Forward Facing Podcast Planning Ahead

Max Ekesi Interviews Tesse & Paula

“We are keeping things real by leaning into the context out guests are operating in. We are curious about their situations while encouraging them to find solutions and approaches tailored to them. We are holding this open safe space for them as a mirror where they are arriving at their own solutions.”

“We are going online as much as possible because even though we are podcasting, podcasting in itself has changed. Podcasting has gone from just being the audio file that you can take anywhere with you to being a video and audio or sometimes just video. We are seeing the opportunities that are growing for us to do podcasting with a more modern twist. We can bring on a live audience to speak with us, interact with us and to interact with our guests.”

Tesse and Paula will be:

  1. Exploring with others who are passionate about storytelling.  We are noticing the impact of stories as well as exploring leadership from a personal and professional perspectives. 
  2. Looking back and seeing what we learnt from these diverse experiences and the multi-dimensional expertise our guests bring.
  3. Bringing these issues on board so that people can actually interrogate them, explore them, but also come up with some action plans about stepping forward with confidence in an uncertain situation.
  4. Looking at all the different aspects of the employee. They’re not just a person who comes to work or the person who shows up on Zoom, but they do have different components that you have to put into play. 
  5. Designing and implementing working agreements for success, for sustainability and regeneration.  How can these designs be flexible, agile, responsive while leading  to success of our organizations , our networks, alliances and resource groups? How can we be the leaders that we need to be in these emerging spaces?

Three words for the way ahead?

Recovery. Optimism, Advancement. (PodcastPaula)

Exciting. Scary, Loving (SmileyTesse)


