There are many broken pieces within the working world, and this week’s episode delves into tackling systemic bias in the workplace and empowering the feminine. Joining Aoife is special guest, speaker, coach and charted psychologist Niamh Hannan, who helps women in leadership excel by rocketing their growth, well-being and success.
So much ground gets covered in this discussion, including how we can bring humanity into the workplace, the tools for self-management and developing self-awareness, and the value of feminine leadership. Niamh also explores the opportunities that can arise from a crisis, touching on the learnings from the Covid 19 pandemic and reminding us that we all have a choice as we navigate this transitionary period into the new working era. Further key points throughout include:
– An introduction to Niamh Hannan
– The difference between counselling and coaching
– How do we help women in leadership
– Undervalued qualities women bring to work
– Steering clear of a fear-based workplace
– Bad news sells: the media hold of fearmongering
– Opportunities in crisis and learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic
– Handling post-pandemic workplace demands
– The need for psychological safety in the workplace
– Welcoming consciousness into the workplace
– Why you should focus on collaboration over competition
– The importance of nurturing the workforce of the future
– A reminder that you always have a choice!
– What being Happier at Work means to Niamh
– Leaving a legacy of positive impact
“I’m still not seeing leaders being promoted for their empathy and people skills. And yet, that’s a huge part of building the workforce of the future. So on the one hand, we have the science, but on the other, it’s not being applied.” – Niamh Hannan.
THE LISTENERS SAY:
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Aoife O’Brien 00:00
You’re listening to the Happier at Work podcast. I’m your host Aoife O’Brien. This is the podcast for leaders who put people first. The podcast covers four broad themes, engagement and belonging, performance and productivity, leadership, equity, and the future of work. Everything to do with the happier at work podcast relates to employee retention, you can find out more at happieratwork.ie.
Niamh Hannan 00:26
I’m still not seeing leaders being promoted for their empathy and people skills. And yet, that’s a huge part of building the workforce of the future. So on the one hand, we have the science but on the other, it’s not being applied.
Aoife O’Brien 00:43
Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Happier at Work podcast. I’m your host, Aoife O’Brien, thank you so much for tuning in. Thank you so much for joining us today. I’m really excited to share this conversation with you. My guest today is Niamh Hannan. Now I heard Niamh speaking on another podcast, and I thought you’d be really interesting guest to have on today. And the kind of thing that we talk about are similar enough to what we spoke about last week on the podcast, in relation to supporting women to get to those more senior positions. However, this is a very, very different approach a very different conversation. We talk more about the systemic biases that are happening, we got very philosophical, but a really, really interesting conversation about how we as individuals, can change the way we work and how it’s about collaboration and collective change rather than competition at work as well. So do get involved in the conversation. Now, after the podcast is released, I always post on social media, you’ll find all of my channels on the website email@example.com. And I would love for you to join in the conversation, to let me know what you think, what can we do to change? And how do we go about it and do continue that conversation? As always I’ll be doing a synopsis at the end of the key points that we talked about on today’s podcast episode. And you know, maybe thought starters for the kinds of things that you can do yourself to make any changes that you’re looking to make in your work life. Do stay tuned for that. And again, I would love for you to get involved in a conversation. Niamh, you’re so welcome on the Happier at Work podcast. I’ve listened to you on a few other podcasts and I’ve been dying to get your arms. So over delighted to have you as my guest today. Do you want to give people a little bit about your background, what you do now and how you got to do what you’re doing?
Niamh Hannan 02:32
Sure. Thanks, Aoife and pleasure to be here. Delighted. So my name is Niamh Hannan and for your listeners abroad. That’s N I A M H.
Aoife O’Brien 02:42
Yeah, I have to spell my name as well, like can totally relate to that.
Niamh Hannan 02:45
It’s the first thing, isn’t it? Yeah. And so I’m a chartered psychologist, and I’m a coach. Nowadays, I work primarily with women and leadership. But my background is I was working in counseling psychology as a therapist for 20 years. So I have my private practice in Dublin. And I closed up shop after 20 years. And that was 2019. And so retrained, I wanted to have a very clear delineation between counseling and coaching. I don’t offer counseling anymore, I only offer coaching. So we trained in coaching, and then COVID came along. So that forced a quick turnaround time. On the work, the other thing is, I suppose besides the one on one work, I have always worked with companies and organisations, particularly in the well being arena, doing a lot of talks and well being but also offering workshops and trainings for people as well. And then other kind of odd bits Aoife as well. So I was one of the chief kind of responders after bank raids for years. So critical incident responder
Aoife O’Brien 03:54
Wow, from a counseling perspective is that so you know, with the shock and kind of terror I suppose that people feel if they’ve just encountered at a bank raid?
Niamh Hannan 04:02
Exactly, the whole idea there is prevention of trauma. And so when I was brought in and out with was in back in the day, it was critical incident response. Nowadays, it’s psychological first aid. So, I would have been, you know, brought in usually about 24 hours later to a bank after a raid, for example, or to a workplace after death or suicide of a colleague. Or if there were mass redundancies, those type of things as well. And an offered both group intervention and one to one. So it did that for years as well. So that one of that has kind of brought me to where I am today where I work online a lot of the time now, of course also again, I offer one to one coaching. I also work with groups of women I offer programs and I love change and I love creativity. So I tend to create a new program every year. But I also work within organisations still offering and talks, and workshops and trainings.
Aoife O’Brien 05:03
Brilliant love it, maybe actually where to start is because you mentioned that you don’t do the counseling side of things anymore that you just do coaching. And I know certainly, when I was doing my my coaching studies, one of the things that we had to do was to identify what the differences between say counseling, coaching, and mentoring. There may have been some I think consulting, I think was maybe the fourth one. Yeah, we had to understand really understand the differences. But there could be people out there who don’t really understand what the difference is between the likes of counseling and coaching. And there’s, I suppose, from what I’ve seen, and maybe it’s just the people I’m connected with, or the the industry that I’m in, but I see loads and loads of coaches out there. And maybe people don’t fully understand exactly what the benefit is, or exactly what coaches do. So it’s you want to want to explain the difference?
