The Chord Future of Work Podcast

The Squeezed Middle Leadership Challenge

This week John is joined by Harmonics partner and organisation change consultant Neville Bourke – to explore the challenges facing middle managers in today’s rapidly evolving organisational landscape.

Neville discusses the impact of remote and hybrid work models, technological advancements, and socio-economic shifts on the “squeezed middle” layer of management.

He addresses pace of change in the workplace and offers strategies to mitigate burnout among middle managers, emphasising the need for adaptive skills development.

Neville also shares practical steps for middle managers to regain control, and highlights the transformative impact of OD tools like polarities management and the importance of self-care and time management.

Learn more about organisation change and leadership-development services offered by Harmonics by clicking here.

About Neville:

Neville Bourke is an organizational behavior expert with a deep understanding of the psychology of people and organisational change. With a background in business studies and a graduate diploma in safety, health, and welfare at work, Neville holds an M.Sc. in Organisational Behavior from Trinity College Dublin.

He has dedicated his career to addressing complex people issues associated with change and guiding organisations towards achievable solutions.

Neville’s extensive experience spans various sectors including Financial Services, Medical Devices, Electronics, and Social Care. Currently pursuing the Ashridge Masters in Executive Coaching at the Hult International Business School, Neville is also a registered member of the British Psychological Society.

The Chord Future of Work Podcast

Onboarding a New Generation for the Now of Work

This week we explore early career talent development with Sinéad D’Arcy, leader of the Jameson International Graduate Programme. Established over 30 years ago, the program has become a benchmark in nurturing marketing talent globally.

Drawing from her diverse background and career journey to date, Sinead has a profound commitment to shaping the future of work and offers a unique perspective on talent attraction and retention.

Discussing the strategic approach behind the Jameson International Graduate Programme, Sinéad highlights the program’s focus on sourcing top talent and creating a distinct recruitment experience. She underscores the program’s emphasis on long-term investment in graduates’ careers and delves into the evolving skill sets required for graduates in today’s digital age.

This episode provides valuable insights into onboarding and developing early career talent in today’s dynamic business landscape and offers actionable advice for managers navigating the challenges and opportunities of talent management, remote workforces, ESG in recruitment.

Learn more about the Jameson International Graduate Programme here.

The Chord Future of Work Podcast

Lessons from the Heart – Living a Happy Healthy Life

If your New Year’s resolution is hanging by a thread, you’re not alone. But fear not! Dr. Robert Kelly, a renowned Consultant Cardiologist and Lifestyle Medicine Physician at the UCD Beacon Hospital joins John on the podcast today to help us understand why it’s never too late to pick up where we left off. Robert also lectures at the Royal College of Surgeons Centre for Positive Psychology and Health.

With his extensive experience and expertise in cardiology, as well as a deep commitment to lifestyle medicine, Dr. Kelly shares tips on leading a healthier and happier life. He emphasises the significant role of lifestyle (physical activity, healthy eating, sleep, stress management, substance avoidance and social connection) in preventing and reversing chronic diseases.

We also explore Dr. Kelly’s transition from traditional cardiology to lifestyle coaching and the issue of burnout and workplace health. Dr. Kelly provides insights into how leaders can better support their employees’ well-being, particularly in today’s fast-paced and often stressful work environments.

Dr. Kelly also shares number of key takeaways from his upcoming book, “Lessons from the Heart- How to Live a Long, Happy, and Healthy Life.”

You can learn more about Dr. Robert Kelly and join his community at

The Chord Future of Work Podcast

What drives Engagement and Happiness at Work?

In this episode of The Chord, we converse with Matt Phelan, Co-Founder of The Happiness Index, delving into the profound topic of ‘What Drives Engagement and Happiness at Work?’

As an entrepreneur, author, and happiness expert, Matt Phelan shares his journey, starting from his early years to becoming a pivotal figure in understanding workplace happiness. His book, ‘The Happiness Index: Why Today’s Emotions Equal Tomorrow’s Business Success,’ provides a data-driven exploration of engagement and happiness across global workplaces.

Central to our discussion are the concepts of employee engagement and happiness. We explore the stagnation in global engagement scores and how The Happiness Index provides a unique approach to understanding and enhancing workplace happiness.

We also delve into the critical role of data in shaping our understanding of workplace dynamics. Matt discusses the four types of data – instinctive, emotional, rational, and reflective – and their significance in the context of employee well-being.

As our conversation with Matt concludes, he imparts key insights and takeaways, offering listeners a deeper understanding of the intricate relationship between happiness, engagement, and success in the workplace.

Learn more about The Happiness Index

Order Matt’s Book on Amazon

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