The Chord Future of Work Podcast

Exploring the Future of Human Potential

In this episode, we engage in an insightful conversation with Dr. Sean Gallagher, Director of The Swinburne Centre for the New Workforce (CNeW).

Drawing from his pivotal role at CNeW, Dr. Gallagher’s unique insights are rooted in a formative journey shaped by key influences and values. The backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in transformative shifts across both workforce and workplace dynamics.

Central to our discussion is burnout and employee well-being and Strategies to prioritize employee welfare amidst rapid technological change take precedence.

We also delve into AI’s pervasive impact. Automation, and ethical considerations are addressed, along with the critical role academia plays in aligning individuals with the future of work.

As our conversation concludes, Dr. Gallagher imparts key takeaways, leaving listeners with invaluable insights to ponder.

The Chord Future of Work Podcast

The CEO Perspective on Leading Change

In this enlightening episode, we chat with Ollie Loomes, CEO of Eir, Ireland’s premier telecommunications company. With a rich background in Sales and Marketing and over two decades at Diageo, Ollie offers invaluable insights into effective leadership and managing change.

Ollie shares his experiences from his formative years, leading to his rise through the ranks at Diageo and finally assuming the CEO role at Eir in 2023. He opens up about his early influences, key learnings, and his acclimatisation to new cultures during challenging times like the Covid pandemic.

We dive into the CEO perspective on leadership, focusing on the dos and don’ts when transitioning to a new business, especially in a new sector. Ollie outlines his plans for Eir over the next 12 months and his aspirations for the company’s future.

Further, he shares his take on the current global economy, the macro factors affecting the Irish economy, and the transformation post the global pandemic. He discusses the trending topic of hybrid work and the need for better, high-speed connections.

Addressing the critical issue of the Human Energy Crisis, Ollie gives his insights on where leaders should focus their energies for effective change management. He also delves into the intergenerational gap in the workplace and how to foster a culture of diversity.

Finally, Ollie leaves us with some parting advice for aspiring leaders and outlines the skills, personal qualities, and support needed for success. Join us for this thought-provoking discussion with one of the industry’s leading voices.


The 5 Top Fears when Executives lose their job

If you are over 50 at Executive level, research shows you have a 50/50 chance that the decision to leave will not be within your control. So, we decided to interview Senior Executives we have coached through Executive Transitions over the past 5 years to find out their fears and what supports they needed and valued most.

The Top 5 Fears were:

1. Financial Insecurity – The loss of a high paying package with all the trimmings was the immediate fear. This led to significant stress and anxiety and often a sense they could not share the burden of worry with their spouse or partner at the time.

2. Reputation Damage – The shame of word around town they were being ‘moved on’ was a constant fear. This fostered a sense of panic and trying to keep stum amongst friends and hope that a new job would quickly appear so they could have more control of the messaging.

3. Identity Crisis – The sudden realisation “who am I without this job title?”. The full-on nature of work at Senior Executive Level is all consuming and often leaves little room for a life beyond work.

4. Future Uncertainty – The worry they would ever find a job like this again and the concern their age profile would come against them. This led to panic to find a new job ASAP. In hindsight they could see how this uncertainty fuelled confusion in their messaging to head-hunters at the time.

5. Directionless urgency -The need to be doing something to get a new job every day without clarifying what they really wanted was very common. The lack of structure also proved disorientating and led to restlessness and mood swings which impacted those close to them.

In response to working people at highly sensitive time in their lives, we would like to share how Executives experienced the time spent with us as we coached them through Executive Outplacement Support

The Top 5 Most Valued Supports from Executive Outplacement:

1. Financial Clarity – The support of an Executive Financial Advisor who has been through this with people before. “Liam spoke with both my spouse and I on our financial situation. This gave us a joint understanding, worked on a financial transition plan and greatly reduced our anxiety”.

2. Redirection time – The time to step back and assess what they really wanted. The understanding that this is a reality of corporate life today. “It turned rejection into redirection for me. My coach helped me make good choices to reject roles, I was going to accept out of pure panic. I knew what I didn’t want as a result!”

3. Sceptical to Transformational – There were many we interviewed who saw Outplacement as a glorified CV and Interview prep service. “I must admit I was reluctant to participate, sceptical and very negative towards the support offered. I didn’t want to leave and was adamant I wanted to stay. I realised after 2-3 sessions this was valuable and beneficial work. In the end I found it transformational. I was provided with tools, skills, and techniques I still use in my role today.”