Niamh Hannan 05:55
Yeah, it’s a good question. And it’s not a very clear line in the sand, because there’s so many different types of therapy, I suppose. And, but there are also, you know, coaches take different approaches to, for me, the key difference is that counseling really is a little bit more problem oriented. So it’s people come in at a different place. So very often for counseling, you’re coming in at a minus, because you’re, you know, not feeling yourself, you’re struggling with maybe, you know, trauma or mental health difficulties, or even anxiety, stress, depression, relationship issues. And very often the route of the therapist may be to go back into the past to help you to look and to help both of you to understand where this might have started, what’s the source of this issue, you know, something might be presenting in your current relationship, but actually, it goes back a lot further and your whole pattern there. So so they’re the two key things, I suppose about counseling very often, there is some kind of work going into the past. And, and also, then it’s like you’re coming in more at a minus. So you know, depending on the counseling, often is is about that kind of getting you back to normal. So it’s almost like getting you back to ground zero, so that you can go off and live your life as normal. Whereas with coaching, people tend to come in at Ground Zero, and they have goals that they want to achieve, to bring them up into the pluses and to the you know, that more positive experience more thriving, I suppose. And so so that’s kind of the difference, I think, in the spectrum of where people come in. Also, for me, coaching is more structured. So you know, with somebody in the counseling process, you’re not going to start off best. Okay, so what’s your goal for today? Where do you want to get to, because sometimes, actually, you might have to sit in some of the pain and the suffering. And you may have to kind of go through some of that really deep water first, before you can begin to even look at what the shore new shore might look like. With coaching, you’re really always trying to define what does that shore look like? Where do we want to get to what differences are going to make when you get there? And so it’s more goal oriented, it’s a little bit more of a structured approach in that sense as well.
Aoife O’Brien 08:20
And what prompted that move for you?
Niamh Hannan 08:26
A few things, I suppose I mean, 20 years is probably Well, for me it was enough and in mental health and wellness. Also, just with the type of person I am, I love. And I’ve really only you know, more and more realise this, this was in since I left that I love to be stimulated. So even within canceling, I was always looking, I was like I was very committed to my CPD my continuous professional development. And so at the beginning of every year, I’d kind of been looking ahead go, Oh, I wonder what new thing could I study this year could I do this year a new approach could take or new work that I could do just to keep it interesting for me. Now, I was only counseling two or three days a week, I never did it full time. And again, this is just my personal story, because it’s going to be different strokes for different folks. But I was probably getting a little bit tired of it and losing interest in design didn’t want that to be the case for clients. I’m not fair. And so I made the decision. And I remember like I would have made that decision and started putting things in place in September the previous year. And it took until the following July to really close down and wind down because you needed to give clients a lot of warning and you know, not take on clients in the meantime. The other thing is I suppose that as part of my work, I was getting asked to coach people occasionally. And I enjoyed that. I’ve probably more found my tribe among coaches funny enough rather than counselors or psychologists, although friends in in all of the above, but like kind of tribes sense of belonging is probably greater in, in coaching. So it was kind of a natural move for me.
Aoife O’Brien 10:12
Yeah, sounds great, I suppose need like one of the big things and you touched on it in the introduction. And something that I keen to chatty about is this idea of women in leadership, and how do we help women in leadership? And I suppose let’s, let’s not beat around the bush. And we’d like to say that there’s no issue there, I think, I think it can’t be argued that there is an issue, we need to get more women, we need to be able to support more women to get to those leadership positions. So any thoughts on maybe? Where do we even start?
Niamh Hannan 10:44
It’s an interesting one effect because I felt that the draw to work with women in leadership over the past couple of years. And what I’ve noticed in myself is kind of a refining of that. So what I’ve realised what’s maybe become more clear for me is that I’m not particularly motivated, just get women to the top, if they’re getting to the top of what can be a very toxic system, or broken system. So I’m not interested in supporting women, I suppose to be more male than the men and climb on top of others to get there. Really, I’m interested in supporting the feminine and empowering the feminine. And that’s not about eradicating the masculine, we need boats. But I suppose our world has been dominated by the masculine for 1000s of years. And the masculine characteristics even has been more valued. So we live in a very competitive world. And that’s not always healthy. So there’s healthy competition, and there’s very unhealthy competition, if we look at war really is a sample of very unhealthy competition and conflict at its extreme. And I suppose I have to sense or belief that it’s time for the feminine to come more into the world and to be valued. I mean, yeah, we’re half the population. We’re doing what we do. Yeah, it’s not valued. And so our voices aren’t being heard, we’re not being seen. And even when a woman does the same thing as a man might do, it’s not valued in the same way, we’re only beginning to recognise, you know, women’s contributions, historically, in science or in technology, or, whereas, you know, we could lose loads of famous men for the, you know, inventing this, that and the other. You know, again, it’s not about replacing the patriarchy with the matriarchy, that’s, that’s not healthy. Like bringing more balance.
Aoife O’Brien 12:45
Yeah, I was gonna say it’s about finding the balance between the two, isn’t it? And I’d love to kind of explore that a little bit further, that. And I totally am on the same page in relation to this idea of the masculine, the feminine, what would you consider to be the more feminine qualities that that need to be recognised and valued a little bit more in society? In the workplace?
Niamh Hannan 13:10
Yes, well, thinking about that. I mean, if we look, I suppose there are lots of collaboration as opposed to competition is one. For me, it comes down to probably my core values since I was 15. When I consciously chose us before ever knew about values, love coming from a place of love. And you know, both as men and women, we need to be doing that more. And I know all your listeners to possibly kind of go well, what the hell is she talking about that
Aoife O’Brien 13:41
in the workplace? No.
Niamh Hannan 13:43
So for me, it’s it’s advice, like everything I think can be boiled down to you’re either coming from love or you’re coming from a place of fear. Okay, yeah. And we’re making decisions moment to moment, throughout the day, we have interactions, you know, long term throughout the day, and in everything that you do, and in your whole approach, you’re either coming from a place of love, which is a higher vibration, or a place of fear, which is a lower vibration. And if we want to be happy at work, then we can’t be operating from a place of fear. Yeah. But really, our whole, you know, a lot of our systems and institutions are set up, run through fear.
