Geoff Meenan is interviewed by Nahla Summers on a Culture of Kindness podcast.
It's an absolute honour to be here with you. Such an amazing living example of kindness, and really everything we need, both in this country and in the world.
A little bit about me, well, I've spent most of my life in the retail industry actually, I started working for John Lewis, most people will know, in the UK, the major department store group. And the unusual thing about that business is it is actually a business which is owned by the people who work in it.
Now, obviously, there are differences to the structure because of that. And as a result of that, there has to be internal differences about how management are accountable and about how decisions are made, and about how the place runs generally. We had to have kind of like an internal Parliament for decision making, which is what you have when you have the workers owning a stake in the business. I managed to work my way up to that, from very shy and reticent beginnings, and let's say, to be a president of the council, at the flagship branch in Oxford Street in London. And I remained in that world for a total of five years. During that time, and we made many sort of decisions, retail was changing, then as it is changing now. And we made many decisions about opening hours about working arrangements, and so on. And always you have these situations where you have workers and you have management coming together. And unsurprisingly their priorities are not always the same.
So what you have to do is kind of be the bridge and gap, which that gap between people, I found the best way to do that was by taking a kind approach, which happened to be my own natural way of things anyway, I think it you know, being compassionate to the managers who obviously have their priority, but making money and being compassionate to staff and priorities, having a reasonable quality of life is really where it's at. And what we had to do very much is take that kind of project and bring people together. And I managed to do that very successfully for a number of years. I then began coaching andI moved into coaching and training. And then I would turn to the democracy a couple of years ago, to head up the democracy again, at Oxford Street. And obviously, things have changed even more in the last few years. It has been kind of a different way of doing things. But I managed to do that successfully, really for another two years. And then I left the business in April of this year.
I joined virtual global village to our social impact network. And then, you know, we are planning to do many exciting things around recovering from COVID worldwide. And taking media to focus you might have on issues which are close to you, and bringing that focus out into a situation where you have a kind of a global worldview. And that's very much what virtual Global Village is all about. If you look at our website, some tremendous things there, we've got our team which is based all over the world, we have probably the most talented group of young journalists you have ever seen, creating amazing content every week.
And if you if you look at our social media, of course, every Friday, there's a news update of the week, which is always read by me. So if you want to hear me, I'm on Spotify every Friday. And what we do is we tend to have a very progressive approach to things. We believe in kindness. We believe in inclusivity, equality, and really a sort of solution, looking for solutions to the issues we all face, in such a way that will actually bring about the maximum benefit to the most people. So really, I've probably given you far more than you needed there. But but it says, that's a little bit of overview of where I've been and where I am now.
What does kindness that look like to you, when you talk about it within your institutions, in your workplaces, when you're working with them?
I think what it actually means to me, and the word kindness is for me, it's very synonymous with compassion. When I when I think of kindness, I think of being compassionate. And I think it's an old view, it's actually viewing everything through a kind lens. Because if you're always looking for the good in people, if you're always looking for the best out of a situation, if you're always looking to bring people together, rather than divide them, then that's that, to me it sums up a lot of what kindness is about. Because it's not only kindness for you, it's kindness for the people who you're dealing with the people who you're interacting with, people you're living with, and working with every day.
And so tell me a little bit about the renew party for people who might not have heard of it, because they may just be labour, conservative, green, you know, those are the parties that we know, but I think it's quite new, isn't it? And I think, you know, you talk about set of values within the renew party. And one of those is, you know, compassion, huge compassion for things. So yeah, I'd love to hear a little bit more about that.