Gary Keegan is a man in demand and I can understand why. During my time with Dublin, I considered Gary the finest high performance coach I have worked with. Gary is CEO of Uppercut, a high performance advisory consultancy firm that works with organisations and leaders across sport and business.

His list of clients include IRFU, Dublin GAA, Leinster Rugby, Irish Boxing, London Business School and a range of blue chip organisations. I had the pleasure of working with Gary for five years while we both were a part of the Dublin Senior Football set-up. He left a great impact on me as a player and as a person mainly because of three things:

  • He was very practical and had a unique ability of making complex theories very simple and practical.
  • His messages were concise and consistent.
  • His energy and passion for all things human performance was infectious.

During the course of the interview I referred to Gary as a sports psychologist. Later in our conversation, Gary pointed out that he wasn’t a sports psychologist. I knew that but it was interesting that I had come to see him as that. “My experience is in doing,” Gary says. In my opinion that is his secret sauce and what makes him stand out from the crowd in human performance. He is practical and pragmatic and knows what an individual or a group needs at a particular point in their performance journey. I enjoyed the conversation sharing our experiences on high performance, our journey with Dublin GAA, the brilliance of Jim Gavin plus a range of other interesting theories on human performance and leadership. 

This was an enjoyable 60 minute conversation that honestly could have continued for longer. I have pulled out some of the interesting themes within this piece but I recommend you give it a listen for the full context. 

How he got involved with Dublin mid season

Paul Flynn: One of the pieces that I wrote for The Currency this year was a kind of a recap on 2015 when we were beating Mayo in a semi final of an All Ireland. We were six points up, and they came back and drew the game and should have won the game actually but we just held on. We then beat them in the replay. 

I remember that very clearly because I was subject to deep analysis of a play I had whereby I took a shot which I never should have taken at a time we were six points up. I should have been much more in control of my emotions, more ‘in the present’ and not getting ahead of myself. That brings me right back to that point in time because that was when you came into the Dublin setup, or it certainly was when players felt your introduction, which was quite strange, to come into a set up at a semi final point but that’s what happened. 

Your experience epitomises the type of person that Jim would bring into the setup. It’s not just a sports psychologist who’s going to come in and have a shelf life of 18 months, when they come in with a big bang and then they’re gone. But yours was built on foundations and processes and you’re layering on to what we’re doing, which makes sense because that’s the type of approach Jim would have taken. I suppose the question is, talk me through how did you get involved, where did you meet Jim or how did that all kind of come about, because to come into a set up at a semi-final point is quite unheard of.

Gary Keegan: Let’s just mention Jim Gavin first? Because he’s a very curious individual. He’s always looking for something that will elevate the team or the group or the environment. And he’s always searching, he’s always researching. And you guys would have had Bernard Dunne on the team around you guys at that time. And obviously, I know Bernard because of boxing, I’ve known him since he was 11 or 12 years of age. And Jim reached out to Bernard and said, ‘Look, can you try and make contact with this guy Gary Keegan, I’d like to have a chat with him’. So he came over to the Institute of Sport. And it was while he was reflecting on the 2014 performance, the defeat against Donegal and what that meant for the team.

So I sat down with him, it was the first time I’ve met him, first time I was aware of him. And we locked ourselves in a room, we ended up in there for three hours, talking high performance, teams, failure, success – all the stuff that we love to talk about. And I was really impressed with this guy and how much rigour he was putting into his reflection of that performance that year – the weeks, the days – that led into it, the actual performance itself.

And my memory of it at the time, he was really focused on ensuring that the lessons would provide a platform for that team’s performance and growth into the future, that he wasn’t going to leave that season behind without taking something from it. That was very significant around where he would take this team next. And I think there were a number of things that they took from that game and that season, and maybe their headspace leading into that game, that certainly served the team and the group going forward. But Jim, as the leader of that group, felt this very deep responsibility to ensure that that was leveraged in the fullest way possible.

Gary Keegan. Photo: Bryan Meade

On the importance of showing vulnerability

PF: I think in sport and any walk of life really, you need to experience that type of chaos, or upset or, you know, adversity to really be able to grow. And that was one thing where Jim was phenomenal. One of our values as a group was commitment to growth.  People can have that as a value and not believe in it. But certainly, Jim believed in it, and we all bought in as a result. But to be able to have a commitment to growth, I think you have to show vulnerability. As a group, as individuals, you have to be able to really be vulnerable. Let yourself get to that stage so that you can then realise, ‘ok where are the areas where I can grow both individually and collectively’. And Jim was very good at that. 

