Looking Back to Look Ahead: An End of Year Letter from CEO Paul O’Beirne

This time of year can fly by with more events than usual; it’s normal to feel the pressure to celebrate and soak in every last moment as the year comes to a close. It’s also a time for reflection and looking to the future with intentionality. It’s important to look back so we can see how we would like to move forward. As I reflect back on my Conscious Leadership journey this year, I encourage you to do the same. 

Vulnerability is an essential part of the Conscious Leadership Journey

This year, I stepped in front of the camera and shared more of myself with you. I’ll tell you, making my first video was both a weird and anxious experience. It felt like I was talking to myself. I had a thought of “are you staring at a screen or really talking to people?” It felt vulnerable and challenging, pushing me even further as a leader and I shared more of my own journey than ever before. Over time I was able to become a little more comfortable making videos. 

I believe what we have to say is important, especially in these times when most of us are being challenged by everything. The world is shifting and we are entering a new era of work. My mission and our mission at ORCA is to help people become more conscious and take ownership of things that are going to help them be more effective in navigating change. This mission is more important than any fear I have of being in front of the camera. 

I didn’t have any expectations about what might happen, but I gained so much from the experience. New connections, deeper connections with my network and more confidence in myself. I felt really vulnerable sharing my journey publicly and ultimately had to trust that my sharing could help someone. In the end, it resonated with some, and I had people reach out to me to thank me for sharing and some even shared how it helped them in their own journey. 

The challenge of leading a company through uncertainty

In the beginning of the year, lots of projects were still on hold as clients didn’t know what to expect in the coming months. As the year progressed, things started picking up and there was more predictability around how we would move forward. Everything wasn’t completely worked out, but we had a general direction. In 2020 we really had to get comfortable moving everything to the virtual space, and this year we were able to go back to having some in-person meetings. 

The biggest challenge we faced was the uncertainty that comes with growing and sustaining a business. Figuring out how to keep generating revenue, maintaining profitability, controlling costs and overhead, and figuring out cash flow. 

Personally, I was challenged to work on my business versus in my business and really embody the role of CEO. (You might remember my balcony and the dance floor video.) It was important to look at how to scale a business beyond just me and the relationships. I needed to personally spend more time on the balcony. 

Defining what success means at ORCA

It’s important to know your “why.” It’s crucial to how you measure your success as a leader. When I think about ORCA’s success, I ask myself two key questions:

  1. Have we assisted our customers in having a transformational experience? 
  2. Have the individuals and teams with whom we work taken away something that makes them and those around them better? 

This year I really tried to prioritize sharing our wins. I adopted a habit of doing this every week in what I called “our wins and priorities.”  We are still a work in progress, but are continuing to get clear on where we can add the most value and focusing on developing our niche. Currently we are transitioning to a more holistic approach and integrating the different assets we have to bring greater value while focusing on where we have the most experience, which is working with technology organizations. 

Looking to the future

As another year comes to a close, I’m going to continue to use connection as my roadmap. My goal is to continue to establish and build long-term sustainable relationships with our clients and partners. It’s not about selling a product or a new lifestyle. It’s about raising awareness and encouraging people to continue to grow and transform and for you to do the same for your people; in this way, we propel to new levels of success. 

We are working on integrated offerings that can be customized to different clients based on their needs. The Four A’s of Conscious Leadership will continue to be a focus, and we’re excited to dive deeper into that framework with you in 2022. 

We are so grateful for our clients, our partners, and our community at large. I wish you and your loved ones a Happy Holiday and a wonderful end to 2021, and we look forward to connecting with you next year. 

If you would like to stay updated on what’s happening at ORCA, subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news sent straight to your inbox. 



The Great Turnover Tsunami: What is the manager’s role in the tidal wave of employee turnovers?

There are a lot of articles being written about the great turnover. Experts call it “The Great Turnover Tsunami,” a tidal wave of employee turnovers due to pandemic burnout, among other factors. Employees are taking the time to reassess what is important to them, and spoiler alert, it’s not going back to the office.

I’ve spent the last few weeks speaking with some of my clients who are considering leaving their current roles. When I asked them why, they mentioned two main reasons. 

  1. They want to create more balance in their lives.
  2. They do not feel valued or cared for by their managers. 

The consensus among these clients was that they felt their managers had not shown up for them when they were going through personal challenges during the pandemic and before. 

Compensation is no longer the only motivating factor

My clients expressed to me that they were all willing to sacrifice compensation in order to find a role and an environment where they felt more supported and valued. 