Welcome to Tesse Talks with your host, Tesse Akpeki, and co-host, Paula Okonneh, that’s me, where we share with you top leadership and management strategies. It has been a journey of discovery and we are learning that leadership is not just personal, but it’s also professional. We hope you will walk with us in this adventure. Today’s show is really different. Tables are turned and we are now being 00:00:30 interviewed, that is Tesse and myself, by none other than the incredible amazing Max Ekesi. So I can’t even say welcome to Tesse Talks because he is the host.
Max: Yeah. Exactly, Paula. And as the one and only host here, Max Ekesi, live from Austin, Texas, I would like to speak to podcast Paula and smiley Tesse, 00:01:00 presently located in Maryland. I would like to ask you a few questions. Are you ready? Do you want to say anything before the questions start?
Tesse: I would like to say how super excited I am to be seeing you in the host chair, and also to be with my really wonderful 13 year old plus, plus, plus, co-host, Paula.
Max: Well done. Do you have anything to 00:01:30 say, Paula or, I think we’re ready, huh?
Paula: I think I’m ready. I’m lost for words, but I know that it’s going to be such a superb interview that I’m just going to say stop.
Max: Life changing experience coming up right now. So the both of you have been on this journey for years. Well then let’s look forward, what are your next steps going into 2023?
Paula: Wow, 00:02:00 that’s a great question. Tesse and I spoke about this for a while and we know 2023 is the future, and so we are thinking about moving deeper into the online space in 2023. We want to go online as much as possible because even though we are podcasting, podcasting in itself has changed. Podcasting has gone from just being the audio file that you can take anywhere with you 00:02:30 to being a video and audio or sometimes just video. And so we are seeing the opportunities that are growing for us to do podcasting with a more modern twist, I want to say, where we can bring on a live audience to speak with us, interact with us, and even to interact with our guests. And so that’s what we think 2020 is going to be with Tesse Talks and with Tesse Leads.
Paula: An interesting story was that yesterday we were at a church in Maryland, because Tesse’s 00:03:00 visiting. And we met with one of the pastors there and I’d met with him before with my daughter, but when he first of all heard that Tesse was from England, oh my word, he was so excited, wasn’t he?
Tesse: Because we’re both Arsenal supporters.
Max: I mean you’re smiling right now as top of the table Arsenal supporters. Yes, you go.
Paula: Yes. And so I just was thinking how amazing that would’ve 00:03:30 been if we were doing a podcast talking to leaders and influencers and people who are influencing others. No one better than a pastor if he was able to join us live and bring on his input.
And so that’s what we are looking forward to doing in 2023, bringing in our live audience, bringing in people onto our podcast so that we can be more interactive and maybe more entertaining.
Tesse: Is that possible? I think it is.
Max: That 00:04:00 always helps to get your audience to be more engaged, be more entertaining.
Tesse: Absolutely. And the thing with this young man, and well he was a young man, is that he was so excited about what we were doing with Tesse Talks and Tesse Leads because from his perspective, he saw how leadership is evolving and he was really encouraging us to explore with others storytelling, the impact of stories. 00:04:30 He was really saying it’s important to explore leadership from a personal perspective as well as a professional perspective. And he encouraged us to back to this into our plan for 2023 and beyond.
Max: Yes, very wise words from the pastor. And if I may chime in, all three of us do have something in common besides being such exceptional individuals, we are all Nigerians that live abroad. And 00:05:00 I think that there’s a part of our Nigerian culture, our bubbliness, our positive, sometimes energetic and a bit too loud thing about us that really makes us stand out. It gives us an identity and we feed off of it. And it’s incredible to see how many of us do well when we go abroad and we work in various industries. And I do have to say I feel 00:05:30 that connection more than ever when I meet with both of you. Keep it up.
Paula: Oh wow. What can we say?
Max: Podcast Paula, it’s live with Tesse. Keep it up for 2023. Okay. Are you ready for the second question?
Paula: We are always ready for questions from you, Max.
Max: The last two years. Let’s look backwards now. The last two years have been some of the most challenging years that people have lived. 00:06:00 There’s a lot of PTSD still going on, whether you think of COVID or the effects that COVID had where we could not be connected to people. Some people lost loved ones. A lot of things happen in the last two years and there are a lot of effects still going on now like hyperinflation and all the various things. And in all of this we have to somehow look back and see what do we learn from these experience. So if 00:06:30 I may ask the both of you, what are your learnings that you got in the last two years?
Tesse: Max, I can’t tell you. That’s such a great question. And you’ve mentioned some of the things that have gone on. We’ve seen different complexions of governments including Italy. Really interesting dynamic going there. We are experiencing the great resignation, hopefully we’ll see the great retention. Looking at working hybrid 00:07:00 environments. We’re witnessing a high incident of wellbeing challenges, mental health, breakdown mental health. And this is what I am excited about is young people, the millennials just being so awesome and really enthusiastic about the future. So what I’m seeing, what we are seeing is we’re seeing the opportunities for people to consciously be aware of the need to take care of themselves, to eat well, 00:07:30 to sleep well, to exercise, to build communities that last, built to last. And so what we are going to be doing hopefully going live with our guests is we are hoping to bring these issues on board so that people can actually interrogate them, explore them, but also come up with some action plans about stepping forward with confidence in an uncertain situation.
Tesse: 00:08:00 It’s so easy to get downcast and I admit that, Paula, I sometimes do, we’re human. And what we are really leaning into is the encouragement of Brené Brown to be vulnerable and to go into places where we do have doubt, but also to go into those places with optimism and with hope. We hope to explore with our guests and with ourselves, places where becomes possible that we can look together forward to 00:08:30 connect with each other to see how we can communicate better, to understand each other better, to find ways of expressing our authentic selves. So the invitation in this Tesse Talks, Tesse Leads environment is to find ways to understand the challenges we are facing with realism knowing fully where we can’t solve everything but we can shed light on some things and actually explore ways of being in community or being in conversation 00:09:00 in collaboration and see ways that we can go forward so we recognize what problems remain in spite of the intervention, but also how we can move forward with hope and with love, and hopefully with competence and agility.
