April 28, 2021

The Values Economy | Alan and Sam Williams

The Values Economy | Alan and Sam Williams

In The Values Economy, the authors explain how the three primary influencers of Choice, Communication and Control have created a new paradigm the ‘Values Economy.’
Leaders of organizations can survive and thrive in this brave new world with employee engagement that inspires a premium customer experience. Have you established a sense of shared values with all of your stakeholders

Alan and Sam have delved deeply into cases studies and bring examples to life on delivering purpose-driven service for sustained performance in your organization Their 2021 book ‘The Values Economy,’ is a brilliant example of intergenerational collaboration and insights around business success driven from a place of values.

How do you deliver purpose-driven service for sustained performance in your organization? 

Alan Williams believes, "Values-driven service for sustained performance.” 

Sam Williams considers, “Values are for living not laminating.”

Bullet Points

  • There’s a new paradigm rising referred to as the ‘Values Economy’.
  • Make a Wish – For the next decade you would like to see … Alan and Sam share their thoughts

Knowledge Bomb

  • The Nordstrom pivot: From bricks and mortar to online and curbside to provide a customer experience with excellence. 
  • Timpson: An enduring intergenerational family-owned business success story demonstrating ‘values led’ management. 

About the Guest

Alan Williams coaches progressive leaders of service sector organizations, internationally and in the UK, to deliver values-driven service for sustained performance. He is a published author and speaker whose projects have delivered measurable business results across a balanced scorecard and been recognized with industry awards. 

Samuel Williams’ current role, he works across the change management life cycle to deliver people- and technology-led business change. He is passionate about identifying the need for change, mapping out the path to benefit realization, and helping organizations to move from the outlined as-is state to an improved and more mature to-be state that improves efficiency and quality. His empathetic nature and strong social skills enable him to engage with a wide range of stakeholders to understand the unique nuances within organizations that influence their readiness for or resistance to change. 

About the Show

Podcast Host: Life & Leadership: A Conscious Journey with Michelle St Jane

A podcast for Global and Re-Emerging Leadership creating community/tribe, a circle of influence, transcendency of compassionate leadership in the world and wider universe. A unique destination for learning about Leadership + Conscious Stewardship + Legacy.

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Intro: [00:00:00] You're listening to life and leadership, a conscious journey. The podcast that shares wisdom and strength. Join your host Dr. Michelle St Jane's weekly conversation on how to have a positive impact for people, the planet, and the wider cosmos. If you want to live a life of intention, to be proactive with your time, and bring your vision for the future to life one today at a time you were in the right place at the right time, let's get started. 

Michelle St Jane: [00:00:32] Alvin Toffler said, "the future is always coming too fast and in the wrong way." I have two gentlemen who offer a new paradigm for organizations in this century, in this decade, and these transformational times. 

Alan, how do you get into this area, and how author a book together?

Alan Williams: [00:00:56] First, I developed the approach, that we talk about in the book, from over my career. When I was working in large corporate organizations, particularly in the hospitality sector, I kind of used everything that I learned at that time to create the approach that I now use.

[00:01:13] Then it came to me that I should write a book about the values economy.  It struck me that it would be really useful to have a multi-generational perspective. That's where Sam comes into play. 

Sam Williams: [00:01:24] I find it really interesting when dad asked me to be involved. I found the fact that this is probably something that I've grown up with and was unconsciously unaware of it all the while.

[00:01:35] I kind of developed my career and became more interested in the business world. I had conversations with dad around the concept of the book and more general about wider life as well. I became more aware of the step change and I found it really interesting that it was something that dad has been consciously aware of and seen the change.

[00:01:53] This is something that I've probably just grown into.  As I've mentioned that.  So that multi-generational aspect is why we wanted to work on it together. 

Michelle St Jane: [00:02:01] That is what I especially celebrate.  The multi-generational aspect and the ways of being, coming together, to create what I found was an extremely engaging read and so necessary.

[00:02:13] I've seen a lot around leadership and values. I hadn't seen quite so much about organizational values until more recent times. And given we're living in a time where we're transiting from very relational leadership. Thinking the hierarchy here to responsive leadership thinking, are key. We really need those intergenerational collaborations to make that work so we don't lose that institutional history and we also don't lose the forward thinking and willingness to be agile in this sort of area. 

These value drivers are they really necessary?

 I've read your book and I totally agree. But what if my listeners, who haven't read your book and maybe should, why are they necessary?

