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The Secrets to Elevating Performance With Gary Keegan - CEO of Uppercut (Part Two)

25 Feb 2022

The people behind the voices:

Gary Keegan

Founder & CEO of Uppercut

Gillian French

Employee Experience Officer

The Employee Experience Podcast Ep. 4

The Secrets to Elevating Performance (Part 2)

This week’s guest on The Employee Experience Podcast is Gary Keegan, CEO of Uppercut.

In Episode 4, we continue the conversation with renowned high-performance business coach and sports consultant, Gary Keegan. Gary has spent his career immersed in building, leading, and supporting high-performing individuals, teams, and organizations.

Gary’s experience in managing and coaching individuals and teams pursuing high performance spans 18 years. He is currently the CEO of Uppercut, a high-performance advisory for organizations and a performance coach for many of Ireland’s top players and executives.

Gary Keegan formed Uppercut in 2018. His vision was to create a unique advisory service that would transform how individuals and organizations achieved high performance in sport, business and leadership.

Gary has spent most of his career immersed in high performance across a range of competitive business and sporting settings. As former Director of the Irish Institute of Sport and former High-Performance Director with the IABA’s High-Performance Boxing Programme, Gary was a driving force behind previously unseen success for Irish teams and athletes on European, World, and Olympic stages. Today, Gary sits on the IRFU National Professional Games Board and Chairs Cricket Ireland’s High-Performance Advisory Group.

Outside of the sporting arena, Gary works with organizations, business leaders, and executive teams, helping them to develop the same culture of winning that he has achieved with Olympians, professional sports teams, and world champions. Gary also guest lectures on high performance, systems, vision, and strategy at the London Business School and at the Irish Management Institute.

You can listen to part 1 of our conversation with Gary Keegan here.

About The Employee Experience Podcast

The Employee Experience Podcast, hosted by Gillian French, is a podcast series for leaders pursuing innovative ideas to engage and connect with their employees. We’ll speak to leaders about how to best connect with employees, build healthy cultures and deliver an employee experience where everyone can reach their potential.

Other guests on Season 1 of The Employee Experience Podcast include:

  • Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer at Vayner Media, on building the best human empire
  • Leslie Caputo, People Scientist at Humu, on empowering people to improve themselves
  • Niamh Gunn, CEO of the Dialogue Code, on creating a workplace for Humane Leadership
  • Dave Ulrich, the father of Modern HR on shaping how people and organizations deliver value
  • Scott McInnes, Founder of Inspiring Change, on engaging people to build a great culture
  • Stan Slap, Author and CEO on the secrets to building a world-class company culture
  • Ryan Jenkins, bestselling Author on how to decrease loneliness at work
  • Margaret Heffernan, bestselling Author and CEO on how to improve the Global Employee Experience
Full Transcript

Gillian French (00:02):
Hi, I’m Gillian French from Workvivo. You’re very welcome to The Employee Experience Podcast. We speak to leaders about how to best connect with employees, build healthy cultures and deliver an employee experience where everyone can reach their potential.

Gary Keegan (00:19):
This week is part two of our conversation with Gary Keegan, CEO of Uppercut.

Gillian French (00:34):
Everyone’s talking at the moment about the great resignation, and lots of people are resigning across Europe and they’re at epic levels. Do you think people had time over the past couple of months to think about their own purpose and their roles within organizations and that some of them may be around purpose themselves?

Guest (00:55):
Yeah, I think we’re probably reevaluating our lives and we’re probably grounding ourselves and what’s most important because we’ve had time to reflect, we’ve been taken out of a routine and a ritual and a set of habits, and we’ve had a little bit more time to reflect. I would’ve said that if you come out the other side of this pandemic and hopefully we do come out the other side that, if something hasn’t changed in your life well then maybe we’ve missed an opportunity. And so that’s what we’re seeing at a probably an individual life perspective but from an organization perspective I think if you’re coming out the side without saying something fundamentally different for us now, that’s extremely valuable to us. And we recognize that we want to have a deeper dialogue around what that means for us.

