All That Matters

All That Matters in Identity, Wellbeing, Belonging, Wellness, and Inclusion. Sade Marriott & Max Ekesi talk with Tesse & Paula

Sade Marriott and Max Ekesi share their views in this recording that shines a light on a post covid world. There has been a raised awareness, especially in the last three years – of the importance of mental health. There is a lot of PTSD.

People have gone through one of the most shocking experience with the pandemic They have rearranged their lives, becoming detached from a lot of things that they were taking for granted.

There has been a change in focus as people are waking up to what truly matters. Grief and pain have reigned as people lost loved ones. For organisations, wellness has risen to the top of the agenda.

PayPal for instance hosts a wellness day every two month. Employees get to focus on themselves, their friends, their family, and the environment.

What is becoming clear is people are addicted to the drama, while at the same time realising that what was deemed success in the past is no longer considered success to lots of people.  This has resulted in a lot unbranding.  What is clear is that kudos goes to people who support productive and fulfilling work.  Focusing on people and taking care of them is a no brainer, success, dignity, respect is assured when we put people at the centre of what we do. 

Thank you Sade and Max for being repeat guests and your very valuable contribution to TesseTalks.


00:00:00 Paula: Welcome to “TesseTalks” with your host, Tesse Akpeki, and co-host me Paula Okonneh, where we share with you top management and leadership strategies. This continues to be a journey of discovery where we learn that leadership is both personal and professional. And so we hope you our audience and our listeners will continue to walk with us on this adventure. Today we are doing something extra special, something different. Our focus is on identity, wellbeing, belonging, wellness, and inclusion. And we have brought with us two previous guests. One of them is our much-admired Coach Max Ekesi and the other is one of our favorite podcasters, Sade Marriott, who was on the show way back in 2021. I can’t believe it. So folks, welcome to “TesseTalks”, and before we start, I’m going to tell you about Sade and I’m going to also tell you about Max. So since we do Ladies first, we’ll start with Sade. Sade started out studying modern European languages, but quickly change that to law. And after qualifying and practicing as a barrister in Nigeria and as a solicitor in the UK, she obtained an MBA and then changed to education and studied for a PGCE. Sade has served as a magistrate. She has volunteered in her community and has a passion for helping children to enjoy reading. And now let’s go on to Max. Max is always super excited at the opportunity to serve in his Austin, Texas community and beyond. Presently, he’s the president of the “Agile Austin” organization. He’s also the president of the Parents Teacher Association at his children’s elementary school, and he’s on the board of a social justice and awareness organization called “Brave”. Max’s diverse, multicultural, and multiethnic background and experiences have proven to be core assets in his life. Professionally, he has been working in IT Enterprises for 20 plus years. And a fun fact about him is that he hosted “TesseTalks” last year December, and he was a hit. So welcome to “TesseTalks”, Max and Sade, we are thrilled to have you here. Tesse?
00:02:47 Tesse: It’s actually wonderful. I mean, I was silent for a minute because I was so excited to be in the presence of Max and Sade. What is really interesting me right now is this theme of wellness and inclusion and belonging wrapped up in identity. Over to you, Sade and Max, what are your thoughts in general about this theme, which seems to be in every management governance magazine, everywhere you go it is one of the top three things that people are talking about or considering.
00:03:21 Max: Oh, I have a lot to talk about on that, but I’m not sure if maybe Sade would like to go first.
00:03:27 Sade: No, no, no, Max, please go ahead. I’d love to get your perspective, to be honest with you.
00:03:31 Max: Oh, thank you, thank you. And there is a lot that has been talked about this even in the corporate IT environment in the United States. And besides all the volunteer work I do that Paula called out, I’m presently a senior manager at PayPal. And PayPal being one of the largest online payment systems in the world. FinTech, which owns Venmo and a bunch of other companies. But we have an actual chief executive over wellness, belonging, inclusion, diversity, like this is a real serious thing that a lot of the companies are investing in. And I break it down to two things. First, there has been a raised awareness, especially in the last two years, that there’s a lot of PTSD. There is a lot of PTSD, people have gone through one of the most shocking experience with the pandemic. That has just rearranged their lives, detached them from a lot of things that they were taking for granted. And also people have lost loved ones. We’re talking about millions and millions of people across the world. So there’s an understanding that if you want your employee base to still be as effective as possible at continuously delivering value to their customers faster and better, because of all the competition out there. People have to be well, they have to feel psychologically safe. They have to be able to bring their utmost best to the workplace. And in order to do this, you implement things like what we have at PayPal as a wellness day. Every two months we have a wellness day. You focus on yourself, your friends, your family, and when people see that the environment they’re in focuses on things like that. They feel as if they belong to something, they feel appreciated. And this is something to always pay attention to, because at the end of the day, the employees, the people are the most important asset to a company. They’re all aware of that. And so how you keep on maximizing what that asset can produce is fundamental. And it could go on and on, but I think those two things around a lot of PTSD and maximizing the potential of your assets, which is your people, those two things.
