Tim Munden is Chief Learning Officer at Unilever, a big, truly international company that provides products from ice cream to shampoo to billions of people all over the world. That scale brings complexity, and Tim loves to help people manage this where he can. His work connects him to his purpose: ‘create lasting change for good’.
More about Tim
Unilever is a big company. How does it make sure its employees stay happy and healthy?
At Unilever we believe that a person needs physical, mental, emotional and purposeful wellbeing, and we have been working to support that for many years now. Over 70,000 people had a physical health check last year, almost 40,000 people have taken part in a workshop to explore their personal purpose, virtually everyone in the company has access to 24/7 help when they need it, and there are lots of programs and tools being made available in different countries, such as sleep workshops and mindfulness programs. That said, it is still very much a work in progress and there is more to do.
What does Wisdom in Business mean to you?
It means running a business with the good of everyone in mind; the people who use our products, the communities and the environment in which we live and work, our customers, the people who work in the company, our investors. And to do that with the future in mind; not just for today, but for the days and generations to come.
If you had to pick something that you could change at Unilever, what would it be?
Unilever is a wonderful, truly international company. It has people in over 190 countries and around 400 brands, from ice cream to shampoo, that billions of people use every day. That scale brings complexity. I would love to help people to manage that complexity, and do more to eliminate it wherever we can.
What has brought on the most powerful change in you?
Dealing with the challenges that come when you set out to do work that connects to your purpose; they are probably the biggest drivers of change in me. In that situation the motivation really makes you deal with the challenge – whether it is something that needs to shift in me, or needing to find a solution to a problem. The other thing is awareness, realizing that awareness is something we have, something that we can develop and which creates the space to respond to difficult situations; allowing us to go deeper than the thoughts and feelings which often fill us. Purpose and awareness have probably changed me the most, particularly in difficult situations.
What would your advice be to a company that wants to introduce conscious leadership in the workplace?
Find a clear language to explain why – what difference will this make to the purpose and outcomes of the business? Then find the language that works for your people to describe that leadership.
What are your personal stress management practices?
Meditation and mindfulness have been gifts I was given early in life, and have come to appreciate them hugely. I meditate most mornings. That really helps, but also trying to be mindful during the day, doing one thing at a time, fully present, makes a big difference. That is easier than it sounds, but when I manage it, I feel stress reduce. Another really helpful technique, when feelings of stress or frustration appear, is to look where that is being experienced. Sometimes a realization comes that it is a cluster of ideas and feelings that you can see, but that don’t have to define you.
How do you define success?
My purpose is to “create lasting change for good”, and living that is important. Beyond that I try to grow in understanding and wisdom, experiencing connection and love.
Which professional failure has been the most transformative for you?
Earlier in my career I did a job for around 18 months that was extremely tough. The situation wasn’t really set up for the team to succeed, and I found myself deeply challenged. I learnt lessons from that which I still use.
Which advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Don’t be in such a hurry. Find the joy available in being, rather than always focus on becoming.
What is your favourite podcast?
I listen to lots of podcasts, about leadership, business, rugby, politics, spirituality and comedy. Honestly, my favourite at the moment is Friday Night Comedy from the BBC!
Which book would you recommend and why?
There are a few books that I can remember where I was when I read them. ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’, by Victor Frankl is one, a foundational book on purpose. ‘Flow’ by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi is another, equally groundbreaking research on presence and attention.
is the beginning of all wisdom.
Wisdom in Business is a community of speakers and active participants creating the unique experience together. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date about the program.