Guest (01:47):
We want to engage our organization broadly and what that means for us, and we are scared by it because we don’t understand it, so what? It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand it, what’s exciting is that it excites you, that it’s moved you to think differently around how you lead, it raises your expectation of those peers that sit around that leadership table, it pushes you towards challenging the way you did things in the past. It may be that there was not entirely wrong with how you did things in the past but you want to evolve, right? An evolution for me, that’s needs to be managed, we needs to be deliberate, we need to decide what we want to evolve to otherwise we may evolve into something that we didn’t intend.

Guest (02:32):
So there’s that piece, and I think the big piece is, well, what do we want to leave behind? What’s the legacy? And even for players, we’re saying, how do we really want to leave your position, not just a jersey but the position? Do you want to elevate it to be number one in the world in your position? So that those who will become behind you. I remember when in the boxing program we produced I think, six or seven world class middleweights, because a role model came along and he set the standard and then someone wanted to set that standard came behind him and got better. That’s that sense of what do we want to leave behind? Do we want to role model leadership? If we role modeling, what are we exemplifying? What does that actually look like?

Guest (03:18):
So, I think there’s a bit of reflection to be done there but reflection without action is not very useful. I think it’ll be interesting to see what leaders are focused on and what they’re actioning coming out of the pandemic.

Gillian French (03:35):
And how about yourself Gary? What were your reflections and what have you changed?

Guest (03:40):
It’s a great question. And I think in the first year, maybe the first 10 months of the pandemic, I think we were just all knocked off balance and we were reflecting and we were recalibrating and we were enjoying the excitement of the change I think, at least from my experience I was enjoying the shift. Yes I was worried about my business, yes, we lost a lot of the business in that first six months, but I wouldn’t be good at what I do if I’d buried my head in the sand and went off, I thought about opportunities of how I could do things differently and what I could explore and how I could help others. So, I felt I had a good response to it in year one, and then I struggled in year two. I struggled badly in year two, I wanted to get back out, I wanted to be out there meeting people, I realized how much social engagement was important to what I do and how I help others.

Guest (04:36):
I struggled behind the screen to be honest, I did it and I tried to do my best but, I just didn’t feel it was my best work. I felt that the technology was creating a distraction for me, I like to be with people, I like the look at the whites to their eyes and I want them to see my energy and I want to see theirs. So that was big for me and so I missed that interaction with people. But value, I got to see how my wife works. So I got to see her every day in her work environment, I got to see how she engages with her team and what’s on her mind and what focuses and I got a real appreciation for her leadership and for her work and her stress and the things that she has in front of her. And the role that then she plays when she comes back into the family and picking up pieces when I’m not there and all that stuff, so it gave me more awareness and a better appreciation of that, I still have a lot to learn for sure.

Guest (05:35):
But I’m hoping I can carry some of that forward, I kind of recognize that, I know role in the home and I know my role in the family is important, but I am very focused on my work as well so I need to find a better balance, I think we all need to find a better balance. I don’t think there is balance, just a better balance, I need to find a better balance in that into the future.

Gillian French (06:01):
Yeah. And I suppose I feel that sometimes too I’m like, I want to do my absolute best in work but then I want to be a great mom and you read all the books, can you have it all? Or can you be a really high performing employee and a great mom and a great sister, daughter, all of those other roles that we play. Do you think even the term high performance sometimes puts pressure on us to think that we have to be on top of our game every day in every aspect?

Guest (06:31):
I don’t know that high performance puts that pressure on us. If we understand that everything in life is a performance, right? I have to perform as a husband, I have to perform as a dad, I have to perform as a friend, and I’m a pretty poor friend I think, because I don’t give enough face and time to that, but I have to perform in front of my client, so everything is a performance. So it’s what you want and what you value or what to really value in that space. And I think we normally get the best out of ourselves when we’re present so if I go home to my little five year old and if she’s acting up while I’m there, I realize very quickly that’s my energy, it’s absolutely zero to do with her it’s my energy because I’m not present, she’s letting me know through acting up.

Guest (07:16):
And when I get down on my hands and knees and we’re on the floor and she pulls me right into her world I recover, she’s recovering me and she’s helping me to perform right my duties, to be paying attention to her, that’s all she wants is my time, my attention and she values that more than anything else and I value that more than nothing else, so I got to realize what’s really, really important. And when I speak to leaders and I talk to them on what stress you most? Well they’d often say, when my partner is unhappy with me, when my partner is stressed or peed off with me, that’s what stresses me most.