4. Global to Local Network – The experience of some Executives in global roles is they become very well known in their multinational business but lack a local country network. Then when the exit happens, they are left outside the corporate nest with little local knowledge or personal brand identity. “My coach helped me to get my presenting story right. In my case build a local network. While I had spoken at many global conferences, I had never spoken locally, and we created opportunities to make this happen which instantly raised my profile. My new role came from a network contact in one of these local forums”.

5. Vulnerability to Reassurance -The extended 1-1 coaching and advisory work is individually driven to each person’s specific needs. “It is definitely not a cookie cutter approach. My coach helped me to be vulnerable while also offering the balanced reassurance to access practical market intelligence. This diligence to keep going was very important and kept my spirits up at the time.”

If you are an Executive looking for bespoke Outplacement Support – contact us here for an initial confidential discussion.

The Chord Future of Work Podcast

Scaling Empathy in a Global Fast Paced Organisation

In this episode, we engage with Emer McGinley, Worldwide Customer Service Director of Global Programs and Global Outsourcing at Amazon. Emer, with her 20 years of experience in leading award-winning customer service operations, shares her thoughts on leadership, the Amazon work culture, and the importance of empathy.

We start our conversation by delving into Emer’s formative years in Donegal and her early career journey at Telefonica O2. We then transition into her insights on Amazon, discussing the impact of Alexa and Echo, and her perspective on Jeff Bezos’ leadership style. Emer speaks passionately about our main topic – ‘scaling with empathy’.

She emphasizes the role of empathy in leadership, especially in the current global context, and how it helps when leading smart people and managing conflict.

Finally, we touch upon the often-overlooked topic of work pace and burnout, with Emer sharing her self-care strategies and insights on life in a high-pressure global role. Join us for this insightful conversation that explores the essence of empathetic leadership in the ever-evolving business landscape.


Sustainable Leadership – ‘The Energy Channel’

I got to see the evergreen Bruce Springsteen (now 73) play in Dublin this weekend and even got into the pit to be upfront and soak up the atmosphere. I was in there among lifelong fans who sang every word of every song in unison with someone they have grown up with.

I read on one article at the weekend that many people learned more about life from some of Bruce’s songs than they had retained from 5 years in second level education!

The whole experience got me thinking about the transmission of energy in leadership. As humans we communicate and absorb information across two main channels, the ‘data channel’ and the ‘energy channel’.

Many leaders only communicate with their teams across the ‘data channel’. They stick to safety and speak from PowerPoint slides and scripts which fail to engage. Anyone can learn to sing a song and play music, it’s another thing in how Bruce and his band connect with their audience across the ‘energy channel’.

This created this emotional energetic connection with the audience as the energy radiated from him. The inspirational leaders are rare, they speak from the heart and connect. This is what people want today more than anything today in their work environment.

Leaders need to be clear on what they stand for, their beliefs and values and transparent in their messaging. Great communications requires great practice. Everything in Bruce’s show was a well-rehearsed routine yet came across with authenticity and vulnerability.

The workforce of today want to be energized and feel connected. They want to feel listened, empowered, inspired and have a sense of belonging with their leaders.

Watching the Bruce show, I sensed people are desperately seeking a spiritual connection they are not finding in their work, their religion and their personal lives.

This void of Leadership creates huge opportunity for those brave enough to embrace the challenge and face their vulnerability. Bruce had to test out routines, drop the one’s that flopped and experiment until he found out what worked.

Bruce has also sustained his appeal over 6 decades – Sustainable Leadership is tougher but better than the rest!


How a Tech Redundancy Built My Resilience

In the ever-evolving world of technology, change is inevitable, and even the most stable of jobs can be upended in an instant. In this candid and insightful guest post, Leah Driscoll shares her personal experience of job loss and the subsequent journey of self-discovery and growth.

Leah’s journey offers valuable lessons on adaptability, continuous learning, and resilience, while also emphasising the importance of self-care and maintaining a sense of purpose.

This year, I was one of the many thousands of tech workers whose role was eliminated in the blink of an eye. I am in my late-twenties, and had joined the company 18 months ago, ironically, during a period of hyper growth in the company. 

I truly loved my job. I worked fully remotely, which suited my introverted self down to the ground. The industry I worked in was fast paced and exciting, and I felt in sync with my manager and my team. I was thriving in my role – my expectations in Q1 of 2023 were to finally clinch a promotion I had been working towards for some time. 

