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

14 Feb 2022

The people behind the voices:

Gary Keegan

Founder & CEO of Uppercut

Gillian French

Employee Experience Officer


The Employee Experience Podcast Ep. 3

The Secrets to Elevating Performance

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

In Episode 3, we speak to 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.

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.

Gillian French (00:19):
Gary Keegan is a high performance business coach and sports consultant. He has spent the past 18 years building, leading and supporting high performing individuals, teams and organizations. Gary is currently the CEO of Uppercut and we are delighted to have him as our guest this week.

Gillian French (00:48):
Hi, Gary. Lovely to have you here today. Thanks for doing this.

Guest (00:51):
Hi, Gillian. Glad to be here.

Gillian French (00:53):
Great. I’ll start straight off, Gary. One of the things that I’ve noticed in the corporate world through my consultancy and working in the corporate world, is that the term high performance, I’m wondering is it actually driving high pressure, high stress, burnout? And has the corporate world taken something from maybe the sporting world that has not translated appropriately into the corporate environment?

Guest (01:21):
That’s a really good question and it’s hard to answer definitively whether it is a real lack of what high performance is and means within the business world. I think some businesses have figured it out and had defined it for their context. Potentially other businesses are struggling and they take the term on because who doesn’t want their teams to high perform and consistently do so? But it’s about what it actually means.

Guest (01:53):
And for me coming from a background of sport and also coming from a space of working with businesses and business leaders over the last eight or nine years, it’s about realizing the potential of a business or the potential of a group of people with a particular purpose in mind that is clearly beyond where we’ve been before. It requires growth in everybody and it requires a quality and growth in the direction of how we work together and how we get people across the business to work really well together so that we can be ultimately highly effective in terms of our execution but we can do and in a way that doesn’t compromise people in terms of their energy or their personal lives, et cetera. For me, that’s what it is.

Gillian French (02:46):
And when you just talked about individuals there and I think that in the corporate setting, it’s very much about high performing teams. And I think what organizations maybe try to do is manage people in a kind of a mechanical way, that they have to perform to this or these are our bucket of high performers, these people. And I really find it interesting that you talk about the individual and the potential of the individual. I think that’s maybe a new concept for the organization.

Guest (03:17):
Well, it’s probably something we consider it in sport because we have to consider it, from talent identification, to identifying the talent of the individual, being I guess, more broad in what we’re looking at so we’re not just looking at the technical talent, physical and the skill set required to execute your sport, but we’re looking beyond that to the person, their character, their background, their history, what has got them to where they are today. Whereas in business, we potentially look for roles and people who have experience in the role and people who will have a fit with our organization or our culture, et cetera. And once we have them in, we don’t think beyond that. Business provide development for their people but it’s in sport, it’s ongoing. We’re literally thinking about the growth of the individual and the growth of the group every single time we’re with the group.

Guest (04:12):
And so if you want to cultivate high performance, it’s about human beings. It’s about human beings understanding what that means in the context of the business and more importantly, how we come together because that’s a critical piece. And we often hear about silos in business and we often hear about empire building in different functions of our business and people think they can go on and behave and act in any way they want, irrespective of how the business is performing. Whereas in sport, that’s simply, it cannot be allowed. I’m not saying all sport is good because it isn’t because it’s a hard thing to achieve. But certainly in the context of sport, in the better programs we try and think more holistically around the person and more holistically around the empowering of the group so that they own the journey, that they can realize their own dreams and their own goals in the context of what they’re doing for the organization.

Guest (05:10):
And so there’s this kind of common sense of our purpose and a common sense of our emotional connection to that purpose. And I think coaches have learned over time in sport that actually it doesn’t work to come in and have this hard in, hard in, all the time. That ultimately high performance is about high challenge because we’re looking to achieve things that are out there, try and become the best at what we do. But it also requires high support. We need to put the right environment around people to give them the best chance of realizing their potential, to help them show up in the best version of themselves, to help them to understand what their best version looks like.

Guest (05:50):
And in business potentially, we don’t potentially give it the same level of focus, that okay, I have someone in, I’ve hired them because they have experience, they already have expertise and they can do the job. And then I just leave them there and I might have some development activity going on once or twice a year that I can give them exposure to. But beyond that, what do we do to develop the individual? It potentially develops, I guess, a mindset around well then I just need to figure stuff out for myself. Who’s guiding me beyond that? In sport, we’re always coaching, we’re always guiding.

