Springing into a better me

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We are two weeks away from the official start of spring. Amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, achieving a healthy balance becomes a paramount goal for promoting overall wellbeing. Over the past few years I’ve put on a lot of weight prioritising the wrong things, maybe that’s strong. I’ve prioritised work mostly; it’s not a bad thing. I need to find more balance. I need to be able to perform at a high level in work and balance my wellbeing and my family’s wellbeing. Over the past few months, I have started to make an effort to shed the excess again. Since embarking on my journey, I’m down three belt notches. I didn’t want to weigh myself at the start; I knew it would be a scary number. I’ve really taken steps to be better, playing golf, swimming, walking, using Headspace and Balance Apps and the latest addition has been to onboard to the Second Nature Project. In the spirit of embracing this philosophy, our family has taken a proactive approach to balancing work, exercise, rest, food and mental health. From rounds of golf squeezed in where possible to leisurely walks and refreshing swimming sessions at the Lough Erne Resort, I am determined to create a harmonious balance that benefits us individually and strengthens our family bonds.

One of the fundamental pillars of our pursuit of balance is incorporating outdoor activities into our daily routine. Whether it’s traversing the golf courses, taking leisurely strolls around the resort or Enniskillen, or enjoying invigorating swimming sessions and sometimes relaxing swimming sessions, being surrounded by nature again has proven to be a therapeutic escape from the demands of daily life. The crisp air, the sounds of birds chirping, and the beauty of the outdoors around here serve as a refreshing backdrop to our collective efforts to maintain a healthier lifestyle. I do still sometimes miss the sound of the Ocean in the background; however, what we have found here in Enniskillen has its own unique charm.

I’ve spent too many years not making time for exercise and exercise is a crucial component of a balanced and healthy life. This year, our family has decided to explore various avenues of physical activity to keep things exciting. While my wife has taken up rowing with the local club here as a challenging yet rewarding sport, I’ve found solace in swimming and the occasional gym session. Now, I’m encouraging our four children to engage in team sports that not only promotes their physical health but also fosters valuable life skills such as teamwork, communication, and discipline.

I was them to build good relationships with their fellow team members. The move away from Donegal in 2022 brought about a shift in our family dynamic, particularly in terms of the kids’ involvement in team sports. I think we all found it tough to walk away from the football, rowing and other sports and activities in Inver. Recognising the importance of social connections and the benefits of team sports, we are making it a mission to reintegrate our children into such activities in the new area. Whether it’s football, basketball, rugby or any other sport they find appealing, the emphasis is on building camaraderie, making friends, and enjoying the sense of belonging that comes with being part of a team.

In the pursuit of balance, it’s crucial not to overlook the delicate equilibrium between work and rest. We have brought our family up to be industrious and continuously busy, working hard and always finding something to do. Our family is now mading a conscious effort to establish clear boundaries when it comes to work commitments, ensuring that quality time is devoted to play, rest and relaxation. Whether it’s a cosy movie night or simply listening to music, these moments of respite will contribute significantly to our overall well-being.

As we navigate the challenges of modern life, finding a healthy balance becomes a continuous journey rather than a destination. We hope by incorporating outdoor activities, embracing diverse forms of exercise, prioritising team sports for our children, and striking a balance between work and rest, our family is committed to making 2024 a year of holistic well-being. May this year remind us all that true harmony comes from nurturing our physical, mental, and emotional health, ultimately creating a foundation for a fulfilling and balanced life.

Casting a Better Shadow. Reflections on Leadership and Navigating Back on Track

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Over the past few months, we have been swamped; during these times, it’s hard to self-reflect after a tough week that ended positively. I made time to reflect, reevaluate the plan, and move forward.

As a leader, it’s essential to remember that you cast a shadow. This shadow isn’t a tangible, physical one but a reflection of your actions, attitudes, and values. Just as a physical shadow is shaped by the light and its object, the shadow you cast as a leader is moulded by your actions and their effects on the team around you.

When you’re doing well, your shadow is a positive influence that motivates and inspires. But there are times when you may feel that your leadership shadow isn’t quite what it should be. Perhaps you’ve been under pressure, maybe you’ve made some mistakes, or perhaps you’re simply feeling burnt out. During these times, your shadow may seem to loom more darkly than you’d like. However, don’t despair. Every leader goes through such periods. The key is recognising the issue and taking steps to regain your footing.

Reflecting on the Shadows

The first step in getting back on track is self-reflection. It’s essential to understand the type of shadow you’re currently casting. Are your actions encouraging, fostering growth and togetherness, or are they creating a climate of fear or resentment? Your shadow directly impacts team morale, productivity, satisfaction, and often the outcomes you seek, so it’s crucial to be honest with yourself.

Consider gathering feedback from your team and peers. They can provide insights that you might have missed. Be open to this feedback; it’s a tool for growth, not a personal attack.

Mapping the Course Back

Once you understand the type of shadow you’re casting, it’s time to map your course back. This process may be challenging but also an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Revisit your values: What do you stand for? What kind of leader do you want to be? These are questions you must answer. Your core values should guide your decisions and actions.

Set achievable goals: Instead of trying to change everything at once, focus on one or two key areas where you can make a difference. This will help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and make tracking your progress easier.

Seek out a mentor or coach: This can be a more experienced leader within your organisation, a professional coach, or a trusted individual outside your professional sphere. They can provide guidance, encouragement, and a different perspective.

Practice emotional intelligence: Leaders must navigate their emotions and those of their team members. Understanding and managing your emotional responses can help you cast a more positive shadow. 