The Global Gallup Engagement survey states that only 34% of employees in the U.S. feel engaged.The pandemic has seen that number fluctuate even lower. There is room for improvement here, and it is up to managers and leaders to make these changes a reality. Leaders and managers need to create an environment where employees feel engaged and fully supported in their role. This is even more important during times of anxiety and uncertainty. 

Of the 12 Gallup survey questions, the most important one is the following: 

Does your supervisor or someone at work seem to care about you as a person? 

Research shows that employees leave leaders and managers. One of the key reasons is how their manager sees and values them. 

Employees want to feel heard. They want their manager to engage in empathetic and compassionate conversations. They want to know their managers care about them as a person.  

People are looking for more than just compensation and benefits. They want to work in an environment, and with a manager, that motivates and supports them so they can do their best work.

Conscious Leadership can bridge the gap between managers and employees.

Leaders don’t wish to create an unmotivating or unsupportive environment. Most leaders aren’t aware of how their own behaviors impact those around them. They are unknowingly (or knowingly) blind to how their actions affect others. Yet, it’s this lack of focus and awareness that contributes to an unsupportive work environment.

One of the reasons for this is that many leaders are not appropriately invested in the management part of their role. In many cases, companies don’t focus enough on investing or rewarding the people manager component of the leadership role. If leaders want to stop the Great Turnover Tsunami, they must invest time and energy into becoming aware of how they show up. This will help them become more conscious leaders and model behaviors like emotional intelligence and empathy that make an environment more supportive and motivating. 

As an executive coach, this is my passion and is what I have dedicated my career to. At ORCA, we’ve developed what I like to call the 4A’s of Conscious Leadership. These steps are an iterative process that help leaders become more aware and implement meaningful change in their organizations.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to reach out with compassion and empathy

When was the last time you had a truly empathetic conversation with an employee? A conversation where you ask about what is going well or not going well for them as a person and not their tasks. When have you shown that you really care about them as a person?

It’s time to have a caring conversation with your employees. If you don’t, you risk losing them. 

Consider the following seven steps to help you gain insight into what your teams are feeling and experiencing.  

7 steps to ignite caring conversations

  1. Set up an individual call or meeting with each employee with the goal of listening with empathy. Do not go into the call with recommendations or action items. This is about listening.
  2. Ask what is going on in their lives at this moment and how you can provide support. 
  3. Ask what transitions they are going through personally. Some people will be feeling a sense of grief from intense change or the impact of the pandemic and continued uncertainty.
  4. Ask what they need to feel empowered and trusted to take care of their work and schedules.
  5. Ask how you can create  the space for them to be innovative and creative. 
  6. Ask how you can help them move forward through uncertainty. 
  7. Create time to have engaging conversations with your employees during your one-on-one meetings or set-up a monthly check-in.
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I challenge you to put time on your calendar to check-in with each person on your team and see how they are really doing. You have the power to lessen the Great Turnover Tsunami and have a profound impact on your teams using compassion, empathy and conscious leadership. 

If you are struggling with how to navigate this time of turnover and uncertainty, please reach out to us.  Our coaches are trained to help you become a caring manager, especially during uncertain times. Also check out the resources in our previous articles

Boredom. Busy mother working in kitchen at home, her daughter upset with lack of attention, panorama

10 Tips for Successfully Working from Home with Your New “Colleagues”

Most of us are working at home with a new set of colleagues. My newest work colleague is a teenager, who has lost the normal daily structures of High School. He is not very happy with this or this new working environment. This provides its own set of challenges as we learn to work together.

Others of you might have a younger set of new colleagues who are even more demanding, and less understanding of the new working arrangements. You might also be competing for workspace with a partner who is now your new work colleague.

10 TIPS WHEN WORKING FROM HOME AND A FREE TOOL TO SUPPORT YOU

1.     Have a routine and structure for your day while still being flexible with this new environment/situation.

2.     Set clear boundaries with friends, family, and even pets to avoid possibly procrastinating tough challenges.

3.     If you are at home with children, find time to connect! It is different when they are in school given the distance and out of sight out of mind, but now that everyone is in the same space, new norms need to be established. Spending 10-20-30 quality minutes during the day will pay dividends.

4.     It is easy to get distracted or be tempted to log more hours from a remote location in the support of the team — remember to manage your own energy and take some time for yourself.

5.     Set expectations around the time you will be working – a clear beginning and end time?

6.     If you are having a challenge, ensure you communicate with your leader or a peer to seek solutions. Ask questions on things you are unsure about via online chat or email.

7.     Move regularly throughout your day. Don’t forget to stand up and make sure you add regular breaks into your normal daily routine.