Aoife O’Brien 14:31
Like even thinking about the news like, I don’t, I haven’t watched the news in years, and before the pandemic, even I just don’t watch the news. I tend to get my news and see the headlines from social media, which sounds really bad, but I kind of get the main points or from my friends, talking about it in WhatsApp groups and things like that. But the news for sure is something that is fear mongering. You know, we don’t really talk about the good news, we tend to talk about the bad news and the bad things that have happened in the world. And it’s not a supposed to by being ignorant about what’s going on around me. It’s more about I don’t want that drilled home like in my brain, you know, and what proportion of all things that happened in the world are these bad things and they got escalated then to you know, again, I could probably talk about that in another episode.
Niamh Hannan 15:15
I know there’s loads of things I could pick up on there. Because actually, I mean, we hear more now because of global communications and social media. We hear more now about the negativity and bad news sells good news. So yeah, on a day when there’s like a word of disaster, you know, news will sell and the new stations will be watched 24/7. So the worst news, the more tragic, the bigger impact, the more it sells. So bad news sells. First of all, the other thing is that, that gives us the impression because we’re hearing from all over the world that things are much worse than than maybe they’ve ever been that we’re living through an awful time, all this bad stuff happening. There’s the climate crisis, there’s the energy crisis, there’s a war in Ukraine, there’s, there’s just, you know, there’s protests in Iran, there’s just so much going on, oh, my God, this must be just the worst time ever. And actually, you know, if to counteract that there’s a whole lot of facts that show we’re probably better off than we’ve ever been, there’s more people living longer, you know, infant mortality is greatly decreased. Mothers live long enough to so many different things where, yes, there’s hunger and a big scale where there shouldn’t be, it’s just so much of that, you know, that actually, we’re probably living in the best time ever, you know, it’s not the Dark Ages. But we can be lead into believe that.
Aoife O’Brien 16:41
What sprung to my mind when you talked about the bad news sells? Is it the case then say within organisations, fear sales as well. So it’s, it’s kind of the fear mongering, and if I think back to my corporate days, and we’re talking about the results, and oh, we’ve got X amount of a gap, as opposed to focusing on and look how much we’ve achieved so far this year. And with that focus, and again, going back to your idea of decisions being made from a place of fear, rather than anything else. Any thoughts around that and how it’s, I suppose, how fear is perpetuated?
Niamh Hannan 17:17
Yeah, yeah, it is, because we tend to take and I mean, if you look at even, certainly, in this country, and other countries, you know, how have governments are selected, it’s always a short term view. And, and IT companies that are run for the, you know, for capitalism, if for the shareholders for, you know, getting more book signings at the end of the year. So that’s a really short term view. And that’s what’s got our planet into the trouble that it is. Because if I’m only thinking in the short term, as in, you know, how much money are we going to make this year? Are we going to get our shareholders happy this year, or even in a five year plan that’s really short term, and in the life of a company and the life of the earth and the impact that we can have the impact that many, many companies have had on the earth and an extra 40? At Nevermind the people. So there is always I suppose, yeah, things are run by fear. And what we have is epidemic rates of depression, anxiety, and stress and burnout, we have the planet where it is right now as a result, so yes, maybe it makes money in the short term or motivates people quicker than maybe, you know, praise or compliments mice. But in the long run, we’re killing ourselves. Yeah. And there’s the grace resignation happening, of course, as well. In many ways, you know, like COVID, brought on a lot of fear for people is really, you know, brought the world into, you know, a kind of a global fear response. But it also brought us together and a lot of industries have been negatively impacted, of course, by COVID. And still the the other side of it is that is accelerated change. You know, if we’re talking about women, it accelerated change for women and for families. And for men, too, like I see now, more men on the school runs in the morning, or I pushed the pram, you know, in the morning, because they’re able to work from home. Yeah, so that was needed. And that was going to take forever, but COVID accelerated bus, my concern after COVID This year, when I was speaking to COVID, I was speaking in a lot of companies around you know, how to mind yourself through the whole pandemic and locked in working from home and all those changes and the impact that had on people. And one thing that I kind of consistently maybe pushed is that this will change again, and we need to go back with our eyes open. We need to take what we have learned. We’ve learned how to slow down, we’ve learned that actually, we prioritise people, the people that we couldn’t see, you know, through Covid, often parents and grandparents who couldn’t see friends and We realise how much we needed those connections with other people. We got clearer maybe on what’s really important to us, which wasn’t having loads of money in the bank when you’re sitting at home, and you can spend it in COVID. You know, it was it was people, it was connections, it was relationships, it was health. And, and my, my kind of warning at the time was, can we hold on to this learning? And can we bring that with us. So we go back with our eyes open and a little bit more consciously, and redesign our future, with our eyes open consciously. And unfortunately, what I’m seeing is that like, this year, it’s like people, you know, that the world has gone back to, in many ways for where we were , but it has actually accelerated. It’s like this. It’s like the pace has just sped up to something that is spitting out people left, right and center there, because it’s kind of like the go around in a wheel being tossed around and eventually been flung out. Yeah, there’s huge exhaustion and burnout, there’s a lot of illness as a result, there’s a lot broken about our workplaces. And I think we’re going to possibly he has a lot more crisis. And COVID has shown us that, okay, there’s opportunity in crisis, maybe, the crisis have to happen for us to make the necessary change.