Tesse: So our lens hopefully is going to be a pragmatic one. We hope that my co-host, who is so gifted, so wise, so insightful and so kind, we’re hoping that together we can invite people into this space of listening of action and 00:09:30 compassion. And we hope that we can be able to co-create and co-design pockets of excellence, but with kindness, with care and with competence. That’s our hope.
Max: Oh, very well said. With kindness, with love, hope, competence. And it all sounds great. Actually, I want to give Paula a chance too, before I give some feedback about the things I really appreciated. Peace, 00:10:00 podcast Paula, what’s a yee?
Paula: She said it all. On more serious note, I’ve seen at least talking about the last two years, a spirit of resilience among so many small business owners, ability to sit back and say, “Okay, so now I am faced with a problem. How do I solve it based on what I have?” I’ve seen 00:10:30 realism coming to business spaces where we realize that there’s fluidity between our personal lives and our professional lives. I’ve seen over the past few years the ability to reach out to many other communities with the evolution of Zoom and other similar video conferencing software whereby as a small business owner you realize that I don’t have to just be local, I don’t even have to be national, I can be international. It’s been incredible. 00:11:00 And even more with that has grown compassion amongst small business owners where you realize that a mom or a dad or someone at home who is operating their business has other components to their lives.
So when we see a child wander onto the screen or a dog or a cat or some pet or an elderly parent coming onto the camera, there’s more patience I’ve noticed. There’s more acceptance that these are parts and parcel of life and you’ve got to live with that. And so 00:11:30 as we evolve out of the COVID era, COVID two years, I’ve seen compassion grow, I’ve seen understanding grow, I’ve seen a kindness evolve from at least small business owners. And I hope that that’s here to stay. Leadership has definitely changed. We were talking about that earlier on where the personal side of businesses, your employee is an essential part of the growth of your organization. And you do need to look at all the different 00:12:00 aspects of that employee. They’re not just a person who comes to work or the person who shows up on Zoom, but they do have different components that you have to put into play. So that’s what I have learned.
Max: Oh wow. Spot on. Spot on. And there’s so much that has been learned in the last few years. It’s so much. And if I may say one of the biggest challenges that I think both of your approaches 00:12:30 help to tackle this is that sometimes I see that people can be very polarizing. People can be not as tolerant of other viewpoints or not even tolerant, but taking a second or two to understand somebody else’s viewpoint. And if you don’t agree with the viewpoint, you can still be respectful, but call it out.
Max: I 00:13:00 think your viewpoint is not very accurate. I feel that your viewpoint might be even disrespectful towards me, but you don’t have to be disrespectful towards other people. You don’t have to go tweet or call people names or whatever because you can come from a point of more understanding, more competence, more caring, and that can just help the dialogue. I think that people that are blessed with that should be encouraged 00:13:30 to step up a bit more. And your podcast, your environment creates that kind of environment. And I maybe challenge you if sometimes you don’t have guests that maybe think in a different way. Maybe challenge yourself to invite some guests that you might think they might not be a good fit, but just try it out anyways. It’s sometimes 00:14:00 not an easy thing to do, but it can have an effect.
Paula: I think that’s a great idea. It’s an opportunity for growth for us and for even our audience to get a different perspective.
Tesse: We’ve actually had guests on the show who haven’t really been on all fours with us, but what they have said and what they’ve said when they’ve finished is this was so much more enjoyable than we thought, but they probably thought that we’d be judging them or whatever. And we aim not to judge people. We aim not to do that. 00:14:30 And these guests have really told us how much they enjoyed us not judging them. But as you said, I think the key thing there, my late mom used to say this, is to disagree without being disagreeable. It is itself an asset to be able to hold that space and to disagree and to say things that are different, but not to be contrary in that way that you upset other people. I think that’s-
Max: Be respectful. Be respectful at the very bottom, regardless 00:15:00 what your viewpoints are. Oh my, oh my, I’ve got a couple more questions here.
Paula: But we have a couple more minutes.
Max: May I continue? They got a couple more minutes. Let’s go.
Tesse: Because he’s at the end of the last [inaudible 00:15:15 well, he’s actually at the-
Max: Oh I’m going well, well then let’s go into it. With all the listeners you’ve had and all the people that have come into your show, can you share some of the questions that you usually get from 00:15:30 the listeners? A taste of it, right? Where do people go with what they hear from you or where they’re guided the questions they have?
Tesse: Another fantastic take on an expansive world that we’re in. One of the things that comes to my mind is that we are multidimensional. We are similar in many ways and different in other ways and in other spaces. So our listeners actually ask something which is really interesting, how can we build bridges instead 00:16:00 of walls? They ask us about how they’re able to do the boundary management piece where they’re able to have boundaries which are porous rather than rigid. They also ask us for crib sheets or cheat sheets to flex the agile mindset to get updated, be responsive, to be flexible, to be pragmatic. And they talk 00:16:30 more to us and ask us about how this hybrid environment, which we are in, can shape up and how they can actually have working agreements for success, for sustainability, for regeneration. And they land this into how can this flexible, agile, responsive way of doing and being lead to success of our organizations and our networks 00:17:00 and how can we be the leaders that need to be in those spaces.
Max: Excellent. Yes. And it really stands out that people do want to help themselves also. They want it to be like a win-win. How can I help others and how can I help myself? So we always have to think about how can people grow and people have an interest in always having to ask that and challenge themselves because they want to be 00:17:30 prepared for the future, whatever it might be like, where is the industry and the jobs and all of that. Paula, what’s say you?