Guest (07:51):
I can kind of handle the stress of working, I find my way to navigate around that, but when there’s something wrong with the kids or the family or my relationship, that’s the piece that hurts me most. Some business should listen to that I think, should listen to that because if I’m carrying that into my organization, because I’m leaving noise behind in my home, because I haven’t been able to fulfill my role properly, well then that’s going to hurt the business. And in business we don’t want to get into people’s personal lives, but we have to get more whole person. I know businesses are moving towards male well-being and creating an environment around well-being and encouraging and educating and supporting around that, but what do they really mean by that? What do they really mean? Because in some ways the performance context is impacting the well-being, and we need to look at the performance context within the organization, if we do that we address well-being alongside of it because it’s a positive output of having a better performance context.

Gillian French (08:47):
Yeah. Because I do executive coaching and a lot of the time I hear people will say to me, are you talking about me in work or me outside work? And it’s like they’re two different people and I’m sort of like, God that must be difficult to run those two people, and there is this piece around professionalism and it’s probably another term that’s not professional. And I think we have to change that term as well, we’re human and you are going to come into work sometimes where you’re not at your best or something’s happened at home. And I think we are coming into that boundary now of, is that appropriate or is it not appropriate? I think it’s appropriate because if you’re working for someone for 10 years and I know that’s a long service now and these days but, there are going to be days where your employees are not themselves and things happen to them and we should embrace that and open it up to be okay.

Guest (09:41):
Yeah. 100% Look, I think I just said earlier we need to take responsibility for ourselves and if we’re not recovering ourselves, if we’re not looking after ourselves that’s going to diminish other aspects of things we want to do especially in our organizational context. So I think it’s personal responsibility first, first, first always we need to ensure that we position ourselves to show up better. But we will have days that we’re not feeling our best, where things are not going so well for us. It might be at work, it might be in our personal lives, and it’s great if you can walk into an organization and a team that can embrace that vulnerability, that you can share it with, and where you feel that the environment supports you in the context of a bad moment or period in your life and you’re not overly judged for it you’re supported because people know you’ll come through it and you’ll return.

Guest (10:39):
And by the way, being vulnerable with others is not asking others to take on your problem. It’s just that ability to be able to share, I don’t feel great today, I’m not going to be able to make my best contribution over the next few days, but I feel it’ll ease off after that time and I’ll be back in and for people to say, you do whatever you need to do, right? We’ll be here to support you. And I think if you look in a spot and context for the really great teams, to be able to look to your left and right and know that your teammate has your back, and for your teammate to say, you don’t worry, you’ll come back into your performance, your formal come back I have your back, we’ll support you. That sense is a very powerful sense, that’s an environment you want to be part of, and it’s an environment that you want to give yourself fully to.

Guest (11:21):
So look, I think we can learn a lot out this conversation, I think I’ll be reflecting on some of the things that we’ve discussed over this session myself. But it’s an ongoing thing when you take your eye off of the drifts and you need to keep a very close watch of it and I guess having an organization from a business perspective where we have those people and we cultivate that type of support. Remember what I said around that resilience model, that matrix is around high challenge, high performance, but high support, right? What underpins it? And some days you will have off-days and the team and the organization put their arm around you and get you through it.

Gillian French (12:05):
Yeah. And I think that’s critical the high support because, I’ve definitely seen organizations that have the high challenge, but then they don’t have the support and then that creates all sort of organizational dysfunctions.

Guest (12:17):
Yeah. And is it because we feel we don’t have to? Maybe that’s the question. Like we pay well, it’s your role, it’s a good organization, we look after you well, but beyond that you need to figure out that peace around how you generate that performance consistently for us, and I don’t think we can do that. I think we need to be supporting that performance, helping people to understand it lot more, and that’s why we talked a little bit around that kind of performance directive that oversees the health of the organization from a performance perspective, and as advising leaders and as developing leaders and as supporting people, and putting the right process and infrastructure and structure around them to allow them to do their best work, that type of stuff might be part of the future.

Gillian French (13:02):
And do not see that as the role of say, Chief People Officer or hey door person is that not their role in the organization today, to ensure that the hiring the right people, the right capability and send them off up for success?