Aoife O’Brien 21:23
We’ve slightly gone off topic, we’ll come back to the women in leadership in a second. But I’d love to drill a bit more into what you’re seeing in relation to demands being placed on people demands back to the office for three or four days a week, I think, you know, it’s safe to agree that a lot of companies don’t really know they’re trying to navigate this new way of working and what I always say to the companies that I work with in relation to these days, you know, they’re like, oh, what’s the company down the road doing or whatever else? What are the best practice, there’s no best practice, you need to do what you’re doing, you need to ask the people who you’re working with, and you need to listen to you to monitor and you need to be agile and change over time if things need to change. But there’s no kind of one solution for everyone. You need to think about what different parameters you have, when it comes to work, what work needs to be done together with other people? Can they do it effectively, collaborating online? Or is it better if? Or do you get kind of better outcomes if you’re bringing people together into the office and really bring it back down to that individual level individual teams, individual work that needs to be done? I think, sorry, I’ll get down off my soapbox. Now in relation to that. But I’m seeing a lot of this, you know, posted on social media. And again, they’re probably only the handful. And then of course, you see the redundancies and things like that that are happening because people are saying that they’ve they kind of overshot, you’re in COVID. And now we’re heading into financial crisis or recession or however you want to term it. Any sort of thoughts on that in relation to well, wouldn’t this be the perfect opportunity to learn to slow down, learn to connect a bit more with people from COVID times? And then, you know, how is that impacting them on the world we’re seeing today?
Niamh Hannan 23:13
Yes, so, look, first of all, I absolutely share your sentiments there. And there’s maybe a few different places that I can respond.
Aoife O’Brien 23:26
Just, I suppose looking, thinking about what you said in relation to COVID. And COVID, is the perfect opportunity and talking with companies about their well being and saying this is an opportunity now to realise what’s important. And fast forward to now. And what we’re seeing out there is people being called back into the office full time mandated back to the office should I say, as opposed to thinking about creating an environment where people want to be, but then the redundancies and things that we’re seeing? And again, that could be fear mongering? Because I’m sure it’s not every company that’s doing that, but it’s it’s kind of what we see in the news. It’s what it’s what we’re seeing out there. So I suppose it’s is it worth thinking about how, how do we still take on those learnings that we had from from COVID? And how do we bring more of that back into work? And how do we recognise when we’re veering away from that sense of well being that we had when we were being a bit slower at work? Yeah. If we were paying slower, that’s the other thing is not everyone was
Niamh Hannan 24:33
Yeah, and then yeah, it was strokes for different folks. And depends on the industry that you’re in and we’re in during COVID I certainly wouldn’t have liked to have been, you know, a frontline worker they haven’t had a pause at all. But for the majority may be working in you know in offices, you know, the nine to five type jobs. I think the word that’s coming to me is choice and we need to feel like we have some autonomy that we have some control, we have some choice. And so when people are mandated back to work that goes against that sense of autonomy and, and of course, then you get resistance. And what happens then is you get disengagement and you resign or move to where they perceive they will have better choice. And I think choice is becoming more important, as a result of COVID. You know, we want flexibility, we want more choice. And we have to keep moving in that direction. In some tech industries, for example, companies, you know, there may be 100% online, and that’s working really well. For them. It’s, it’s maybe more complicated and other types of jobs where you have different types of teams are doing different types of jobs. And so, you know, some needs to be in there, and some could be working at home and in and out. And
Aoife O’Brien 25:54
it seems unfair.
Niamh Hannan 25:56
Yeah, it does. And yet, it is exactly what you’ve said, it is, this is a transition period. If we look at it as a transitionary period, that we’re testing out new ways of working, we don’t have the roadmap, we want to throw away the old maps, and we have to pioneer our way forwards. And if you take that kind of mindset, really that okay, we’re pioneering something here, and maybe the only ones and all the companies are pioneering together at the same time. Nobody’s really ahead of each other here. So what do we want to create, and this is what I mean about going to going into things with your eyes open and conscious mind it, because several, we are creating here. And we have to be careful that we’re not just reacting, like, okay, you know, this didn’t go well, last month. So we’re going to mandate everybody to be in now, that’s just reactive. And again, fear. Instead of kind of taking that bigger picture, the longer term view, how do we want our workforce to be what do we what kind of culture do we want in this workplace? How do we want this going? What do you know? What level of engagement even? Do we want a happy workforce? Or do we just want them you know, to be cracking the whip? And if we take that longer?
Aoife O’Brien 27:18
I know, I know the answer. Yeah, from my perspective.
Niamh Hannan 27:24
You know, preferably, you wouldn’t want to have to crack the whip. So maybe, you know, you need to make some changes and take that longer term view of okay, so for a pioneering something different here, we’re not going to necessarily get it right on the first go. Rather than aiming for perfection, and control, let’s, let’s take an attitude of curiosity here. Let’s try it and see. And we will continuously monitor and review. And, you know, six months to a year later, we can adapt and make changes, but we need to give it enough time one way before we start reacting and making more changes again, yeah, that’s not been enough time to,
Aoife O’Brien 28:07
You know, but equally stop looking at what other people are doing. And especially, you know, when these companies are getting all this press about mandating people back to the office, I don’t know what sort of signal that’s saying for other companies and in order to follow. But I suppose coming back then to, to what we had originally started talking about, and this idea of more of the feminine at work more of the kind of feminine qualities and, you know, how do we go about valuing that more? Or how do we go by bringing more about into work?
Niamh Hannan 28:41
It’s an interesting one, because, you know, for years, really, if you look us, you know, Forbes or you know, history or whatever, you know, the research coming out and the top skills and qualities needed for leaders for 2023 or, you know, the year ahead. A lot of those qualities and characteristics that are coming out, are to do with emotion intelligence, and many of them are typically seen as more feminine skills. So, empathy, the nurturing the caring for each other. Most of the caring professions are overloaded with women. There’s plenty of men in there, but definitely, usually female dominated like nursing, childcare, carers around the country, nursing homes, physiotherapy therapists of all kinds really, whether holistic or you know, psychological, they’re all caring for other people. And they’re all undervalued, in our society, and yet that allows our society to operate it Lazarus was to go to work, having people to care for our kids, or our elderly or are sick or vulnerable or people with disabilities, that allows the machine to keep rolling, and yet that’s been undervalued. So it’s just so many levels that thinking even if we look at characteristics, and we know that the science is saying, well, actually, this is what we need in our leaders, we need empathy. We need the people skills, we need people to care. We need people to collaborate and to listen, and to share and to cooperate. And we need that psychological safety. I mean, that’s huge. And we need alignment with values. So the science is all there telling us this. But on the ground, it’s just not happening yet. Not that I see any way. I mean, I don’t think I’m still not seeing leaders being promoted for their empathy and people skills. And yet, that’s a huge part of, you know, building the workforce of the future. On the one hand, we have the science, but on the other, it’s not being applied.
