything. Because when you’re running a business, you’re in a situation where you not only have to pay on bills, but if you have people on your payroll, you’ve got to pay them. And so you say yes to everything, without perhaps the commercial training around how to structure a contract around a proposal, a statement of work, and how to manage all of that so that your people don’t get overwhelmed. So it kind of trickled down from what I can see. And a lot of the partners are not, they are in the sort of situations not. I would say I can’t find right words, but not maliciously or intentionally. No, not caring about their guides, but it’s very much a mentality of feast or famine. If I don’t say yes, now, I’m not going to get the work later in how am I going to pay my people. So it’s a situation, I think and feel that makes them feel like they’re always on the backfoot. They’re always in a state of anxiety, as you say, and always saying yes, and then let’s figure it out later. And that’s kind of a place to be. And if you look at the covey, time management quadrant, you’ve got your quadrant one, which is urgent and important. Quadrant two, which is important, but not urgent. And you got quadrant tree, which is urgent and not important in front of Boise dog stuff. And you spend all your life in quadrant one. And a lot of small partners are in the same state. We’re in one, where we’ve got the current file crisis that we’ve got to deal with now. And let’s hope that the stuff that the clients asked for that stacking up in my to do, they’ve kind of forgotten, or let’s figure out how to deal with it later. Not a great place to be so it sounds like you know, you had a what’s the word I’m looking for? Your transition from sales consulting was quite an eye opening experience

Jonathan Blair 23:01
of baptism of fire, I think is maybe the approach that you’re looking for. And and yet to expand on on, you know, exactly what you’ve articulated. So well, there is, is I’m gonna I’m gonna go ahead and call a spade a spade, the arrogance that I had to think that I could just walk in and be quite bolshie and oh, yeah, I can handle Professional Services Management, and I can handle this and handle that and so on and so forth. Yes, I can handle 12 Customers against my name. And then, you know, I saw, you know, one of the guys who worked in my team was such a, such a massive potential consultant. Yeah, he, he, he was he just wanted to take on work. He was like, Oh, give me this. Give me that. And then he got to seven projects against his name. And these are small projects. These are like two week engagements, one week engagements. This was really early classic days, where there was a small little incremental, incremental pieces of work. And, and, you know, one day he just came in, said, I’m leaving, I’m resigning. And I was like, why? And he said, I’ve got too much work. I said, but you were asking me for the work. And, and I just let him down. I let him down so badly, because I was so arrogant and so but without malice, and I think the the founders of the of the organization also had, you know, challenges with that. You know, that kind of behavior and mindset. I’ll never forget the loneliest I’ve ever felt in a job was when stuff started to hit the fan. And we were supposed to have a group meeting every two weeks, you know, me the Managed Services Manager, the two founders, the head of sales. And our CTO had left a couple of years A month previously to three weeks previously. And I came into the meeting and I was terrified. And I was like, Guys, we have a problem, I’m struggling here. And, and one of the founders has stopped me. And he said, I don’t want to hear that you are, I don’t want to hear your problems, I want to hear solutions to your problems, which is a very kind of bolshie way of also just going like, no, no, you need to solve it. And there’s that kind of that narrative and behavior and in some of the, you know, in some of the kinds of companies, you know, that you see in the marketplace. And that was a very lonely experience for me. And I could have chosen to leave, but I chose to kind of stick it out and try and learn from that situation. I was demoted, I kind of worked through that process of humbling myself in a way. And I kind of, you know, leant perhaps towards a little bit of that false humility sometimes where it’s like, you know, the, yeah, and let me not get too much into that. But essentially, those those choosing to take the hits, and stay at the company, and thankfully, they kept me on. And also to see the growth of that guy who said to me, you know, I’m not going to, I’m not going to, I’m not interested in your problems come to me with solutions. Also, to see the human growth of him, where, you know, after a couple of months, he was put in a situation when one of the founders became a bit absent, because he was looking at another business. And all of a sudden, he was having to run this stuff himself, and the growth of empathy and him the growth of, you know, capability and, you know, eventually came when the company was sold, coming on as CEO. And the, what I think is a fantastic working relationship I had with him up until when I left the UK, you know, in that company, and he, he had my back so many times after that. And I think it came down to the learnings that came out of that period, where, you know, we’ve got to have our colleagues backs, we’ve got to provide enough structure and guidance and backing so we can set people up to be successful. Because it’s a really, really lonely place to be when your company just goes, Oh, you’re not going to look after you, you know, you’re on your own son. And yet, it’s such a magic feeling when people go to bat for you. And they’re like, you know, we’ve got your back. Let’s figure this up. And yeah, so going from one end of the spectrum to the other. Just, yeah, just great to see you just even to observe that kind of growth in that human. Yeah.

