The ongoing coronavirus crisis has plunged the vast majority of businesses into a period of protracted uncertainty. However, many industry leaders have highlighted that the temporary halting of business provides a unique opportunity to focus on personal development, change management and adapting our overall strategies. In a pre-Covid interview, we sat down with Ian McClean of Flow Group to talk about the value of executive coaching and business consultancy. Check it out!

Speaking to CEO Ciaran Connolly at ProfileTree’s Belfast-based studios last year, Ian McClean gets our conversation off to a start by taking us on a brief walkthrough of his personal and professional background before he embarked on a life of entrepreneurship. He describes himself as being part of Ireland’s ‘brain drain’ in the 1980s and 1990s, which saw thousands of young and skilled workers depart the country for greater opportunities across Europe and the United States. He reminds us of a 20 percent unemployment rate in Ireland, which saw him set his sights abroad from a young age.

unlocking business performance
unlocking business performance

A Passion for Behavioural Psychology 

Ian’s story begins in the most modest of places: sleeping on a park bench in southern Germany. With plans to join a friend in selling American cars to stationed troops, the future consultant decided that returning to NUIG Galway to finish his Arts degree would be a poor decision. “I was studying psychology and a raft of different languages, and I decided to drop out of that course for a number of reasons. The new job promised immersive training in sales psychology, and my mind was largely made up. That’s where it started” he explains.

Now, Ian McClean specialises in how behavioural psychology can apply to the world of business. After travelling the world he returned to the Emerald Isle in the mid 1990s, setting up a small enterprise which was to eventually evolve into The Flow Group. “We’ve just celebrated our 21st birthday – so it’s evolved and grown organically until now. It’s international and has operations spread across four continents,” he shares, reflecting on two decades of continued growth.

But what products and services does The Flow Group offer, and how does it differ from other business consultancies dotted across the island of Ireland? Ian explains that The Flow Group helps businesses improve their performance through people. “There’s a lot of process reengineering, systems improving, restriction, job design, reorganisation and technology – we don’t do any of that. We only help the people side of the equation, helping that overall machine to work better.

unlocking business performance with ian mcclean

The Human Side of Business Performance

“We call things like that ‘the mechanics of business’ – but the only thing that drives things forward is people. There are lots of ways that we do this, and we help businesses manage that change. That change could be growth, for example. We’ve also seen decline, and the crash was an incredible variety of how that could look like. Then you have mergers and acquisitions and regular ongoing incremental change – people moving jobs, changing careers, getting promoted – upwards, downwards and across. We account for the human factor, which has a real impact on business performance.”

According to Ian, showing business leaders and senior managers how to be the best possible version of themselves is a regular challenge faced by his company: “We teach leaders how to lead and manage, and the ability and need to work together effectively. Personal effectiveness, helping people manage time, their stress and themselves – personal mastery is an absolutely critical one,” he shares.

Training and developing business professionals to improve their business acumen often involves focusing on those essential skills like clear, concise communication and confident, authoritative public speaking. “We focus on communication, which underpins a lot of our work. That could be formal presentation, standing up and delivering a polished message, right through to handling a meeting or negotiation selling. We study persuasion and influence and how you affect those in your own work. We also do executive coaching, working on a one-to-won basis, training people into leaders and managers. When people ask us to partner with them, that’s typically what they’re looking for.”

Ian argues that Ireland’s greatest strength is its people. “For one thing, we speak English without being English. One thing I’ve noticed from my international work is that you really begin to value and appreciate what you have at home. We’re very social, and we’re very good at interacting and exchanging with other people. We take it for granted when we’re surrounded by it when we live here. But I think companies are coming to Ireland for lots of reasons. Tax incentives are obviously a big one. But a bonus on top of that is the skilled workforce with high interpersonal skills – there’s a lot to see there for an employer. 

“The concept of the Irish pub is a specifically Irish franchise – and why is that? Nobody calls it a German pub. There’s something about the franchise of the Irish that is just so attractive.”

