274: The Power of Leadership in Shaping Organizational Culture, with Amechi Udo

August 8, 2023

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Dr. Pelè: 

Hello happy people. Welcome to the Profitable Happiness Podcast. Hello everyone, this is Dr. Pelè with the Profitable Happiness Podcast, and today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Amechi Udo, who is kind of my brother from another mother. We found ourselves on LinkedIn and, most importantly, I was so impressed with the shares that he would put out the content, the power of his message. He's a career change coach that has a unique message for organizations and we want to hear all about it, ameichi, and the connection I made with you going all the way back to Africa was really powerful, so I hope we can talk about some of that here. How are you doing today, ameichi?

Amechi Udo: 

I'm doing very well, Dr. Pelè, welcome, welcome. In fact, I would even give you a virtual high five just over here. There we go, awesome, awesome. Now, ameichi, you want me to straighten the camera? We do want to knock everybody out, yeah, knock everybody out.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, no, I hear you, ameichi, now. Obviously we can tell from your accent that you are in England. Is that correct? Is that a correct assumption? That is accurate? Yeah, and I'm here in Austin, texas, but both of us have traveled a long, long way to get to where we are and I want to hear all about it. Ameichi, if we could start with, you're helping us understand some of the central challenges that you experience when you are in organizations helping mid and senior level professionals go from stuck to successful in their careers. Tell us about that.

Amechi Udo: 

Well, thanks very much for asking. The work I do is very much working with individuals in developing their leadership and their primarily with themselves to give themselves permission to reshape and work differently within their role and within the organization. People often think, oh my goodness, they're getting this career coach in. That just means exit, exit. Everybody comes to the meetings with a parachute on. I've got to be honest, in the 20 plus years that I've been working with people, I can literally count on one finger People who've actually exited as a direct consequence. But even when they did, it was the manner of exit rather than just throw their in the air and storm out, and it was also for the benefit of the organization as well, because the organization is. A lot of my work is around organizations getting the most out of that professional working relationship. And sometimes I'm asked in because, for whatever reasons, that's not happening. That maybe because the organization's a whole is saying we're going in a different direction and actually we're bringing you in specifically to enable that mindset shift, that shifting culture that we need. It might be that they're saying we've got a team of individual team. Well, actually I will let those words out my mouth A team of individuals, and that often is symptomatic of actually you don't. They know they don't have a team. What they have is primarily the individual working relationships and my coming in. Sometimes I might use a tool like the disc team assessment with them. They can then start to map out oh right, these are all of our strengths. Now that we've got this in living color, we can kind of go ah, we can determine why this person does or doesn't run along nicely with that person. But now we've got guidance. Oh, we can bring this other person across and in, or we can give this person more of this kind of work because it plays to their strengths. And we started doing that and after a few weeks or a few months we've seen a change in them. They're a different person, they're happier, they're more productive. Do you know what? They're even, dare I say it, creating profitable happiness in the workplace, and we love it. You know, whatever you did, just we don't need to know. We just know it's given us what we need.

Dr. Pelè: 

You mentioned something that I think is really powerful and poignant and pivotal. You said that sometimes people, leaders need to give themselves permission to sort of rediscover and open up their own powers, their own abilities to create change in their organizations. Tell us a little bit more about that, Because it sounds to me like that's a big problem. I mean, when you, when you're running around not even believing that you can change and create change. Tell us about that.

Amechi Udo: 

Well, crucially, leaders really can be real shifters of mood, even at the very basic level. It's Monday morning, you come in morning, whoa. The leader said good morning, okay, all right. Oh, it's Monday morning. The leader walks straight past me.

Dr. Pelè: 

Ooh, now we don't know what's going on with that leader on either of those occasions we don't know what's going on in our life.

Amechi Udo: 

They're human being just like the rest of us. You know, I'm taking them down off that dais, that stage we've got them on. It's an old one. We breathe the same air, we bleed the same blood, okay.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah.