Aoife O’Brien 30:54
So if the likes of you know, HP or and these big waiting, I’ll have the patient orbs, yeah. And if they’re saying all of this, then why is it not being applied? Or is it being applied, but only in a select few companies? Or is it those big companies? And dare I say, the big companies with big budgets? So it’s, well, it’s well for them that they can do that. But actually, you know, what about me? And my smaller operation? I can’t actually do that. I’d like it, you know, I suppose? What are the excuses? Or is is that the case that it’s a complete and utter mindset shift? It’s a mindset overhaul for organisations, especially where it’s predominantly men in leadership positions, with those masculine qualities and have to come on to some of those now in a second, as well. But any any thoughts on you know, if this is what the sign says, why isn’t it happening?
Niamh Hannan 31:47
I think a lot of it is, it’s about investing in, in our leaders probably first. And it is a mindset shift. I mean, there’s, there’s probably quite a lot of mindset shifts that are needed. But if you’re investing in your in people at the top, and helping them and choosing them, because of different qualities that they bring, and different mindsets that they bring, that will bring us into the future, as if you’re selecting your leaders, and then supporting them through coaching and development, to develop from the inside out. And I suppose that’s where my real interest is, it’s not about coaching skills, and the outers work really, it’s more about, for me, the the doing the inner work. And so this is where it’s the person that comes into the professional. So people avoid that, you know, and some people are genuinely motivated to evolve and grow as a person. There isn’t necessarily that culture around us, you know, in this country, or in any country that I can see so far. It’s there, but it’s, it’s certainly not the norm really, and, and I would like to see that the norm, because I think that’s what the answer lies for everything. If we, we need the world to kind of awaken and wake up a little bit and raise our consciousness levels. But even now,
Aoife O’Brien 33:20
yeah, interestingly, this has come up so much on recent conversations on the podcast, podcasts episodes that have been recorded, but not necessarily released yet. It’s coming up time and time again, about how we need to work on ourselves and how we need to do our own inner work. And it’s not about blaming other people or blaming the situation you find yourself in, it’s about stepping up and taking personal responsibility for what you own and what you can do, and be motivated to change despite how hard it is because it is hard to look at ourselves and our our faults and look at all the things that have gone wrong for us maybe up to now and take personal responsibility for those and you know, I will be turning. I was gonna say, a rifle rage, I’ll be turning 44 tomorrow. It’s my birthday. And so when this is released, it will be a couple of months later. But you kind of get to an age where you’re like, I can’t do it. Now. It’s too late, or I can’t do it now. Because that requires me to take personal responsibility for not having done this at the age I’m at now. whatever age you are. I don’t know. Am I kind of talking around in circles?
Niamh Hannan 34:32
Yep. We can only start from where you are exactly, exactly. Whether that’s when you’re 18 or your AC as you’re from where you are now. You can’t. We can’t go back in time. We can only start now and isn’t it better to take it from now and moving forward
Aoife O’Brien 34:49
with I always loved the phrase this it’s an old Chinese saying the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now, you know? So it’s Yeah. And like you say, it’s never, it’s never too late, it’s never too late. And I think once you become aware of that, it’s really hard to not be aware of that anymore. And you need to then start doing the work andbegin the journey.
Niamh Hannan 35:17
And it is about taking, you know, radical responsibility and sense for our own lives for the impacts that we have on our own happiness and well being, but also on other people around us. Because when you’re in a leadership position, you have an impact, whether you like it or not, you are impacting on other people. So when you do that consciously, then at least you can have a positive impact on people, because unconsciously you may be having a negative impact on. Yeah, and they can ripple out and act because, you know, then, if you’re having a negative impact on even one person that day, how many others do they affect? It causes this huge ripple effect. And yeah, and then somebody’s coming in worse form the next day, even though you might in good form. They’re in bad form as a result of what happened yesterday. Yeah, coming in. And you know, there’s just, it’s that kind of lack of personal awareness really is dangerous. But, of course, we come into the workplace, we bring ourselves and yes, people often have a professional self, and they may be more pleasant to be around in the workplace, you know, it’s interesting, because I do a lot of emotional intelligence work with people. And they might say, Yeah, score pretty highly on some of these things at work. And I think people will think pretty highly of me and my communication skills, for example, different things. But you know, if you went home and asked my wife, she’d probably say something very different. Right? When we’re partners,
Aoife O’Brien 36:53
That’s interesting. I wonder why, why is that?
Niamh Hannan 36:57
I think, at home, we’re with the people who are safe. So we generally, you know, will lower our guard and be more reactive. And of course, we all know, we still there’s little Achilles tendons in, you know, in anomaly.
Aoife O’Brien 37:15
so we deliberately will deliberately nitpick that Achilles.
Niamh Hannan 37:20
There’s kind of, like, there’s reactive patterns set. And you’ve been with each other since whenever so, so so they get set up in the workplace, they can also get set up, and that’s when we see, you know, real conflict between colleagues or bullying and harassment. And, and so again, it’s kind of like creating that, that safe place. But yeah, it is an interesting one, how somebody can kind of switch on some skills in the workplace, but it is, you know, that it’s not personal. When you’re in the workplace when you’re at home it’s personal. Yeah, yeah, it can get personal in the workplace. But just to come back, I suppose. My, what I really believe in is working with a leader from the inside out, so developing you as a person, because leadership skills, skills can be learned anywhere, but, it’s that awareness. And I think it’s really important, I can in coaching with them working with an individual or with a group, creating a safe space, so that people can and do feel safe enough to be vulnerable to, in a sense, expose themselves for who they really are, and for what they really feel for what’s really going on. That doesn’t happen in the workplace. And it often doesn’t happen at home, either. So in fact, a lot of people don’t have any setting for that to happen. And until we value that, we’re not gonna get that waking up. Okay, because there’s so much you can do on your own, but a huge amount is learned in relationship or, you know, with that other person’s perspective, maybe having it may be a coach, or maybe a mentor, who’s kind of ahead of you in their journey, whether that’s the work journey, or their personal journey, you can learn from somebody else too.