8.     Communicate with family and friends using an online chat tool with your colleagues more frequently than normal to avoid a feeling of isolation. We need people more than ever right now.

9.     Don’t shy away from challenging assignments; simply ask for help if you need it.

10.   Be aware that living in these uncertain times can create uncertainty and anxiety, (See our LinkedIn post) https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leading-times-anxiety-uncertainty-paul-o-beirne/)

If you’re having a hard time transitioning to #WorkingFromHomeLife, you’re not alone. The good news is that we have great tool to share with you and your colleagues to make communication easier. Please take advantage of our gift from TTI and ORCA HR Solutions of a Free Working from Home Report . https://www.ttisurvey.com/391683VRF  This is based on our most popular DISC Behavioral Report. This takes no more than 10 minutes complete and will give you insights into your own behaviors and some tips of how to work with your family and colleagues.

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Engage your People with Caring Conversations

As I reflect on my previous role as a Microsoft Global HR leader. I have been wondering how I would have navigated a similar moment in history and what challenges I would have faced in that role. What support could I offer my teams as an HR leader and as a business leader as we enter an unprecedented period of uncertainty and upheaval?

Over 80% of the U.S. is being asked to stay at home and some countries, like Italy, are in 100% lock-down. I want to pay my respects and gratitude to people working in essential roles, especially the medical teams on the front lines of support for COVID-19 patients. 

 Since so many are working from home, I have received dozens of emails about virtual meetings and information on how to use technology to support people during crisis. A range of technologies help us communicate when we are physically distanced; however, we need to ensure that our people feel supported through genuine human connection. 

What conversations are you having that connect personally to each of your employees at this time?  How do you show you care?

We must reach out with compassion and empathy. How do you empathize and “step outside your emotions to view something from the perspective of the other person”? To help you gain a wider perspective on what your teams are feeling and experiencing, consider the following questions/tactics:  

  • Reach out to listen with empathy about what is going on in their lives at this moment and how can you provide support 
  •  Ask them what transitions are they going through personally and how can you support them through this. Some people will be feeling a sense of grief from intense change.  
  • Let them know we are all in this together and you don’t have all the answers  
  • Ensure they feel empowered and trusted to take care of their work and schedules 
  • Engage them in conversations, creating the space to come up with innovative ideas 
  • Ask how you can help them move forward through uncertainty 
  • Ask how you can set up a great virtual environment, and provide them with some best practices? 
  •  Be transparent about the work situation and what you know and don’t know 

In the past few weeks, I have read and spoke to a few leaders who are doing great things to support their people. Others have not yet taking action. Where do you stand?  

Some leaders are intentional in their support and some are innovative, offering virtual beer afternoons, coffee breaks online, mental health breaks, mindfulness classes, book clubs from home, reach-outs to help others in need, and many more great ideas. 

I would love to hear from you if you would like to share what are you doing to support your people and what innovative ideas are emerging in your world.    

To help you facilitate support for your teams, we offer a virtual workshop and webinar. 

“Leading in Times of Anxiety and Uncertainty Virtual Workshop”  

  • Helping my myself to help others:  Using Emotional Intelligence tools to understand what is happening to me in times of uncertainty.
  • Empathy and Conversations that build connections :  How I can understand what others are feeling and experiencing. How I can create conversations that build trust and strengthen relationships
  • Supporting my people through turbulent times:  Practical exercises and frameworks that I can use to support myself and my teams 

Contact us at info@orcahrsolutions.com

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Leading in Times of Anxiety and Uncertainty

To support their teams through uncertain times, effective leaders reflect first on their internal world and personal awareness. By understanding themselves better, leaders can apply that knowledge to navigate the external world and offer relevant guidance and aid to others.

Facing uncertainty, we may find that our bodies feel tense and we cannot channel our energies on forward movement. We are frozen by the fear and anxiety surrounding us. On an instinctual level, our brains first stop and assess our environment for safety and danger. This reaction is perfectly normal as our nervous system has entered a “threat state”. To read more information about this natural neurological reaction, see the footnote below describing the SCARF model*.

Reacting to threatening experiences, our bodies release cortisol, the fear hormone, with dire long-term consequences for our health. Positive experiences trigger the release of dopamine, a hormone that contributes to confidence and higher performance.

An average of three positive experiences dilutes one comparable negative experience because cortisol is three times more powerful than dopamine. To reduce your stress level, engage in as many positive experiences as you can to boost your beneficial dopamine levels.

As a leader, proactively taking steps to support your people  creates more positive experiences in this time of high anxiety and uncertainty.