Alan Williams: [00:02:54] I love sport and I think sport can teach us in business a great deal. If you think about football or soccer or rugby or cricket, whatever sport you wish, what's really important is for the team to have a really strong sense of its identity and the way that it's going to play.  Probably football or soccer is my favorite sport.

[00:03:17] I'll take that as an example, you've got two teams in a league. They're both wanting to win as many games as they can. It might be that one team says what we're going to do is we're going to stop the other team's scoring. And when we get the slightest chance, we'll see if we can go and win our games that way.

[00:03:34] The next team might say, we're all about free-flowing attacking football and we're going to score as many goals as we can. We don't really care how many goals we let in as long as we score one more than them. Whilst they have the same objective, they would be very, very different to watch and support. For me, it's the same in organizations. It's as much about how you do things. 

Michelle St Jane: [00:04:00] My mind immediately went to online gaming and how huge that is.  Sam, I don't know if you're into online games or not, but if your dad's talking about organization, bricks and mortar business, and we move the conversation over to E-commerce…

Sam Williams: [00:04:23] I think that's why it's such an interesting topic because it transcends industries and areas of life. Values, whether it's, as dad's mentioned in sports, whether it's in the business world, whether it's in politics, I think there's so much around having a shared understanding. When that shared understanding is consistent, I think the delivery of kind of value is so much easier to achieve.

[00:04:47] Not to downplay the value in diversity of thoughts, because I think that's also so important. I don't think that the most effective teams are those that all just completely agree with each other. I think there's absolutely value in having a diversity of thoughts and using that to find the best path. I think you can achieve diversity of thought while still having consistency at the values level. As you mentioned, I think that's why it's really interesting because it can apply to organizations. It can apply to education. It can apply to personal life, family, life, and loads of different areas. This is why I find that that values topic really interesting personally. 

Michelle St Jane: [00:05:29] What you say deeply resonates with me, Sam, because I've spent a fair bit of time around, how do you add the challenge of how do you build relationships that inspire trust and create sustainable investment, which is around interdependence. Right now with our worlds, our teams, being predominantly online with remote work, we have this opportunity to create a diverse social web of Neo tribes.

[00:05:51] What you two have done emerging and re-emerging leaders into alliances of visionaries basically. Did 2020, not only turn us into a new decade but sort of spit us up and teaching us some very important lessons in business and rewriting a lot of the roles from how things have been done previously.

[00:06:10] I thought that your book, “The Values Economy” provided a well-structured groundwork and framework for practice and implementation in a very engaging way. In effect, your book overflowed with fabulous examples, case studies, and references. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. With regards to the case studies who surprised you the most?

Alan Williams: [00:06:32] That's a great question. Before I answer that, Michelle, I just want to talk about one of them, Nordstrom. To the point that you were making just now about the online versus bricks and mortar, this is what Nordstrom has done really, really well.

[00:06:50] It's what Nordstrom stands for that is most important and to convey that to their customers, irrespective of the way in which their customers interact with them.  During COVID times, they allowed customers to come to the store, but pick up the goods curbside rather than go into the store so that they would be safer.

[00:07:11] I was really in awe of Nordstrom because they very clearly understood that what they were wanting to deliver. A fantastic customer experience and they didn't really care how they did that. It was more about understanding what the need was and then delivering it. So I think for me, that was a brilliant example in the case studies of the point that you make.

[00:07:34] In terms of surprise, I think I've got a soft spot for Timpson because of what they do. They mend shoes, do dry cleaning, and cut keys and stuff like this. When you put that alongside some of the other case studies like Wimbledon and Aston Martin, you might think, “Oh, what's that doing there?”  That's not as glamorous. But it's a family-run business over generations and they just have such a great common-sense approach to business. I remember asking somebody about their business planning process and this guy said, “well, we don't really put an awful lot of effort into it because there's so much that can influence it. We just say to the guys, can you do a bit better than last year? And that's the way we do it.” Just so refreshing 

Michelle St Jane: [00:08:20] No demands. Just do a bit better. I mean, we can all step up a bit and with all the pressures and anxiety of the current COVID situation. Nobody needs any more pressure to perform, just getting out of bed and actually turning up dressed on top of pajamas on the bottom is usually a big one for a lot of us.

[00:08:39] In terms of your case studies was anything weird, anything unexpected for you? 

