Leading from Outside the Comfort Zone #5 #cong21


 I open with a vignette of my son, then aged 10, asking me earnestly ‘how do you get more confidence?’ I was a bit stumped by his question and replied ‘I don’t know, I think you have to do stuff that scares you so you feel better and stronger after it’. As I was saying this, I realised it’s about leaving the comfort zone and could recognise that I was far too comfortable so I set about changing that to set a better example.

From a background in HRTech, I framed most of my essay around uncomfortable questions we must ask ourselves in relation to our hiring practices such as genuine Diversity & Inclusion, mental health, workplace flexibility, and that nasty business of bullying. I concluded with some thoughts on leading by our actions and how one can also lead from behind.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Leaving the comfort zone can make you better and stronger. Leading from outside the comfort zone can make your followers better and stronger.
  2. Most workplace Diversity & Inclusion consists of 4th level educated full-time staff who happen to be a mix of colours and genders but are basically all the same. Let’s think about genuine Diversity & Inclusion, mental health, and workplace flexibility.
  3. How can we expect vulnerable children and teenagers to solve the bullying issue when adults can’t take decisive action to eradicate it in our workplaces?
  4. We can lead through our actions rather than slogans and oftentimes we can lead from behind.

About Joy Redmond:

Joy is a multipotentialite: marketer/mentor, web/ux pro, content purist, qual/quants geek, sporadic spin dr, founder @trustwordie @wtfisart @pendemic_ie, autism advocate, lifelong learner, wannabe playwright, open water swimmer and mother of 2 sons who are smarter, taller and swim faster than her.


Contacting Joy Redmond

You can connect with Joy on Twitter via email or follow her thinking on the Joy Redmond and TrustWordie blogs which haven’t been updated lately.

By Joy Redmond

I have a vivid memory of my son, then aged 10, sitting on his bed asking me earnestly ‘how do you get more confidence?’ I’ll admit I was a bit stumped by his question and replied ‘I don’t know, I think you have to do stuff that scares the bejaysus out of you so you feel better and stronger after it’. As I was saying this, I realised it’s about leaving the comfort zone and could recognise that I was far too comfortable so I set about changing that to set a better example. Since then, I’ve rowed to Wales, swam far out of my depth in violent open water races in raging seas, fjords and lakes, enrolled in a drawing/printmaking course that scares the wits out of my quants brain, poured my heart out and shared my soul through playwriting, started a few companies and changed careers more times than some people have hot dinners. That ten-year-old is now his university’s SU President so I think it worked!

While mulling over this year’s leadership topic, the concept of leading from outside the comfort zone returned to me. Here are just a few thoughts relating specifically to hiring practices given my interest and background.

Lead through inclusive hiring
To be honest Diversity & Inclusion is a bit of a bug bear of mine. Most companies I’ve worked in think they are doing pretty well on diversity. I look around and all I can see is a payroll full of 4th level educated people working full time who happen to be a mix of colours and genders. Let’s face it, they’re all the same. It’s about intersectionality baby. Shouldn’t we ask ourselves how many come from social disadvantage or disability?

While companies spend a fortune on wellness programmes for staff, you’d wonder how many have ever considered hiring somebody with a managed mental illness? One of the most beautiful and creative souls I ever knew left us a few years ago and part of me thinks it was because she couldn’t find her place. We all want meaningful work aligned with our skills. Too often highly intelligent, talented people find themselves in unskilled minimum waged work because of the fear / stigma of disclosing their mental health status in a ‘real’ job. Exceptionally high unemployment rates for people with disabilities are well documented. It’s hard to feel useful in an increasingly productive world.

Also, we must ask ourselves how many have real work flexibility? Since the pandemic, remote is on the agenda, which is great and about time but location is not the only form of work flexibility. Some of us with caring responsibilities or neurodivergence (or both in my case) can’t manage a 9-5 life but still have much to offer. There seems to be this assumption that good work can’t be done on a part-time basis, and I don’t mean a 4-day week. Rather than focusing on time spent, it’s way more efficient to focus on the deliverables. My most recent role involved generating one substantial piece of research per month and a few smaller case studies/presentations. The contract was for 8 days, which didn’t always fall into two days every week. My manager was less concerned with the when and I never missed a deadline, not even close. You can have specialists doing great work and the really great news is you pay less. Even better, passion isn’t pro rata.

Do you support a bully culture?
Every so often we hear about bullying in schools and on social media and it’s all this, that and the other. How can we expect improvements for vulnerable children and teenagers when adults can’t take decisive action to eradicate it in our workplaces? Why is the onus on the victim, whose confidence is in the toilet, to prove the wrongdoing? The task is often too daunting that they just slink away and move job so as not to ‘get a name’ and the perpetrator stays in situ, having won. Real leadership doesn’t put the company/party line before its people but creates a safe environment that calls out bad behaviour.