**Those wishing to learn more about The Flow Group and the full range of services offered are invited to do so by visiting the company’s official website. Interested parties are also invited to reach out to Ian McClean directly via LinkedIn.**

Ciaran Connolly’s interview with Ian McClean joins ProfileTree’s Business Leader series, recently recognised with the Best Content Marketing Award for a Video Series at the inaugural Irish Content Marketing Awards. To pitch your business to take part in the series, get in touch with the team today. Please note that all Business Leader interviews will be conducted on a remote basis until public health guidelines allow recording sessions at our Belfast-based studio.

Ian McClean’s Approach to Unlocking Business Performance: A Deeper Dive

Ian McClean’s approach to unlocking business performance focuses on the people side of the equation, believing that engaged and empowered employees are the key drivers of success. Here’s a detailed look at some of the key principles he emphasizes:

1. Importance of Purpose-Driven Leadership:

  • Leaders set the tone by articulating a clear and inspiring vision that resonates with employees’ values and aspirations.
  • They build a strong sense of purpose and meaning, motivating employees to contribute beyond just individual goals.
  • McClean believes leaders need to be authentic, empathetic, and approachable, fostering trust and open communication.

2. Creating a High-Performance Culture:

  • He emphasizes the importance of psychological safety, where employees feel comfortable sharing ideas, admitting mistakes, and learning from them.
  • Open communication and collaboration are encouraged, breaking down silos and fostering collective intelligence.
  • Feedback mechanisms and continuous improvement processes are implemented to drive progress and learning.

3. Growth Mindset and Learning Organization:

  • McClean promotes a growth mindset, encouraging employees to embrace challenges and view learning as an ongoing process.
  • He fosters a culture of experimentation and innovation, allowing employees to explore new ideas and take calculated risks.
  • The organization invests in training and development opportunities, continuously enhancing employees’ skills and knowledge.

4. Alignment on Vision and Values:

  • Everyone in the organization understands and subscribes to the shared vision, goals, and values.
  • Clear communication and consistent actions ensure alignment at all levels, creating a sense of unity and direction.
  • McClean helps organizations translate values into daily behaviors, reinforcing them through recognition and rewards.

5. Empowering People:

  • Employees are given autonomy and ownership over their work, fostering a sense of responsibility and accountability.
  • Decision-making is decentralized, allowing employees to contribute their expertise and solve problems closer to the source.
  • This leads to increased engagement, motivation, and ownership of outcomes.

6. Trust, Autonomy, and Distributed Authority:

  • McClean believes in building trust with employees, respecting their capabilities, and giving them the freedom to make decisions.
  • This fosters responsibility, initiative, and accountability, leading to a more agile and responsive organization.
  • He helps leaders delegate effectively and provide support without micromanaging.

7. Coaching and Developing Talent:

  • Investing in individual and team coaching helps employees unlock their potential and maximize their performance.
  • McClean focuses on developing leadership skills at all levels, creating a strong talent pipeline for the future.
  • Regular feedback and personalized development plans help employees understand their strengths and areas for improvement.

8. Engaging and Inspiring Employees:

  • McClean creates a work environment that is stimulating, rewarding, and recognizes achievements.
  • He promotes open communication and feedback, ensuring employees feel valued and heard.
  • Opportunities for growth, development, and participation in meaningful work contribute to employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Leadership That Drives Performance: Building High-Performing Teams

At the heart of Ian McClean’s approach to unlocking business performance lies the crucial factor of effective leadership. Leaders set the tone, create the culture, and ultimately hold the power to unleash the potential within their teams. Here’s a closer look at how Ian McClean emphasizes specific leadership qualities that drive performance:

1. Leading with Purpose and Values:

  • Inspiring Vision: Effective leaders articulate a clear, compelling vision that resonates with the team’s values and aspirations. This vision serves as a north star, guiding decision-making and motivating individuals to contribute towards a shared goal.
  • Values-Driven Culture: Leaders set the example by embodying the organization’s core values in their behavior and decision-making. This fosters trust, authenticity, and a sense of shared purpose. Diverse team working together collaboratively, laughing and smiling

2. Role Modeling Desired Behaviors:

  • Leading by Example: Leaders understand that their actions speak louder than words. They embody the desired behaviors, work ethic, and commitment they expect from their team.
  • Authenticity and Integrity: Genuine leaders are transparent, honest, and accountable. They build trust by being true to their word and staying consistent in their values.leader having an open and honest conversation with a team member

3. Strategic Thinking and Decision Making:

  • Big-Picture Perspective: Effective leaders can see the bigger picture, understanding how individual actions contribute to the overall strategy and organizational goals.
  • Sound Judgement and Calculated Risks: They make informed decisions based on data, analysis, and a clear understanding of the potential risks and rewards.