How powerful can that be when you have that, from a leadership point of view, but also as a collective group?

GK: It’s funny, you know, because during that three-hour discussion, we discussed vulnerability where I asked Jim, does he facilitate that, does the environment facilitate the players to be truly vulnerable, because only with vulnerability can we get to the real organs of performance and failure and success. We can only get really under that. And if people feel safe to be vulnerable in the environment, it’s not saying I’m passing the problem that I have, or the challenge I have on to anyone else, and I’m asking them to solve it.

It is that I want to share it and recognise that it’s ok for me to have this obstacle right now or this difficulty with my mental strength or this difficulty with my technical performance, whatever it is. But that willingness to – or that openness within the environment – to share vulnerability within the group became a very powerful aspect of the culture in that team going forward. So, I think that first opportunity to really look back at that season, to look back at the lead into that game, that performance itself and for people to be really open about what they were experiencing, and to be able to challenge others about their contribution, etc turned out to be extremely powerful. And something that was culturalised and systemised within how we reviewed games, how we reviewed seasons thereafter. We used it as a very, very powerful tool, I think, for the team.

Cultivating culture not building one

PF: I’ve listened to you before mentioning a phrase which you’ve actually called me out on, where you say, we built a very powerful culture, we built a great culture – and you don’t like that phrase. Tell me why you don’t like that phrase, because it answers the question I was going to ask.

GK: Because culture is a living form. It sits within the human dynamic, the human group dynamic, it never stops continuing to grow. And it’s either going to go somewhere that you don’t want it to go, or it’s going to go somewhere where you’re directing it to go. So, it needs to be cultivated. So, my initial thinking was, we build high performance teams, we build systems. We cultivate is a much better term, because we’re never finished. And that’s part of the issue. And part of the challenge that many teams or organisations face.

They think they go into an exercise to set out some values and standards for the team and then we never actually discuss them again. We never go after them again. We don’t really hold people to account around what’s important, and we don’t see ourselves evolving. We need to evolve as organisations, as individuals and as teams. So, it’s the cultivation of culture, that’s really, really important. 

The leader is the central lens for that, in my view. If the leader is not on top of that and not continuing to encourage and stimulate that, then the members of the team, or the players within the team, don’t take ownership. And I think players or members of a team pay attention to what a leader pays attention to. Because often we take our cues from leaders.

So if the leader deems it to be important, well, then the team deem it to be important also. One of the things that Jim had said to me in those early years was repetition, repetition, repetition. And it wasn’t a word that inspired me, and I really got underneath the bonnet with him around what do you mean by this repetition? He said, ‘Well, if I don’t reinforce it, the players won’t continue to value it’. That’s the cultivation exercise, that’s turning the soil, that’s planting new seeds, that’s watering it, that’s going back to see the quality of the growth. What are these values delivering to us right now? Why would our values need to evolve? Why would we have to bring new values into the team as the team evolves, etc. So that’s how I see it.

PF: Versus the idea of building it, where that’s finite. There’s an endpoint, you build a house and it’s built. 

GK: It’s done. 

PF: It’s done. Yeah. Where this is ongoing, you have to manage it, you have to continuously reflect on it and that’s where vulnerability becomes important, because you have to be able to – even if you win, or if you lose – be able to deeply analyse your performance, to identify opportunities for growth. People talk about growth mindset, that’s effectively what that is.

And that was from our culture because we were excellent at analysing, the process of analysis, let’s say. It happened regardless of whether we won or whether we lost or whether things went well or whether things didn’t go well. And that was built, part of our culture. That was just who we were. And I think that is not only Jim and his leadership style, but it’s the influence that you’re bringing in too. 

It’s not just you as a performance psychologist standing in front of a group, getting people ‘geed’ up for a game, it’s the foundations that you lay. Repetition was so important because when the vision was articulated, we all knew it. What we were trying to achieve to become the greatest performing Gaelic football team was clear that was our vision, right? And everybody understood then what their role was leading up into that. And that’s the important part of having a high performance unit, but you have a culture that’s been cultivated and managed.

