Debbie O’Neill chats through what the Impact Alchemy has done for her leadership style, and state of influence in her new leadership role!
- permission to be me!
- increased collaboration, less team frustration
- invited to speak to global office about her new approach
- ripple of purpose driven organisation change – actual cultural change!
Transcript of Interview Below:
Debbie: Should I give you the feedback on what I kind of sort of feel the alchemy has done for me?
I’ve kind of given this a lot of thought last night and I kind of probably hadn’t quite realized how much it had done for me actually until I really started to think about it.
But I think you know I think I said to you at the time I really enjoyed the process for starters and I think the thing that I enjoyed about it the most it was kind of like in some ways potentially the most exciting thing you can be doing right because like here you are as a person and it’s like you’re going to find stuff out about yourself which sounds really crazy but it’s just it’s almost kind of you got like this little fireworks going off in your head because it’s just kind of wow, I wonder what I’m going to find out about myself.
You know it was a bit bit like that, but the process was great. Remember when you first started to kind of read it out to me and I did feel quite emotional about it and I think it was just because I kind of felt gosh it’s me, you know it was kind of really weird sort of sensation but I think moving on from there, I think that probably what it’s done for me and as a kind of a leader and now kind of running this, this organization is it’s kind of on one hand, it’s given me permission to be me.
That’s really important, right? Because I was just trying to weirdly kind of fit in and be all things to all people and it didn’t feel comfortable or right. And then suddenly by having gone through the process with you and you’re reading that out to me.
It’s not like I look at it every day to remind myself who I am, but I am, I kind of just kind of stepped into, you know, something else.
And it’s just kind of because it’s almost like, I don’t know, like it’s like you’ve given me that permission to be me.
Kath: It’s just so that’s some crazy psychology thing that’s going on there, isn’t it? And we look back “what an idiot! I should have known that about myself!” “As if I didn’t — of course I was already!” But I don’t know what is it about needing permission? I don’t know what that is, but everyone does and I do.
Debbie: Yeah, yeah, it’s just, it’s madness and it was, but it’s so, I think the word in the way it’s been put together is so lovely as well, you know, in terms of the storytelling around it. So it kind of feels, you know, it feels nice, but definitely for me.
So I was promoted in april, I can’t remember exactly when, when we did this actually, I think it was before into that position and, and I’ve just kind of, yeah, I’ve really, it’s just made a massive difference for me simply because I’m turning up to work and being me there’s something about the ripple effect, you know, for sure in that because I’m being me and you know, that it’s kind of being kind of picked up by others.
So like for example, we’ve got like healing crystals in the office. They’re not my healing crystals, right? They’re not mine. I didn’t take them in, but there’s something about me kind of owning who I am that is kind of giving other people permission to do that. We’ve got kind of, I’ve got some oracle cards in the office.
Yeah. Sometimes people come to my desk and I’m like, let’s pull a card and whatever and people are loving that, but it’s not uncomfortable if I tried to do this a year ago, it would have been really weird for me and everyone else, but somehow now it’s not.
Kath: It’s just everyone in an ease in some ways.
Debbie: Yeah, it’s great. And, And when do you remember, they don’t expect you to remember the detail of the meditation saying that you took me through, but the essence was, you know, we’re in that kind of, it was like a bit of a Disney type thing and color in the marketplace.
Kath: Yeah, 100% remember.
Debbie: And what I found is that that has stuck in my subconscious, I think really, because I find myself using some of the words, so I’ll talk about kind of whether it’s to myself sometimes even others the lurkers because, so it’s in my mind, I’m almost kind of, you know, and it’s not a conscious thing.
It’s kind of identifying, right? This is all these people, this is all the color at the front there with me yet. We’ve got the lurkers at the back in the brown cloaks.
They’re coming, give them time, you know, it’s that kind of thing that stuck with me and certainly when I’m coaching people and it’s kind of like over half the people in the organization now, you know, they’ve stepped forward to coaching.
So I think I’m like 15 people since the beginning of the year that I’ve taken through this coaching program. And I come into that in a minute.