Lead through your actions not your slogans
If there is a value we feel strongly about, whether corporate or personal, then that must instruct ALL our actions even the micro decisions we make. For example, I am always amazed at the amount of start-up / shop local events that serve international food and drink brands – why aren’t you serving local craft beers/drinks and artisan food produce? Do you just think local but buy global? If you feel strongly about the environment, do you really need to photograph/video or share everything because the data centres hosting that not so necessary content burn through a lot of energy. Recently, I had a brief spat on Twitter with Dingle Aquarium wondering why, after we were warned of the evils of plastic and our throwaway culture throughout the tour, did they see find it appropriate to fill the giftshop with plastic tat. Just because something isn’t single use, it still doesn’t make it useful or necessary and will eventually end up in landfill. Sometimes on holidays, I give my sons a budget and say you can buy anything you want in this shop if you think you’ll still be using it in one month’s time. We don’t buy much.

You can lead from behind
We often assume the person at the front is the leader. I’m often the spokesperson for local community groups and campaigns but I simply parrot the work of a sterling committee who have done all the work. I’m merely the person with the media experience to talk on live radio. Other times I’m happy to stay in the shadows and see my work speak for itself.

So that’s my tuppence worth, if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in a leadership position, then please try to use your power to affect real change. Personally, I rarely look at captains of industry for inspiration. The people that inspire me are those quietly making a difference to other people’s actual lives and who, for the most part, did not come into this world with the privilege I’ve enjoyed. I won’t end on that #BeKind inanity but be better! We all can.

“For me, success is not a public thing. It’s a private thing. It’s when you have fewer and fewer regrets.”,

Toni Morrison

Joy Redmond Wellness card

Joy Redmond Wellness card

Man cannot live on Banana Bread alone #14 #cong20


We were not equipped with a set of instructions for how to cope in a Global Pandemic. So whatever you’re doing to keep yourself sane, do it.
Most importantly though, don’t be afraid to reach out to people for no good reason. We can get zoom fatigue and we need to make it OK, to say, I’m just calling because I need social interaction

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Key Takeaways:

  1. We’ve been here before (sort of)
  2. There is no manual
  3. Do whatever keeps you sane
  4. Reach out for nothing, sanity is key

About Ailish Irvine

Ailish has worked in the education and non-profit sector, community integration and enterprise projects.  She is passionate about helping people to solve their own problems through resilience and a positive attitude.  She has a huge interest in STEM and in promoting employment opportunities in technology, particularly in rural areas.  When not working she is a wife to one and mammy of 3 and is usually found huddled on the side of a GAA pitch, planning on buying a warmer jacket..

Contacting Ailsh Irvine:

You can connect with Ailish on Twitter, LinkedIn or via email..  

By Ailish Irvine.

Man cannot live on Banana Bread alone.

Sometimes I have terrible ideas and sometimes I have great ones. At the start of this year I said to my husband, “i’d like to do up a room as a home office for myself, not a dumping ground, a nice space where I’d like hanging out and working”

I also said, “Let’s not wait until Summer for a holiday, why don’t we go away in February this year?”

Prophetic I hear you ask, I’m beginning to think so. Those two simple things have helped me to stay relatively sane in 2020.
We have always worked remotely and our kids are well used to having to pretend they live in the basement and don’t exist in our lives. Heaven forbid that they be seen in the background of a call or that people at work find out that we have a life outside of the 9 to 5.

Remember this guy.

He made it OK for all of us to have children appear in the background. Now it’s something that lightens people’s mood. We need more of our home life/work life co-existing. It needs to work to give the people at home a chance too. They shouldn’t have to hide.

We need a culture where it’s ok to say, I can’t do that because, I have school runs, training, football games etc

These past few months have made me think carefully about how our ancestors coped during crises in the past. I often wondered how people coped with the fear in wartime. The impending sense of doom and the never knowing when it’s all going to end. I then remembered that during wartime, people were very clear on who the enemy actually was. Now we really aren’t quite sure. Is it the person in ALDI without a face mask? The person you met out walking who walked a little bit too close beside you? Is it perhaps a work colleague you met for coffee who had a dry cough? It’s very difficult to know and in order to stay sane, I think, we have to realise that we are facing an unprecedented set of challenges. We don’t know how to be prepared emotionally for all this.

One of my favourite comedy clips is Catherine Tate . Here she is singing one of my favourite songs, which will be stuck in your head for the rest of today. (You’re most welcome) It depicts an old fashioned view of , keep calm and carry on.

I think our modern day response has been to bake banana bread. I know I can hear you now.

Patient: Dr. What do you think I should do? There’s this fear I have everyday of getting sick, possibly dying, losing a family member, my house, my job.?

Dr. Well I’m glad you asked, I recommend that perhaps you reacquaint yourself with Tony Soprano or Breaking Bad. Invest in huge amounts of toilet paper because this thing can get nasty. Lastly however I’d buy shares in flour companies as I feel like there is a banana bread wave about to hit. You know what else you can do?

  • Don’t worship at the shrine of amazon (Buy from someone who can’t get PUP)
  • Don’t do ALL zoom calls, it’s exhausting.
  • Have crappy dinners on the days you can’t muster the enthusiasm.
  • If you’ve not had a good nights sleep , take it easy. Be kind to yourself.
  • Ring your friends for no reason, the art of chatting about nothing is lost in this pandemic.

And if all else fails. “Let’s all go down the strand and have a banana.”