And the role of Jim versus you in that is an interesting dynamic, how did that kind of work was it you advising Jim or was it primarily Jim who led this?

Leaders walk the walk

GK: Let me just go back, there’s a couple of points that I want to kind of discuss on what you’ve just raised there. One thing is – if all you respect is success, you’re going to probably revisit failure more often. You’ve got to respect failure in the same way you do success. I always had the view that there’s success in failure and failure in success, so if we elevate them, and a lot of people spend a lot of time on the failure, on the mistake, on the error, and not enough time on the success. Actually what has delivered us this success? Why do we need to sustain it? What needs to be maintained? What needs to be improved? What can we learn from the failure? How far off were we from having success in that regard?

So getting in under the bonnet around failure and success, and treating them with the same level of respect is really important. I think in high performance environments that sustain over a longer term, and are more consistent over longer term, there’s definitely a higher level of respect for both aspects of that, and not just a higher weighting on the failure end of it. That piece is important.

The other piece I wanted to kind of pick up is that I’m not a psychologist, so that’s really interesting, isn’t it? Because all my learning has been by doing, by facing problems by getting around obstacles, by fixing things. And as a coach, I’ve spent my time in this world of researching high performance, understanding it, observing human beings failing and succeeding, advising and coaching in that space. And it’s brought me to a space where I’ve impacted on others, which has created other people looking to come in, or to draw me into to their discussions or into their journeys.

Photo: Bryan Meade

I accidentally found myself in Dublin, I didn’t feel I was the right guy for the job. Because most of my time had been spent in individual sport, so I was moving into a team dynamic, and that was certainly out of my comfort zone. And it’s important just to be clear on that. I never set myself up as a psychologist, but I do believe that I’ve earned the right to call myself an expert in performance, because I’ve spent so much time in it. My relationship with whoever I work with, the leader of the group is really important.

First of all, I have to be in that circle of trust, I have to have the full context, so I understand that. And Jim was willing to allow me into that circle of trust, and to give me the full context so I knew what I was dealing with. And the design of my work was very much a co-creation. Because if Jim is clear on where he wants to go next, I have a better chance of being accurate around the approach that I take with the group.

So I’d say he’s downloading what I have, because that’s the type of person he is. He’ll go download anything he can from an individual or from a piece of research that he believes will help the group. He was very hungry around that. And in those early years, we were in a bunker, we were in this room after every session discussing performance, high performance, team, group culture, you name it. And we’re almost tick tacking on the basis of lessons and insights.

PF: That is really interesting point to make around what I refer to as the standards that have been set by Jim as a leader. And it used to blow me away. This is where I’ve been interested in what the dynamic was there when you were in them huddles. Because I do recall a game we played against Wicklow, and I think we won by maybe 15 points, and it was an excellent performance. And I remember going to the train on the Tuesday after the game, thinking, how are we going to analyse it? How is Jim going to analyse this in his in his prelude to training? And he showed a video clip, which was five clips in the game, and it was clips of 5 hand passes that went to the ground or behind the person who was supposed to be receiving it. And he just he showed the clips and he said, ‘Is that our standard?’ And everyone obviously said no. And he goes, ‘get out and train’. And that was it.

It was as powerful a session as we’ve done, because it was his ability to get down into the detail and to really figure out some small things that would really drive standards and behaviours. And we talked about having values, yes, but your values then drive your standards, and then that’s what helps cultivate your culture really.  

And he was so good at that getting down into the details. So, on one hand, you have got a guy who is big picture, wants to become the greatest performing Gaelic football team. And on the other hand, then you’ve got him down in the detail to make sure that standards are of the highest calibre right across the board. 

Were you impressed with his ability to be up there at the 30,000 feet level, and then really does get down into the weeds of things to make sure that we maintain those standards right across the board. And that’s only one example. He did that across all the different facets and pillars of performance. Were you impressed with his ability to be able to do that?

GK: I was probably more impressed with his capacity to be able to consistently do so to stay on top of it. That speaks to the leader’s values, it’s really important if it’s your values, it’s something I see in you every day. If you want to know what my values are, look at what I do every day.

You could pretty much work out Jim’s values by observing him, right, because he behaved in a particular way. He set himself up to be the most effective he could be by ensuring that he dedicated the right time to getting to those five points in that game, for example. So it wasn’t that he threw lots of detail at you, it was that he threw the detail that was most important at that moment of time.