Guest (06:26):
And I heard a great story of a surgeon who was reflecting on his team and his theater and he wrote a book about it in the end. And he was thinking, in sport, from the time you go into sport, to the time you finish sport, you have a coach, yet we admire what these guys can do on the field of play. And they’re amazing and they become hero and role models for us but they continue to have a coach for their whole career. And he was thinking, yeah, I’m a professional, I’m an expert in what I do, I do it very well but I’ve never had a coach. From coming out of training to going into practice, I’ve never had a coach so he brought a coach in to first of all, work with him and then to observe his team. And he was amazed at what the coach had observed in his operating theater. Small things that he hadn’t picked up himself. And the amount of learning that he took just from that interaction that he had with a coach.

Guest (07:24):
And we know that we have executive coaches within the business world. And to me, I think it’s very hard to have a coaching support that only focuses on individuals. We need to build coaching capability around managers being able to coach teams, to be able to bring the collective on a journey together, that type of stuff and to understand human performance and human group performance. What does it actually look like? Because all businesses have teams but do they truly understand what it takes to become a really excellent team? What it takes for colleagues within the business to really have each other’s back, to really support each other, to know that they can be vulnerable within the group and the group will pull them along with them. That sense where you can be yourself.

Guest (08:15):
And I hear top coaches talk about this, we want you to yourself, don’t try and be an imitation of yourself, try and be yourself. That’s what we want. If we want people, we want that person to show up, not some other person to show up. And we probably sometimes during interview processes, we see glimpses of that and that’s the pieces of gold that we should be trying to nurture and encourage and cultivate out of people when we have them in business, I would think.

Gillian French (08:43):
Excellent. And you touched on there that managers should be coaches and they should be drawing this out to their people. Do you also think there’s benefit or do you see a role in the future where you could have a performance coach that’s on the wings that is objectively looking at the team rather than being in the team? Do you see that as something into the future that organization should have say a resident coach?

Guest (09:06):
I think that is potentially what we will see in the future because business leaders often have a big interest in sports and seeing, can they take parallels from sport into what they do in a business setting? Yet in sport, we have all these experts that sit around the human performance from sports science, sports medicine, life skills support, technical coaches, we have leadership, we have an understanding of leadership and we’ve a big respect for leadership and we build leadership within the player group. Within the athlete group, we teach them how to be leaders. We empower them to lead their own peer group. There’s a lot of support and understanding of what it takes to keep that environment consistent, to keep that environment continuously growing and in innovating and changing and adapting. And where in business we don’t have that.

Guest (10:00):
I see a future for a performance directorate within business, where we will have performance experts in place supporting managers, stroke leaders, stroke coaches of the organization to become more effective in how they lead and how they support people to perform at the highest level consistently. While taking into account that the recovery of people is absolutely critical. That we only have so much resource with regard to our energy and that has to be refueled and recovered if we’re going to come back to the plate and perform consistently over time. It’s about that sustaining performance.

Guest (10:43):
And I did say it was about realizing potential. That actually means to me that one person’s potential in terms of a summit might be very different to another person’s potential. But if we have the right environment around our people, all boats rise with the same tide. Effectively, if you have a team where you’re getting the best out of everybody, some person’s 10 might be an eight, another person’s 10 might be a 10, another person’s 10 might be a seven but they’re all bringing the best of themselves to the table and one is not more appreciated than the other in the context of what the team does to achieve success.

Gillian French (11:19):
I think that’s a big differentiation between the two worlds because I think in the corporate world with rankings and ratings, we are trying to, well some organizations are trying to have people equal. And what you’re really saying is unlock the person’s potential, their maximum potential. That’s the role of the leader and the manager, to take this person and realize their full potential and create the environment where they can actually realize their full potential.

Guest (11:47):
What an amazing place to perform and to develop your career that would be if that’s what their concept was.