Aoife O’Brien 39:20
Brilliant. I love that. And I suppose, you know, like, one of the things that struck me earlier in the conversation was this idea of competition, and it being a very masculine trait, and how do we move more towards collaboration, especially in the working environment where we’re competing for everything, we’re competing for promotions, for resources for money, you know, there’s, there’s how do we shift that thinking into more of a collaborative approach?
Niamh Hannan 39:50
But I’m not sure that I have all the answers either. And my, I suppose my sense is that this is a huge system. It’s a way of thing in the world. You know, I personally didn’t set up you personally didn’t set up. But we, as human beings have set it up this way. So
Aoife O’Brien 40:08
we’re, we’re experiencing this, we’re kind of part of that system. Yeah, yeah. So
we’re part of the problem. And that means we’re part of the solution. So, you know, individually, we all take our responsibility, then collectively, and we can change the system. You know, it’s not about fixing the system, I think it’s about allowing something very different to emerge and tuning into what it is that wants to or needs to emerge, you know, one individual doesn’t have to have that answered, that will come out from when you have enough people in coming from the right place, and operating from that place of maybe love or care for each other, or the right mindsets even are in place, then then new ideas start to form this will be innovated a new way of working. And I think there are probably plenty of companies out there who are already innovating, ways of working that the four day week, there’s a lot of research being done on that, for example, you know, so, so it’s not that this is not happening on some level is is is is and it’s just hasn’t maybe reached a tipping point at all, yet, there’s still a long way to go. There will be at some point, the tipping points where it is, you know, because we’re seeing the old crumble and be challenged, we’ve seen institutions falling we’re seeing, you know, abuse of power, in all its forms is being exposed, and it’s being called out. And there’s still, of course, that doesn’t mean that that’s still not happening, that abuse of power is still happening. But it’s maybe getting harder for it to be hidden. And it’s there’s there’s more in place, so that there have been huge shifts and changes. And we need to continue.
Aoife O’Brien 42:05
Yeah, really? Yeah. Really interesting. I think, yeah, that’s, that’s a really, I think, positive way of looking at it. There’s loads of stuff that’s happening out there. And we just haven’t reached the tipping point yet. I think when we do get to that tipping point, it’s, it’s individuals are going to vote with their feet. And they’re going to leave organisations where they’re not seeing that collaborative approach where things are a little bit more aligned with how they want to be how they want to work, you know, they want to have that greater flexibility. They want to work reduced hours focusing on outcomes, as opposed to like, specific tasks, and did you achieve the task or not? And, you know, having a real meaningful impact on the world, I think that’s another sort of big change that I’m seeing that taking the focus off ourselves and looking back into, okay, what is the impact that I want to have on the world? And what is the impact I am having on the world? And how do I have more of that impact? And I think collaboration, as you kind of alluded to, in relation that collaboration is is the way to achieve that. So it’s not the individual change that I’m going to make, it’s the who can I collaborate with? who are doing similar things in the world? And how can I? How can I make that change? We’re getting very philosophical. I feel like we haven’t really uncovered this idea of, you know, how do we how do we support more women? Or how do we support more feminine in the workplace?
Niamh Hannan 43:28
Yeah, so I suppose first of all, to respond to what you’re saying there, you know, and something earlier that you mentioned about, okay, maybe these really big companies that have all the money, and it’s easier for them to make the changes, but actually, the big elephants are slower to move around. So yes, very often, it’s the startups. And you know, even in this country, like, entrepreneurship self gradually, yeah, they’re like, that’s the backbone, it’s gonna be the, you know, the SMEs, really. So there’s, it’s possibly easier to be versatile. When you’re small, it’s easier to be agile. And so maybe it’ll happen at a grassroots level that if we have enough people, even whether they’re just themselves working, or as you say, in, in collaboration with others community, I think community is really important there. So we create systems, you know, a neighborhood can be a community or can be a system. And so, you know, within the workplace, we have this system and it can become a little bit worse than them. But if we are creating the community and the system and the way that we want and that is taking into account like coming into alignment with what’s really important to us and our values, when we work and operate in alignment, then we’re going to be more engaged, more motivated. and more inspired, we’re going to be happier and doing more of what we love. And when we’re in that good place, then we’re in a better place to give back and to care about the community and the environment and other people. So you often see with like, the, you know, very successful people that, that actually at that point, they, they start really caring about and becoming philanthropists and what can I do? Because it firstly becomes about survival. And then secondly, then it’s like, Okay, once I’m no, I’m surviving, and I’m okay, well, what can I do for you. So we do have to, you know, help people to get past that survival point where they’re just fighting for survival. And then that’s how you help people to maybe care for others or for the earth, if they’re still fighting for their survival, then they’re going to compete against their neighbor, for the scrap of food that’s there, or the bit of all that’s left in the tank, or whatever it might be. So we do have to look after those kinds of basic needs. And as a society, we need to be too and we’re probably not too bad in Ireland, that traditionally, you know, we have healthcare and things like that in place. But there’s there’s other countries that are so far ahead of us. And last week, that when we look after the basic needs, so that everybody is looked after nobody’s hungry, and nobody’s homeless, then everybody can go beyond themselves and build that community and work towards something, a higher purpose of such that, whether it’s the art the planet, you know, animals, mankind, the shift towards, you know, a better way of working. And so yes, we have got very philosophical. And so coming back to your question then about, you know, how can we help women in the workplace, I think we all have to maybe hold the mirror up a little bit, and constantly build awareness of our own mindsets and belief systems. I mean, I’m a child of the 70s, and ACS. And when I look at the kind of limiting beliefs that I was brought up with, that were so normal and so ingrained, I have to be conscious and aware that I don’t have my own bias in there, because that was such a part of my childhoods. Yeah, it was so normal. You know, we had the carry on shows and the bit Benny hills, you know, and that was normal. Women were objects so much. And so that, that infiltrates us at an unconscious level, and we can still be operating from that kind of place to today. One, be nones to ourselves, men and women. You know, even if you consider yourself a feminist or pro women’s equality, you can still have those unconscious biases. So it’s really building that awareness and becoming aware. And I’ll tell you, I have a 13 year old and an 11 year old, so they teach me stuff, because they’re not prone to being brought up in the same environment at all things have changed. And they’ll call it out, and they’ll see us much faster. So we need to kind of listen to that and nurture that because they’re the workforce of the future.