And that doesn’t come by accident, that comes by a lot of detail, focus around what he needs to bring to the table. So, a clear recognition, I would think within him, around what his responsibility was, and what his performance was for the team. He’s not just the leader of the team, he’s a member of the team.

So how do I contribute to that group to ensure that they are most effective, whether that’s my coaching group, my backroom team, or whether it’s the player group? I think that was critical. And a critical principle for him was that preparation is nine tenths of performance. And if he was asking his team to value that, well, he had to value it also. So, a lot of the work that Jim had done to get to those key moments and key insights nobody saw. He went deep on that to get those key insights out of it. I think that was really, really powerful.

Plus, the role of the leader was to keep our feet on the ground while we had these ambitions to get to summits etc, it was about being humble, it was about remaining curious, it was about never being complacent, never getting ahead of yourself. And anytime you got a bit of a lift in your ego, he was very quick to cut you and bring you back down to the floor. So that you remained connected with what it is you needed to do and what it was you needed to contribute.

Holistic development

PF: One of the other things that really helped to build trust was Jim’s kind of Holy Trinity, which I’m sure you would have been very aware of and involved in. The idea that a holistic development of a player is now critically important. You could argue that it’s more important in Gaelic games, because of the fact that they are amateur athletes, where you’re not just developing an athlete to play a game. These guys are also professionals, they also have personal lives, you’ve got that physical professional, personal.

Jim was excellent at empowering or creating an environment to allow players to develop in all parts of their life. He was excellent at involving the families in the squad and creating that link with the partners, and the families with the team.

He was also excellent at making sure that players were afforded the time to be professionals, to be students, to do whatever they needed to do, you know, as part of their careers, and I’ve many examples of how he helped me in that space, whether it be giving you a week off or creating space for you to be able to focus on what’s most important for you right now.

In the knowledge that he was building trust, he was layering on the trust each time that in the pillar he was probably most interested in your, the physical element of it, you were going to perform for him because he brought all these other parts of your life together. I think that was one of the most impressive things that Jim did.

And then what he was able to do within that physical bracket, break it into the four pillars of being technically strong, one, we had to be tactically aware, two.

We had to be physically conditioned to be able to perform.

And the final one, which we spent a lot of time on, you certainly would have lead the charge on, was the psychological element or mindsets, the mindfulness, that pillar that he’d often referred to as the one we don’t know as much about, the one we don’t know how many marginal gains there are to help us to improve our performance, our overall performance.

And we spent a lot of time doing yoga, we spent a lot of time increasing their capacity in that space. So that we were able to improve our overall performance. What were your thoughts on this approach on the overall the Holy Trinity, and how he broke down performance?

GK: Well let’s look at the Holy Trinity piece, because it’s really, really interesting, because it sits again if you look at that kind of military background, you look at the values that that military training had given him. It was always about the people first, right?

His service, his responsibility beyond that it was about the county, beyond that it was about the GAA. He had a very clear sense of his purpose and his role around the team. And I think he was genuinely committed, he wasn’t looking to leverage something to get something else. He was genuinely committed to and he recognised the contribution that family makes to the player and how the player turns up.  So, the respect and the valuing of family was really important to him. 

He also recognised that you guys had a life, a career in education, outside of being professional, essentially, in how you turned up to develop as players. He also recognised that support was required in that area, there are other things going on. And if those things are not aligned, and in a good place, it’s going to affect upon your ability to be committed fully, to have your mind focused when you come into training etc.

So, it made sense that you would do that. But you have to internally value that to make it work. And also, I think he had a view that he wasn’t just developing players, he was developing men, right? Because obviously, this is a male team, he was developing men, he wanted them to carry stuff beyond their playing career that would benefit other parts of their lives, whether they became dads or whether they became leaders in business, whatever.

That they would take those principles and those values into other aspects of their lives and it would enhance them. That’s why I think he was always trying to give you a world perspective. That what we do is what we love doing, you know. It’s what everyone was really passionate about but there are bigger things. Losing the game is not the end of the world. We need to find perspective. And I think he was able to always help us to find perspective and see that there was a bigger world, there were bigger things, whether it was charity, whether it was children’s hospitals, whether it was going out and seeing the history of the nation or whatever. He was educating and developing the team as much as people as he was as players. So that was critical.