Pei Mun Lim 27:53
Thank you very much. Because that is such an interesting story from both perspective as well, from your perspective, as the consultant at the firing end, at the pointy end of the whole engagement, where you’ve got clients, you know, not not happy clients, and you got projects that might be having trouble in that you haven’t got anyone backing you up from that point of view, and the fact that you chose to stay on when your other colleagues didn’t. So I’m just going to just pause there for a moment and ask you a question. What do you think? What do you think was the difference between you and your colleague? That made you say, and that made him leave?

Jonathan Blair 28:45
I think I think the difference. I think for him, it was the right decision to leave. Because, you know, he was maybe 10 years younger than I was at that stage. So he would have been about maybe 2324 years old. And for him to go into a company that had a bit more structure and a bit more backing, and a bit more support for the consultants perhaps. I think, you know, I look at him, I’ve seen him on LinkedIn, and he’s doing fantastically well. He’s doing fantastically well. And he’s, you know, I think he I don’t know if he’s left my positive now. It was still there. But I’ve, you know, check in every now and again, our car is doing fantastically well. And that’s, that’s a great thing to see because I think that’s the right choice. I think the choice I made to stay is a double edged choice because while I chose to, to learn from the experience, and you know, there were definitely interactions and things that I could have handled differently, but it definitely helped me to start I really, really care about I really care about doing the right thing for the customer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what the customer asks for. If that makes sense, because sometimes the customer is like, I want this, I want that. And that’s actually what what what you need is this, and fighting for what they need versus what perhaps sometimes they asked for. I also have become far more of an advocate for my colleagues and their growth and their support, and so on and so forth. But I don’t think I would have done that as much if I had chosen to leave. Because you, I think it’s hard to develop empathy for somebody situation, if you haven’t walked out, you know, walked out that cold dark valley yourself, you know. And, and I had some really, really great experiences there. And some really fantastic higher left and a high were not when I came across to Australia. And they treated me really, really well, especially in the latter latter part of my time. But there was there was also a lot of cost, there was a lot of cost to me, there was a lot of situations where, you know, you find out that sometimes your work has been taken, and other people have taken, what’s the word? credit for it, you know, the general kind of stuff that you get in any kind of consultancy and work. And the hard lesson of, you know, sometimes you working and sitting in the office and working and other people go for beers, and so on and so forth. And if you’re not a big drinker, which I’m not too much to cater, when I was doing DJ you know, the socializing aspect of going out for drinks with colleagues and stuff. And the impact that that has on career development is, is in my view is a strong one. And I do advocate for people to, obviously pre COVID, and hopefully post COVID to make those social connections because sometimes those conversations with with managers or leaders or founders, or whatever can happen around a, you know, a pub table or something like that, that, that potentially helps them move their career forward. That is unfortunate. But you know, you’re the one invisible is working back on stuff, and I’m doing the right stuff with the customer. But actually, you also got to think about your own career and some of that I don’t like jumping from place to place, I think it’s probably because it’s late in the evening here. And you know what, it’s all a full time.

Pei Mun Lim 32:46
It’s all very interesting. And it’s all related to the lifestyle that we’re in consulting lifestyle, and I don’t mind because it’s, it’s stuff that, you know, allows me to talk about, so you’re absolutely right. I think a long time ago, when I was in consulting, there was this thing called fagot. Sorry, that’s, you know, might have been taken in the wrong context for people in different continents. But in the UK, it’s it’s a smokers. And smokers who go outside, they have a fag, which is have cigarette, they tend to get all the gossip what’s happening next, and then they bond. And me not being a smoker was not part of that. And so I get that. I also don’t drink also, you know, I don’t go to the pubs when everyone goes to pub. And then when I started a family, then there was literally no opportunities to do so. And I do however, it’s it’s I think it’s quite different for different people so for me, I think where I have got to in my career meant that I kind of didn’t need to rely on that quite so much to progress in like Korea. For me I feel I need to be a little bit more careful about what I say See you next because I think I’m quite charming and I’ve never felt that being excluded has stopped my career in in in a very significant way. And so let me share with you why I think so one because I think I played the foreigner code quite a bit I play the you know I don’t talk to me about what’s happening because I’m not pop up I’m not shy about saying what I think and what I feel to get the attention that I feel I need Hey boss you out there smoking and so and so said he had X y&z I know and smoke, give me the God’s place. So I feel, because I have this no shame thing, that I tend to get what I want quite quickly and easily. So maybe this is one for those who, you know, any listeners who, who are early on the career, who may not drink may not smoke may not like the social pub culture, or the football culture in the UK and feel unable to be included, to find a way to be more out there and to ask for what they’d like.

