Seb speaks in Miami, Florida
Their story begins like the start of the hit musical Mama Mia. Three men – Seb, Todd and Ian – were invited to be best man at the same wedding. In this case the invitations had nothing to do with possible paternity, but instead reflected the three different life stages to which the recipients bore witness. As in the musical, the three men got to talking about their own lives and careers. That resulted in two of them, Seb Terry and Todd Duncan, going into business together.
Seb was a motivational speaker from Australia, resident in the US, Todd was an educator living in the UK. Seb had already written a book titled 100 Things, What’s On Your List? He was still working his way through his own list, which he had compiled after hearing about the loss of a close friend. For example, when the book was published he had already married a stranger in Las Vegas, visited a death row inmate, and skydived naked, while he had yet to join a cattle drove, work at an orphanage or cross a desert.
Todd’s background is in coaching and development, earning a first-rate degree in Education putting it to practical use over the last 14 years in schools, elite sports, and corporate environments. He brings experience in both the small business and public sector arenas. He was also one of the founding staff members at the UK’s first Free State Boarding School, an initiative that enabled students from London’s inner city to experience a style of education normally reserved for the wealthiest 7% of the population.
The idea Seb and Todd shared – perhaps inspired by their wedding host wanting to value all three of the life stages he had so far experienced – was to go upstream of Seb’s focus on lists. What if they could also help a person see what major concerns they were facing in their own life? Would they be able to provide more help to people in building lists of what they would like to do? Would that in turn contribute to how people acted on those lists? Might they also be able to run group programs, where people could both share their life concerns and get to work on their lists. How cool would that be?
Michael B. Arthur: So what do you offer now?
Seb Terry: We act as a catalyst for people to start considering really important aspects of their lives, and on top of that putting together goals. We like to position ourselves as a business organization that provides an eight-step process to help people complete a list of goals and then take action on those goals. We started out with a program just for individuals, to come and work on it when they wanted. However, we soon realized we had a nice foundation to turn it into a group program.
Todd Duncan: We have developed a full goal-setting to goal-striving process. Moreover, the goal-setting is completely autonomous. Rather than anyone suggesting or telling a person to do something, we give them the opportunity to describe what areas of their lives really matter, both professional and personal, and in turn to create some goals to stengthen those areas or keep them strong. We were doing that with individuals, then began to create communities of people working together involving “accountabilty calls” and other prompts to keep everyone working on their goals.
Terry: Next we shifted toward also doing that in a corporate setting, to promote corporate wellness. We encouraged teams of employees to develop goals so they understood what they wanted to achieve in life, why they were earning a salary, what they were putting their salary toward, what steps did they want to take professionally, and what goals did they choose to pursue. It’s been great to see how well people work together, and how the accountability calls they make on one-another drive individual progress.
Wedding party (L to R) Ian Stuart, Chris Hancock (groom) Todd Duncan and Seb Terry
Arthur: How long is the whole process?
Duncan: We use a 21-30 day format to deliver the whole content, and encourage teams to come together. They may or may not be from the same department. Once the team is established they get lessons and receive challenges, alongside 45-minute zoom calls we host once a week. They share information with one-another and the two of us are there to field any questions, set them up for their next tasks, and give any advice they may need. It takes around a week of a participant’s time in addition to the 45-minute Zoom calls.
Arthur: This sounds very different from traditional talent management, which was, and often still is, all about passing down strategic objectives.
Terry: Meaning when people talk about personal goals not just organizational ones? We have something called the “wheel of life” which has twelve spokes that represent what may be important to someone – things like personal challenge, romantic love, family and key relationships, giving back and so on. People determine which of the spokes are most important to them before turning to taking action. It’s much wider than just thinking about an employer-employee relationship. We recently got this email from someone in one of our clients saying six weeks isn’t a lifetime. But so far she had seven things she’d already done, including trying life without recreational beverages; reading two awesome books; making several art pieces to give away as gifts, and learning how to use architectural software.
Arthur: You mentioned “accountability calls”?
Terry: We’re starting to see a very good crossover between personal and professional, and to realize that the accountability group is a really important part of the course. That’s where everyone in there connects with each other on a much deeper level than they have previously. There’s an element of fostering and nurturing, almost creating, internal work relationships and driving each other to succeed. So after our programs are over, people keep going with accountability calls. That’s a lovely thing to see.
Duncan: The reason for including personal goals is to try to make workplaces more mutually beneficial for both parties. We have read about the great resignation and employees, especially younger ones, wanting more meaning for who they really are and what the work represents for them. Our approach allows them to share that with their workmates, their direct line manager or whomever. “These are the things I’m trying to do in my life,” or “I earn a salary to support these things in my life,” or “Work is wonderful and fulfilling, but there are other things I’m trying to do with my life.” We’re looking for work to provide balance between personal and professional pursuits.
Arthur: How long have you been offering this for enterprises as opposed to individuals, and have you had any pushback?
Terry: We started 12 months ago. After every keynote a company will say, people say “This is great, how can we now get our staff to move this forward?” Because essentially it’s not about bucket lists, it’s something deeper, about understanding values – of an individual, a family or the values of a workplace. So the principles and templates of this goal-setting aren’t about saying “Hey everybody, go jump out of a plane” they are about coming up with meaningful and relevant goals. There hasn’t been much pushback. Rather we’ve seen huge interest, we see this as a really good tool to drive engagement and to show staff we’re in this for the long haul. We just talked with an employer wanting to support an individual leaving, if that was what the individual wanted.
Todd Duncan practices, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in a former work role
Arthur: How about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?
Duncan: We’ve brought people together who wouldn’t usually cross paths. The zoom calls get them talking and developing relationships across racial, gender, and social differences. One lady of color we worked with has just launched her own personal brand website and is launching a journal as well. She discusses all of those things in her weekly accountability groups. An African American man has just been put in contact with a financial advisor who is linked to our service. Gay people have been open and found support. People come to our programs from different backgrounds, but they are all on an even keel when they work together.
Seb Terry and Todd Duncan come from neither a mainstream psychological view of careers, nor a traditional employer-driven talent management perspective. They have worked their way upstream from helping individuals write lists to promoting corporate wellness. They have fun working together and sound as if they generate fun for the participants in their programs. What can they do for you?