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115: Leaping into leadership with Aoife O’Brien
22nd July 2022 • Happier At Work® • Aoife O'Brien
00:00:00 00:09:49

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Welcome to this week’s solo episode of Happier at Work. This week in the midst of a rare thunderstorm in Dublin, Aoife answers a listener’s burning question regarding leaping into leadership.

From having a boss who made decisions and called the shouts to now being in command – Aoife dives into the transition into leadership and offers valuable advice on how to lead effectively and strategically. So if you are making big moves in business, this episode is for you as Aoife discusses the importance of gaining clarity and asking questions in the workplace. We also learn how companies can be enhanced through the power of listening and observing. The main points covered in this episode include:

- Preparation is vital: questions to ask as a business leader.

- Understanding the business: do your core values and the organisational values align?

- Resources for imposter syndrome.

- The impact of collecting employee feedback.

- Building and maintaining business relationships.

- Setting a vision and team development plan.

- Thinking out loud and effective decision making in business.


Do you have any feedback or thoughts on this discussion? If so, please connect with Aoife via the links below and let her know. Aoife would love to hear from you!


LISTEN BACK: Happier at Work episodes

Overcoming imposter syndrome and igniting empowerment with Aoife O’Brien:

The values of business with Irial O’Farrell:

Connect with Happier at Work host Aoife O’Brien:


Aoife O'Brien:

Are you looking to improve employee engagement and retention? Do you struggle with decisions on who to hire or who to promote? I have an amazing opportunity for forward thinking, purpose led, people first organisation to work with me on the first pilot Happier at Work program for corporates. The program is entirely science backed and you will have tangible outcomes in relation to employee engagement, retention, performance and productivity. The program is aimed at people leaders with responsibility for hiring and promotion decisions. If this sounds like you, please get in touch at Aoife @ That's A O I F E @ You're listening to the Happier 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 Hello, and welcome back to another solo episode of the Happier at Work podcast. I just want to say from the outset, there is a thunderstorm here in Dublin while I am recording this. So in case you can hear that rumbling in the background, that's likely what it is. It's so interesting, we haven't had a thunderstorm here for quite some time. So this week's episode focuses on a listener question I will read it out now. So someone has written in to say, I've just been promoted to director, my boss used to make all the decisions, or I always had a boss to tell me what to do. But now it's up to me. And very, very common problem I think that people have when you move from that individual contributor, or at least a maybe a team leader role. But now suddenly, it's up to you to make all of the more strategic decisions and do some of the thinking behind how things actually get done. So you're moving from just doing from just performing the role to, and doing essentially what other people have told you to do or set out for you to do, to having to decide what needs to be done and thinking about the strategic direction of the team or the strategic direction of the business. Something that occurred to me as I was reading this is the idea that there is an opportunity to prepare for this kind of situation in that just by asking people how decisions were made. And at the risk of kind of sounding like you're questioning everything that's being done, it's really, if you if you clarify it with the statement that you are just looking to get an understanding of how decisions get made in the business. So what are the stages that people go through? How how do they reach conclusions? How do they reach decisions about what needs to actually be done. Before I go on to answer the question in a bit more detail, I suppose now is the time to say that it is an opportunity to reflect on your core values. So what are the core values of the business? And what are your own personal core values. And, you know, let's assume that they are the same. You know, if you want to know more about values, how to define your values, or the importance of values and the importance of your values being aligned with those of the organisation, there are some previous podcast episodes to cover that topic. Not going to go into detail on that today. But it's more about taking the opportunity to reflect on your values, how you want to be seen as a leader as well. So how how those values can shape your decisions. So for me, values are really crucial when it comes to decision making, because the decisions in the organisation should be based on the values of that organisation. So for example, if you value things like fairness and equity, then think of ways to make decisions that will give people an equal opportunity to perform their best, for example, or give people an equal opportunity towards a promotion, or sharing the workload equally among people because that's the fair thing. That's the equitable thing to do. Again, something else that could be going through this person's mind at the moment is imposter syndrome, feeling like they don't belong feeling a little bit out of place that they're, they're in over their heads, that they're out of their depth. And, you know, addressing that, again, I've addressed this issue of imposter syndrome separately, so I'm not going to necessarily cover it, but it's just to call out that that could be the context in which this is happening as well. So in relation to addressing this issue, so you're in this situation where suddenly you are expected to start making all of the decisions now I've seen this play out in organisational situations really well, where when you join this in this particular scenario, the person had joined the organisation from an outside organisation at quite a senior level. And what she did was really sit back and observe and listened to what was going on for people. So you know, you when she got that role, it was more about listening to what other people are doing. And I think it's really important to get that feedback from employees, and actually listen to what's going on, ask the kinds of questions like what's working well at the moment? What needs improvement, and that will start to help guide the strategy within the team of what do we need to start doing differently? Or what is some of the things that we can improve on here, another great thing to do at that level is to start forming relationships. So figure out who are the people that you need on your side? Who are the people that you need to build relationships with, whether they are senior leaders, whether they are inter departmental heads, things like that. So working out, who are the people that you need to form a relationship with, to have a good working relationship with - identify them, reach out to them and start building those connections. The other thing to consider is creating a vision for the team. So what do you want the team to be known for? What is the vision that you have for the team? And what is the impact that the team is going to have on the organisation as a whole, so really understanding the role that the team plays in the wider organisation, and being able to translate that vision for each individual role then and, and giving individuals a clearer understanding of the role that they play within that team, I think is really, really important as well. And that brings me on to the last point, and that's about having a development plan for the team. So how would you like individuals to develop within the team over time, and giving people those developmental opportunities, I think is, is really, really important. Now, one thing that I haven't necessarily mentioned up to now, and that's the kind of another question that that sprung to my mind, is thinking around the team and whether or not the team is supportive. So it could be that you are promoted to this level. And suddenly, you're managing people who are formerly your peers, which I know I've personally experienced that as being the person being managed, as well as being the manager. And it is, it's a real struggle, I think on both sides. But understanding who is on your side who's being supportive of you is, is really important. And if you identify that there are people who are not supportive of you, it's about confronting those types of issues and understanding the root cause of that. And if there's anything that you can do to to change that as well. The other thing to bear in mind when it comes to decision making is that you don't want to come across as a bit wishy washy or do that thinking out loud, because you're in this position now, where you're, you're that bit more senior, and people are looking to you for answers. So if you start thinking out loud, they may take what you're saying as the truth or that that decision has already been made. Or if you might come across as you haven't really done your research if you're if you're thinking out loud, that you haven't thought things through properly. So another thing to bear in mind is to maybe not conceal what it is that you're doing. But to do that, have that thinking time rather than doing the thinking out loud, turning it back over to you now listeners, do you have anything that you would add to that? Have you been in that situation before where you were promoted, and suddenly you find yourself having to make all of these strategic type decisions where previously you were just working on what you were told to do, essentially. So I would love for you to get involved in the conversation. You can do that over on Instagram Also on LinkedIn, Aoife O'Brien that's A O I F E O apostrophe, B R I E N. I would love to get your thoughts do get involved in the conversation and let me know what you think. That was another episode of the Happier at Work podcast. I am so glad you tuned in today. If you enjoyed 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