Jonathan Blair 35:38
Yeah. I’ve very much aligned to to what you’re saying. And it just just comes to mind that the 111 of the I’m a big advocate of self reflection. Because otherwise, you know, what’s the point of going through something challenging if we don’t learn from it? In that, I suppose you could call it managing the chip on my shoulder. Because I could very easily create a narrative for myself, and I did create a narrative for myself of being excluded from this, and I could see other people getting promoted into these roles, and why are they taking me and then I kind of did the slightly passive aggressive approach of saying, Okay, well, I’m not going to manage people, then I’ll just, I’ll create a PMO. And I’ll do this and I’ll manage the technology and the process and the practices, rather than managing people. Because I was blocked from that, because of this earlier situation with the, with the Pro Services Manager role that I that I, obviously most of Trump, and on one hand, it was fantastic, I’ve really enjoyed it, I can own this particular piece of work, and you kind of do the best you can with what you know. And hopefully, I set an ethical foundation for people who are cleverer than me who came after me to take it forward and move it forward. And, you know, hopefully left a bit of a good legacy there in terms of that piece. But that chip on my shoulder is a companion that I’ve had to manage and work with. And, you know, you talk about being a foreigner, you know, I’ll probably say something that there might be a bit controversial, but there is, um, South African, you know, born and bred in a country that was in apartheid, when when I was born and grew up, we only went to school with, you know, black and Indian kids when I was standard two, so that was, I was maybe 12 years old, 1010 1011 years old. And you get socialized into the superiority complex. And so the chip on the shoulder is kind of follow the train from there of, no, but I shouldn’t be special, I should be special, I should be receiving accolades should be getting these things. And it’s every Harry subversive, dangerous mindset to have. And it pops up in all sorts of weird places. And I noticed that, and you could even generalize it to the world as it is at the moment where there’s this recognition that certain demographics and society have, have derived benefit from the mere fact that they’re in that demographic. And, you know, you call them privileged and call us privileged, and so on and so forth. And so it’s, it’s, it’s a millstone that’s now you know, I think, I think, important for people on my demographic to look at and to understand and to open our hearts and to try and understand other people’s point of views, other people’s journeys, other people’s way of being in the world, their narratives, and so on and so forth. So that we can, you know, I wouldn’t say Right, right the wrongs but at least we can bring some balance to these things. Well, that would that would, tangential.

Pei Mun Lim 39:28
But you know, what, it’s like I said, I’m loving the conversation because it is pertinent. And I’ll tell you why. So I come from Malaysia. Malaysia is an ex British colony. And when you talk about status roles, and you talk about superiority and inferiority complex, it is endemic in the culture. So if you’re not white, you’re not good enough, full stop. So things like when we went to college in work. If we had a somebody from the West as a lecturer in my college, he was paid miles more than a local. Same with in the company as well. So in my company we had we hired my CEO hired an average guy just wasn’t up to par with the my local colleagues. So it’s it’s, it’s kind of endemic and I can understand kind of where it comes from the cultural and historical context like come to the UK. And what I’ve found, because when I started working, the offshoring bandwagon, outsourcing offshoring started early 2000, I did my MBA thesis on that everyone was starting to get on a BPO business process outsourcing, ship all the low value work of their keep all the hot, etc, etc. And so we you know, so I started working with a lot of offshore consultants, mainly from India, basically. And what I found is that a lot of people aren’t aware of this historical and cultural context about how and why our offshore team isn’t up to standards. And I’ve been in companies before where a project manager will say, don’t work with so and so and so and so they’re just awful, I had them on my project, they, they just substandard. When I talked to them, I realized that it’s not so when someone in the UK come across, within in feet, superior tone, suddenly, all the cultural nuances will put them down. And it’s very much a yes or no, so I’m not going to tell you any bad news. That situation. And that is a very non productive, nonproductive tone to have in a project when fires happening all the time. And you need your team to be totally open and candid about the challenges that they’ve had. So that you can help them get it across the finish line. And so even though it feels very meandering out topic, I think it is very, very relevant. Because now in the world of zoom, it’s opened up projects are becoming more global. Now, you can have your data migration consultant sitting in Poland, and you can have somebody doing your coding in in Romania or something like that. And understanding how they work and why they behave certain way goes a long way towards you know, bringing Project Home. So you’ve shared your experience about this chip on your shoulder. Tell me about that. Chip. Is it smaller now? How are you managing it now? How are you? Are you more conscious? And more aware of what? How you helping yourself manage this? Chip?