Gillian French (11:54):

Guest (11:54):
And in some ways it’s very hard for leaders who are running complex, big organizations, anything from a 100 people to 300 people, to 10,000 people, so how do you do that? Well, it’s a bit like a formula, you break it down to its small parts and you kind of build that philosophy across all the elements of it. And if I’m a CEO and I have a team of 10 executives, well, that’s where I start. And it’s an education, it’s a development of that group first and then a transition of that understanding down into the next 50 or the next 30 and then beyond. It’s the fact that it has to start at the top. It has to be in my mind, something that we want to step back, we want to open our lens, we want to think about what our way is into the future.

Guest (12:50):
We want to think about why we retain people, why they stay with us, why they can have their best career with our business. Wouldn’t that be great? And why wouldn’t that be fantastic for our customers? If we could have a happy, fulfilled workforce, what would that mean for our ultimate results and outcomes? I think that’s where it starts. Great performance is cultivated. We plant the seeds, we look after the soil, we go back over it again and again. We don’t just set her up in a town hall and then walk away and hope that everybody’s got that and that’s going to fuel them for the rest of the year. That just doesn’t happen. We have to go back and reinforce what’s most important. Leaders have to exemplify the values that they’re putting out there to their employees because their employees are taking their cue from their leaders, whether that’s a manager at a middle level or whether that’s a manager or senior leader at the top of the organization.

Guest (13:50):
It’s quite challenging but is this the time coming through this pandemic? We’re not out the other side of it yet. Is this the time to really change the game? Is this the time to take time to reflect? How do leaders get that time? I think they’ve got to create that space. They can’t be prisoners to their diaries and their schedules. They have to own part of their diary to be able to reflect on the future and to be able to think about the organizations that they want to leave behind, the legacy for their leadership, et cetera. I think that could be part of the journey where we start a conversation and we don’t assume the future. I think we shouldn’t be listening to the trend and saying, “Okay, that trend seems to be a trend we should follow in terms of how we’re going to work into the future.” They should be looking about, what does a really great situation look like for us? Can we create that? Can we create it? Can we co-create it with our employees? But there are some big questions for leaders to answer.

Gillian French (14:47):
What you talked about there and the behaviors and the values, I’m not really seeing that demonstrated in the corporate environment. It’s transactional, it’s fast thinking, quick decisions, results oriented, I don’t see many leaders asking questions about how are your team doing? What are you doing to develop them? Empathetic leaders, supportive leaders don’t seem to be rising to the top. What are your thoughts around that?

Guest (15:16):
I think you’ll see different things in different businesses and you’ll see a different, I was going to say philosophy, but you’ll see different personalities that have been developed through career experience, through organizational cultures. Leaders develop over time but teams lead organizations, not individual leaders so you have a combination of different experiences coming around the table. And I’m not sure if you look at the top level, where they think about, look, how do we become a team? How do we align around our values? What do we need to shift in our approach and our behaviors and our practice that make us better leaders into the future? Why are we here and what’s our purpose? Is it just for shareholder? Is it just for shareholder value? Is it just for results? And we know we achieve that through pleasing customers but ultimately we achieve that through others and that is our own employees, our own people. We achieve it through them.

Guest (16:20):
I think there is a challenge there. And you know what? It’s very easy for me to sit in the chair here and talk about what leaders should or shouldn’t do. That’s not my place and I hope that’s not what’s coming across here. Leaders have a very difficult job. I love leadership because leaders can make the biggest difference and that’s why I’m so interested in leadership. They can either make the big difference in terms of the product experience that people have or they can make a big difference in terms of the quality of experience people have. I do think it’s a time to reflect and I think that’s something that leaders don’t have a lot of. They don’t have a lot of time but they do have a choice around how they spend their time and what they spend their time on.

Guest (17:09):
And I think there’s an opportunity for leaders to step away from almost the groundhog of always on and what’s next, what’s next? And trying to knock things out, knock things out. They need to get time to be able to step away from the business and be challenged by some really big questions, which will stimulate their growth, which will help the business develop and become something better. I think that’s maybe where need some leaders need to go and some businesses just need to create that time and to come armed with some really significant questions because they don’t have to have the answers, but what they do have to have is the questions. And I’m not sure that we’re potentially asking ourselves the right questions.