It turns out my prediction was about as accurate as Met Eireann’s average weather forecast. I was expecting a clear and sunny future, and instead I was thrown into a storm. I, along with thousands of other colleagues were logged out of all work devices and received a text informing us of our likely redundancy. 

Luckily for me, I think my generation has been somewhat primed for this season of layoffs. I was still in school during the recession of 2008. By witnessing what was going on in the world, I learned that no job is permanent, no matter how stable it seemed. I learned never to take a job for granted.

Additionally, over the past ten years, a plethora of jobs that previously never existed have cropped up, particularly in the tech space. Suddenly, there was such a vast array of jobs available to suit different skill sets, it simply didn’t make sense to stick to just one career path. I have always viewed a job as a project in my portfolio, a chance to build new skills, rather than a lifelong commitment. This perspective meant that I could accept this redundancy as an opportunity to find my next project, my next challenge. 

I don’t want to diminish the impact a layoff can have on a person – figuring out your next step can be intimidating and frustrating, especially in a more challenging job market. I have certainly felt like this myself over the past few months. Here are three skills that have helped me to move through this period: 

  • Adaptability: While figuring out my next step, I have been able to use my skills on a freelance basis in an external consulting role for a company. This has been a great opportunity to gain new perspectives, collaborate with new people, and continue doing the work that I love. 
  • Continuous Learning: The extra time on my hands has provided the perfect opportunity to build on my skills through learning. Not only does this keep me busy and help me to grow, it looks great on a resume for a potential future employer. 
  • Resilience: It can be difficult to motivate yourself after a layoff, and there is a lot to be said for simply managing to put one foot in front of the other every day. For me, it was helpful to sit down and determine what my high level goals were for the coming months (eg. find a new job, complete a course). Then, I would try to complete one small task a day that would help me move a little further towards that goal (eg. research a company I am interested in, watch one instructional video). This has really helped me to maintain a sense of purpose, without burning myself out. 

Perhaps more important than all of these things is to look after yourself. It can be easy to fall into a trap of feeling like you constantly need to be productive – incessantly refreshing LinkedIn Jobs, back to back interviews, even scrubbing your house top to bottom. All of those things are great, but in the same way you need a work life balance when you are employed, when searching for a job, you need to carve out time for you to relax and do the things you love without feeling guilty. Even though you are on the job search, you deserve to rest, just like everyone else. 

Finally, it is reassuring to know that I am not alone. There are so many talented and hard working people who are going through the same experience as me. While this period has been a struggle, I am excited by the future. I am lucky enough to have secured a great new role elsewhere in Europe and am looking forward to fulfilling a personaI goal of living and working abroad. 

I am also excited to see how the tech industry develops after these layoffs, and the new players who will emerge as a result. have no doubt that in 5-10 years, we will be hearing from the latest unicorn company founder, whose latest great innovation was sparked by their layoff from a tech company in 2023. The future is bright.

Leah Driscoll

The Chord Future of Work Podcast

The Human Side of Innovation: The Power of People in Love with People

In this episode, we delve into the fascinating world of innovation and design with our distinguished guest, Mauro Porcini, PepsiCo’s first-ever Chief Design Officer. Mauro has been instrumental in infusing design thinking into PepsiCo’s culture, leading a new approach to innovation that significantly impacts the company’s product platforms and brands. He is also the host of the successful video podcast “In Your Shoes – with Mauro Porcini,” where he interviews inspiring personalities from the global creative community.

In 2022, Mauro published his first book in English, “The Human Side of Innovation: The Power of People in Love with People” (Berrett-Koehler), which focuses on innovation, design, and leadership. During our conversation, we discuss topics such as:

  1. The importance of empathy and human-centric design in driving innovation.
  2. How to build a culture of innovation within an organization.
  3. The role of design thinking in creating transformative products and experiences.
  4. Balancing creativity and business objectives for long-term success.
  5. Insights from Mauro’s book and his experiences working with global brands such as PepsiCo and 3M.

Learn more about Mauro’s book here.

The Chord Future of Work Podcast

The Leadership Challenge- From Surviving to Thriving

In this episode, we explore the critical components of effective leadership with Dr. Kerrie Fleming, Associate Dean at Ashridge Executive Education at Hult International Business School.

Her expertise has made her a sought-after advisor to Fortune 500 companies, international governments, and both indigenous and international organizations.