Guest (13:16):
Well, I think a Chief People Officer is a really good role, and at the moment it’s a really good title, but whether it has become a really good function within the business or not, or within the business world or not, I don’t know yet. But it suggest that we want to think more about our people, we want to value our people much more suggest that we want to support them better. So I think Chief People Officers may be thinking about, well, how do we do that into the future? What does it look like? Does all of our team face into the opportunity and the battle that we have to win business, et cetera. Or does part of our team support that to happen?

Guest (14:02):
So, what does that look like? That if we were to create a support function around performance and helping people to understand how to do that better at a team level, at an individual level, at a cross team level, what would that look like in our business into the future? And how powerful could that be? Yes, it’ll be an investment, but the return could be great from it. But I do think we need to rethink that, how we support performance and how we ensure that our culture around performance doesn’t become toxic, it doesn’t become something that we didn’t intend it to become. That we got obvious caught up in results, we got caught up in the opportunities that were in front of us, and what we’ve left was a lot of chaos behind us with regard to people and their experience of our organization.

Gillian French (14:50):
Well, I think within organizations as well when you say performance it’s kind of competitive, so sometimes it’s rewards attached to it, sometimes it’s ratings attached to it that probably isn’t comparable in the sporting world and particularly in team sports, everyone’s kind of equal. I know they perform at different levels at different times but, definitely in organizations I think there’s more of a competitive element, like your top 10% and your bottom five, and those at the top make a greater rewards than others and so there’s the competitive edge which I suppose probably erodes that I’ve got your back mentality that you talk, right?

Guest (15:27):
Well look, we all want to earn more, we like to be rewarded for the work that we do really well so just nobody in this room or any other room will tell you what it was, however it’s not a motivator, right? It’s not really an incentive because, the research on personal motivation speaks about three things. It speaks about purpose, I have a sense of why I’m here, I’ve sense of what we’re trying to achieve, I identify with that and I’m willing to commit myself to it, so that’s the first thing.

Guest (15:58):
The second thing is autonomy, right? I have a sense that I can make decisions, I can use my initiative, I can shape the future, right? As part of my role. And the third thing is mastery, that is I’ll be allowed to develop in this organization, I’ll other opportunities within the organization, my skills will improve within the organization, I’ll learn new things within the organization. So those three factors are most critical around their motivation, and they are more of a reward, and they will sustain people in the organization, retain people in the organization if they’re drawing those sources of motivation.

Guest (16:30):
And that story that people don’t leave organizations they leave managers and like so that sense of how do we create an environment that’s much more motivational? We don’t own the responsibility as leaders for your motivation, you own that yourself. But we create the sources through the environment that we develop around you, and you’re saying this, I love working for this company, I absolutely love for these reasons. And you’re there for three or four years and you’re loving your career, and then two years later you have the same conversation saying, it’s not great anymore, it shifted direction. Well, that leader left, or there’s new leadership team in place or whatever, so the philosophy or the approach changes.

Guest (17:11):
So we should keep that in mind, what actually fuels the motivation of people and is our organization set up to fuel that into the future?

Gillian French (17:24):
I’m really interested you when you talked about rejuvenation, and I think recently of Boris Johnson, they were saying that he forgot his lines, he forgot his speech, Biden forgot what he was going to say. When you think of the context of those leaders at the moment and what they have to endure, are you suggesting the kind of structure where we can give leaders a chance to rejuvenate or refresh and recover and, I suppose you can’t really move in presidents but like in an organization setting which would probably be easier to think, are you saying that when people go through something maybe we put other people in place to help them recover or rejuvenate or when you’re discussing that is that what you mean? Sorry, I feel fog in my throat.

Guest (18:11):
Do you want to ask that one again?

Gillian French (18:19):
Yeah. I just got to take some… Are we okay?

Speaker 4 (18:19):
Yeah, all fine.

Gillian French (18:20):
Okay. So when you talk about rejuvenation with leadership, I just came into my head about Boris Johnson recently for getting a speech and then Biden forgot what he was going to say. Now I’m not talking about the international stage but in an organization context, are you suggesting that we maybe bring in people at certain points to let other people recover? And is that possible in an organization setting?