Sam Williams: [00:08:44] I think that's touching on Timpson there and maybe commenting as to how people may think that was out of place was probably the most unexpected point of any of the case studies. I too, at first thought, had that same reaction.

[00:08:58] Some of the other case studies, Wimbledon, Aston Martin, or Hanbury Manor maybe seem much more glamorous than Timpson do,  but dad explained his logic behind wanting to include them.  I cast in my, my mind back to the last memory that I had of Timpson and it was when I had needed to take my school shoes to Timpson’s and get them resolved because I had ruined them playing football.

[00:09:24] I remember walking into Timpson’s and, and walking into the shop. And my sole memory of that process is how friendly the guy that worked there was. How quick the turnaround was. That he resoled them and they lasted ages thereafter. He's created a kind of memory in me through that customer experience he gave to me.

[00:09:46] And it wasn't rocket science. What he did, he was a really personable guy. He was really friendly. We had a laugh, shared a joke, smiled a lot, turned around the service he was offering really quickly. That just created such a lasting memory for me. 

Alan Williams: [00:10:01] Timpson used the ‘Mr. Mann’ approach for when hiring people.

[00:10:05] So they think about to ‘Mr. Happy’ and ‘Mr. Brilliant’ and ‘Miss Sunshine’ and all that sort of stuff. What they're saying is that they only want people that are nines and tens. If you look at them through that lens and that’s how they go about it. I remember another interview with one of their team. I was really interested to know what sort of training they had had for interviewing and what sort of psychological profiling they did and all this sort of stuff.

[00:10:32] This guy said, no, I just have a chat with people. If they're the sort of person that I'd like to go down to the pub with and have a beer, then I have them. You might think that that's not very scientific. But actually, if people stay more than the trial period, which works out at around 12 weeks, they end up staying for years and years. They put a lot of effort into making sure that either somebody leaves quickly or they stay. If they stay, they stay a long time. They're doing something right. 

Michelle St Jane: [00:11:02] Great example. You can't buy authenticity and being genuine. If you don't like people, you should not be in the front, stay in the back. 

Sam, your generation is entering into and leading in the workplace. Mission-based purpose-driven businesses. What inspires you? 

Sam Williams: [00:11:18] An interesting question. I was thinking about leadership in the context of values before we joined the podcast today. I am really inspired by the leadership and seeing high performance. I was thinking, what type of leadership motivates me the most? There are two aspects of it.

[00:11:36] I'm very motivated by leaders who impress in terms of the job that they do. When I, for example, if we have an all-hands call at work. So I worked for BA systems. If we have a, all-hands call, where senior leaders, are speaking across the business, I'm always really focusing on how they're speaking and what they're saying.

[00:11:54] If I'm impressed, by the way, that they come across, I find that really, really motivating to know that they're the people that are leading the organization that I work for and that's the kind of level of performance that I need to strive for, to achieve. I haven't necessarily had an example of this in my short career so far.

[00:12:13] I don't think that I would be motivated by, or as motivated by, leaders that I would question in terms of kind of how you view their capability or how impressed I am by the impression that they give to me.  I think leaders who I consider to be really high performance and impressed by really motivates me.

[00:12:31] So that's the kind of professional sense. But I'm also massively motivated by people at work, who are able to offer that personal touch. I think empathy is really, really important. An example of this might be that at the moment at work I've been working from home for the last year and haven't been to an office for the last year. I was thinking about the benefits of that recently. 

We have a social call at five o'clock every Friday where it's just half an hour to just have a chat that has nothing to do with work because every call that we're on is work-related and we don't have that chance to have those kinds of off-the-cuff conversations that we did in the office.

[00:13:11] Over the last year, we've learned so much about the people we work with, and work for as well, through those social calls. I recently remember one of my team members got a puppy. My manager has as young children. The person that got the dog on the call and was showing us to him and our manager got his kids to come into the room and have a look.

[00:13:32] I found that motivating to know that my manager was content and in a place with being happy with sharing his family and his personal life with us as this, not something that ever would have happened if we weren't all working from home. He would have left the office and he would have gone home. He might've spoken about his kids every now and then, but we wouldn't have ended up speaking to them.

[00:13:50]  I often will judge people first on a personal basis before a professional. I think that's because that's how I place the importance of those two things. If someone resonates with me on a personal level, then it definitely helps me achieve a sense of motivation that I can't necessarily reach on a purely professional relationship basis. Thanks. 

