I was at the GAA Games Development Conference the weekend before last in Croke Park Stadium in Dublin and it blew my mind and heart away as well as being great fun.  Could there be a better recipe for inspiration than that?  It has supercharged me for the New Year and off the back of that I thought I’d share a couple of shots of inspiration with you.  It’s a little longer than the last blog I wrote, but hopefully you’ll find some gems to inspire to make it worth the extra few minutes.

So, one of the standout speakers for me was Paul McGinley, an Irish professional golfer whose talk was called “the Making of a Captain”.  In it he shared how he planned and prepared, as the first Irishman ever, for his wining captaincy of the European team in the Ryder Cup in 2014. There were soooooo many nuggets in his talk but I’ll just share a couple with you, for now.


“It all has to start in the heart”.

Paul talked about how he deliberately got to know each of his players through meeting them One to One over the course of more than a year in the lead up to the competition.  He said he wanted to learn how to get into their hearts and minds, so that he could help them perform at their optimum.  “When you get into the heart”, he said, “you get engagement”.

It reminds me of another quote that I love from the famous Persian Sufi master Abdullah Ansari:

“Can you walk on water? Then you have done no better than a straw?   Can you fly through the air?  You have done no better than a bluebottle.  Conquer the heart and then you may become someone.”

So, is it your role as “Captain” of your team, as Leader, to create a performance culture that builds engagement, that fires and conquers the heart?  Of course it is.  And there’s more need for it now than ever before with the most recent statistics from Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report revealing that only 15% of employees are actually “engaged” at work.  Just stop for a moment and think….that statistic is reflecting your organisation, your team, maybe even your own engagement levels at work!  Can we change that statistic?  Well, as leaders, it would seem that this is one of the greatest calls to action right now considering that we spend so much time at work and that 85% of our workforce globally say that they are either “not engaged or “actively disengaged”.   At an individual and collective level, what impact can 85% of our workforce being “disengaged” be having on our focus and results, our happiness and our sense of wellbeing?   And very importantly how must that be rippling out into our personal lives, at home, with friends and with family?

Wouldn’t it be great to be part of a movement to change that statistic and create cultures that inspire, engage , motivate and conquer the heart?  There is capacity for so much more.  But how?

 Potential solution 1: When “enjoyment meets success”

One option came from Paul when he talked about actively working with the golfers to enjoy what they do, to have fun and to have a sense of adventure.  To give a tangible example, he described the pressure and stress that the golfers experience in terms of having 50,000 people watching them tee off, and add to this the fact that about 4 million people watch them on TV.  So he worked with them and his Vice Captains to keep the mood relaxed, to remind them that it wasn’t a life or death situation and to bring a sense of fun and enjoyment into their play.  He showed a picture of Justin Rose which he had placed in the Gleneagles venue where the golfers were staying.  Paul had this photo (along with many others) created to illustrate that the golfer has the power of 50,000 people in their hands at tee-off, rather than worrying about getting the ball airborne (which is what they had been focusing on) under that kind of pressure.  What a brilliant change of perspective and you can just see the power and energy available in the moment in the photo which is there for the taking, for the alchemising and for enjoying.

It also reminds me of another quote “Do what you love, love what you do”, Ray Bradbury, an American author and screenwriter.  Great if you can do what you love but if you can’t then, can you love what you do?  Can you find the little wins and the pockets of enjoyment in what you do, especially when you don’t “love” it?  From the example above, you can see how Paul McGinley helped his players change their mindset from one of fear and “not loving” the pressure of teeing off in front of 50,000 people to enjoying the feeling of the potential power that they held in their hands at that moment and of how they would feel when they did tee off and when the crowd would erupt and cheer.  Marrying enjoyment to success is a powerful combination.

Potential Solution 2: Adopting a Coaching approach
It also struck me that Paul McGinley’s strategy mirrors the coaching approach where you dive into the other person’s world to get to know and understand them, learning what motivates them and fires them up, what holds them back and how to support and encourage them to be more conscious of that so that they can live their life – personally and professionally – full out.  However, it also made me question why this should only be reserved for coaches or sports people and not integrated more into leadership roles.  As a leader then, how much time do you spend getting to really know and understand your people, in a One to One capacity?  How much time do you spend showing them you care by getting to know their passion and what engages their heart at work or in life?  Are you scheduling and cancelling One to One’s more often than you are sitting down talking with them about their goals and firing their passion for what they do?  Have you even had those One to Ones yet this year to help activate their energy and their goals?

In my experience as a coach, one of the key things that people are looking for (I would even go so far as to say craving) is to be seen, to be truly seen for who they are and all they have to offer and to be encouraged and supported to show more of that, to give more of themselves.  Why?  Because for the most part, people do not truly or fully see themselves and as a result are craving someone, somewhere helps them begin to see and believe in them.  So the power that you as a coach, a parent or a leader have to enable them see themselves and to help ignite their heart is phenomenal.  Will you take that power?

As another speaker, Ashley Jones, former Strength and Conditioning Coach to the All Blacks summed it up, it’s all about being able to “Individualise: Prioritise: Optimise”.  What if that was to be your leadership mantra for this year?  How would you engage differently with your team and people if you took a more individualised approach, prioritise them and the things that will help them achieve their best and optimise their performance?  What results would you get as a direct consequence of that?  And also very importantly, have you someone to do that for you?

Brian Cody’s Performance Fundamentals

One of the other speakers who absolutely stole the hearts of the audience was Tommy Walsh, 9-time All-Ireland Hurling and 9-time All Star Winner.   The brilliant MC on the day, Damien Lawlor, primed and encouraged Tommy to free flow and delight the 800 of us in attendance, with story after story and then landed a question that everyone wanted to know the answer to … “What are the Fundamentals that Cody, as your Manager transferred to you?”  (For those reading this who may not know him, Brian Cody is an Irish Hurling Manager with County Kilkenny and is regarded as the greatest manager in the history of the game, by being the longest serving manager and also most successful in terms of major titles won).  And to add to this, and for those who may not know, I am a Kilkenny woman, or a “Cat”, so I was sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for the response, as little is public about how Kilkenny achieve their ongoing success.  The audience waited as Tommy took his time distilling down the essence of his former Manager and then he said the following two things:

No. 1: “His pure love and enthusiasm for hurling, for the game.  He loved the game and he loved games.”


No. 2: “His belief”: He said “He gave us fierce belief to go out and own the field”.

No. 1 points of course back to the heart again as love has its origins in the heart.  And interestingly, the word “love” was mentioned three times in that short answer.  Love, love, love, otherwise known as passion, passion, passion.  Where is yours ignited in what you do or where are the opportunities to ignite your passion which undoubtedly fuels performance?

No 2 packs a powerful punch too in such a short sentence.  What belief are you transferring to your children, to your team, to yourself?  Imagine if you instilled belief in yourself and others to go out and own the field of your day, each and every day, knowing that belief underpins performance and what you do.  What part does belief play in your game of life?  Are you aware of how you talk to yourself, about what you believe about yourself and the direct link between what you tell yourself or others and the results you achieve?

So, let this be your best year yet.  And here’s to enjoying 2018 more and more, to engaging your heart, having fierce belief and to owning your field.

Bí chomh iontach is atá ar do chumas.

Be the Best You Can Be.


Nadine x