00:06:01 Paula: That’s awesome. Sade, what’s your take on that?
00:06:05 Sade: I’ve been fascinated to listen to what’s happening in the US, and I’m not sure how it’s working over there in terms of actual getting employees. I know over here in Nigeria, we’re getting in quite a lot of, call it brain drain or whatever it is. So whether you like it or not, it’s in the company’s interest just do whatever it takes. So whether they really buy into it generally or not, they’re being dragged kicking and screaming into considering wellbeing. You know, you could joke about it, but when, you know, the person who was a housekeeper said, Madam, I just want to stay at home and look after my children because they , you know, they realize they could survive without your pesky little job that you know was a non-job anyway, that you didn’t value them. Suddenly you start thinking, okay, how can we work it out so that you can still see your children and still come to work? You know, so the power dynamics changed. I think after the pandemic, the jobs that people didn’t really value or didn’t put as much value on, they’re now saying that, hey, if I don’t look up the wellbeing of my staff, I think before people used to think about the wellbeing of the CEO with the huge packages and, golfing days, but the people way down the pecking order the food chain there was a tendency not to look at them. And then when your cleaners don’t come in, suddenly you start thinking, huh, they’ve got a lot more value than the CEO if they don’t come to work, you know? So whether it was intentional or side effects of the pandemic, the brain drain, the shortage of labor, whether it’s skilled or unskilled, is forcing people to now look at wellbeing because other people’s wellbeing contributes to your wellbeing. So we’re all in this together. Suddenly we are all waking up, and that’s what I’m seeing.
00:08:05 Paula: you know, you pointed out something, the interconnectivity between every role in an organization, people do matter, and the pandemic showed us that. It kind of, I sometimes say equalized all fields because we realized that in order for an organization or a company or small business to survive, we all had to work together and we struggled or we came up with solutions. Whereby the personal life and your professional life kind of emerged. I remember Tesse and I talking about, you know, we saw so many Zoom business calls where a child or a dog or a pet or a spouse, sometimes not properly dressed, showed up, you know, and people started realizing, uh oh yeah, there is connectivity. There is a very fine line between our professional lives and our personal lives. As Max pointed out, you know, maximizing our people, whichever role they play became very important. So there was a plus that came from the pandemic, and we kind of live in a post, I don’t know if we’re post pandemic or we are going back into one, but we all learned lessons from that. Tesse?
00:09:20 Tesse: I thought that you kind of like were going to sort of explore some of the experiences that Max and Sade probably had that touched them then. But before then, I just want to say I’m actually calling in from London, England, and we’ve had a lot of, and still are having a lot of strikes, you know, industrial strikes and our government is saying they’re going to pass legislation to stop people striking. Good luck with that one. But it just back to how we valuing our people and what’s the quality of life. We are also having an energy crisis and cost of energy is very high. But the sad thing, and it is very sad, our people are dying from cold and hunger. Now this is to develop country, but actually we’ve had people, we’ve actually had this phenomenon where people have come together in hubs, heating hubs, or warm hubs where people get together and stay warm. I mean, who would have thought that in 2023 we will be doing this. Now the good thing is that communities are coming together, getting galvanized. The downside is that we got here, how did we arrive at this point? I don’t know. So that sense of community is very important. But, and more interestingly, I think what looms large for me is identity. Because in the United Kingdom we also have culture wars. What we mean by that is that if you say things that people don’t want to hear, or which they cannot stomach, they cancel you. Yeah. And there’s something like anti-woke, they don’t like the reckoning of awareness of identity. So we have a myriad of issues in the United Kingdom, and it’s quite worrying actually, but I’m hoping to stay optimistic and it’s hard.
