Good Luck El Presidente

This time last year I was about to host a business lunch on behalf of my old school’s Past Pupils Union. For me, as I began my term as President the previous June (2022), it was the event that I was most looking forward to.

Why? Mainly because I always enjoyed attending it over the years.

It takes place each year on the eve of Ireland’s first home 6 Nations match. It’s a chance to catch up with friends. We get the opportunity to hear/learn from someone interesting (the list of speakers and panellists over the years has been fantastic).

Last year I decided to go with a panel rather than a speaker. In order to facilitate the discussion effectively, I figured I’d better keep the subject matter in my own wheelhouse.

The committee and I went with the title “Thriving Teams and Cultures in 2023” and we were delighted to work with the following panel:

  • Fiona Mullan (CPO Bloom and Wild, ex-Ding, Meta and Microsoft)
  • Kevin McLaughlin (VP People and Operations Kitman Labs, past pupil, ex-Leinster/Ireland rugby player)
  • Andrew Goodman (Leinster rugby attack coach)
  • James Tracey (recently retired ex Leinster/Ireland rugby player)

Before the panel discussion, I said a few words to welcome everyone. I’ve never minded standing up and speaking and I had plenty of practice last year. Still, I always felt most comfortable doing so when I was in some way prepared.

So a couple of nights before the business lunch I began to scribble down a few notes.

Something wasn’t quite right. I felt stifled. After an hour, I stopped to check in on what was going on.

I began to visualise myself in the room, that usually helped. I considered the faces I would see. TRIPS Tank had taken a couple of tables and I had invited some clients, friends and family.

And that’s where I began to get to the root of the problem. Ciara (wife), my parents, my best friends from school, some great friends from outside school, clients, the panel/guests, the school representatives, lads from the immediate years above and below me, the older past pupil cohorts who expected a certain format, the younger lads who wanted something different, the many female guests I had invited and encouraged other table hosts to invite…the list went on and on.

The audience was full of multiple mini-audiences and I was trying to draft a welcome speech to each of these audiences. It was the wrong way to go about it all. I was falling into my ‘people-pleasing’ state and trying to be too many things to too many people.

I ripped up the notes and started again. I asked myself how I wanted people to feel after I spoke, and how I wanted to feel? I wrote down ‘welcomed, relaxed, energised, joyful’.

The only way to get there was to be myself, and forget about the many subsets. If people liked or disliked it/me, so be it.

It was so liberating.

It’s rare that someone like me who is prone to people-pleasing can let go of that need to be liked! Kind of embarrassing to read that back, but it’s very true.

And once I let it go, I felt genuine and free.

The welcome speech was well-received (by most!) and the panel rocked as I knew it would.

It was a really valuable lesson, and one I am glad to be reminded of this week

  • What does this story bring up for you?
  • When have you ‘let go’ of caring about something beyond your control and felt free as a result?

Reply and let me know.

Good luck to this year’s President, my great friend, Stephen Barry. He has lined up two brilliant guests to discuss their amazing entrepreneurial journeys, Cillian Barry and Barry Napier.

Looking forward to a great afternoon on Friday with friends old and new.