4. Developing Leaders at All Levels:

  • Investing in Talent: Strong leaders recognize the importance of developing leadership potential within their team. They provide opportunities for learning, growth, and mentorship.
  • leader coaching and mentoring a team member, providing feedback and guidance
  • Empowering Others: They create an environment where individuals feel empowered to take initiative, make decisions, and learn from their experiences.

Building a High-Performance Culture: The Ian McClean Way

Ian McClean recognizes that a positive and supportive culture is the bedrock of any high-performing organization. He promotes various strategies to foster an environment where employees thrive, collaborate, and drive exceptional results. Here’s a closer look at some key elements:

1. Fostering Openness, Transparency, and Trust:

  • Open Communication: Encouraging open and honest communication is crucial. This includes creating safe spaces for feedback, both positive and negative, and ensuring information is readily available to all employees. This transparency fosters trust and collaboration.diverse team members in a circle meeting, actively listening and sharing ideas
  • Psychological Safety: Cultivating a culture where employees feel safe to share ideas, ask questions, and admit mistakes without fear of judgment or repercussions. This encourages learning, innovation, and a willingness to take risks.

2. Encouraging Experimentation and Learning:

  • Embracing a Growth Mindset: Fostering a belief that intelligence and abilities can be developed through effort and learning. This encourages experimentation, trying new things, and viewing challenges as opportunities to brainstorming around a whiteboard, filled with colorful ideas and diagrams
  • Continuous Improvement: Implementing processes and mechanisms for ongoing learning and improvement. This could involve regular feedback loops, knowledge-sharing sessions, and opportunities for experimentation and prototyping.

3. Collaborative Teamwork and Knowledge Sharing:

  • Breaking Down Silos: Encouraging cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing across different departments and teams. This fosters innovation, problem-solving, and a sense of shared ownership for success.
  • Team Recognition and Rewards: Recognizing and rewarding teamwork and collaboration, not just individual achievements. This reinforces the value of working together towards shared goals.

4. Celebrating Successes and Wins:

  • Recognition and Appreciation: Regularly acknowledging and celebrating individual and team accomplishments, both big and small. This keeps morale high, motivates employees, and reinforces desired celebrating a success together, cheering and raising their glasses
  • Shared Victories: Creating a sense of shared ownership and celebrating successes as a team, fostering a more united and engaged workforce.

By implementing these strategies, Ian McClean helps organizations build cultures that are open, collaborative, and growth-oriented. This ultimately leads to higher levels of employee engagement, satisfaction, and, most importantly, sustainable business performance.

Remember, building a high-performance culture is an ongoing process that requires commitment and continuous effort from leadership and all employees. However, by focusing on these core principles, you can create an environment where your team can thrive and achieve remarkable things.

Empowering People to Succeed: Unleashing Potential with Ian McClean

At the heart of Ian McClean’s approach to unlocking business performance lies a fundamental belief: empowered people achieve extraordinary results. He champions strategies that shift the focus from micromanagement and control to trust, autonomy, and support, enabling individuals to thrive and contribute their best. Here’s a deeper dive into how he empowers people to succeed:

1. Providing Clarity of Vision, Strategy, and Goals:

  • Shared Understanding: Everyone in the organization, from leadership to the front line, understands the overarching vision, strategic direction, and specific goals. This clarity provides a sense of purpose and direction, aligning individual efforts with the bigger picture.
  • Meaningful Connection: Employees see how their individual tasks contribute to the overall strategy and goals, fostering a sense of ownership and connection to the bigger picture.

2. Giving Autonomy and Ownership:

  • Delegation and Trust: Leaders delegate tasks and decision-making authority to the appropriate level, trusting employees to take ownership and responsibility.
  • Empowerment and Accountability: This creates an environment where employees feel empowered to make decisions, take calculated risks, and learn from their experiences. They are held accountable for their choices, fostering a sense of self-reliance and responsibility.