But remember the kind of going up the stairway Shane and the view and that again, with coaching, it’s just, I’m very kind of, it’s what I’m doing, but again, not in a conscious way, but I think that whole story plays itself out in my head and it’s almost kind of the, I don’t know, that kind of gravitas maybe.
So everything else that we’ve kind of gone through. It’s like that, that story is kind of there in the background as this kind of reminder of the magic, I suppose.
Kath: I’ve experienced that as not that I’ve done this on myself, that certainty is like, yeah, like that foundation. And so when you, when you, I guess, you know, even just having that, knowing that this is the journey that they’re on and then seeing the markers as they hit them and going, yeah, they’re on the right path, sort of. Do you feel that that’s what’s happening?
Debbie: Yeah, yeah, definitely. It’s great. And it’s I don’t think when I talk to other people about their experiences. I know that this piece is about me, but when I’m talking to other people, not in and out of coaching, right? it’s still that kind of maybe through going through this for myself, it’s easier for me to take people on that journey for their selves or to help them to see things.
And I think what it’s also done is given me this real, I don’t know, this sense of just calm, you know, because I think maybe because I feel like I do know, you know myself, I mean, this role, you know, I’m not feeling particularly stressed by it.
There’s lots of decision making and lots to be done particularly post pandemic in in the industry, but I kind of I don’t feel that I’m attaching myself to the problems, you know, I can kind of stay back here and and it feels like that wise woman in the marketplace, right?
It feels like that kind and it’s like that sorceress. I mean it’s my sorceress is my highest score anyway, but I kind of sort of feel that I can just stand back and just think it’s alright, everything’s okay, and I think I’m kind of giving off that vibe to everyone else.
Kath: You claim it because you’re not attaching yourself because you’re more, let’s say that the experience of that storytelling through the marketplace up the lighthouse and the tower and looking at knowing that storyline and knowing that you’ve had that success with people that they’ve traveled on that storyline, knowing that let’s identify that as your purpose just for the sake of this conversation, but knowing that that’s your purpose and being attached to the purpose rather than the problems. Do you feel that that’s what creates the harm?
Debbie: Yeah, I do actually. Yeah, and I hadn’t realized that, thank you, I’m gonna make a note of that thing that you just told me about myself. Yes. Yeah, that is exactly it. I think it’s just kind of, you know, I’m just not getting sucked into, you know…
Kath: …the washing machine, like it feels much more like that sort of, I don’t know why I just associated to this energy of like a glacier just very slowly carving the valley rather than a white water rushing down and turning into a washing machine, that’s where all the attachment to problems and putting up bushfires and all that getting wrapped up in other people’s negative ego, let all that go. And you’re just like, “And this is the purpose and anyone that wants to join me on this at any point in time is welcome, but this is what I’ll be doing.”
Debbie: Yeah, that is exactly how it feels and it’s infectious. You know, it’s just like I’ve done business updates the last couple of days and of course I’m talking about all sorts of stuff, including figures. But my first slide, I was talking about fires of a forest fire, right?
Because that’s what we’re doing at the moment, we’re firefighting. And I kind of asked my husband what it’s like fighting fire and he started off saying, “It’s really exciting.” And it’s like, “That’s not really where I’m coming from, you know.”
Kath: Let’s just talk about tragedy. Haha.
Debbie: Yeah. And I was kind of likening that, you know, so I kind of acknowledged to them that this is where we’re at, we’re fighting fires, right? And you’ve got a pocket fire here, You’ve got a bigger one over there and you don’t know which ones to do sort of thing.
And so again, I’m just kind of, you know, I suppose taking that high view, you know, everything that’s going on acknowledging the ship, but it’s kind of, you know, and I kind of just think I’m not getting sucked into it and it’s almost giving everyone else permission not to get sucked into it either, because it’s like, well, if she’s not, then right,
Kath: Yeah, like certainties just underpinned that I can just tap into and go, she’s certain following her, she’s my leader. Yeah.
Debbie: Yeah, and I think it’s kind of the best thing in a way that I did this before going into this position, because I wondered how I’d be, if I hadn’t have done this, you know, would I have been putting pressure on myself? Would I have taken their stuff on and how they’re feeling and all the problems and getting sucked in and I would have been all over the place?