Jonathan Blair 43:16
That’s a great question. Think a multi dimensional approach, you might say? I just want to say one, one small thing about what you’ve just mentioned, I think I think it’s such an important point of view that you bring forward. And it struck me that that there’s this stereotype of dealing with offshore teams sometimes where the you know, you get some somebody of my demographic who’s who’s maybe done a study of the cultural differences between, you know, organizations and authority and people and stuff like that. And then they say in, in more sort of Eurasian cultures, it’s the saving of face that’s more important. But I wonder, what is the communication? And how is the communication delivered before that saving of face is an aggressive communication that’s led by the westernized approach of quite direct and, you know, tell me what’s happening? Have you understand what’s happening? What have you done here? Once you’ve done this project, and the person is going, I don’t want to look like an idiot here and therefore shuts down and goes goes that versus the softly softly approach of, hey, we’re all safe. We’re all good. Let’s discuss some things. Let’s talk about how this works and how that work, works. And this this this westernized, kind of ultra focus on, on being Bing, you know, only perfection is the best thing to go for. And you see that people go to people’s, you know, they glorify this are you If you if you, if you, if you aim for the moon, then you might hit the sky, you know. And then the unconscious stuff that happens have never good enough. I’m sure you’ve had those sprints where you start off the sprint. And I add to this to my team and one of the last projects I’ve worked in, and I recognize that afterwards, oh, you can do it. And you start off as sprinting. So we’re gonna go do a stretch goal, guys, we’re going to do a stretch goal, no problem, we got 20 points at capacity here. But I think we’ve got it, I think we can hit 25. And this is the first sprint, this is before we’ve even normalized as a team. I was playing, you know, we had a project manager, but she was quite green. So I was kind of playing the, you know, playing the scrum master as such. And after the first sprint, we’ve delivered maybe 17 points, which is actually quite good for a first sprint. And yet, we’ve, we’ve got seven points that we haven’t hit. And so already in the clients mind, we stretch for this, we underperformed. And I remember thinking afterwards, going, like why the hell didn’t we just go? You know, let’s aim for 15 points. And that’s good enough. And if we get more, that’s great. But let’s kick the goal first, let’s, you know, get the ball between the posts. First, and then, you know, build on that positive? Sorry, I just kind of went on a tangent there. And you’d ask me a question about my chip on my shoulder. And how I how I managed to not talk about multi dimensional approach.

I think the core approach that I’ve used, is to recognize that it’s not all about me. And that’s made my life my enjoyment of work far more profound. Because when it’s all about me, it’s all about my chip on the shoulder, and am I getting enough? Am I doing enough? And you know, that external, almost that seeking of external validation of like, did I kick you off? Go? Am I good enough? Yeah, you know, and that focus on me, myself, takes me away from from the experience of helping others, you know, and enabling others to do well and supporting others. And being that, you know, having somebody else’s back where, you know, people like my model, CEO, Gareth has had my back so many occasions, finding those special people who are really, really talented and actually really good at what they do. And they just put in situations where they can’t succeed, and providing them with enough of a support structure around them. So they can like build confidence and succeed, and so on and so forth. You know, I had a manager at a previous role, who, who taught me how to do that. Or game, you open the door to me learning how to do that. And I still think I have more to learn. Yeah, by shifting the focus to other people, how can I enable them? How can I be better and and he learned better by teaching? I’ve got a question for you. How much more have you learned and how much well more rounded? Has your knowledge and understanding become an wisdom become, since you’ve started teaching consultants, articulating them and teaching them?