PF: You’re lecturing in London Business School on all things high performance and leadership, is that what you’re seeing when you’re doing these lectures, and the feedback you’re having from classes, is holistic development happening in businesses now, as well as in sport?

GK: I think we have no choice but to go there in sport and business, from my observation of the space, we don’t go far enough. Some businesses are trying to get a little bit closer to the person and to the life that surrounds that person. Because you can’t separate the person from the professional, you know?

It’s difficult to separate personal life and the professional life. And in work we’ve always in the past tried to separate them. I think we’re recognising now that we need to be more holistic in our approach, that ultimately, it’s about helping someone to be fully committed, and helping them to be more consistent in the contribution they make to the organisation or the business.

We’ve got to do that in sport, we have to be much deeper. If it’s human performance, we have to understand what drives it, what supports it, what underpins it. If we don’t, well, then we can’t get consistency in how people show up and how they deliver the performance both individually and collectively.

So I think business is on a journey towards that. But I’m not sure whether they’re quite there yet. Can they eyeball a member of their team really and give recognition, not just for what they’re doing in terms of their day to day work but beyond that? What else is going on their life that’s impacting upon that, and how they may be able to support them, to allow them to turn up better and more consistently in the context of the role they have for the organisation?

I think that’s a big piece, and there is a difference. However, I’ve also met leaders who are all over that space, who really want to get in behind that, get a little bit deeper around their own senior teams. That’s the space we work in, we work at that kind of senior leadership level, the leader himself or herself trying to understand their performance, their role, their sense of purpose around their senior team, and how to provide that support and environment to get the very, very best out of the group that’s around them.

Because essentially that’s the conduit through which they deliver organisational performance from that group down into their next group. So no leader drives organisation performance, we lead through people, we lead through the performance of others. If we’re not there and we’re not understanding what that takes, if we’re not setting up our structures to essentially facilitate people to be more effective in how they work together and the way in which they work together.

If you look at sport, we have offence and defence essentially. But these two parts of our structure have to be fully integrated, they have to be looking to deliver a very similar gameplan. And yet we have business that’s a little bit more complex, I suspect with lots of different sub structures that sit within it, that in some ways are supporting each other but may find it difficult to come together as a unified team. So it is more challenging in business, but not undoable. 

Only one time exists

PF: A lot of the work that you’re doing with Uppercut now and the high-performance advisory business is working with leaders to try and untap that performance element that you’ve brought to sport, because it is human performance, it is getting the best out of human beings, whether it’s sport or whether it’s in any walk of life, there’s definitely lessons that can be learned and adopted.

GK: Yeah, 100 per cent. If we look at, say, the mindset pillar within that set up. The environment supports most of our mental development, our mental capability. So there’s a lot supporting your ability, essentially, to mentally execute, both in the context of how you’re prepared, but also in the context of how you’ve performed. There was a lot of things right around the standards, around the support that was there for you guys. So there was a couple of aspects that we needed to go into.

With regard to that ability to be more present, the ability to be intentional in what you did, the ability to apply your focus to the right things consistently, as opposed to shifting between one thing or another, trying to find an answer. And that ability to see the three dimensions of time, of which only one exists.

And that is the past, the present and the future, with only the present being the only time that exists. And how to look at the past with regard to your value in it to take lessons, to essentially evaluate your experience, to take what’s valuable from that to progress you forward, but not to ruminate in the past about what has gone and what you have achieved or not. 

To only look at the future to set your intention and not to be concerned about the future and what might happen. But to be focused on what you’re doing right now. We got into that concept, we got right behind it. And that group was quite an intelligent group, they got under the bonnet of it, understood it and started to apply it to their own practice, which became very, very significant for a number of reasons. This is very relevant for human performance in sport, business and any walk of life.

Stimulus v response

PF: I remember this is Victor Franklin and the stimulus and response and the gap in between that we tried to build our mental capacity, our mindfulness training to allow that space in between the stimulus and response, to make good decisions, and to stay in the present.

Like you just said. There’s a couple of things that strike me about that is one, a lot of people outside the Dublin set up would have heard us speak about, – or Jim in particular – speaking about the process, sticking to the process. And that’s what this is right? That’s what it is, it’s about staying in the present, you’re not dwelling on the past, whether it was a good play or was a bad play, whether it was a good game or a bad game, you’re not dwelling on it, you’re learning from it, yes, but you’re staying focused on what you can control which is in the present.