Whereas I kind of sort of feel the glacier thing is quite accurate actually, it’s just like, okay, you know, it’s just we’ve got to we’ve got to keep moving through and obviously it’s not going to help anyone if we’re all kind of going into panic mode.
Yeah, like, my God, so, so yeah, so I think that’s kind of that on the framework for coaching, you know, I spent some time looking at this before I sort of, I put a document together for the for the girls that I coached and I changed it after I’ve done this with you to bring in this this this framework, what I particularly liked was this scene, because I kind of sort of feel that in the workplace quite often people feel that they’re not seen, because obviously they’re going into work pretending they got all their ship together when half the time they just haven’t got their ship together.
I think this is like me saying to them like you know, I see you, I see you as you and not as the person that you decide to present when you come into work and they like that and and it’s you know, and sometimes I had one lady actually, she’s she’s indian and she came into it, she started her coaching with me two or three weeks ago and she came in and she started crying, I hadn’t even said anything, she started crying and and I think it was just that kind of that safe space basically, you know, and and you know, and I know this happens in coaching, right?
You know, we all blub and whatever, but the fact that I’m running the business, she’s working in the business in the working environment, we’re going into a room together and she feels that she can let that emotion out and that she can open up about how she’s feeling even about work, not just about home life and then we come out the room and it’s kind of back to our day jobs.
I kind of think it’s really quite magical.
It’s magical for them, but for me as well because obviously I get to see them, I get to understand them on a much deeper level, not just like this person is in that role doing that job, It’s just like you understand them and because I’ve coached so many now and I understand them all and I know their backgrounds, I can basically kind of I’ve got a better idea of what it is they want and how to come up with a strategy.
Kath: Yeah, it’s just like you are automatically bringing in the whole person to the business strategy because, you know, the whole person.
So if you were to make decisions based on someone’s skill set and compartmentalize it before now, then you as a leader would find yourself being let down in the future because by the wrong strategy and people not being able to do what you need them to do because they might be skilled in X Y Z. But if A B C about their personal life isn’t gonna allow them to step in, then, you know, it all falls down, right?
So that’s incredible.
Debbie: I think it’s and this is what I think the workplace needs more of it is about kind of understanding them as a whole person and not just what they sort of decided to present.
But the other thing, I think I remember you saying to me, I’ve created these soft power circles, they come out the other side of coaching once a month, they come into a space again, another safe space and and they connect with each other and I was talking to joe about this a couple of weeks ago.
I was on the B laboratory and I was talking to her about it because I was saying that, you know, there’s this what we’ve got when they do coaching, I put them into a WhatsApp group, so they’re in the WhatsApp group.
They come to the monthly meetings and so what’s happening now is that they’re all connecting with each other.
I remember you saying to me like, you don’t need to be the guru of it all. And so I’m trying to kind of ease myself back, but what they’re doing now is they’re connecting with each other and they’re opening up about the stuff they opened up to me about.
Kath: Aww, That’s Amazing!
Debbie: They’re talking about so, again, you know, someone in one of these meetings recently just sort of said, you know, I was I was living on my own at the age of 12 and the others the other reacted, they were like, my gosh, you know, really?
And she said it’s a story for another time, but it was relevant to the story she was telling in that moment, but and I kind of even just that and I just sat back and just watched it all going on and I thought there understand they’re seeing each other in a different way.
Kath: My God, I love that scene is now becoming seen like one, what do you call it? One degree of separation. I love that. Yeah! Look at YOU!
Debbie: I hadn’t realized I started talking about it, you know, I think it’s yeah, it’s really it’s magical and and the thing is this is what I’m saying to Jo is that for me, coaching is a double whammy because I see the transformation in the coaching sessions and then I see the transformation in the workplace because I can see them coming out the way that they connect with each other in relation to work.
Actually, you know what, maybe they don’t even realize it themselves, I don’t know, but they’re just the understanding of each other. You know, there’s less frustration because they’re kind of understanding each other as a human being and people would talk about, you know, relationships and ask everyone else, you know what, this is what I find. Am I the only one is this normal?