Amechi Udo: 

But due to the nature of the work environment and the work culture, depending on how that's been developed, that individual saying something to your not can be interpreted in numerous ways. The leader may be just going hey, general, I've got a meeting on this, I've got to do that. And they're all just oh, this was going on the road on the way to get here, or this was going on the home. They're in their own thoughts, but suddenly it's interpreted oh, that's typical of the leader the leader never acknowledged that. Oh, there's no way up. And then they sit down and they have their cup of coffee or whatever the beverage they want to drink for the morning. They talk to, they talk to each other oh you're on, what's wrong with you? Oh, you didn't talk to me. Oh, you as well. Oh, this is going badly for me. And before you know it, you've got bad vibes running through the building. Yeah, you didn't in any shape or form, purposely or intentionally, unless perhaps you have some narcissistic tendencies. Yeah, yeah, no, I just doing you.

Dr. Pelè: 

You just doing you, and how important is that you just doing you. But sometimes you mentioned here that the culture that an organization has, depending on how that's been developed. So people are just doing themselves, being themselves, and I think what you're saying is there has to be some intentionality to build themselves as leaders and to build cultures, and that's really what you are all about. Is that correct?

Amechi Udo: 

Very much so. Yeah, yeah you know, you talk to a lot of people and typically I work with people who have found themselves in leadership positions.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah.

Amechi Udo: 

They're. It's not to say that they haven't had leadership development, but seldom does the course say and you're, one of your colleagues has a critical illness and another one is dealing with the conflict between being a parent and being being an employee. You need to now support them. That's not not on the list and, ps, you need to fulfill, or enable the fulfillment of your boss's legacy. Now that they're in their last year, 18 months, and they just want this to happen Because this is their big thing. Yeah, this is not. This is not me. Oh, I read the Harvard Business Review and it told me about how to do that you got to live it. Yeah, yeah, you got to live in relations, yeah, and it brings out in in us as individuals as well. Now I've touched my heart, because it is a, it is sometimes it gets to the heart.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, yeah quite literally. It's an it's an emotional.

Amechi Udo: 

Yeah, this is somewhere I do or don't want to go. Yeah, this is comfortable or uncomfortable, I'm at ease or ill at ease. Yeah this, yeah, and it's, it's hard for for leaders to stop, especially now. I think over the last year, as I say, last 20 odd years working with them, it's it's becoming increasingly hard to stop, to come to rest, to pause, if anything. It's like, hey, you know, I've burned through my full set of night cares, you know, trying to keep going. Yeah, yeah, they put in the pandemic. It's like, you know, peloton, you got this on, on, on, fast forward. Yeah, let me not go too far away.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, Well, you know I'm actually. You are clearly passionate about this topic. I can see from your body language and just you really get in there. You really get in there with your people and and you help them start to feel empowered that they can make change and that they can come out of their cubby holes and be the great, influential leaders they want to be. But I'm interested in how you got onto this career path yourself as a career change coach and and actually just as a professional in the people space what's your story? How'd you get here? Oh, how did I get?

Amechi Udo: 