And you’re certainly not thinking about the future, which is probably what we did in 2015 when we’re six points up, and probably have half of an eye on the final. And we’re thinking about the future. And we’re not sticking to the game plan. We’re not sticking to the process. That was one of the cornerstones of what made us a great team. 

I only watched Patrick Cantlay a couple of weeks ago, winning the FedEx cup. And in his post-game interview, he mentions this exact same way of thinking. All he spoke about was the process, all he was thinking about was getting a good contact on the ball, walking up the next ball addressing the ball, following his process that he has before every shot and then getting a good strike. And I think that’s so important in sports and you just touched on it there and I think it’s also really important in any walk of life because it allows for really good decision making, less irrational behaviour, you’re really clear in what you’re trying to do when you’re playing and you’re in the present. It was one of the cornerstones of what we as a group did and your influence on that was huge.  So just talk me through that a little bit because I think you could talk about this all day, but even your view on how we were good at doing that and how we got to that point.


All business no matter what sector you’re in, there’s a results nature to it. You’d often hear people say we’re a result driven business.

You know, that’s ok but you don’t control the result because it’s in the past. Result is always behind you, it’s never in front of you.

Targets and outcomes you want to achieve and intention is in front of you, but you’ve got to learn to let it go that once you’ve established a goal, either at an individual or at a collective level and we all look at it and say, that’s what we’re committed to you.

You then draw the line to the attention where our focus needs to be to get there. And performance is a process. It’s a process. And as long as we follow that process, and within that process we know what the critical factors are, which are, for me, key behaviours, we go after those critical factors. These are the factors that help us to win the game. No matter whether you’re in Gaelic football, whether you’re in hurling, rugby, or whether you’re in business. There are factors that if you focus on them, and you do them better than your opposition there’s a good chance, that you’ll come out with the outcome you want.

But again, you must focus on the process. And within the process, you must focus on the right factors within that. And I think again when you can give that information to a lot of different groups and only certain groups will take it on and assimilate it into everything that they do. And this group assimilated it into everything they did. That sense of concentration, endurance, to build through the process.

There are times when you’ll drift and there’s times when you’ll come back to process, but the process is what kept you in the game, the process is what gave you access to your ability, it gave you access to all the preparation you’ve done. And in those moments, you could release that. It’s not to say that the game doesn’t shift, it’s not to say that chaos doesn’t come in and affect individuals or affect the group. We’re always trying to get back onto that process base, and back onto what we are expecting of ourselves in the context of performance.

The elixir of leadership

PF: We’ve touched on a little bit of what we’ve done with Dublin – we’ve touched on some of the stuff you’re doing outside of sports. What are the common traits that you see amongst the really good leaders? You know, and what is it that even you’re seeing when in the London Business School? What is it that in high performance? If you could kind of capture in maybe two or three points? What are the common traits?

GK: Traits is probably…whether it’s befitting of an answer to that question, I’m not sure. Because I’m going to start with purpose. I think those leaders who have a very clear sense of purpose are the leaders that you want to engage with, they’re the people that you want to be around. You want to get into a conversation with them because that sense of purpose, that clarity that they have, not just for themselves, but for the organisation, for the team, that they communicate that in a way that’s very, very different.

They share it in a way that’s very, very different. They seem to be able to translate that down into all their interactions and why they make decisions the way they do, why they generate questions. So, purpose is for me that common if you want to call it a trait, it’s the common, is elixir the right word? It’s the special stuff that when a leader is grounded in purpose, when a leadership team is grounded in their purpose, when any team below that is grounded in purpose an organisation is always better, so that’s a big piece for me, because you can have the other traits and the other aspects.

But in the absence of intention, in the absence of what we want to achieve, what we want to become, what I expect of myself, what I expect of others. In the absence of a clarity around that, the other stuff will fall below its potential, that’s in my mind for sure. Outside of that, a lot of the traits that we spoke about in Jim and everybody are different.

People will find different ways to the mountain, there’s all different types of paths that you can go. There’s no core set of traits that every leader should have. It’s about finding what’s right for you. It’s about finding what you can really dedicate yourself to, a sense of this feels right for me, it feels part of who I am. It’s starting to recognise what your own character is, right, and that the aspects of character that are really supportive of your own potential that you expose them in the context of your leadership. 