Pei Mun Lim 48:28
Like, I would say that the candidate answers not that much. Okay. So what I’ve learned is how people absorb and how to pitch things so that they are able to embed the skills that I’m training. So though, that’s where I learned my learning at the moment comes from that comes from all the other things. So the other aspects that has to do with entrepreneurship, so the marketing, the social, and all these others video editing and podcasting, new stuff. With regards to consulting, because I’ve done it for so long, 2025 years in Microsoft in Salesforce in different size companies. I didn’t see a lot of patterns emerge in because like you I’m also a fan of self development and self first and I also went through the NLP course, for example. And I read quite a lot around psychology of behavior and things like that. So what I’m seeing now is the consolidation of all the stuff that I’ve read. So things that I hear is just solidifying the things that I’ve learned in in terms of the learning so I haven’t found anything that surprised me yet. I am waiting. So the big thing that I’m you know, holding quite close is that I believe that incomes Alton, you can’t have a pure Agile methodology, I keep going on about this, you can’t have a pure agile, you can’t have pure agile if you’re a software house, for example, or you’re an end user, and you’re in a business as usual mode, and you’re delivering sprint after sprint of Jezza list of features, but when you’re in a project, where a transformation project were going from A to B is a huge distance, huge cultural change in terms of people process and technology. You can’t spring certify you can’t agile properly. This is my personal opinion, the whole thing. I’ve had people disagree. And when I kind of dig down into it, it’s found that No, it’s not pure agile, it is basically a hybrid. Because at the end, you still need a big ass testing phase for the integration and migration and stuffing con. So that’s the one thing I’m waiting for someone to prove me wrong. On this end, I would love it, I’d love to have a good conversation with someone who said, I’ve done it this way, or agile, and we’ve done a magnificent piece of work. So my podcasting my interviewing people, I haven’t yet got to that point. I would love to learn that bit. But not so far. I don’t know if I answer that question for you.

Jonathan Blair 51:25
Yeah, yeah, that’s really interesting.

Pei Mun Lim 51:28
But there’s a few things in what you said earlier that I’d like to kind of touch on when I asked you about your chip. So you will asking about the communication style, whether you start with aggressive, whether you start with softly, softly When we’re approaching offshore teams or teams of people that you don’t, you haven’t worked with before, so you don’t know their style. For me, because I think you consume my content, you know, I talk a lot about active listening. And that’s the approach that I always start with my team, whoever they might be, wherever they might come from, I started that way. So I’m of the opinion that you need to lay the foundations first, and not try and provide a safe environment when the house is on fire. And that is kind of too late already. So I started right at the beginning, when I get my team, my internal kickoff is I share my style. And my style is we’re all in this together, everyone will have an equal voice. And I do not punish mistakes. If you tell me early enough, in I will set expectations really, really early. And you have to manage my expectations. So that if you’re having trouble halfway through it, let’s say you’ve got to do four points in four days, let’s say. And in day two, you’re stuck in the first aid, you have to already tell me, you can’t wait till you’re 75% through and tell me you’re still stuck on the first day. That way I can’t help you. I will get a bit cross if you get to that point. But I urge you to tell me when you’re writing to begin, keep me up to date, so I can keep my eye on you. And I can find ways to help you. That way, I’m creating a really, really safe space. And I will have one to one with all my team, especially those in India. A lot of them are in a an environment internally, where hierarchy is really strict. They call their bosses. We don’t do that in the UK. And then definitely afraid of the manager. So I provide a safe space for them. And I protect them. And I will tell them, if you’re having trouble you tell me, don’t go to your line manager. And I will back you up. And that’s helped me in all my projects. Because let me tell you a small story. When I didn’t do this this one time. A lot of my team India thought that I was like the other project managers in the UK in the same company. And as this one lady who was my developer, and she had a miscarriage. She chose not to tell anyone but she was falling behind. And so the people around her was helping her with her work. But they didn’t know as much as she did in the whole project stalled. And it wasn’t till much later that it all came to light. And so from then on, I made sure that I have this little one to one with everyone. And I get them to turn on their video as well. That’s the other thing. Okay, touch on video very quickly. A lot of people in India, that I know, in some of my team, they’re very shy to turn on the video, because their house isn’t as beautiful at the time, you know, there was no backgrounds and stuff, as you know, as the people in the West, and I had this one to my colleagues in the UK was giving them everybody a tour of his new house. And I could tell without them speaking, a lot of our Indian counterparts were just, oh, my god, that’s amazing. You know, I live in this place. And so that reinforces a lot of the hierarchy. I’m not as good as you, I’m inferior, I’m low, you know. So as a project manager, I’m very, very conscious of things like that. And I don’t encourage the share me, your house kind of thing, if I know that some of our mean counterparts are on the call. Because they might not say it.