Okay, yeah, I set you in in the in our sort of pre pre-con call chat. Yeah, bag of sugar. If you go to your cupboard pick up a 2k but 2kg bag of sugar, I think that's about what. Just under four pounds, mm. Hmm, that was me when I was born. I was born two months premature. My name means God only knows what tomorrow may bring. I'm not. I'm not religious in any shape or form, but my parents, after they had the medical intervention, what was left was spirit, so they gave me my first name. My surname means sorry my middle name means best blessed Benedict, and my surname means peace. So, it's kind of like some people know the origins of themselves and whether they were born and how they came into the world. Some people know the meanings of their names. Those are both significant for me. I was with, as a good friend of mine says, when she met me at the organization I worked with at the time. You told me your name is about a m e c a dry. There is no short form, not a me cheat, not a m h a, it's a m h e. And that organization I worked with as I was actually an executive search consultant in the finance industry I previously been in HR and learning and development and recruitment and fifth of January 1999, nine o'clock, that was a pivotal point. There were other pivotal points along the way, but that one. I was even on my iPhone today just checking what day of the week was that Tuesday? We just had new year. I was back in work. I went into the office a little later because we've had holidays. Normally we're in between eight and eight 30. I was there at nine by 925, I was out on the pavement no job, no home, no kids. By 925, I was out on the pavement no job, no home, no kids. Oh, boy. For the first time in my life I could be, as an adult, totally selfish. So just think about me and what I wanted to do next in my life. The boss that had let me go had had a conversation with me probably five months before. He said you're gonna get a match here. You're nearly 30. You've really got to start to think about what do you want to do with the rest of your life, I'm like, but my goal wasn't about what he'd said, it's that he'd spotted what I knew deep down. I joined that from knowing that I needed to worry. Well, is this gonna be a career I want to do longer term, or do I want to do something else? Mm-hmm, he knew that he was an experienced man. His name's David. He's you know. In that respect, I've got a lot of. I've got a lot of time for the fact that he stopped in his life and said excuse me, what are you doing? He was the second person that I can no third person I can pick out in my life. Who did that? Wow, the first person was a lady called Mary Ann. In my first job, a job that actually got made around me, I didn't even have to apply they said what do you want to do in the job? I don't know, I think this and that they create the job around me. It came off the back of doing a work placement with them. It was I don't know what you'd call it. They were county government, local government, yeah, uk anyway. So, but that was. That was back then. And this lady, mary Ann, she came into the office she was there actually as a volunteer and she sat down and she just said to me Amici, you're bored.

Dr. Pelè: 

Ooh.

Amechi Udo: 

What? Try to try to style it out. No, got you, nailed you. You're bored. Yeah, long story short. I thought well, if she can see it, how come other folks who've been working me longer because this is like her first day? Yeah, she's not bad, you're bored. Why aren't these other folks telling me or saying something? One or two it's like, oh, don't stay here. It was my first HR job, so don't stay here. Not because it's a bad place, but you've come with a level of qualification and understanding and experience that most of the people here don't have.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah.

Amechi Udo: 

And you either use it now and put it into fertile ground or watch it disappear. So I moved on. I did move on and I joined the health service and I worked in an NHS hospital so the National Health Service here and two key things happened there. One was very, very significant for me professionally my then boss, a nice person called Linda. She said to me Mechie, I don't wanna see you here in two years time. You want that one? I've just joined. Yeah, develop people so they can leave.

Dr. Pelè: 

That's a good. Develop people so they can leave, that's good. No, no she was clear.

Amechi Udo: 

After she saw the shock, she went look, these two managers, which is the next position, up from where you are. They've only just started, so they're going to be on a two year cycle. At least I myself am not planning to go anywhere. And they say I boss, go somewhere Because that's the role I'm going for. So there are no vacancies at the next level. So initially, like I said, I thought oh, I thought this boss was going to be all kind and nice, and she was, because she made me look at where is career progression here, where are the opportunities, whether that be sideways upwards, new areas within the business. She made me open my eyes to that. The second thing that happened in that role was that somebody came downstairs. We were based in a community hospital, so we're not all flashing lights, we're much slower pace, but we had a palliative care unit, which is end of life care. Somebody came in and asked could somebody come upstairs please and witness somebody's last wooden testament?

Dr. Pelè: 

And.

Amechi Udo: 

I've got to be honest at the time I was a lot younger, a lot more arrogant, a lot more ignorant. In some ways as well. I would look around the office and I would say, yes, I don't think at the time I'd actually heard properly what had been asked. I would already do my, already listening, yeah.

Dr. Pelè: 

I'll do that.

Amechi Udo: 

And I went upstairs. It was only one floor up, so we went in the lift and the lift was not a zooming express lift, it was just like slow and steady. Just enough time to actually realize the significance. Because I then started to realize if I'm doing this, this person probably doesn't have anybody, and also, this person is now coming to the end of their life.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah.