3. Coaching and Mentoring for Growth:

  • Investing in Development: Providing opportunities for coaching, mentoring, and training to help employees develop their skills, knowledge, and leadership potential.
  • Personalized Support: Offering personalized support tailored to individual needs and aspirations, creating a clear path for growth and development within the organization.

4. Removing Barriers and Blockers:

  • Identifying Obstacles: Proactively identifying and removing roadblocks that hinder employee performance, such as unclear processes, lack of resources, or communication issues.
  • Streamlining Processes: Simplifying processes and procedures to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and enable faster, more efficient decision-making.
  • Open Communication: Encouraging open communication channels where employees can voice concerns and seek help, ensuring their voices are heard and challenges are addressed promptly.

By implementing these strategies, Ian McClean empowers individuals to become the drivers of their own success and organizational progress. He believes that when people feel trusted, valued, and supported, they are more engaged, motivated, and capable of achieving remarkable things.

Remember, empowering people is an ongoing process, requiring a culture shift from control to collaboration. By fostering trust, providing opportunities for growth, and removing roadblocks, you can unlock the full potential within your workforce and achieve truly outstanding results.

Frequently Asked Questions about Unlocking Business Performance with Ian McClean

What are the core principles of Ian McClean’s approach to unlocking business performance?

Ian McClean’s approach focuses on three key pillars: leadership, culture, and empowerment. He believes that effective leaders who create a positive and supportive culture can empower their employees to achieve remarkable results. Here’s a closer look at each principle:

  • Leadership: Leaders set the tone for the organization by establishing a clear vision, embodying values, and fostering trust and open communication.
  • Culture: A high-performance culture encourages collaboration, learning, experimentation, and a growth mindset. Celebrating successes and recognizing achievements are also crucial elements.
  • Empowerment: Trusting and empowering employees with ownership, autonomy, and support unlocks their potential and fuels their growth and development.

How can I assess my leadership style and identify areas for improvement?

There are several ways to assess your leadership style. You can take self-assessments, solicit feedback from employees and colleagues, or engage in 360-degree feedback evaluations. Once you have a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, you can identify areas for improvement and develop a plan to address them.

What are some practical steps I can take to start building a high-performance culture in my organization?

Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Encourage open communication and feedback: Create a safe space where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns.
  • Break down silos and promote collaboration: Create cross-functional teams and encourage knowledge sharing across departments.
  • Celebrate successes and recognize achievements: Publicly acknowledge and reward individual and team accomplishments.
  • Invest in employee development: Provide opportunities for training, coaching, and mentoring to help employees grow their skills and knowledge.

How can I empower my employees and give them more ownership?

  • Delegate tasks and decision-making authority: Trust your employees to take ownership of their work and make decisions within their area of expertise.
  • Provide clear goals and expectations: Set clear expectations for what you want to achieve, but give employees the freedom to choose how they get there.
  • Offer support and resources: Ensure employees have the resources and support they need to be successful.
  • Recognize and reward their efforts: Let employees know that their hard work is appreciated.

How can I learn more about Ian McClean’s approach and how to implement it in my organization?

You can visit Ian McClean’s website or his company Flow Group’s website for more information and resources. You can also connect with him on social media or contact him directly.

Conclusion: Embark on Your Performance Transformation with Ian McClean

In an ever-evolving business landscape, unlocking the full potential of your organization and its people is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. By adopting the people-centric approach championed by Ian McClean, you can embark on a transformative journey towards sustainable performance and growth.

Remember, Ian’s approach goes beyond quick fixes and superficial solutions. It delves into the core elements of leadership, culture, and empowerment, recognizing their interconnectedness and ripple effect on overall success.

Here’s a recap of the key takeaways:

  • Leadership matters: Effective leaders set the tone by embodying values, creating a clear vision, and fostering trust and psychological safety.
  • Culture is the soil: Cultivate a high-performance culture by encouraging collaboration, learning, experimentation, and celebrating successes.
  • Empowerment is the key: Trust your employees, give them ownership, and unlock their potential through coaching and support.

Taking the first step is crucial. You can start by assessing your current leadership style, analyzing your culture, and identifying areas where you can empower your employees further. Remember, change doesn’t happen overnight, but with commitment, consistent effort, and a focus on people, you can witness a remarkable transformation in your organization.

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