Michelle St Jane: [00:14:15] Sam, you made really valid points. I appreciate you sharing because this willingness to be vulnerable and actually let people into your personal lives is a big one. Particularly for women. I've worked in global corporates for most of my corporate career. 

First rule of thumb. I did not talk about my family.  I didn't bring my problems to work. Never drank on the job. Never, because as a woman, I could be judged quite harshly on things that the blokes would have been having a laugh about. So there's being able to build trust and bring your whole self to work. This has changed with remote work. If they're not routing kids and animals as often is the case. We've seen some things go viral where funny things have happened.

Michelle St Jane: [00:14:57] I'm very curious to see how this is going to roll out. Alan, we're heading into the possibility of a post-COVID world and as a post-pandemic society.

How should organizations approach this client-centricity and consistent delivery using great ideas in the book? I think the challenges with it all now being digital. We have this sort of sands of time creating this enduring presence of a digital residue of how we've behaved.

Alan Williams: [00:15:27] I think there is definitely an advantage that we've seen as a result of this past 12 months and it touches this a more personal aspect that we were just hearing about from Sam. One of my clients, I joined on regular team leadership calls, and one of the things they were saying is that they feel as though they've gotten to know each other better at a personal level at this time than they had before.

[00:15:54] We were talking about why this was? When you're in the office, you have your office face and your office uniform on, and you perform the role of your professional person. Whereas when you're at home with the dog in the living room or home office or whatever it is, then you're more relaxed.  You're definitely more yourself. You can be a bit more vulnerable. And interestingly, they were saying that we need to make sure that we keep a hold of this post COVID. I find myself saying to them, “how are you going to make that happen?” The answer was, “well, it depends on what they let us do.” I was like,” well, no guys, it's up to you. So if you want to have your monthly Friday quiz, then do that. Just do it.” 

So it'll be really interesting to see the people that have the courage to realize the benefits that have happened over these last 12 months and whether they will be able to hold on to them or whether they'll resort to, as it was before.

[00:17:02] Uh, and then from a customer point of view, I think whilst things are digital and easy, it's still possible to get across your character and personality, but more difficult perhaps, but it's still possible. And I think some, you have an example, not too long ago of Amazon and you compared the way they dealt with a complaint that you had compared to your, was it a telephone company?

Sam Williams: [00:17:28] An interesting comparison, actually. As dad mentioned, the complaints process where one of the examples was a phone carrier company, just dealing with the customer service was a particularly tricky and laborious process. Left me very frustrated. I don't think it's uncommon. But someone going through a script sheet and asking me 20 questions without being able to bypass any of those.

[00:17:52] There's not the individual who is at fault, it's the process. They've told that they have to stick to that process and they're just doing their job and that's absolutely fine. But it is when you engineering that process when you're creating that process, what consideration are you giving to the impact on the experience that your customer is having. That process is so long-winded and not being able to bypass any of those questions for me removed any doubts around whether I should stay with that carrier. It frustrated me to the point at which I knew that I definitely wouldn't, even if they offered me a slightly better deal because I didn't want to have to deal with that customer service again.

[00:18:29]  I think, that's referring to something with Amazon, but I actually dealt with it through Monzo who is my bank. Monzo is really quick and helpful. They've kind of got a chat 24-7 function. Come back to you very quickly. Talk to you in a way that you would probably talk to your friends.  I prefer to be dealt with in that way. They were just extremely helpful. They laid out expectations. They gave you timelines. They were proactive in coming back to me. I didn't have to chase them. Although they were slightly at fault for the reason that I was complaining, I didn't necessarily just switch to using one of my other banks.

[00:19:05] I just continued to use Monzo because I knew that it was uncommon for them to have faults like that and if they had a fault like that, again, it would just be dealt with quickly and in a good way. I think that difference in how the different processes have left me feeling is so contrasting and I think there's definitely a lot to take away from that.

Alan Williams: [00:19:24] I've got another example from a different bank. A more traditional bank. I had a challenge with them paying a supplier that was providing service for me, that was based in the US and because of their, I guess it must be around the money laundering regulations the payment was not made from my bank to my supplier. A bit embarrassing and I followed it up with the bank, explained the problem.

[00:19:54] Then just like what Sam was talking about I ended up with this long laborious process, rather than if somebody said “I'm really sorry. I know you've been with us for a long time. I'm going to send you a couple of bottles of wine to say, sorry,” I would have been absolutely fine with that. That's not what happened.