Amechi Udo: 

So, although I'm doing a small thing with signing as a witness, it's a big thing in terms of hey, what are you going to be doing in the time that you have? Yeah, yeah. And my work in terms of working with people in organizations actually, at its heart, says hey, what are you going to do with the life that you have?

Dr. Pelè: 

Oh, my goodness, that's an important point. I'm going to come back to that in a second. So, basically, you found yourself here on a journey that I like to call the leadership journey. I have something on my wall that says a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. You didn't just show, you didn't go get some kind of degree or certificate and then show up. You've lived this thing and you've really. This is an experience for you that has turned into how you now help others. The point I wanted to go back to that you said is this question of what do you really want to do with the time that you have on this planet? I read a book recently called Burn the Boats, and the most outrageous point that I can't get out of my head was when he talked about the fact that his name is Matt the author, when he talks about how he has an app called I think it's called WeeCloak. No, weecroak, weecroak, c-r-o-a-k. We die, basically, and basically this app reminds him every day, for five times a day, that he's going to die. And so, because he constantly knows that every decision, everything he does, is all about what do I really want to do with the short time that I have on this planet. It's kind of a weird angle on what you've said, but how powerful is that right?

Amechi Udo: 

Yeah, I realized reasonably early in my life two things we're all going to die, but also we're a long time unborn. So that really puts that life that you have in a really tiny little laser-sliced sandwich.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah.

Amechi Udo: 

So right, okay, so there's eons of time before we even existed in this form. We're always a collection of items held together in various forms, and then there's another time where that form that we're held in currently will break the force will, the bonds will loosen and we'll be around to make something else.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, yeah, and that's true wisdom right there. True wisdom, I found, is when you know that you know a lot of people hold on to this form and to this money and to this thing or whatever it is that they have now which is so temporary, right. True wisdom starts where you are. In that conversation, I wanted to ask you if we could shift to the topic of the solutions that you bring to your organizations. I mean, clearly, people have to make these decisions about their lives and about their work all the time. Do you have some methodologies? Maybe you have a two-step program, a five-step program, maybe even a 12-step program that you bring into companies to help their leaders really begin to create the change they can create.

Amechi Udo: 

I bring something that's fundamental and in some ways very easy and yet very difficult, and that is that I bring the space for what needs to be there. And now, of course, you can't email hey, I'm just here to bring the whole the space. It's you are. Can we get the other company in? We've got 20 years of pedigree and done all that. But the truth often is it's not about the particular certification, fancy methodology, step by step program. If that's what you want to buy, then I'm probably not the person to bring to your organization. Mm. Hmm, if you actually realize, our organization is made up of a series of human relationships. Right now, this particular human relationship is working in a way which either we want to help create create a more profitable, happy, happy working environment or we recognize that, through the circumstances, beyond the control of the individual concerned, it is now time for them to make a transition, and we want them to transition in a way that is respectful, that is supportive, that is nurturing and, let's be frank, also gives us the best chance, reputation only being spoken of well when this person leaves. Yes, we want them to leave well, we don't want them to leave badly. Then we will have a conversation and generally, the organizations that commit to their people don't just say people are our greatest asset, and they actually say these are people.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, yeah, and go ahead. Well, I was just going to say that one of the things I like about your approach, which leaves things you listen right, it leaves things as they are so that you can come in and help people see a path. You know, I like the idea of a career path where you don't just show up but you actually think about the long term. Is that what I'm hearing from you, that you help people sort of see a larger career path? That's not just where you are now and do I like it or do I not like it? Right?

