Aimee O'Leary
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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.


What does an Inspiring Workplace mean to you?

SM: It’s about creating an environment in which people can do their best work, every day, to the benefit of all stakeholders

AMP: A culture where you can be the best version of yourself, you thrive and encourage others to do so too

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

SM: Yes I do – to connect people.  It’s what really gets me energised and why I wanted to be involved in Inspire:Ireland

AMP: To live a life of no regrets and be the catalyst for other to do the same

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

SM: Taking the learnings from the past 12 months and, in consultation with staff, creating a workplace and future office that works for everyone

AMP: People feeling valued and living their values…we have all had a reality check and need to stop taking our people for granted

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?

SM: I think time will tell.  And it hasn’t all been positive change – we need to realise that while it’s been positive for many, there are lots of groups for which it hasn’t been such a great ride – single parents, young professionals, teenagers – everyone has a different story to tell

AMP: Agree with Scott. It depends on the impact on the individual and their desire for change in the first place.

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

SM: They need to take all the best bits, talk to people, agree what they want to work towards and then do that together

AMP: Anchor it to their values and their own why.

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

SM: Irish people are great storytellers and I’m looking forward to providing a stage for people to share their stories – I’m looking forward to hearing lots of authentic stories with practical learnings and guests can perhaps take away and apply in their own lives/jobs/companies

AMP: Looking forward to being disruptive and bringing a more intimate and authentic platform to the market

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

SM: Despite being a very small country of c5m people, Irish people are fiercely proud of the difference we’ve made around the world along with the other 10m or so Irish diaspora out there

AMP: Irish people are all about relationships and making meaningful connections, that’s why our people, culture and traditions are loved around the world

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

SM: Yes, people have missed the sense of connectedness over the past 12 months so anything we can do to safely get people safely back together will be welcomed I think

AMP: Absolutely…authentic, meaningful connection is more powerful in person

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

SM: I think it’s going to be interesting to see – As Mike Tyson famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” so i suspect we’ll try and fail and experiment with the exact format until we get it right

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

SM: Listening to what employees want, upskilling leaders and giving them time to lead and having a really clear and human purpose that REALLY connects with people

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

SM: Being a good listener

AMP: Empathy

What’s your go to productivity trick?

SM: Make a list and work through it – simple!

AMP: Act like an owner!

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

SM: My former boss, Anth Burrows, now founder at Intelligent Emotion who did that classic leader thing of setting direction and getting out the way.  He’s also a great listener who isn’t afraid to call someone out or admit when he doesn’t know the answer.

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

SM: “What’s for you wont pass you”, a peach from my Granny.  So I tend not to let things bother me – Once I’ve done my best, what will be will be

AMP: “care so much you don’t care” – say what needs to be said, break what needs to be broken

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

SM: Mr Blue Sky – ELO

AMP: Anything by Fleetwood Mac (I secretly want to be Stevie Nicks!!)

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

SM: Kathmandu – loved the people and the city

AMP: Bali  – something really special about the people and their outlook on life

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