00:10:59 Sade: I just find it fascinating that the sort of, I think it’s like general psychosis there seems to be going on in the UK. And I’m looking at it as somebody who’s bicoastal that I can dip in and dip out when I, you know. The weaponizing things that I think maybe happened in the US and the pre-Trump days when people say, I’m not sure I totally buy that. It’s a reaction to the inclusion of the Obama years. It’s a bit like a pendulum, I hope, so there will alter key at some point where you sort of come to the middle. So, but we’re in this crazy swing. But at the moment, it’s the weaponizing of the idea of wellbeing, of inclusion, of being a decent human being and calling it “woke” and forgetting about, yeah, let’s reclaim the word. I’m proudly “woke”. If that means that I’m a decent human being, then that’s fine, and we shouldn’t allow people to weaponize words and then throw it back at us. But actually, the reason I think, and I’m suddenly no expert on this, the reason why there’s this manufactured culture wars is because people are getting more aware, because they’re being pinched and they realize that if we form our own tribe and come together and stop believing what somebody else is telling us and actually look at what is your own interest. They’re trying to convince you that the small person stealing a pen in a shop is the real thief, meanwhile, the person who stole your shareholder funds is just a sharp guy. But people are waking up to that now and they’re forming, you know, suddenly everybody’s now wanting to join a union because before they told us unions were militant, hard left and stuff like that. But no right was actually, and I’m saying this as somebody who didn’t really believe in unions before, so I’m sorry. But now I’ve have woken up nothing was given for free. No right was ever won, you know, like having a paid holiday in England, or working week or all of that was thoughtful and all those are wellbeing things. So wellbeing has never actually been given freely. Every inch of worker wellbeing, or what would be good quality of life for everybody has been, they’ve been drag kicking and screaming. So once they’re weaponized as woke or cultural war, they dice and slice you, as Obama would say. Then you’d start going into tribes and start fighting each other in the tower of Babel, or whatever it is. So, yeah, my little take, should I stop ranting now?
00:13:50 Tesse: Not a rant, just music. I mean it really.
00:13:52 Max: Music to our ears.
00:13:54 Tesse: These are the kind of conversations we really need to be having, you know? Let’s call it what it is, let’s call it what it is. Yeah, divide and rule.
00:14:02 Max: And I do have to say, which I forgot to say when I started up Tesse and Paula, thanks for having me on again. I feel that every time I come onto your podcast and share viewpoints and learn new things, I just learn more than what I came in with, right? So this is great to just deep dive on this. And very interestingly enough, we’re talking about a very critical topic. Because the way I see it, and maybe it’s just me seeing it in a much more levelheaded approach, okay. Is that being woke is an expression, expression. And we want people to express themselves. Yes, in a respectful way. And this whole anti woke thing, why can’t people say, Hey, look, I understand you want to express yourself, but maybe when you ask for people to be fired from their job or stuff like that, maybe can we have a discussion around that? But I don’t see the emotional intelligence and conversations going on that maybe should be happening because even when someone might have tweeted something that was highly offensive, let’s take a second to understand, okay, what did you mean by that? Was that a miscommunication by your part or? No, we looked at your other 55 tweets that day, and you do have some very harsh right wing, neo-Nazi viewpoints that may be in an educational system as a high school principal might not be the best fit for you, right? You know, like just to take that extra step to see, because maybe someone might have said something, but that person is an individual that, wow, you do a lot of things to help out minority communities in your city, and you do all these things, but you just came across the wrong way, right? So you know, let’s learn from this, tell us how you’re going to learn and not do this again. That is a way to handle that instead of asking for that person to be fired and to lose their job. So just to go that extra layer in understanding a little bit more what someone meant, where they were coming from. I think can really help out in this whole clashing of ideologies that we’re seeing going on. But in order to do that, there’s a certain amount of critical thinking that people might have to do. There’s a certain amount of emotional intelligence that people might have to practice. And those are things that, surprisingly enough, I see a lack of. Even among very well-educated, well-spoken, experienced individuals. If a teenager is tweeting something, you’re like, okay, that teenager hasn’t grown up yet. But when you have people in their sixties and their seventies just tweeting, people in Congress, in the Senate, in the United States and then you’re like, oh my goodness, you know, we have a long way to go. We have a long way to go, but I’ll just conclude with people expressing themselves in a peaceful way is a start. Maybe a few years from now we will have such good dialogue among critical thinkers across the spectrum. Yes, the glasses always half full for me, .