Gillian French (17:58):
Which maybe brings you back to that role you discuss, the performance coach maybe on the sideline that would observe things that when you’re in it and you’re in the organization and you’re trying to do your day to day and deliver, you’re not really in that space of we need to stand back and take that time. And you talked about something there, which I have really seen over the past couple of years, is this always on culture. And again, with the high performance, sometimes in organizations they see that people who work all the hours, they’re for a dedicated to the business, they’re on their holidays, they’re checking emails. What is your view on this always on culture? And again, I don’t think that’s something that the sporting world translate, they’re not always on but we’ve taken it into a corporate setting.

Guest (18:44):
It’s a danger for every human being in sport and in business. And I think it’s a danger because we start to live our life through the expectations of others. Our organization has that expectation or the culture of our organization has that expectation so I must have that of myself. And often it’s, I must be seen to be in that space as opposed to I’m actually operating really highly and effectively in the space. I need seen to put an email out a 10:00 or need to be seen to put an email out at half 1:00 in the morning because that’s the expected thing. And I think that that is a poor performance context for people to be in and it’s a very poor performance context for leaders to be facilitating because leaders are facilitating it. That’s what the experience of people is, well then they’re facilitating.

Guest (19:31):
And it comes from not really, truly understanding human performance and the requirement for recovery and the requirement for release from that intense space, with regard to delivering excellent performance consistently. You need to recover, you need to reflect, you need to learn, you need to reflect on your own performance and the performance of others so that you can take that learning together to move forward. And I don’t think from my observation, we see enough of that in business. And I do see leaders and I work with leaders who have that desire, genuinely have that desire to go there but some of them have big task. It’s a pretty big asked to turn a culture in a bigger organization, especially if you only have a part to play in one side of the organization and how it performs.

Guest (20:22):
Look, I think it’s not a challenge I don’t think that we can certainly come up with an answer to now, but if you’re allowing a performance context that is always on, well you’re not facilitating the potential of the group and you’re not giving your organization the best chance to perform at much higher levels. You’re actually limiting the performance of your own people by allowing an always on culture to be in place. And I remember I had this conversation with a leader and he said to me, “How could we change that?” And I said, “Well, you simply, you say our work time here starts at 7:00 in the morning and finishes at 8:00 in the evening, so no signal before 7:00 and no signal after 8:00 with regard to work, unless you’re engaging with an international client that requires you to do so.”

Guest (21:22):
That’s a value, that’s a value set. That’s something that you’re saying, “Well, we value your recovery.” By saying, “I’m putting this timeline.” And I’m saying that, “This is enough time in which to produce your best performance.” And on the other side of that, we’re giving you enough time with your family and to recover and to relax and get up the next morning spritely and ready to go again. I’m not saying it’s 7:00 to 8:00 PM, I’m just saying that there’s a window in which your performance context opens up to allow people to perform exceptionally well. And there’s a window which closes that so that people can recover properly and enjoy their personal lives and whatever. We may have people who are lost within our organizations, who are really, really stuck and they’re dragging ultimately the performance of the overall organization down. We have many people who are like that and they’re trying to show up as a shadow of themselves because of how the organization is run. We really need to look at that and that’s leader’s responsibility, by the way. It’s no one else’s, it belongs with leaders.

Gillian French (22:27):
Again, I’m a grown own adult and I won’t put my age out there. I’m a grown adult, Gary, so I have a responsibility to set boundaries too if I start in an organization about setting those boundaries and taking responsibility for myself and my health as well. Do you think sometimes we do put a big responsibility on leaders and organizations that they have to sort of be in charge of these things and therefore we take away our own responsibility?

Guest (22:56):
Well, that’s a really, it’s a great point because if you have a very clear sense of the boundaries that sit around your life, well, then you’ll only choose an organization that aligns with those boundaries.

Gillian French (23:09):
Very good.

Guest (23:10):
That’s really interesting because I think if I become that organization, maybe I’ll attract a really interesting talent. And I don’t know if the future of work and the future young talent that’s coming into the workplace will have a very different expectation of leaders and organizations into the future. I suspect they might have, so organizations need to be ready for that, how people want to work because it’ll be somewhat different. Really, I don’t think I’ve met a leader who doesn’t really want the best for the people, just I think part of the challenge is finding the best way to achieve it. How do we achieve that?