I feel really happy the others are contributing and and it’s great and I think for me it’s you know, everything else, the alchemy stuff aside its vulnerability, right?
You know, I talk about Brandon Brown a lot.. a lot, but it’s it’s just allowing themselves to be vulnerable and that’s what I demonstrate to them.
I show vulnerability, which can be quite tough, you know, as a leader I think or you know, how’s it going to go? So it’s been a learning lesson for me.
But when I show vulnerability, they they’re basically they’re starting to do the same.
Kath: That sort of framework that we mapped out, are you sort of following those sort of steps?
Debbie: Yeah, I am actually. And what I did was, and I need to revisit it because I was keen just to do something with it and I kind of feel in a very kind of clunky way. What I did was I took one of many tools and I kind of slotted them into those areas.
Kath: Yeah. Right. That’s perfect. That’s good. If you were to sort of future state the the impact on the organization, what are some of the outcomes of people, you know, like, this sort of knock on effect of you showing up in your vulnerability, understanding yourself permission to be you, then you coach them to basically do the same thing?
How do you see it sort of strategizing out for the organization?
Debbie: I think certainly, you know, we’re already starting to see results in the business, just by it’s kind of in relation to teamwork, right and collaboration – that people are, there were all these frustrations and some of them, not all of them yet, but some of them have kind of fallen away. And it makes me realize that actually, yes, there, and I know there can be frustrations in the workplace generally, from kind of team to team, and that appears in part to have resolved itself just by people connecting with each other on a different level.
I’m thinking, well, the more that kind of goes on and continues, I think we’ll see more of that, so rather than me trying to figure out where the frustrations and what can we do about it actually, organically, it’s being kind of fixed by them and not me.
So, I think that would be the big thing. And I think, you know, the other thing that I, I want to do and I think that this is the start of the journey for the organization is to create that work place where people can flourish and thrive and when they feel they can come to work and just be themselves and they know that that is enough and that is okay without the pretense without putting the pressure on themselves.
So I think certainly in relation to well being, that will be a great thing as well, but our staff, when you sort of talk about personal sustainability, which I started talking about now, they’ve got to take the ownership and make sure that there they’re okay, but I’m supporting them to do this. And I think the whole well-being/peace is so important now at work.
And it’s a really difficult subject actually because well being means different things to different people. So, you know, like a lot of organizations, we care about the well being of our staff, they’re essentially ticking boxes, and we’ve tried all these different things and we don’t really know what, what do people want.
You know, we do mindful coloring and we get brownies and we do all this kind of stuff and nothing particularly seems to work, but this does and this is well-being. because it’s like, you know,
Kath: That’s going to be my tagline: Scrap your well being box ticking programs and just do this, just get your leader to do this.
Debbie: Because it helps them to understand because you know, I don’t know about you and I remember when I was doing my, my coaching training, I first did the needs creed, right?
So needs creed — blank piece of paper half an hour later — blank piece of paper because I didn’t know you know what I needed.
So even that piece in itself to make people think, ship, what do I need? And half the time they don’t really know.
So we have, we have this thing where people make kind of suggestions and they’ve got ideas and it goes around each week and somebody recently suggested morning meditation like on air once a week or once a month. I mean what she said, but I thought, gosh, for her to publicly say to the whole company, we should do a meditation.
I thought that’s, you know, Yeah. And again, it’s that corporate workspace where people feel certain things don’t belong and they do because we’re all a bunch of human beings that just want to…
Kath: Yeah, exactly. How many people are you managing?
Debbie: So we’ve got, I’ve got about 35 in my division, there’s probably about kind of, you know, three or 400 in the UK and in the wider 10,000 globally, but of course Kath what’s happening is everyone’s starting to ask questions.
So I’ve got someone else from a different business division who’s asked me to do a talk to his, his guys beginning of September and then from another division, people are asking what I can do for them and I’ve got other people wanted to talk to me and we’ve got an association of women sort of travel executives.
It’s like a travel travel body in the UK. So I’ve been speaking to them. So it’s just that kind of, you know, ripple effect.
Kath: Anytime you want to drop my name while you’re standing on stage, please do. Haha.
Debbie: I’ll give you a mention. I’ll give you a mention.