Born and raised in Kerry, Ireland, Dr. Fleming’s background provides a unique perspective on leadership that transcends cultural and geographical boundaries. We delve into topics such as:

  • The importance of adaptability and resilience in today’s rapidly changing business environment.
  • How leaders can foster a culture of innovation and creativity within their organizations.
  • Strategies for effectively managing change and overcoming resistance to new ideas.
  • The significance of empathy, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness in leadership development.
  • Balancing the need for results-driven performance with the well-being and engagement of employees.

Dr. Kerrie Fleming’s work in leadership development has garnered international acclaim, with the MBA programs consistently ranked among the best in the world by the Financial Times. Through this conversation, our listeners will gain valuable insights and actionable advice on how to cultivate effective leadership skills and guide their organizations from merely surviving to truly thriving.


The Chord Future of Work Podcast

Fired, fearful and fifty

In this episode, we discuss Mark Cahalane’s experience with redundancy and how he overcame the challenges of rebuilding his career.

As someone who has been through the process twice, Mark shares nine insights from his personal experience on how to move forward. He highlights the importance of allowing yourself to grieve and responding rather than reacting.

Mark also emphasises the value of listening to your inner voice, taking time to pause, and finding your personal fan club. By being brave enough to listen to yourself and get out of your own way, it is possible to become vital and purposeful again.

Mark Cahalane is an expert in strategic counsel, reputation management, stakeholder engagement, leadership coaching and resolving high performance challenges across leadership teams.

At CRH plc, the €29 billion FTSE 100 group, he established and led the Corporate Affairs function and operations. Previously, Mark had established and led the EMEA corporate consultancy practice of Edelman, the world’s largest communications consultancy, across 18 markets.

He has acted as change advisor to Chief Executives and leaders in high profile organisations including Paddy Power, Ryanair, and GE.

Click here to read more about Mark’s experience on our blog; Fired, fearful and fifty.


Fired, fearful and fifty. Tips from experience.

If you are 50 plus, this article will be the best investment of your time today. It is raw, uncensored and truly courageous, it’s incredibly well written. Having worked with Mark on his career transition journey – he has come out and said what many fear to say publicly – huge respect Mark Cahalane and continued success on your new journey. – John Fitzgerald MD Harmonics

During my career, my role was made redundant twice. Evidence of how fickle corporate life can be. It’s a horrible and confusing experience. While that’s true for any of us, at a certain life stage it can have a crippling impact if we allow it. For those of us who are part of Generation X, the fear of losing our job can be worse than the reality of actually losing it. In so many instances our role is our identity, and we surely can’t survive without that, or can we?

For many of us, who are in our late forties and early fifties, (and my perspective is a male one), work becomes intrinsically linked to our sense of self. It’s an identity we want to hold on to at all costs.

The fear of loss of status and identity can be the start of an unpleasant and searching inner dialogue. The financial worries, questions of self-worth and shame that can accompany actual redundancy are very real and frequently stark. Your inner and outer landscape can become a deeply lonely place.

Please hang up your identity on the way out.

I well remember the day I was told my role no longer existed. It felt like I was being asked to hang up my outer skin in reception on my way out the door. My old identity was gone in an instant left hanging in the office along with my personal purpose and my plans. My responsive fear almost took on a spectral life form. Shadowing me, my constant unwelcome companion. This was a fear that went to my core along with unhealthy doses of illogical shame. Any recruiter I met could smell fear a mile away.

It is possible to get beyond this and in better shape than you went into it.

Nine thoughts from personal experience on how to shift forwards.


There’s a process of grief you must go through. Your mind plays tricks. It feels like you are in some sort of organisational space time continuum. You think you ought to be somewhere.  In fact, you have to be precisely nowhere – and at any time you choose.  Irrelevant and lost.  But here is the curious thing.   Adversity can in fact be opportunity in disguise.  You just have to shift your gaze to notice it.  But it follows a period of loss you have to allow take place.


Over time, I noticed that all my doubts lead to one core question. Will I ever be corporately relevant again and how do I get to be? Passing offices, I would think about how fortunate the people inside were. I asked myself over and over, how do I get into the room again? It turns out that this was the wrong question. The real question, I needed to allow emerge was what do I want to do with my life now? What has meaning and purpose to me, not others, just me! Sure, there was plenty of advice available. Some good, some simply terrible. It sounds like a cliché but the people you think will help you don’t. Those you least expect do. People you don’t even know reach out to you and offer support. A compelling insight came to me early on. “Don’t react, respond”. What does that mean? Well, for me, it meant yes, recognise my financial realities but think through carefully what I really wanted to do. This was a time to listen to that whispering inner voice… that knows us best of all.