Guest (23:50):
But for us, for whether it’s you or I and we’re trying to find a career and a job, we have responsibilities. We may have families, we may have homes and we have bills to pay and we might be stuck in our organization, we don’t have any other option but to work like that. What I’m saying is that’s not good for the organization. It’s not good for the business. It’s also not good for the individual but it’s not good for the business. And so what are we leaving behind? We’d go to an Olympic games or we’d go to a world championships and we’d win stuff. We’d win stuff and that would be great but we’d always be walking away saying, “What did we leave behind? And why did we leave it behind? Did we leave medals behind? Did we leave colors behind? Should that been a goal? Should have that bronze been a silver? Should have that top eight been a bronze?” That type of stuff.

Guest (24:44):
We’re looking at what did we leave behind? And did we prepare that athlete correctly? Did we provide the right environment for them to be successful? Are we doing our job really, really well? That is something we need to do, I think, as coaches in this space and as leaders in this high performance sports space, because we don’t, we’re going to get left behind. We have to be hungry and curious about ourselves, our own practice, our own behavior, our own limitation but also the environment that actually supports the people that we’re there and responsible for, supports them to be better tomorrow than they were yesterday.

Gillian French (25:27):
Gary, just thinking forward and thinking for leaders who might be listening, what advice would you have? If I think of it in a leadership context, they’re going to have pressure from boards. They’re going to have pressure from shareholders. That’s where their pressure comes from and then that translates into the organization. Is there a wider structural thing that has to happen? Or what can we do to try and bridge that gap and create these organizations that have environments where people can flourish?

Guest (25:55):
That’s a tough one, I think because you, again, it’s around that expectation piece. Because if our leaders are driven by a lens of expectation that sits above them and often they may and can be, that creates a big challenge then because that places pressure on them to act in a particular way and to drive energy or communication around a result, which is not within our control. Result is always in the past. Performance is in the now and our focus should be on creating performance organizations, performance driven organizations, as opposed to results driven organizations. We have a very clear sense of our intent, where we want to be and often I think when I think of purpose, for example, and how powerful and important it is, I think I can translate it in two ways. One it’s what I want to achieve or what we want to collectively achieve. And that’s not just results based. It can be broader than that in terms of our emotional connection to it but also it’s around what we want to be become or what we need to become to achieve this.

Guest (27:03):
And that’s powerful because that means that all of us are evolving as a result of taking the journey towards this purpose so it’s more powerful. But if I go back to your question around the people or the boards that sit above the leaders, I think the leaders of organizations need to sit with their boards and educate them but they have to educate themselves first. They have to have a sense of how it’s best done. I think if you don’t have a philosophy as to how you run your business and how you lead as a leader, it makes it very, very difficult for you to convince others above you that there is a better way and that while it makes slow us down to the target initially, in the longer term we go beyond, we burst through these glass ceilings of what potential is and we see beyond that.

Guest (27:57):
That’s a different world. That’s change. That’s a change in the paradigm around the relationship between boards and senior executive teams. And so I think if our senior teams think, well, we’re here, we’ve reached the top, where else is there to go? It’s just a start of a new learning for them as senior leaders arrive in that C-suite space. That’s a new space for them. And in many ways the research would say they have to drop 30% of what got them there and they have to develop a whole new 30%. What sits within that new 30%? That’s really interesting. And I’m pretty sure, within that 30% is managing the stakeholder above them and educating the stakeholder above them. And a lot of friction I think, is created by a lack of education, a lack of understanding.

Guest (28:47):
And if you place pressure on results, you’ll hurt performance longer term, there’s no question because we have a focus on the outcome as opposed to a focus on the process. What is it we need to do? How is it we need to change? What needs to be adjusted? I see this big, high pressure on results and yet no change within the organization. And yet often the opponent is within, it’s not the competitor, it’s ourselves. And we can get out of our own way, ensure that our organizations are not a limitation to our people. Our organization allow our people to do their best work. What does that look like? That’s the leader’s responsibility. If a process or if a relationship or if a structure is blocking our ability and our potential, we need to get in and fix it very, very quickly.