  1. Start with yourself and be aware of how you are feeling about the current situation.
  2. Practice self-regulation in moments of high stress.
  3. Reach out to others. Ask people how they are feeling. Actively listen. Connect. Everyone needs more support and social connection at this time.
  4. Set up a meeting with your team with no agenda. Gather your team and ask each person to share what is happening if they would like.
  5. Ask your team regularly about how you can best support them as circumstances change rapidly.
  6. Share these 10 steps with your group.

Below is a checklist of 10 immediate actions to take yourself, and share with your team to increase their positive experiences and decrease their stress.

  1. Be mindful – Recognize and acknowledge your thoughts and emotions at this moment. Be aware of tension in your body. Name your feelings. To improve your self-awareness, you can ask yourself:
    1. What am I experiencing right now? How am I experiencing that in my body? Be specific about naming thoughts and feelings. My mind fills with fearful thoughts. My throat feels tight. Pressure weighs on my chest. My jaw clenches when I’m anxious.
      • Name your emotions specifically – e.g fear, sadness, guilt, anger or frustration?
      • Why am I experiencing these emotions? Validate what you’re feeling as useful information to move forward.
    2. What are some of the reasons I feel this way? What can I control? What is out of my hands?
    3. How do these emotions impact me and my ability to perform or move forward?
    4. What small step can I take to improve the situation?
  2. Take action today on what you can control: Prioritize action on what moves you forward rather than focus on all the things you cannot control.
  3. Connect with others: We are social beings; our community helps us feel safe. Reach out to people by phone or video, connect with friends and family, following social distance guidelines.
  4. Engage in what refuels you; What can you do to refuel or recharge your energy? Practicing mindfulness or meditation can be very helpful in these uncertain times.
  5. Move your body: Exercise to relax, and stimulate your brain’s production of endorphins, the chemicals that act as the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.
  6. Experience nature:  Evidence shows that spending time in nature creates many measurable beneficial changes in the body and the mind.
  7. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about how you are feeling. Talking out loud about your fears and anxieties can reduce your stress level. If you’re feeling really stuck, talk to a mental health professional or coach.
  8. Create a routine for your day: Since many of us are working from home, without the predictable structure of the work environment, it is normal to feel a bit lost, or out of sorts. Build a daily structure that supports you and helps you deal with the uncertainty still to come.
  9. Pause: If possible, slow down on making major decisions. Be aware that emotions precede actions and you may not make the best decision when you’re feeling stressed. Fear and anxiety can have a deep subconscious effect on our ultimate decision in a given situation. A negative emotional reaction may cause a disregard of facts or data that that logically support a certain decision. Pause and revisit the decision when your mind and body are in a less threatened state.
  10. Help others: Reach out to people who may need support. There is scientific evidence that when we focus on doing something good for others, the act of kindness causes our brain to release dopamine, increasing own our happiness and calming our minds. If you can activate yourself or your community without putting yourself at risk, do so.

If you need support putting these steps into action, please contact us for a free 15-minute consultation. We have tools and methodologies to support you through these uncertain times.

Additional Information

*David Rock, NeuroLeadership Institute, refers to the SCARF Model*that describes the five domains of human social experience: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness.

  • Status defines relative importance to others.
  • Certainty concerns our ability to predict the future
  • Autonomy provides a sense of control over event
  • Relatedness describes our sense of safety with others. Friend or foe?
  • Fairness depicts the perception of open-minded exchanges between people.

These five domains activate either the ‘primary reward’ or ‘primary threat’ circuitry (and associated networks) of the brain. A perceived threat to one’s status activates similar brain networks that respond to a threat to one’s life. In the same way, a perceived increase in fairness activates the same reward circuitry as receiving a monetary reward.

The model enables people to more easily remember, recognize, and potentially modify the core social domains that drive human behavior. In normal circumstances, the brain assesses our environment for safety and danger. However, in the current state of the world with the Covid19 crisis, we are experiencing additional stress:

  • We cannot personally control the global reaction to the Coronavirus
  • There is uncertainty about how and when the situation will resolve
  • In the immediate future, our autonomy as an individual has been severely impacted.

In addition to this our need for personal connection to others and relationships are being impacted. We respond neurologically to these challenging situations as if there has been a threat to our life. Frightening experiences produce more stress hormones, like cortisol over time. If we can’t reduce our stress levels, the following can occur:

  • Decreased cognitive performance
  • Decreased oxygen available for critical brain functions
  • Tendency to overgeneralize
  • Defensive responses
  • Exaggerated reactions to small stressors
  • Heightened agitation
  • The tendency to dwell on previous negative experiences
  • Struggle to get along with others