 I got referred to the customer services department. I asked to speak to the head of customer services and I was actually told by the person on the phone that it was something like, “our senior people don't talk to customers”. Which kind of sums the organization up. Long story short, I eventually spoke to somebody in a position of authority and they ended up paying me over a thousand pounds as compensation for what had happened.

[00:20:46] Not only was their process not good for me, the customer, but it also wasn't good for them, the business either because irrespective of whether they gave me a thousand pounds or not. It didn't affect my emotional perspective of them. I still felt they were rubbish at the job. If they'd sent two bottles of wine and we'd had a friendly chat rather than the outcome that we had.

Michelle St Jane: [00:21:10] Good point, Alan. Gentlemen, my last question for you is if you could have everything your own way over the next decade, what are the top three things you'd like to see happen?

Alan Williams: [00:21:20] I would love this whole thing around authenticity that we've seen begin over the last probably five years or so that’s developed, continue so that the cheats go out of business. That's what I'd like to see. That's one, 

Sam Williams: [00:21:36] I'll drop a second in around ways of working and how the corporate world operates because of that. And I'd like to see it. A huge shift towards working from home. I was reading an article recently on climate change and the environment. Essentially identifying that as much as individuals can do to make a difference, it is organizations that are having the real impact. It's organizations that are flying their people to a different continent for a couple of meetings and that sort of step-change needing to make a real difference.

[00:22:07] So hoping that. People are able to embrace the change that has been brought about by the pandemic because it was changed that needed to occur before the pandemic. But I think the pandemic is, is almost acted as a trial period because people were scared to make that jump before. I hope that people are able to see the benefit in doing it.

[00:22:26] I think benefit, in terms of the various factors I've mentioned, the environmental impact that it has. I think there's so much benefit in terms of how we collaborate as well. Of course, there are challenges and there have been teething issues over the last year. When are they ever not? When we're trying to adapt and change.

[00:22:43] So as long as we learn from that and continue to take lessons from it and adapt the kind of way of working throughout that, then I think it'll be really interesting to see how we progress to that in the next 10 years. 

 Alan Williams: [00:22:54] So my third one is around the equalization of reward for people who work for an organization. I think management and to a certain extent, leadership is kind of overrated and over-glorified.

[00:23:10] What is underestimated is the importance of the people that are in front of the customer. When I worked in hotels, I had a conversation with my then managing director. I was responsible for running a five-star country club resort. And I said to this guy, “how is it that the person that we trust to greet our most important customers or guests is paid so much less than somebody who sits in the finance office, inputting data.”

[00:23:39] I don't get that. I'm a great believer in the importance and power of frontline people.  Over the coming years, I'd love to see that recognized in a material way. 

Michelle St Jane: [00:23:51] Thank you both.  A lot of wisdom-based comments and I really appreciate you being here. Any final words as we wrap up.

Alan Williams: [00:24:00] Thanks, Michelle. It's been great. I love your questions as well. I think this is much more fun.

Sam Williams: [00:24:05] I just echo that. Thanks for having us. I think that final question is something that will be on my mind all day. I want to be thinking of what my top three are. Thanks for having us, as dad said, it's, it's interesting to just have a really open conversation about some of these things about how they're impacting us and what change that they'll bring in the future. 

Outro: Dr. Michelle St Jane is of conscious steward of meaningful leadership in the world and the wider cosmos. Tune in every Thursday for a real talk around life leadership and your conscious journey. Be ready to create and cultivate your dreams and wholehearted desires.  Your support is valued. Please subscribe, leave a review and a rating. More importantly, share with your connections. 

Alan Williams Profile Photo

Alan Williams

Author Coach

ALAN WILLIAMS coaches progressive leaders of service sector organizations, internationally and in the UK, to deliver values-driven service for sustained performance. He is a published author and speaker whose projects have delivered measurable business results across a balanced scorecard and been recognized with industry awards.

Samuel Williams Profile Photo

Samuel Williams

Business Consultant at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence

Sam works across the change management life cycle to deliver people- and technology-led business change. He is passionate about identifying the need for change, mapping out the path to benefit realization, and helping organizations to move from the outlined as-is state to an improved and more mature to-be state that improves efficiency and quality. His empathetic nature and strong social skills enable him to engage with a wide range of stakeholders to understand the unique nuances within organizations that influence their readiness for or resistance to change.