Amechi Udo: 

Well, sometimes it's about being with where you are now. In the past I would have been oh, you know, this is what happened here and we've. But hey, what do you want to achieve? Well, hold on. That's where we're here. Here are the loads I'm carrying, and some of those loads are work related, some of those are other parts of my life related, some of those are external, some of those are internal. I'm not a therapist, I'm not a psychologist. I just want to be clear about that. But I am a pair of ears that will give you a space to share this in a non-judgmental way and a confidential way, as long as it's not opposing a risk to you or others, and we will have that discussion. I mean, your listeners are probably thinking, oh, what's he doing to talk about? Can he give me an example? I remember going and working with a very successful leader. They were working very hard to make an impact. Their company had been acquired by a much larger parent and as part of the deal it was you've got to keep the team. We've invested, got to keep them. But this leader was now being asked the question what have you generated for us in pounds and pension? What have you done for us and the leader was conflicted because they were all in with the people, my people. I made the promise I'm going to support them, I'm going to keep them, I'm going to protect them. It's going to be great. So okay, have you kept everybody? Yes, I have. Have you brought anybody new on board? Yes, I have. If we were to go and get key person insurance to get to protect against any kind of fraud, I would say I would say any of these people leaving, how much would that be? He did the figures. We didn't need to talk anymore Because he now had the language, he had the numbers. But he had the connection with his value around his commitment to the people. We created the bridge. How can I talk people in a monetary sense? That also respects this new organization we have now become part of and their value of profitability and return.

Dr. Pelè: 

You know, what you've just defined is profitable happiness. Right, I love that you basically your example really talks about you know it's funny because companies this is not that easy for companies and leaders to get their heads around the idea that they can have a profitable, hard charging bottom line, successful company and very happy employees at the same time. That balance is quite a hard for me.

Amechi Udo: 

It's not to be honest, and you know why? I know why Because I used to work with a business partner a while ago and she told me about a former business that she and her business partner she had. She said that business partner died and when that person died, that was it for the business. She could not afford to go out into the market and buy the equivalent ability. And so when we started working together, she said look, one of the first things we've got to do is we've got to get key person insurance If either of us drops down dead or is in ill or for other reasons can't work and we need to go to the market to get a replacement. We need to know we can do it.

Dr. Pelè: 

So for me.

Amechi Udo: 

I'm not meaning to be, you know, I don't. I'm not mean to undermine that. Oh, you can't do it. The actuaries in the major insurance firms Lloyds of London and wherever else they can do it, yeah, and they do it very properly and they're very happy to do it.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, yeah.

Amechi Udo: 

So if a footballer or musician can go, oh, actually I love my craft, but you know what, if I got nodules or if I broke my finger, I couldn't do my, my problem or happiness would stop. So how come somebody who's knocking the sticks on the drums can get it and some CEO or COO or MD theoretically can't get it Because actually you want to get that game? Here's Lloyds of London, here's the actuaries. They will just ask them look around this room. Would you be happy if your ex walked out of the door? You know, ex has, in particular, job title. Yeah, oh no, okay, so we know what unprofitable unhappiness looks like.

Dr. Pelè: 

So let's go to the other side of it.

Amechi Udo: 

So problem of happiness is right now, yeah, but I just haven't been conscious about it because it's just been running, it's just been good. It wasn't until ex got COVID that I suddenly realized oh, it wasn't until why? Why? Ex said actually, family's not happy, we've got to relocate. It wasn't until someone put a rather large bag of money in front of somebody and they took it. Yeah, then went and worked somewhere else. That was when we experienced unhappiness, unprofitable unhappiness.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, yeah, you know, you know. I think you've really captured you know in your executive coaching process or practice. I think what I'm sensing from you is these are complicated and complex human intangibles and sometimes it's the best listener, the best feedback provider, the best coach really that can help people with these career paths and transitions and growth and so on. Oh, maitjean, what are you excited about next? What are you working on right now? Is there something that you are launching or releasing that people can find online? And, by the way, let us know where online people can find you best.