Creating a New Shadow

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

Abraham Lincoln

As you shift your behaviours and attitudes, you’ll cast a new shadow that aligns with your values and the kind of leader you aspire to be. It will realign with you. It requires time, patience, and persistence.

Every leader faces moments of doubt, confusion, or even failure. What separates great leaders from the rest is the ability to acknowledge these moments, learn from them, and navigate back to the right path. In doing so, they cast a more positive shadow and demonstrate to their team that growth comes from adversity.

Remember, the shadow you cast as a leader is not just about you but also the team. When you work to improve, you’re bettering yourself and creating a better environment for those around you. So when you find yourself casting a shadow you’re not proud of, as I did this week, see it as an opportunity. It’s your chance to reflect, learn, and grow into the leader you can be.

Every day is a new opportunity to cast a better shadow. The steps you take towards self-improvement today will echo the positive impacts you make tomorrow. So take a deep breath, square your shoulders, and start the journey back on track – for yourself and your team.

Maximizing Meeting Effectiveness: Best Practices for Hosts and Participants

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A topic I love to talk about but it’s really difficult to solve for. Here are a few tips for more effective meetings. Being a host can be difficult especially when you don’t know the players involved. Meetings are a wonderful tool, the ability to get people together to collaborate really adds so much value.

However, despite their importance, meetings are often viewed as unproductive and time-wasting. According to a survey by Atlassian, employees attend an average of 62 meetings per month, half of which are considered ineffective. This often comes back to the host, we’ve all hosted poor meetings. Here are some ideas and best practices to help improve your meetings.

  1. Define clear goals and agenda: Before scheduling a meeting, define its purpose, goals, and objectives. A well-defined agenda helps participants prepare for the meeting, keeps the meeting on track, and ensures that essential topics are covered. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, setting clear objectives and agendas can increase meeting effectiveness by 46%.
  2.  Invite the right people: Inviting the right people to a meeting ensures that the discussion is relevant and productive. More participants can lead to long meetings and off-topic discussions. According to a survey by HBR, 67% of managers believe too many attendees are the most significant barrier to effective meetings. It is vital to identify key stakeholders and individuals who have relevant expertise and can provide valuable input. Don’t bring two people that play the same role, often it will lead to muddy expertise.
  3.  Use technology to enhance meetings: Technology can improve effectiveness in various ways, including video conferencing, screen sharing, and collaborative document editing. According to a survey by LogMeIn, 85% of respondents believe that technology positively impacts their ability to collaborate.
  4.  Encourage participation: Encouraging participation and creating a safe environment for participants to share their ideas and opinions can increase meeting effectiveness. According to a study by the University of San Francisco, meetings that allow for equal participation among attendees lead to better decisions and increased engagement.
  5.  Ensure adequate follow-up: Following up after a meeting ensures that action items are completed, and progress is made. According to a study by HBR, 75% of managers believe that post-meeting follow-up is critical to meeting effectiveness.
  6. Avoiding Regularly Scheduled Meetings: Regularly scheduled meetings, such as weekly team meetings, can become routine and unproductive over time. This can lead to a lack of progress and wasted time and resources. It is crucial to assess the need for a meeting before scheduling it and to consider alternative approaches, such as one-on-one conversations or ad-hoc meetings, when appropriate.

Regularly scheduled meetings and standing meetings can be valuable tools for businesses. Still, they may not always be the best approach. Here are some reasons why businesses may want to avoid these types of meetings:

  • They can become routine and unproductive: Regularly scheduled meetings can become routine and unproductive over time. Attendees may stop preparing adequately, and discussions may become repetitive and unengaging. This can lead to a lack of progress and wasted time and resources.
  •  They can limit flexibility: Standing and regularly scheduled meetings can restrict flexibility and make it difficult to adapt to changing circumstances or priorities. This can result in meetings being held unnecessarily or when they are no longer needed.
  •  They can be a time-waster: Regularly scheduled meetings can become a time-waster for attendees. Meetings that are held simply because they are scheduled rather than because there is a clear need for them can take away valuable time that could be spent on more important tasks.
  •  They may not be necessary: Some meetings may not require a fixed schedule or a regular cadence. Holding meetings only when a specific need or a clear objective can be more efficient and productive.
  •  They may not be inclusive: Regularly scheduled meetings can exclude people who cannot attend at the scheduled time, especially if they are not given the opportunity to provide input or feedback through other channels.


Effective meetings are critical to organisational communication and collaboration. By following best practices such as defining clear goals and agendas, inviting the right people, using technology, encouraging participation, and ensuring effective follow-up, organisations can improve meeting effectiveness and productivity. By doing so, organisations can save time and money while fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation.


Atlassian. (2019). The cost of bad meetings [Infographic]. https://www.atlassian.com/time-wasting-at-work-infographic

Harvard Business Review. (2017). 5 ways to make your meetings more effective. https://hbr.org/2017/03/5-ways-to-make-your-meetings-more-effective

LogMeIn. (2019). Collaboration in the modern workplace. https://www.logmein.com/content/dam/LogMeIn/Files/Whitepapers/Collaboration-in-the-Modern-Workplace.pdf

University of San Francisco. (2014). Meeting best practices. https://www.usfca.edu/sites/default/files/lp-meeting-best-practices.pdf

Wrike. (2020). Meeting statistics: The ultimate list for meeting productivity. https://www.wrike.com/blog/meeting-statistics/

Doodle. (2019). The State of Meetings Report. https://meetings.hubspot.com/state-of-meetings-report

Harvard Business Review. (2017). Making Meetings Matter. https://hbr.org/2017/07/making-meetings-matter