Paula: Ah, great question coming from you to podcast Paula, I get a lot of questions and where is this podcast going? What plans do you have for it? And able to tell people, “You know what?” Podcasting is the future.” When I 00:18:00 started, and I said the word podcast, there was a blank look. Not anymore. And I’m seeing our podcast as an opportunity to bring people into a world that they may not have experienced. Also, showing them at the same time that a lot of social media companies that you wouldn’t think would go into audio actually incorporate audio into their marketing plans.
Paula: For example, I saw recently that LinkedIn now has an audio platform where you can engage 00:18:30 with your guests by audio. And I thought that was fascinating. I know it’s been always more text centered where you would message someone or write an article and then they introduce the video element, but now they’re bringing in just the audio element. And for me, when I talk to our guests like embrace doing podcasting, especially for those who may be camera shy, it opens up your world to a lot more opportunities than you could 00:19:00 ever imagine. Who would’ve known we would’ve met Max Ekesi?
Tesse: What loss if we didn’t, what loss.
Max: What could be a better way to end that answer than that.
Tesse: Well, there’s a bookend to that, and that is being able to, and this is what our guests ask us and our listeners ask us, is how they can resolve conflicts and collaborate while building a culture of belonging. How can they work with that difference 00:19:30 and build an inclusive environment? And what Paula and I hope we are doing is to keep things real by leaning into their own context and their own situations while encouraging them to find solutions and approaches tailored to them. So we are not saying to them think like this or be like this, but holding this space for them to have that mirror where they are arriving at their own solutions.
Max: Yes, because there’s such a 00:20:00 diversity of thought and where people might go with it. But if you can just help people with some of the tools from the toolbox and everything very much helps, because a lot of people don’t think about this that much. A lot of people don’t hit the pause for even a minute because they’re just going through the whole day, one thing after another. I can say from my personal experience, the fact that I meet with you and I talk about things that I do makes it stand out 00:20:30 even more so to me that, oh yes, I do do this. I do have an influence on this. I have progressed on my journey and my career. Sometimes you just need to speak with someone to even have it come out about how great we are.
Paula: Yep. Yep. Yep.
Max: Oh my God. And all good things have come to an end. And as we come to our last question 00:21:00 today, the last question is if you could select three words we would use to describe the time we are in right now, just take a second to just take this all in, like where the world is at, where you are at from a journey, transitioning out of the post COVID into the future and all that, what are three words that come to mind this time? We’ll start 00:21:30 with podcast Paula for change. [inaudible 00:21:38 Equality for all. Equality.
Paula: Right. So the three words that come to me are recovery. Because as you mentioned, we are evolving. So we are post pandemic, we are evolving from the last two years of COVID. Optimism follows that to me because when you’re coming out from a dark space and you can see 00:22:00 the direction in which you’re going, there’s optimism that follows that. And another word that comes to me is advancement. We are looking at things differently from different lenses these days. I love what we touched early on about the awareness of mental health and how important it is for organizations and businesses to be recognizing it for the employees or any contractors, whoever works with them, because a human being is made up of many elements. Your mental health is just as important as your physical 00:22:30 health. So those are the three words that stand out for me.
Max: Very much so. And Paula, I think you’re spot on about the mental health part, which has gotten so much more visibility in the last few years where companies even give time off
to focus on your wellness and everything. I know for a fact that PayPal, every two months we have a wellness day.
Paula: Wow.
Max: That was not common before. Now it is. People say you need time 00:23:00 to spend with friends and family or just yourself and do something else. It’s so key. So you mentioned recovery, optimism, and advancement. Well done. And transitioning to smiley Tesse, what say you?
Tesse: My three are different, but complementary to what podcast Paula has said. Exciting. 00:23:30 In the challenges, there are opportunities for advancement as Paula said. So exciting. Scary. It’s like being on a roller coaster, not knowing when you’re going to come off or come out. And losses, you can’t underestimate that people lost people, lost jobs, a lot of lost stuff, lost years in school, et cetera. So it is scary and that element of fear is real for a lot of people, including myself. And it’s like that scary thing. Feel 00:24:00 the fear, do it anyway kind of thing. And yet I have experienced loving environments where there’s a lot of forgiveness because there has to be. So my three words are exciting, scary, loving.
Max: Spot on, spot on. And I like the fact how you highlight scary because it’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be scared. It’s something that everybody experiences and just by having to acknowledge it 00:24:30 and to identify it, then it’s just much easier to deal with it. Whether a single person or collectively it is much easier to deal with it. Oh my, oh my, what can I say about this life changing experience here with podcast Paula and smiley Tesse. We asked you the four questions. We touched on so many points. It’s just going to be exciting to see how your journey keeps 00:25:00 on evolving into 2023. I for one point we’ll be listening to your podcast and it’ll be so encouraging to be back to share the excitements of the future in 2023. Thank you for your time.
Tesse: You’re amazing, Max.
Paula: You are.
Tesse: Amazing. You light our world for sure.
Paula: And we know that this was your first podcast as a host, right?
Max: That’s right. You know what? 00:25:30 It was.
Tesse: [inaudible 00:25:31 very natural.
Max: I could almost feel that I could do this side gig professionally just like with people that have a variety of viewpoints. I even like getting into it with people that don’t have the same viewpoint as me and we just go through it. And that’s not something that everybody can deal with. That’s not something that everybody can deal with.
Tesse: You’re a natural. Obama used to say that, “Yes, you can.” 00:26:00 And very recently, Serena said, “I’m evolving from tennis.” So you’re evolving too-
Max: Serena said [inaudible 00:26:07. To what we’ll find out, to what we’ll find out. Oh my goodness. Tesse, Paula, it’s always so much laughs. My cheeks still hurt. I needed this. This Monday had been like… I needed this. I can do another hour of work and stuff, and then just end with a smile. So thank you for bringing this sunshine. Have a safe trip tomorrow.
Tesse: 00:26:30 Thank you.