Guest (18:44):
Well, if we don’t recharge, we’ll be flat. And I think like leaders again have a personal responsibility, but organizations have a responsibility to ensure that recovery, that ability to renew ourselves. So if you look at the research on top leadership teams, number one is the quality of direction that the leadership team provide for the organization and the consistency around the quality of direction. Number two is the quality of interaction that they cultivate across the business. And number three is the quality of renewal. And if leaders are not renewing themselves, if they’re not recovering themselves then they’re carrying that stress, some fatigue into the business.

Guest (19:33):
So it’s a compound effect that happens and maybe they’re carrying frustration down which is reducing their resilience, which is reducing their focus. They’re a bit sharper with their own people because they’re stressed and so we have to recover, so that we can look at things more clearly, that when we’re tired, when we’re fatigued, it fuzzes the radar for us and we don’t know where to be placing our focus and we get sharp and short potentially with the people that are around us which then cascades down to the people that they are responsible for.

Guest (20:04):
So recovery is absolutely critical, and I would say in support that if you’re coming back on unrecovered, you wouldn’t be viewed very positively within the group. Coming into pre-season, you’ve got to be ready for a pre-season, that’s your responsibility. If you come in overweight, if you come in unfit, that’s not acceptable because that’s going to slow down your ability to be able to hit the ground running and to be ready for when the competition begins. So, I think leaders need to think about their own recovery first of all, and I know a lot of leaders who are into cycling and into running and into the gym and they try and look after themselves which is great, but they still put a hell of a load amount of hours in as well as probably more to their recovery than they might even think themselves.

Guest (20:51):
But if they value recovery, if they value it, even in their own personal practice, but yet they’d look down into the business and not see a lot of it going on. So how do we bring recovery into the space? I remember in Olympic sports 10 years ago where recovery became the big buzz term, because there was a lot around, how do we increase the physical capacity of our athletes and make them better and stronger and faster and more powerful? And then say, well actually we might be breaking them if we’re doing too much of that so, we have to think about how we recover people and what does recovery look like in the context of what we’re trying to achieve, and why is it so important to how the athlete turns up for the next event, et cetera.

Guest (21:34):
So I think if leaders start to think about recovery, and then start to think about what does that look like organization? So build in the dips, look at your annual plan, look at the big moments, the peak events within your business within the year, and then look at the moments where you can rest people, where you can actually give people time to recover. Where are those moments? Can you build them in? Build a dip in, be deliberate about building it in, because you know that’s a period we’re in the business where we don’t have peak, demand within what we’re trying to do.

Guest (22:03):
So I think we can just look at things somewhat different, but if were create a better environment from a humanistic perspective, and from a people performance perspective, we’ve got to think about support and we’ve got to think about recovery I think there are two big areas. How businesses do it? That’s for another day’s conversation I think but certainly, it would be interesting to see what a leader’s view was who looks after him or herself well in terms of that. What they would do if they had a responsibility to try and cultivate that across the organization.

Gillian French (22:38):
That brings me on to, I have a couple of quick fire questions for you Gary.

Guest (22:42):

Gillian French (22:44):
So there’s short answers but, looking at the leadership globally today, who do you think embodies the leadership that you think is required? Who is kind of your role model?

Guest (22:59):
I’ve been very fortunate to select the right leaders to work with. I think the only reason I’ve been successful is because I’ve worked with the right people. I think Jim Gavin jumps out of me just in terms of his personal commitment to the group and always keeping that bigger picture in mind and just that relentless nature to his focus on the development of the group and what was best for the group and how to cultivate that. And I admired his resilience and his discipline and his application to learning was very inspiring. And I admired what he was trying to craft in himself so that he could be the best for the group, the energy that he presented, you would see him on the line as calm as could be and yet he had the work at that to ensure that he exemplified what he wanted a team to exemplify so, I love that.

Guest (24:08):
And I don’t think it all came natural, I think he worked at stuff he looked to be the best that he could be, to allow the team to get the best of him as a leader. And not just the players but I think overall the support team, they had a huge amount of trust in him, he didn’t go out to cultivate that it was as a result of how dependable he was, how reliable he was, how connected he was to the group, all the things that cultivate trust from us in leaders he worked to do that.

Guest (24:42):
So I think he was one that sticks out to me, beyond that I don’t know enough about other leaders that we would admire and look to. I like to spend time with them before I make a comment on, but he’s one that sticks out and he’s probably an easy one to pick.