So just think very aware that they are aware of a distance in and just minimizing that as much as possible. Very quickly on you, we’re talking about your sprint and your stretch goals and things like that. And that goes to managing expectations. Right? And I know you might be ambitious, but maybe it’s the way that you frame the language in the future, because everybody wants to get 25 points. Right. But, you know, just telling the customers, I think 17 is great, but we really want to push for 25 So in the customers mind, you know, like watermark by similar expectations is motormouth where you are creating the watermark first. So if you can hit that they’re happy. So it’s just the being mindful of the language. I use that all the time as well. You know, making sure that whatever, everybody, my team, my peers, my managers, everybody’s got this expectation, motormouth around whatever it is the topic of conversation. And I want to make sure that I can hit that into my, in my manage or reset expectations accordingly.

Jonathan Blair 57:20
Oh, yeah. I love that. I love that. By the way, Tom was on fun to continue with just respectful of your time, also, you happy to chat longer, or

Pei Mun Lim 57:32
we can also have a part two. And I’ve had that with few of my colleagues, you know, sometimes the conversation is so intense, and there’s so many topics that we want to talk about, I’m very happy to have a party with you. Because I think we went off on really fascinating tangents. And even though they feel like, you know, it’s gone everywhere, but it’s really important as well, to a lot, I think a lot the audience that I’ve got are in the consulting field, and it’s important from you know, you’re talking about exclusion, about the smoking, drinking, and not being part of that network, how the impacts and the cultural differences and the awareness of the chip and the where you’ve come from, in how that’s impacted how you see things and how you work and how you interact with people. They’re all really important things. So I wouldn’t in any way, shape or form want to snip out any part of our conversations because it’s relevant to you mean everyone in the Salesforce ecosystem, especially in the consulting world, so I tell you, what, why don’t we call it a closed now? And if you’re happy to arrange a part two, I would be happy to record a second one with you. How about that?

Jonathan Blair 59:00
I’d love that. I’d love that. And just to express my appreciation to you and to what you’re doing, because I think it’s really fantastic. I did want to, like, you know, when you’re having a conversation, like you kind of get the cue, go, Oh, I’ve talked about this, like I’ve got a cue that’s stretching. Yeah, expectation, accountability, accountability follows expectation. And I really love in our second session to drill into the nuances of communication that you started to track. You know, people observe and they say, oh, this person looks like they have it all together. How do they keep calm and you know, manage really, really tough clients and really tough situations. Where inside the person’s actually, like, just just holding on, you know, or managing their emotions in a particular way or what And I’d love to kind of unpack some of that stuff with you also, because I think, I think you’ve probably been in some gnarly situations.

Pei Mun Lim 1:00:11
But let me just leave you with a little tip here, because I’ve got a friend and Ryan. And he was an ex Marine. And he’s done. He was a Marine for about 12 years. So I think he seen some really crazy stuff. And we had this conversation. At some time ago, he was in. It was one of project managers in my team at Microsoft. And we talked about this. And he said, once you’ve gone through all of that, nothing is serious anymore. Your customers yelling at you, you just think, compare it to what you’ve been through. And so I borrow from that. And when I get into a crazy situation, I go, what Brian think about this, and they just kind of sales meet through because

Jonathan Blair 1:00:57
practicable, right,

Pei Mun Lim 1:00:59
exactly, exactly. I think it’s perspective. In the end, it’s perspective, and, you know, ability to master your emotions so that, you know, you’ve got somebody who’s yelling you in your face, you just dealing with that. So but let me can go into that a lot more next time. I’m trying to spread quickly. So when you’re talking, I’m actually writing notes. And I’m actually writing my cues down. Which is, which is how I can pick it up and say, Let’s drill into this. So feel free to do that. But in the meantime, thank you very much for your time today. And I appreciate all the things that you share all the colorful flavors of topics we’ve talked about.

Jonathan Blair 1:01:42
Awesome. And yeah, thanks for inviting me on and looking forward to our next session. And it’s great to meet you. It’s great to have the opportunity to connect. Yeah, really appreciate it.