Aimee O'Leary
Written by
Aimee O'Leary

This interview is a part of the Inspire: Cities series – meet the Chief Inspiration Officers. Inspire: Cities is the local arm of the global movement from Inspiring Workplaces. Our mission is to change the world, with you, through the world of work. One workplace, city and community at a time. View the full list of Cities here.

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What does an Inspiring Workplace mean to you?

A people-first organization where all employees feel valued and want to make others feel valued. When people feel special, they act special, and when that happens, the entire organization benefits.

Do you have a personal purpose? A why? Something that drives you daily?

Every day I strive to make people feel valued, whether it’s family, friends, colleagues, clients, or just any random person I interact with. If I can make someone feel good and help raise their self-esteem, they will likely be a little happier, less stressed, and more productive (and I’m always hopeful they will do the same for someone else).

What do you think is the top priority when it comes to people at work this year and why?

What: Developing and maintaining openness across all levels of workplace communication.
Why:

  • Encouraging people to talk about and listen to each other’s concerns, ideas, opinions, and needs, helps build an inclusive, collaborative workforce where everyone feels their contributions are valued.
  • Regular 2-way proactive feedback between an employee and their manager creates trust and understanding.
  • Employees want clarity on things that affect them, their colleagues, and the organization, so timely, clear, and transparent corporate communication facilitates this while giving the employees confidence that leadership is working for the success of all.

The past 12 months has seen an acceleration of positive change, mostly due to it being enforced upon employers. Change like trust, empowering choice, flexibility, investment in wellbeing and the reduction in the stigma around mental health. Our question is, how many employers stick to this path and how many revert to type?

Most companies who have survived the pandemic have done so because of employee-centric, people-first changes. The majority of them will (hopefully) realize the importance of focusing on their employees and ensuring they feel safe, trusted, and valued.

A follow up to the last question. How do they stay the course should they wish to?

Rather than wait for the next ‘pandemic’ or issue, they need to do regular check-ups with the workforce and act on the feedback (or even better, let the employees work on it). This does NOT mean the annual employee survey, but a more frequent review of the employees’ needs and ideas ( yes, it can still be a short survey). In addition to any company-wide initiatives or changes, companies need to encourage individuals and teams to make changes and improvements pertinent to them, thus improving the organization holistically.

You’re a founding Chief Inspiration Officer for Inspire: Cities. What are you most looking forward to learning/ sharing with your local community?

I want our ‘members’ to enthuse each other by sharing their success stories, describing how they overcame setbacks, asking questions on how to become a better place to work, providing suggestions to workplace concerns, and more.

Tell us something about your city or the people that make it. Something the rest of us won’t know.

It has only snowed once in the Miami/South Florida area – back in January 1977

Do you think in-person events will be valued more than ever before after the past 12-18 months?

For the most part – Yes. For some (like me), the experience of being stuck at home with limited face-to-face interaction has given them cabin fever and a sense of disconnect. They will be delighted to start networking in person again and building new relationships. However, for others, they have come to realize that much communication and information-seeking can be adequately accomplished through their internet devices and may be quite happy to ‘tune in’ remotely.

How do you think attendees will react to The Inspire Ring and our unique event format?

Engagingly. I think the format of having up to 4 storytellers with a break in between each story will appeal to attendees’ personal interests, and they will ask questions of the person or provide their own experiences.

Note – I’m not sure yet on the logistics of an actual circle/ring as it will likely depend on the venue, but time will tell on that one.

What are three areas of focus for organizations looking to improve the people experience?

Needs Driven Leadership – successful organizations meet their business needs without neglecting the needs of people. In fact, they recognize that the energy and motivation needed to achieve those organizational goals is a result of the employee needs being met. When people’s needs are met at work, they are much more likely to enjoy coming to work, and they will want to be there. This comes about from managers and other leaders individualizing rather than generalizing when it comes to the workforce.

Improve Communication – Frequent company updates, town-halls, managers regularly checking in with their staff (individualizing), and colleagues engaging in open dialogue builds trust and a healthy culture.

Becoming More Agile – COVID highlighted how important it is to be able to adapt and evolve in response to fast-changing scenarios. Being agile also means less bureaucracy and more autonomy to meet moving business needs.

What do you think is the most important quality in a leader?

Positivity.

In good and bad times, a leader must maintain an optimistic attitude as this permeates throughout his or her team. They are always looking to boost the confidence and self-esteem of their people and raise the morale of the entire team. A good leader will recognize a job well done and speak highly of and to an employee while helping people look for solutions if things aren’t going as planned.

What’s your go to productivity trick?

Where feasible, break a task into smaller parts so that each can be more readily accomplished and feel like a small win. That and simply finding a quiet space somewhere.

Who was the last person to inspire you at work and why?

It’s tough to single out any one person over the past 12 months because so many have inspired me as they adapted to a very fluid and sometimes challenging workplace situation due to Covid-19. Numerous people have risen to the challenge and excelled despite all the changes…with some finding new leadership qualities as they help others through these tough times.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

When issues or concerns arise, always talk in terms of Solutions. Don’t ask “why” did/does it happen, ask “what” needs to happen to improve or fix it.

Name one song that fires you up, when you need to get motivated and fast

The Black Eyed Peas – I Gotta Feeling

Best place, (other than your own city) that you have ever visited?

Valley of the Kings – Egypt


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