Gillian French (25:01):
Brilliant. And then the next question I have for you is what book would you recommend or what book really spoke to you and you got great learning from it?

Guest (25:13):
I’ve said this before, and I’m going to say it again, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Gillian French (25:24):
Oh my gosh. You might have to spell that one.

Guest (25:24):
Yeah. Well it’s Portuguese so, Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist speaks of turning whatever coal into gold and this sense and I love the idea of that because that’s the space that I’m trying to find potential and trying to mine for potential in others and in teams and the teams that I work we were just so excited about the potential and where could we take it? And where could we go next? And I remember reading a book, and I don’t have the title of it and it was this tiniest little book and I had said that I would give it to a couple of people last week or a couple of weeks ago, I won’t mention the people’s names but, I still have to find the title of the book but essentially it was written by a psychologist, it’s probably 50, 60 years old.

Guest (26:15):
It’s a tiny little book, and my memory of this book was about, we should look for the gold in our children, right? And that’s kind of what the Alchemist is about is kind of looking for gold in things. And what the book essentially was saying is that, instead of conditioning our children to be something that we want them to be, look at what they have and try and recognize that and try and reinforce that look or the gold threads and pull them. So observe our children and look at who they naturally are before we shape them into something that’s very, very different. So I really love that idea of trying to see that in our kids, but in the high performance setting or in the world of developing others, for me it’s I’m excited about potential, really excited by it.

Guest (27:05):
And when I see it in a leader or a young leader, or I see it in a player and I just see the ambition they have for themselves and where they want to take it and how they communicate around that, I think that’s really exciting. I also love leaders who talk about the potential of others, so talk to the group, I see your potential, I see our potential, right? So I love that. But it’s not just saying I see our potential, it’s also saying, I think we need to do these things, right? I think we need to potentially behave or act in this way or we need to have a standard around this if we’re going to realize that potential as a group, what do you think? So it’s a kind of a co-creation of the idea but yeah. The Alchemist is certainly worth a read and I suppose most people out there would’ve read it.

Gillian French (27:48):
Yeah. And I know love it because, if you think of it again in a work context, wouldn’t it be great if you were heading into work every day and someone was looking for your potential and getting you to focus on your strengths rather than look at weaknesses, so it’s great.

Guest (28:00):
On that point we can only become truly great by focusing on our strengths, and we look to our weakness when it’s undermining our strengths. So, that’s the advice I’d always have, which weakness is undermining your ability or your potential? So look at that one and see can you underpin a little bit better? But make sure you hold the focus around your strengths because that’s what you can be truly great at.

Gillian French (28:23):
I love that, brilliant. And then my final question is, what’s your biggest prediction for the future of work? Maybe it’s your performance coach?

Guest (28:33):
Well, no. I think it’s my immediate response that was running around my body was I have no idea. So what I’m worried about future is that we land on model that won’t work for us. So, I worry about the hybrid model and I think we need to look at it a bit deeper, I think we’re rushing to solutions as opposed to there is still a lot of research to be done on this period to understand how it really impacted on individuals and families and homes and workplaces. We really need to understand that we are social animals, we need social interaction, we need to be together to achieve things. Achieving things in your own is never fun, working on your own is never fun, were not good when we’re isolated and we’re not good doing all our work from home in the family environment either because that’s not good for the family either.

Guest (29:29):
But there is real benefit in having time at home as well. Because I work in that high performance business space, we’ve got a lot of executives who they don’t own their diary, they’re a prisoner to their schedule, they can’t get space. So the ability to be able to go home and spend the day at home, a week or two days a week to really work on, how do I improve this? How do I make it better? If I restructured that what would I do? Without anyone coming in. I used to call it the Zen Zone.

Guest (30:01):
In the Institute of sport, I built this kind of just little printed off this Zen thing I said, anytime you need space on your own you stick to Zen sign on your door and nobody will interrupt you for anything, they pass calls on. But if you are in there and you’re working on something that’s really important to us, it’s you’re behind that closed door and everybody leaves you alone.

Guest (30:22):
And I think at home working should be about that, where you get to the Zen Zone to be thinking about how you could be better as a leader, how you could be better as an employee and do better work, bring new ideas to the space and get work done as well. Like through this pandemic I’ve watched the amount of Zoom calls and team calls literally back to back, back to back from eight in the morning till six, seven in the evening. And I said, where’s the work getting done if we’re always just talking about work. So, I think the home thing could be about, how do you do it better? So get a bit of space to get focused, to think about what you would achieve, and when you’re in work you’re actually doing the work.