If I were to offer a core insight, it is this. When adversity comes calling, do not keep pushing that inner voice away. Behind your fear is your own inner voice and it’s a great advisor. Your inner essence is the most loving and inspirational voice you will ever hear. Listen to it and give it space. For me, that voice led me back into education. Ultimately, evolving my professional life into new but not totally unrelated areas to my career of origin. My chosen area being team performance coaching, leadership, and stakeholder engagement. I now work with CEO’s and leadership teams across a range of strategic issues and team challenges. It took a while to get here. It started with a pause and time to recalibrate.


To have any hope of doing this it was incredibly important for me to get out of my own way. To banish the “I should” and “I must” “I can’t” thoughts and fears. Slowing down a little. I took the time to meet someone new and important, myself. Rather than following the impulses of the person I thought I was, I paused to understand who I had become. This is a process that also benefits the leaders and teams I work with today. Even the most senior leaders have fears and very few safe spaces to voice them.


Thinking about my values, my beliefs, my interests, and motivations was highly instructive. As was the time taken to assess my career to date and what I had gotten out of it so far. Not existential questions of happiness. More a practical and honest assessment of my working life so far. The end result was evolution not revolution. I was very fortunate that my former employer paid for coaching. I used those sessions well. In fact, I couldn’t recommend having a challenging coaching relationship highly enough.


A big lesson for me was the loss of the corporate brand behind me. I know many people choose to go back into almost identical employment post redundancy. The imperative is to leap back into that safe space. I chose not to do this as I didn’t think I wanted to continue on an identical path. I wanted to try my own thing for now. It’s a curious thing to adjust to loosing corporate back up. When you are out on your own you are really out on your own. Corporate identity gone; your calls are no longer going to be automatically returned. So, you have to get over yourself a bit and become a lot braver, at least I did. Braver about how you get to meet people and how you hustle a bit. That was a huge challenge for me.


Surrounding yourself with advocates is also important. Those amazing people who believe in you and will support you through thick and thin. But realistically so, not blindly so. They are the unsung heroes of my experience. They helped me put shape on what I wanted to do. They helped me figure out was there any demand for my coaching and consultancy offer. Mine is a pragmatic and challenging approach to leadership development. Through my experience there is a certain robustness and directness at the core of my offer. Senior industry experience and close relationships with demanding CEOs has given me valuable insight and perspectives. Theirs is a complex world where superlative performance is the expectation. Not everyone welcomes that expectation in a professional relationship.


It important to recognise that with grey hairs comes experience, insight, and the courage of your convictions. Maybe you have less to lose. I have been more honest with myself and those around me in the past three years than I have been in the last thirty. In my case, my experience is in the corporate world. I am working with individual and corporate clients who seem to like robust, unencumbered insights. But ones rooted in valuable experience with great companies. That’s the starting point. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do. There were strands of my career I wanted to draw together. For me, it was about doing more meaningful work where my experience could be used to help others. I don’t have all the answers by any means. I am on a journey for sure, but at least I know that I am on the right path for me. I have my ‘why’ and in general, the ‘how’ seems to follow.


So, to those of you who see redundancy as the end of the road at 50, or any stage, may I humbly suggest that it’s not. It is possible to become vital and purposeful again. It’s also possible to become a better version of yourself. Assured in who you are, with more depth and experience to offer, but hopefully with the humility to learn from a most unpleasant experience. You just have to be brave enough to listen to yourself and get out of your own way. You may also need the help of a leadership whisperer to help you on your way.

About Mark

Mark Cahalane is an expert in strategic counsel, reputation management, stakeholder engagement, leadership coaching and resolving high performance challenges across leadership teams. At CRH plc, the €29 billion FTSE 100 group, he established and led the Corporate Affairs function and operations. Reporting to the Group Chief Executive and serving on the Group Management Team, he guided the organisation’s engagement with all stakeholders, telling a compelling engagement story to the wider world as part of a focused strategy to drive performance and value creation.

Previously, Mark had established and led the EMEA corporate consultancy practice of Edelman, the world’s largest communications consultancy, across 18 markets.

He has acted as change advisor to Chief Executives and leaders in high profile organisations including Paddy Power, Ryanair, and GE.

Mark has built a track record of high performance and success gained through a deep experience of the unique leadership, strategic and operational challenges which large scale, complex organisations present. He is especially familiar with the multi-dimensional performance lenses through which Chief Executives and Senior Leadership Teams are required to view the organisation in order to deliver strategic execution, performance and growth.