Going beyond that, I think it’s that recognition of your responsibility as a leader and I don’t know how many times leaders are reflecting on their responsibility.

How much is that related to the performance of the business? And how much of that is related to the performance of the people? So how do you separate those two things, you know, the outcomes and the results to how my responsibility is being met with regard to setting the right environment for people to be successful?

How do I do that, as a leader, what am I actually doing today, to ensure that anything that prevents or blocks us from being effective as a team or an organisation, that is my responsibility, and it’s the leadership community’s responsibility within our organisation to address that, not next week, not next year, not next month, but today, tomorrow, the next day and the next day. So you’re down in that space, you see yourself as I guess, a farmer of that environment, to ensure that you cultivate it in a way that gives people the best chance of being successful.

Blue energy vs red energy

PF: And the last question, for anybody listening, any individuals who maybe aren’t leading teams, or they’re not involved in sports. Leading yourself is where it all starts.

And I know one of the things that we would have worked on when we worked on a one-to-one basis was around energy management. Compartmentalising the different parts of my life, one. But also bringing blue energy versus red energy – blue energy being the positive energy to everything that I did and red energy, being the negative energy. And how important that was for me to just start off each week or each day leading myself, first and foremost, before I could even start to think about the collective or other parts of it.

So for any individual listening, what kind of message do you have that this is not about leading teams or cultivating a culture. Times have been tough over the last 18 months, and hopefully, we’re coming out of it. But, I don’t think you can ever take your eye off this, the idea of taking ownership of yourself, of your own emotions, your own energy. To leave everybody with a nice message just to kind of take it into their week or into their day, what would it be?

GK: Well, we’re all thinking, feeling beings. We can’t cut that off, it’s always going to be there, we’re constantly thinking. And if we think about something, learn off it, it’ll become an emotion, it will drift from the brain into the body. And we’ll feel it. We use a term of our two opposite poles of positive and negative, and sometimes that’s not the right terms to be using. And, as always, I think, some underpinning rationale for some of the aspects of what we feel. You describe them as energies, it’s an emotional energy or a thought process that’s creating an energy that’s either positive, or it’s negative.

We would have talked about that self awareness, that recognising what energy supports what it is you want to achieve, whether it’s in your relationship, whether it’s in your performance, or your role, or whatever else that sits there. And becoming aware that if you’re in a negative state, that you’re cultivating that, you have a responsibility to address that and just that recognition that that’s where you are, that you’re in that. What we would have described as that red state, and if you’re in there, you’re feeding it, you’re choosing it.

It’s not that you can move straight from that into a positive state, but you can move from a negative state into a clear state, that you’re putting yourself into position to be more logical, in a position to think more clearly. Ok, I don’t feel great about this. I feel a bit disappointed about this, but what do I need to do next?

What do I need to take responsibility for? So to think a little bit clearly sometimes when you’re feeling down or you’re feeling negative helps you to begin at least to step forward with behaviours that are going to help you to get some progression on where you’re at. From a positive state, I think it’s often we don’t think that we have to cultivate a positive state. So what are you doing to cultivate that?

What thoughts are you actually feeding. We described it as the gardener, if you’re planting weeds, all you’re going to get back is weeds. Whereas if you’re planting flowers and colour, and so what are you doing, what are you grateful for?

What are you focused on today to make an impact on? What does that look like, are you feeding that into yourself, or are you’re dealing with all the time regurgitating the challenges that you’re faced with, in the context of your role, or a colleague that you’re not getting on with, or a manager who is not helping you or is being difficult.

Are you cultivating that by continuing to regurgitate within your system, or are you saying this is not healthy for me, this is not good for me. I’m going to put my hand up here and stop, and I’m going to start to think about what’s best for me, what can I control? What behaviour do I need to step into to take responsibility for where I’m at right now?

And to find your way into that? So it’s almost managing your energy systems, being aware of which ones are conducive with your happiness and what you want to achieve? And which ones are just pulling you back and preventing you from moving forward?

And are you taking personal ownership and responsibility to be more aware of how your own system works and speaks to you?

I guess, to take a little bit more control over your self-talk, that inner dialogue that you have, to ensure that you can begin to cultivate a more positive or optimistic view of what’s in front of you.