00:17:22 Sade: But you don’t think the algorithms are created to stoke anger and the fights. Because it’s a plea for reaction, yeah? People are addicted to the drama. Sometimes people tweet things, knowing is going to go off. In fact, intending it to go off, it’s a chase for clout. So there is that, and then we are all now tuned. Now somebody’s telling me, “ah, I can see you are now on Twitter a lot”. Your politics has changed. I’ve been radicalized. And it’s true.
00:17:57 Max: Wait, it’s true that you are radical now, Sade is that what you’re saying?
00:18:02 Sade: I mean, like most Nigerians, or at least of a certain demographic, or usually to the right of Atilla the Hun.
00:18:20 Max: Slight generalization.
00:18:23 Tesse: Yeah, yesterday I went to a shop and I bought this t-shirt saying, no drama, please. I mean, cause drama’s getting too old, you know, too much. You know, it’s kind of like people are addicted to it. But I really have a question, we’re talking about belonging and we’re talking about wellness. Has the definition of success changed? I mean, what would you consider with this current environment of wellness or belonging of identity or brand? Does success take on a different definition from what people see as success previously?
00:18:57 Max: I think there has been a bit of a shift, and I’ll say it from the perspective of in the past, especially in a society that is very capitalistic, success would be determined by how much capital you have. Oh, This is a successful individual. They are the CEO of a company. They live in a very large, fancy house. They have five houses, et cetera, et cetera. Now, that is still the case in a lot of the mainstream, but there has been this shift in, you know, what are you doing for the environment? , right? What are you doing? And you can see a lot of corporations have tagged onto that, and they’re really doing all these programs to be more green to help the environment. So there has been a big shift, I think in the last few years, at least from a branding perspective, that in order to be a successful company, a successful individual, there needs to be a perception that you’re doing more than just for yourself. But again, we’re like at the branding stage maybe in the future it will go a few layers deeper and you know it will mean a lot more than what it is now, which is a lot unbranding.
00:20:14 Paula: You know, I’m sitting here listening, I’m wandering and because I live in a house with a lot of young people. Let me rephrase that with a lot of younger people cause I’m young. And you know the discussions we have comes down a lot to sometimes generational changes, you know. I’m being more aware, as I’m told, you know, auntie or mommy, there are a lot more ways of getting information now. And so I think these things impact us because, I mean, yes, we are aware of all the noise on the internet, but even the noise on the internet is still information. And the younger people tell me that we take this information and we look at it from a different angle and then we bring it back. And we believe that in communicating on all the different social media platform that we can start impacting and making a change, it’s coming gradually. Because I believe life is like a conveyor belt, some of us are no longer in the middle, we’re moving out of the limelight and the younger folk are coming in and they’re bringing a lot more holistic views. That’s something I hear a lot in this house about being intentional, being holistic. It’s not just about the outward appearance, but how does that make the person feel? Emotional intelligence is important. And I think, as I look at the world and know that, you know, the millennials and the Gen Zs are beginning to become those who will be the future leaders. I feel we have some things to hold onto, I feel hopeful because they’re coming with a completely different outlook. They’ve looked at us as we talked about success. Some of them think that we have been failures and they feel that they have learned from our failures. But because there’s so many platforms on which they can share their views and share their input and share their opinions, there’s a better world coming. And so that’s why I’ve been quietly listening to everything I’m saying, but I hear hope.
00:22:19 Sade: Well, in terms of success and what it probably will mean going forward. If we look at success, there is a monetary one, but I also look at success, what would be a successful person? I look at it in terms of power and the power dynamics, and I think what Paula was saying about the democratization of information has really changed the power dynamic. Let’s just take, I know this is so controversial and I probably will get panned on Twitter. If you take Prince Harry book, “the Royal Rotor” or whatever they call it. I know they’re rotor, but I call them the rotors. But they had a monopoly of the information coming from that place, and he couldn’t get out of the ecosystem. But with Netflix, with the internet, with Twitter, suddenly his counterbalance in that narrative, these kids don’t necessarily listen to us now. Now you may be the CEO of a multinational, whatever it is, but a child with a 50 million followers will probably have more power than you. So what is success in that dynamic? I think the jury is still out, I don’t know. I’m looking to see who wins in this war then camp beside that person.