Aoife O’Brien 48:29
They’re the next generation. Yeah, this is it.
Niamh Hannan 48:33
So I think supporting, you know, our boys and girls now, you know, it isn’t like 10 years time they joined the workforce, it’s not long, it’s not long. So we’ll see those those changes happening. So that’s certainly one way I think, is look after our children, in nurturing the kinds of mindsets and attitudes that they’re being brought up with being their emotional coach, helping them to navigate their emotions and express their emotions so that boys aren’t learning that boys don’t cry, or that girls aren’t learning that you can’t be angry ever. You know, so changing those kind of old values that don’t serve us anymore. It’s not about changing things overnight. There’s, there’s world shifts, global shifts needed. So and they are happening in different ways. And we can all do our part by being more conscious with our own attitudes and value systems or those of our children. What we bring into workplaces, you know, shining a light into those dark corners so that the unconscious becomes more conscious and we see what we’re doing by paying, you know, the child minder less or the cleaner or whatever, you know, all of these things.
Aoife O’Brien 49:52
Absolutely. And I think you know, something that occurred to me when you were talking previously is this idea of it. It’s, perhaps it’s making individuals aware that they do have a choice, that if they find themselves in a situation where they’re not being recognised if they find themselves in a situation where there’s bullying, or there’s unethical things happening at work, that there’s somewhere else out there. And I think sometimes, when we’re stuck in that type of situation, we don’t think there’s any way out. But reminding people that there, there are other options. There are other organisations, I think sometimes when you feel that way, you feel like you’re stuck, because various different reasons, like you have the mortgage to pay, you have, you know, maybe the kids are in private school, or they’re going to college or something that, you know, there’s always an excuse to stay in a place that is not really serving you very well. But let this be a reminder that you always have a choice, you know, and whether that’s choosing to stay where you are, for various different reasons, or choosing to leave, because you want something better, you want to have a greater impact, or you want to reduce the negative impact that you’re having on the world, whatever it might be.
Niamh Hannan 51:06
Absolutely. And, and again, there’s that word choice, and when somebody’s feeling stuck, they don’t realise that they’re choosing to stay where they are in that job, for example, they don’t see that as choice. And exactly it is, yeah, and, and there are always other options. But there is a need to empower people paths to stuckness. And to see choice and, and very often what I’m seeing, I suppose is that, you know, when the world doesn’t believe in women, it’s hard for the woman to believe in herself. And if we don’t believe in ourselves, that will be reflected back to us, because we tend, if I don’t value myself, then others aren’t going to value me either. And so again, it comes back to kind of supporting people to do the inner work so that their outer worlds can change, and then that they’re more empowered to feeling stronger and feeling more confident, to change their situation. And when they’re in the better situation, they’re going to help others to change their situation too. So it has that kind of knock on effect. So So again, you have you know, people at all levels, maybe feeling stuck, maybe feeling trapped in a job, hearing the negativity feeding into the fear, and, or, you know, if they’ve been working in an organisation for a long time, we simply become quite institutionalised. And unaware we take for granted our own skill sets, we don’t realise that we have some learning, and we have done some growing and we have some experience under our belt. So again, it’s like you often need that other person, whether that’s a coach, or whether that’s a supportive colleague, or leader, or mentor, or counselor, if there’s other stuff coming in for you. It often takes that, that kind of outside perspective, too, because they will often believe in you when you doubt. They will often see the good in you and you need somebody to see the good and new when you leave cats. Yeah, see possibilities and options for you when you can’t. And so when we’re when we’re trapped, and we’re feeling stuck, we’re not seeing any perspective. And so it’s to empower people really past that point. And then they can do the same for others and help others along.
Aoife O’Brien 53:29
Niamh the question I asked everyone who comes on the podcast, what is being happier at work mean to you?
Niamh Hannan 53:37
In a nutshell, for me, what it means is doing what you love, and loving what you do. And you didn’t, you know, we went into different areas there. But I think meaning and purpose, that sense of purpose are becoming more and more important posts COVID. And working, you know, being I suppose being supported to work to our strengths to recognise who we are what we bring to the table and being allowed to develop our potential in that way. If we’re working towards strengths, you can, you can excel, you go into huge potential. Whereas if you’re, if everybody’s always focusing on all you need to improve this, and you need to improve that and really, they’re not your strengths, you’re only going to be average and feel average and perform average. And so for me being happier at work is is that you know, doing what you love, love what you’re doing, and having balanced and having time for those non work priorities to your whole being. You’re not just a worker bee and really coming back to that word we’ve, we’ve used a few times if there is more choice in how you run your life.
Aoife O’Brien 54:51
Yeah, yeah. I love this. And if if people want to reach out if they want to connect with you, if they want to find out more about what you do, what’s the best way they can do that?
Niamh Hannan 55:00
My website is NiamhHannan.com and I’m active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. Probably the easiest one is Niamh Hannan on LinkedIn and LinkedIn. That’s where I’m probably most active. I’d love to hear from your listeners, send me a message, ask me a question if there’s anything that you’ve not understood, or that doesn’t make sense, or that you have a disagreement with even from what I said today, and I also Aoife I offer currently, I’m offering core purpose sessions free sessions to help people to really get clear and a defined purpose statement for themselves, which really resonates not just from a head level, but from a heart and gut level. So people can come along to those sessions for free. They’re usually on a Wednesday evening, I’ll have dates set up for the new year. And then I have a couple of new programs for the new year. So I have a core circle for female leaders that’s more Ireland based, because some of that is in person. And it’s really a circle of trust as for your own personal professional development. But I’m also on the purpose and meaning side of things. I have a new program, which will be starting at the end of February, called My legacy program, helping people to develop their legacy where we’ll do the work, but also some other work so that people are actually taking action and putting a plan in place.