Amechi Udo: 

Well, we'll deal with those bits first. Then you can put my name into LinkedIn A-M-E-C-H-I-U-D-O. I'm the only one, as far as I'm aware. Yeah, okay, so you will find me there. You can go to my website, wwwyourcareermatterscouk. We're just going through a bit of a spruce up process. Your site is live and active, but we're just going to be adding some new stuff over the coming weeks. Yeah, so be prepared. When you arrive on the website, it will say sign up to the newsletter. So please do. It's the easiest way to stay in contact. Those are the best two. I'm saying that because also in a plethora of social media apps, powerfulways, channels, it's like no, let's keep it simple. Yeah, the easiest one if you really, really, really really want to connect is you can drop me an email. My first name am-e-c-h-i at yourcareermatterscouk. That's a met. She am-e-c-h-i at yourcareermatterscouk. Just put Dr Pele in the subject line and then put your request in the main body. We'll have a conversation. What am I excited about? I'm excited about. I'm excited to work with some new interesting clients coming through, some more leaders and some more mid-level professionals who really are wanting to take the next step within their organizations. I really want to triple underline I'm not here only because people want to step out. In fact, in terms of the current environment, increasingly people are saying no, I want to stay in. The manner in which they're staying, in the way that they're preparing and managing their careers is raising lots of questions. I'm only one person, but I certainly believe there are a lot of people who need support. Those people work inside organizations. If they're supported, then the organization's benefit. I'm going to just give you a really quick story, but after I have a few. When I was earlier in my career, I was working in an organization and I decided this particular morning I'd go in early. I was going to be in there at 8 o'clock I was there. I was just sat down, I unpacked my stuff, the computer was on and then somebody else came into the office, the colleague. They then proceeded to say oh, that's terrible this, and that's horrible, it's raining, basically just bringing all their mood hoover energy drain into the room. I don't know what possessed me, but I turned around and I said actually I've just come in to have some quiet time, to just concentrate on this. You say you've had a bad day or it's a horrible day. I just want to let you know it's 10 past eight in the morning, I don't know, about you. My day has been okay and it is raining outside at the moment, but I'm sure it will pass. I'm going to say, hey, you need to stop dumping your stuff on me and just put shields up Force field. Yeah, yeah, but it required a shift for me first, because I could have easily just gone. They come in and they spoiled it. No, actually is the reality my reality. No, it isn't. Therefore, I can now reset and reconnect with where I'm at and then communicate with them. If they're out on a judgmental way, just that's yours.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, it's not mine.

Amechi Udo: 

Now, why does that matter? We are now in an environment where, oh, hold on, my slack has gone off, oh, hold on my LinkedIn's just. Oh, hold on. We get challenged, we get interrupted, we get impinged, dinged, vinged, winged all over the place. Yeah, we're getting. The pace of change is phenomenally fast. The expectations of ourselves, of others, the shifting sands of multiple generations now in the workforce, all of that on top of ecological, political, technological changes. We're trying to adapt and cope. Yeah, I think the Americans would say Teter Todda, you know one little thing? Or make it all tip over.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah.

Amechi Udo: 

And I think, without working on some of this stuff, having space for some of this stuff, if it's just to say you need to stop for a moment.

Dr. Pelè: 

We have to intentionally address these intangible emotional things. And, by the way, I love your is that an English or British slang? When you said mood hoover, I actually wrote it down. I wrote it down because it's not something I'm familiar with, but I think it's someone who sucks all the positive feelings out of the air and just brings all their negativity. But I think what you're saying is that you know it's so important for us to just focus on these things, bring them up and deal with them. If we allow them to just happen by default, we're going to get cultures that are negative by default. But if we intentionally focus on how do we improve all these things, we will get there. I just want to say thank you so much for spending some time with us on the profitable happiness podcast. All the very best to you in your endeavors. And you know we have a whole other conversation about our history. You know coming from Africa and finding ourselves in the people business and the perspectives we bring. But maybe that's another podcast, maybe.

Amechi Udo: 

Yeah.

Dr. Pelè: 

Thank you so much for being here, Amici. It's been a pleasure to meet you.

Amechi Udo: 

And likewise you, dr Palais. Thank you so much, dad or son, we'll talk soon.

Dr. Pelè: 

Thanks for tuning in to the profitable happiness podcast. For more episodes, visit DrPalaiscom. And remember get happy first and success will follow. The South African