00:23:33 Max: Very well put Sade. Very well put.
00:23:36 Tesse: It’s so refreshing. I mean, I spent the weekend with my nephew who’s 11, and he was going between streaming on YouTube to Netflix to Amazon. I got dizzy and he seemed to be able to do it seamlessly. I just think that yeah, we are in a space where what is success is quite different. You know, I have a question for all of you and I’ll put my thing in. I went to a workshop today, and the workshop was actually, choose your word for the year. You know, what is your word? It was a very, very insightful workshop run by John Monks and Carol Ann Ward. And it was brilliant because it was choose one word, and the first word was if you were to sum up the previous year, 2022, what that word would be. And if you were to look forward and what you anticipate for 2023, what that word would be. So over to you, I’m very keen to know if you were to choose one word for 2023 for yourself, what would that word be?
00:24:42 Max: Ooh, I’ve got one.
00:24:43 Tesse: Yeah.
00:24:44 Max: Do I go first?
00:24:45 Tesse: Yeah, go first.
00:24:46 Max: My word for 2023, especially with things that have happened in the last few weeks, is “Adaptability”. Especially in my tech world, adaptability to an ever-growing artificial intelligence presence. We have just been exposed to the tip of the iceberg with “chatgpt”. For those that might be paying attention to this podcast in the future and not aware, it’s a very advanced form of artificial intelligence that.
00:25:21 Sade: I think we should, the next podcast should be “Chatgpt” will do it for us. We should let it do it.
00:25:28 Paula: It’s been failing though.
00:25:32 Max: Watch out Sade, It might happen.
00:25:35 Sade: I’m not proud.
00:25:36 Max: No, no, but it is. I think the most powerful thing about it is that it mimics human interaction. So it’s the closest we’ve gotten to actually feeling as if we’re speaking to a human when we’re actually only speaking to a machine, a program like code. And I think that a lot of roles, a lot of jobs, a lot of companies and industries will be disrupted by this. It’s just going to happen. Now disruption has always happened, the problem is that some people are adaptable. And some people are just going to react, react, react, and it’s not going to turn out well. I’ll just conclude with, sometimes what people have been saying now is, no, it’s not AI that’s going to take your job, it’s the person that is using AI in the most efficient way that is going to take your job. So you just have to adapt and I don’t think a lot of people are prepared for that. And a lot of companies and organizations have not really raised the visibility to how to adapt to such change in how you have to think about it. And this could go on and on, but adaptability for 2023 is my word.
00:26:58 Tesse: Thank you, Max that was excellent.
00:27:00 Paula: Absolutely love that.
00:27:02 Tesse: Sade what’s your word?
00:27:03 Sade: Yeah, no, I mean, I’m waiting for “Chatgpt” .
00:27:07 Paula: That probably just happened.
00:27:09 Tesse: Yeah. But the beep, we heard.
00:27:11 Sade: Might as well start as, I mean to go on.
00:27:16 Max: Is this really you Sade? Cause the camera is off.
00:27:20 Sade: Do you know that.
00:27:21 Max: The camera is off.
00:27:22 Sade: I’m typing it in, I’m typing it in as we’re talking to say, what’s my word for 2023? Unfortunately, I’m too cheap to pay for the cause they’ve I was using the beta version. .Hey, but I love the adaptability and over Christmas, I had all these young people from Canada, from the US, from Nigeria, all of them. My brother has a health facility in Canada and somebody had written a letter, so we put the letter in and said, how do you respond to this person? A little complaints something, and the letter was better than anything that we could have come up with, because what we saw.
00:28:10 Tesse: Wow.
00:28:11 Sade: You say, oh, my secretaries, they’re probably going to go up now I’m going to sack a few of them.
00:28:17 Max: No, no. You’re going to empower your secretaries to expand.