Guest (30:59):
I still think we need to take time to reflect on how this will actually work for us. Different businesses will require different things, we certainly shouldn’t be doing a one size fits all, we should be having a conversation with our employees. Some people might think it’ll be the best world if I could work three days a home, but longer term it may not be the right thing for them. Organizationally we need to think about what’s right for our business, what keeps and as healthy, what keeps it growing?

Guest (31:24):
So there’s still a conversation and I’m not sure how deep that is, some organizations who might be ahead of others. But certainly I said at the beginning, we shouldn’t be following trends, listening to the news and deciding well, that’s where we should be, that seems to be the right thing. But actually we need to be thinking about what is the right thing for people and for our business into the future? So there a lot of work I think to be done on that.

Gillian French (31:45):
Yeah. I think definitely when I started in HR it’s one of the key learnings as well as one size does not fit all. Each business has to look at the context of their business and where their employee base is, if you have a lot of graduates, undergraduates coming into your business, they need people with experience to teach them. And as a mother, I would say it’s great for me to be at home bringing my children to school every day. But I also know of a duty of care to train the next generation and so I can get a balance, that’s wonderful but I still have a duty of care to the next generation to spend time with them and that intergenerational relationship is great in the office where young meet old well, I’m 45, but you know what I mean?

Gillian French (32:26):
So I think that’s important that we don’t forget we have a responsibility as well to go back in and not just think about ourselves and what works for us.

Guest (32:36):
We don’t actually expose that enough because we stick with our peers who are the same age, same generation and we think similarly. When we go down into those younger groups, they think differently and if we listen to them and if we ask the right questions, we learn something from them. And if we do that they might actually want to listen to us, to take some of our wisdom into their practice as well. So I think that’s interesting and I wonder have any leaders go down from the top of the organization say look, I just got a roll my sleeves up and hang around here for a few hours and I’m going to do it quite often and I really want to understand what my organization is about because I don’t want to lose touch, I want to stay in there, I want to listen to people and hear how they do to work and understand every function of the business.

Guest (33:20):
So if I’m Chief Commercial Officer, I should be in the operation, it should be around in different places, it should be down in HR I should just spend time and just try and figure stuff out and let people know I really care and I want to carry some of those messages on ideas back to where I think and to challenge our own team at the table. So that type of staff, I think it’s about really relationships. I would say in my high performance model that at the center of that model is not purpose, that the center of that model is organizational relationships, it’s often the fuzzy area, the gray area that we don’t quite get right. We need to value the relationships and the organizations to create that high trust organization. It’s about the relationships and the value we place in it and what we simply will not tolerate with regard to the quality of relationships.

Guest (34:06):
We need to be talking about it, we don’t tolerate you saying you’re not going to work with that person or you’re not going to engage or you’re not going to share information. This is how we work, we work as a family, we support each other, we’re here for each other, we challenge each other because we care. And so if I’m challenged you it’s because I care about you and I care about what we’re trying to achieve together. Look plenty in there.

Gillian French (34:27):
Brilliant. Thanks so much Gary, and thanks for your time today. It was great talking to you.

Guest (34:31):
Thanks Gillian.

Gillian French (34:31):
Thank you.

Guest (34:32):
It was Pleasure.

Gary Keegan (34:36):
Thank you so much for listening to The Employee Experience Podcast. Subscribe on Acast or wherever you get your podcast, and check out to find out more.

The people behind the voices

Gary Keegan

Founder & CEO of Uppercut

Gary Keegan formed Uppercut in 2018. His vision was to create a unique advisory service that would transform how individuals and organizations achieved high performance in sport, business, and leadership.

Gillian French

Employee Experience Officer

Employee Experience Officer

Gillian French is a veteran people leader and organizational behaviorist with over 10 years of experience as Chief People Strategist.

She is passionate about coaching, strategy, building resilient and sustainable organisational culture, and improving global employee experience. She has also contributed to Forbes and is a regular panelist on the future of work.

Gillian is also the founder and CEO of SISU consulting, a business that specializes in organisation development and design.