Aoife O’Brien 56:30
Yeah, love that. Because I think like, everyone wants to leave a legacy, don’t they? Or maybe not everyone, but certainly, yeah,
Niamh Hannan 56:37
We have to be careful because I mean, Putin is leaving a legacy right now, you know, Hitler left a legacy. So we have to be conscious and against the legacy of positive impact. Yeah, we want to do that. But again, people aren’t thinking about so much when they’re 20. They’re, you know, it’s often at a certain stage in life, and people have already satisfied their basic needs. And then they begin to look outwards and begin to look at, how can I make a difference? Yeah. So yeah, so I’ve just been picking up a lot of that from people coming to me or from conversations and from what people are looking for. So and I’ve been doing a lot of work in that area for myself. So yeah, putting together a three month program, which will be totally online, so it can be more international as well,
Aoife O’Brien 57:29
Brilliant. Thank you so much for your time today, Niamh I really, really enjoyed the conversation got very philosophical at times. But I think for anyone who’s kind of listening, hopefully a lot of what we talked about, will really resonate in, in terms of how we as individuals, can change the world of work.
Niamh Hannan 57:47
Absolutely. Thank you so much. My pleasure.
Aoife O’Brien 57:54
And that was Niamh Hannan from Niamh Hannan, dot com. And I hope you enjoyed today’s episode, we did get a little bit philosophical. It was quite a lengthy episode. But it was really interesting conversation nonetheless. And I hope you will agree with me on that. Now, I suppose I wanted to set up this part of the podcast by saying, you know, the entire premise of today’s podcast was this idea of, we don’t just want to support women to the top of a toxic system. So it’s about addressing, I suppose everything at the system level and thinking about that, and, and the fact that previously, everything has been dominated by the masculine and feminine typically has not been valued. Things like healthy versus unhealthy competition, things like collaboration versus competition, and the embracing of core values. And if you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you’ll know that core values is something I talk an awful lot about. It’s what I I did my research on as part of my master’s, so something really close to my heart. We talked about, I suppose the epidemics of stress, anxiety, depression and burnout at work, and the fact that we are striving and striving and striving to achieve results at work, but at what cost? And, you know, are we actually achieving those results? And how do we put more of the human back at work? And how do we make work more people centric, as opposed to results focused as well. One of the really important themes that came up on the podcast again, and again, was this idea of choice and having a choice. Now, again, this ties in with some research that I did as part of my masters in relation to the need for autonomy. It’s one of our basic psychological needs at work, the need for autonomy and for me, it’s the sense of choice and control over what you do and how you do it. And when you see the news of global companies, there’s a lot of in the news these days of mandates back to the office and forcing people back to the office. is even when they don’t want to do it. But when you do that, it hasn’t direct impact on our sense of autonomy, our feeling of engagement at work as well. And there’s a huge resistance to actually doing that, without good reason. So if you’re going into the office, simply to sit there, you know, and be on Zoom meetings all day, when you could be doing that from home, then it really makes no sense. On the other hand, I can see how that, you know, it’s really powerful to be able to connect with people in person. And I really feel that we can relate better to people when we are there in person. But mandating people back to the office, in my view is not really the way to do it. We talked about this idea of consciously creating the environment as well that we want to be in. And we talked a little bit about the all of the research that backs up supporting things like emotional intelligence, empathy, caring, and collaboration at work, which have typically been undervalued, but we can see the science behind it. But businesses are a little bit slower to change. And again, we don’t have between myself and Niamh, we don’t have all of the answers, but it’d be really great. If you had any thoughts around this, are you making those kinds of changes? Or do you wish those kinds of changes would happen in your workplace as well. We talked about other things like psychological safety, which again, is something that has come up again, and again, on the podcast alignment of values, which I touched on earlier, leaders are not being promoted for their empathy and their people skills, they’re typically promoted for the results that they achieve in business. And, to me, this sends a clear message to people about what is valued here. So you’re showing people what’s valued by who you promote, and who you reward and who you recognise at work. One of the answers that was proposed is investing in leaders. So supporting leaders with coaching, and with doing the inner work, to build their own self awareness. And this idea of taking radical responsibility. So it’s not about putting the blame on other people, or it’s not even assigning blame at all. Thinking about what impact leaders have on others. And the impact that leaders have is magnified throughout the organisation, the higher they go. So as leaders, they really need to do that work so that they don’t take it into the office. And again, this ties in with one of the podcasts that came out pre Christmas, around this idea of taking personal responsibility for doing the work on ourselves that needs to be done, in order to excel as a human in order to perform better in order not to put the blame on others. And it’s, you know, it’s about being really conscious about that, and developing our own self awareness, so that we can manage ourselves better. The thing I want to leave you with today then is really thinking about and I think that the pandemic has given us this opportunity, really thinking about what meaning and purpose work has in your life? What is it that you want to achieve? What impact would you like to have on the world? Or as I always like to think about it? What problem are you trying to solve? I’m a total problem solver. So I always like to think of it as what problem do you see in the world that you want to try and solve. And the other thing is about working to our strengths. So often, we are so focused on our weaknesses, and mitigating our weaknesses, that we are average at best. It’s about focusing on your strengths, knowing what those strengths are to begin with, and being able to positively talk about our strengths and not feel kind of cringy talking about them as well. And so there are two things that I wanted to leave you with today.
I’d love for you to get involved in the conversation on social media. As I mentioned, you’ll find all of my social channels on happieratwork.ie. I would love to hear your thoughts on today’s episode, anything that you might do differently, any disagreements that you had with what we talked about today, any problems that you encountered in trying to implement change in your organisation. I’d absolutely love to hear about it. I’ll be back again next week with a solo episode, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you then.
That was another episode of the Happier at Work podcast. I am so glad you tuned in today. If you enjoy today’s podcast, I would love to get your thoughts – head on over to social media to get involved in the conversation. If you enjoy the podcast, I would love if you could rate, review it or share it with a friend. If you want to know more about what I do or how I could help your business, head on over to happieratwork.ie