Guest (29:36):
And in sport, we’re interested in that root cause. We’re going back to say, “Well, what is the problem we want to solve? What are the big problems?” Define it really, really well and then go after it and have people galvanized around making us better around that space into the future. I think high performance is about solving problems better than your competitor. I think for organizations, well, what’s the opponent within? What’s actually preventing us from getting to these numbers more consistently? And having that as a dialogue, as opposed to just applying the pressure all the time, which just creates, I think a lot of noise and you can’t have focus when there’s noise. You just can’t. And to get to that flow state, to get to that higher level of performance, you need this quality of focus within the team, within the individual, the clarity around the role that they have, a clarity around what we’re actually trying to achieve and a respect and recognition for the contributions that those individuals or those teams will bring to the organization longer term.

Guest (30:37):
Maybe to answer the question again, just around it, it would be leaders need to reflect first on how they manage that relationship. If it’s in a space that’s difficult, how do they manage that relationship better? How do they educate the board as to what they’re trying to do with the organization and ensure that they have advocacy and trust and support around what they’re trying to do? I think that’s great leadership. I think that’s courageous leadership. I think that’s the type of leadership I would like to follow. I know in my own early leadership role, I didn’t have that within my organization and I worked really hard to try and build that advocacy. And it was difficult but you’ve got to want it. You can run away and say, “Oh, I’m going somewhere else. I’m going to lead somewhere else.” You got to want it. I always think, well, whoever you are responsible for, you have a responsibility to them to do the right thing and often the right thing is not an easy thing to do.

Gillian French (31:30):
For sure. You talk about purpose a lot, Gary and I work with leadership teams through my consultancy and in organizations that I’ve worked with and I have found that leaders sometimes find it difficult to translate purpose or bring it to the organization, bring it alive and even translate that to boards and start talking about purpose and vision. And sometimes we call them the softer skills, which is language that they’re not used to. Have you come across that leaders are finding it hard? And maybe they don’t know their own purpose, which in a sense is quite difficult then to lead if you don’t actually know what you’re about.

Guest (32:05):
Yeah, a 100%. Some people say that culture is this nebulous idea. It’s this floating thing. And I don’t feel the same way, I like to land stuff. I take stuff literally. And I take from a purpose perspective, I think Plato said that, “All human behavior is driven by three main sources. Number one, desire.” That kind of connects a little bit to the purpose piece. Number two, emotion. There are emotional connection to what it is we’re trying to become together or individually or the part we have to play in this particular journey or story. And the third thing he says is, “Knowledge.” Then I think the knowledge piece is easy. If you have desire and emotion connection across your team and across your organization, you’re just got to find the people, they’re going to do their best work. They’re going to be curious about it, the whole lot.

Guest (33:02):
It is a difficult place and yet we think it’s a form of words so we develop purpose in the same way we develop vision. We try and come up with a set of words. That kind of seems right for our organization or context, but yet do we ask us, “Does this emotionally drive us? Does this emotionally excite us? Does this emotionally make us feel a little bit fearful around whether we can actually achieve it?” Purpose is a bit like that. And I had spoke about this before, the first time I even recognized purpose. I didn’t really know the word in advance of this was when we had our first daughter and she was put into my hands and I realized that I wanted to be everything I could possibly be as a dad and a parent for this little one. That was purpose. That was a sense of my responsibility. And I think that’s what purpose is.

Guest (33:51):
And I don’t think in life we just have one single purpose, we have multiple purposes because we have multiple roles in life. I certainly think that we struggle with that space and we rush it. And that’s the problem because business dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, it’s very, very quick. It’s very fast. We rush through it. Well we have to get that section. And actual fact, if we spend a little bit more time on our vision and purpose, our strategy becomes much more effective so the work that we do on strategy becomes more effective and the work that we do around understanding the execution of the strategy. What would it actually take? And how do we need to evolve as an organization? And what needs to be different? And where do we start that journey?

Guest (34:36):
That’s my view on it and I know it’s not easy. Of course it isn’t. That’s why those organizations and those leaders who have managed to bring purpose to a higher meaning, those guys who manage and those women who manage to bring it to a higher meaning, get a much better organization coming out the other end of it and people have a much better experience of working with those type of leaders and those type of organizations.

Gillian French (35:05):
Thank you so much for listening to The Employee Experience Podcast. Subscribe on Acast or wherever you get your podcasts and check out workvivo.com 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.