00:28:21 Sade: We’re going to empower them to use “chatgpt” rather than having to think themselves. Yes. But what I was thinking of is, why am I stressing myself? I’m over 60, I’m not bothered. I’ll use “chatgpt” to make me more efficient or whatever. I leave that, the stress, my 2020 threes, I’m going to chase joy to the ground. I’m going to chase it and run it down and catch it by the rough of the neck and look for joy wherever I find it. Chat can meet me. I don’t how, I’m done with the, no more drama, no more.
00:29:07 Max: No, but Sade I think, when I think of it, and this is me being always glasses half full, is imagine all these new industries that we are not even thinking about.
00:29:20 Sade: Absolutely.
00:29:21 Max: Space travel.
00:29:22 Sade: Yeah.
00:29:22 Max: Maybe people in 10 years from now will be technicians on spaceships.
00:29:28 Sade: Well, I’ll put you there first. I ain’t going
00:29:33 Paula: He said maybe.
00:29:34 Tesse: You are on your own.
00:29:35 Sade: If I get they’ll say who sent you. why you carry your two left legs go there.
00:29:48 Max: Don’t get caught up in the details, Sade. We’re thinking new industries.
00:29:55 Sade: You guys are thinking that end, I’m thinking we’re going tto actually go back. The jobs that are going to survive are the ones that survived during COVID. People are desperate for their gardeners, for their plumbers. They’re desperate for their hairdressers. We’re really gotta go really low tech, or really super high tech. So plebs like us in the middle who are just managing, we’re going to have to learn hairdressing.
00:30:20 Tesse: But Paula, what’s your word? What’s your word? That’s excellent, Sade, smiles all around.
00:30:26 Paula: I think I’m in between Sade and Max.. My word has been courage. You know, courage to accept the change that’s coming. With courage, you have to adapt to what’s new. And of course with courage, you’ve got to be joyful at what you see is happening. But what had me smiling to, and I thought about courage was the article I read. I now subscribe to the CNN, the top five things, and one of the articles today was about how the “chatgpt” has been failing and that companies are saying that, hmm, they’ve used it to write a lot of articles and then they’ve gone back and caught a lot of mistakes. And so like Max says it, fake news, that’s what it used to be called in 2020. But now we can blame it on “chatgpt”, and we can also realize that new industries are going to come from it. Just like you know now we are doing podcasts on video conference in like Zoom. When I started doing podcasting, it was all audio and I tried using Skype and it was a mess. So new industries are going to evolve, new jobs are going to evolve. I was reading about artificial intelligence in the 1960s. My mom used to get us all these science books and we used to look at it and she’d say it would never happen.
00:31:44 Max: The sci-fi.
00:31:44 Paula: Yeah, I’ve seen it happen. So it’s the courage to, you know, accept change joyfully, and to know that you do need to adapt. Because who would’ve thought in 2020 Tesse and I and you, Sade will be doing a podcast and we’ll be doing a podcast for three different continents. Max and I are both in the United States, but we in two different ends of the United States, you know. So yeah, let’s be adaptable and let’s do it.
00:32:14 Sade: Beam me up, Scotty.
00:32:17 Tesse: Cause my word for 2023 is “Metamorphosis”, and really it’s about, you know, I was reading something Maya Angelo yesterday, which was, “we all love the beauty of the butterfly, but we forget the journey the butterfly has been through”. So for me it’s what are we becoming? What am I becoming? What are we becoming individually and collectively and how does that mell out? So that’s my word, 2023. So Paula, over to you.
00:32:43 Paula: I love that, “Metamorphosis”. “Adaptability”, “Joy”. Woo. We’ve got some phenomenal people here, but like everything else in life, oh Lord, all good things have to come to an end. And so we say to our amazing audience, thank you so much again for tuning in. We ask that you head over to “Apple Podcasts”, “Google podcasts”, “Spotify”, anywhere else that you listen to podcasts, and subscribe and follow us. And if you would like to be a guest, like notice we have two previous guests on. If you want to be a guest like them, please reach out to us and you can do that by visiting our website, which is “” and drop us line. Thank you again, Max, thank you Sade for being.
00:33:37 Max: Thank you for having me.
00:33:38 Paula: Our guest.
00:33:39 Tesse: You’re alll so amazing. Love you lot.
00:33:43 Paula: Love you. Love you. Love you.
00:33:45 Tesse: I love
00:33:46 Max: keep on doing it. Keep on doing it.