“Respect is the greatest motivator.” Carmel O’Reilly
I’ve always believed that respect is the greatest gift you can give to another human being, and to yourself. I’m not actually sure if I did coin the phrase ‘Respect is the greatest motivator’, but it is something that I strive to live my WorkLife by. It’s perhaps my most important value. Because it directly links to my self-trust and drives my self-motivation in doing what I want and need to do in my WorkLife.
Dom’s Story: Losing His Self-Respect and Losing Trust in Himself: A Case Study
Dom always knew he wanted to be involved in team sports. Growing up he had a sense of what he wanted to be. This innate sense guided him to becoming manager of his county hurling team, the place he knew he was meant to be. He always knew he wanted to be the manager, not the player. That in itself was quite a crazy idea because it went against the long-established and recognised pathway to becoming manager, as historically managers always progressed from the ranks of players.
As a young boy, he was always on the sideline watching his brothers and friends play; watching, listening and observing the coaches and managers throughout the years, how they engaged with the players, how they got the best out of them, what was happening when the team were doing well, and what was happening when they weren’t. Although he was encouraged to try out for the team, he never did — his ability to read his life allowed him to know this wasn’t what he wanted to do.
He chose to study Leadership and Management at university. He became an intern at the university hurling club — although at the time it wasn’t called that. I don’t think internships were a thing in Ireland back then, and certainly not on university hurling teams. Dom simply turned up every day and did whatever was needed. In effect, he created the position. He was relentless. He was there all the time, trying to learn as much as he could. He was like a sponge soaking up knowledge.
Dom was quite sociable and very interested in people. He got to know the players both on and off the pitch. He knew what was going on in their lives and how this impacted their game. He also had a nerd side to him. He thought about things in an analytical way. He designed a programme that allowed each game to be analysed, from a technical standpoint — play, formations, while also taking into account anything that could impact individual and team behaviours during the game, and the impact this had. From this combined information he developed a system which took the club’s game to a new level.
On graduating he moved back to his hometown, got a business development role in his local high street bank, and got reinvolved in his local hurling team. The coach/manager was retiring and Dom stepped into his shoes. He got to know the players and what was going on in their lives. He analysed the games and applied the system he’d developed at university to develop the team. It worked. In their first year, they went from mid-league to winning the county championship. Some people thought it was a fluke, a stroke of good luck. Dom didn’t. He knew his system brought together good tactical play with human interaction. It took two more years of winning the county championship for people to sit up and take notice, to take notice of Dom.
He was approached to become Assistant Manager for the county team. As a county, they hadn’t reached an All-Ireland final in twenty-five years. There was a new manager, Alan, who was more progressive in his thoughts, and more open-minded to things. He really enabled Dom’s growth and development. He met the team, got to know them, and got an understanding of their life. Some were still at school, others were starting out in their WorkLives. They were semi-professional players and didn’t get paid, other than expenses.
He came to understand the industry, both from the ground level (the team and club) and the big picture (people who operated at country level, and sponsors). He was given the opportunity to really immerse himself in it, and he continued to grow and evolve the analytical side of things. All the different people he and his manager (who remains to this day a lifelong friend and mentor) were meeting along the way were starting to notice: oh, this guy thinks a little differently from other people.
He got to work with great people both on and off the pitch. He really enjoyed it, he had a lot of fun, learning more about the game, and also the business. He surrounded himself with people who were outstanding. Going in he had blind faith it was going to happen; but when he was in the midst of it winning/losing, his faith was more or less faith, depending on results. But at the core of who he was he somehow really believed he was supposed to do it: somehow, someway it was going to happen, and he just tried to connect as many dots as he could. And it worked. The first year they came out of twenty-five years in the wilderness making it to the final. The second year still considered the underdogs, they won.
And it was then it began to fall apart for Dom. That Sunday afternoon, as he walked off the pitch having congratulated the players, he was joined by one of their biggest sponsors, who said: “Well done, Dom. Now all you have to do is make sure we win again next year. When do you start again?” Dom replied: “At this moment all I’m thinking about is celebrating with the team.”
It was in that moment that he knew he wasn’t living his life in accordance with who he was. He was so consumed by the game and winning, that was all he cared about. It had become all about the professional side of the game. He had somewhere along the way lost himself on a human level, and it had become about having to prove himself. Somehow winning wasn’t the expression of greatness that he’d envisioned, because it wasn’t holistic — it was a relief, not a joy. It was more that he was glad he had got that done. He used to think he was a good person. He no longer felt that. He’d lost respect in himself, and with it went the trust that gave him the deep-rooted belief in himself that he could do this.
He took himself away from the game and went back to working full-time at the bank. A couple of years later his young son Alex started playing soccer for the local team. Dom would take him to weekend games, watching and cheering on from the sidelines with his wife and daughter Anna (Alex’s twin sister), and this is where he found his love for sport again. He was reminded that it was the players, the team and the community spirit that he loved. When he had got caught up in the championship all he was thinking about was winning, and then on to the next game. There was no time to experience the joy. He had got so caught up in achieving results because of the pressure that he forgot that the people around him were human. He didn’t take the time he needed to be with them on a personal level. He had left his humanity at home.
Stepping away and not having any vested interest helped him find the love of sport again. He got to watch it because he enjoyed it. He got to rekindle that part of him that loved it. He felt he had done it before because that’s what he was chasing, but now he wasn’t chasing anything anymore.
It was at this time a new opportunity came into his life: football for girls. He was asked to be part of the team leading on the Irish Football Association countrywide strategy to get more girls playing football. He led the drive regionally on the five-year project to recruit and train a hundred new female coaches through a funded pathway. He was back to where he knew he belonged, and he really wanted to be there. His self-respect was restored, and along with that his trust in himself that he could do something special with this.
Develop Your WorkLife Story Chapters
We can all fall short of perfection, and as a result, we can all sometimes do things that are inconsistent with living the WorkLife we aspire to live, in line with the legacy we want to leave.
If you don’t like who you’ve become or what’s required of you in certain situations or with particular people, work towards removing yourself from that. You may or may not be able to walk away fully as Dom did, but you can take steps to distance yourself.
The stories I write are based on real WorkLife challenges, obstacles and successes. In some stories I share my own experiences, and with permission stories of people I’ve worked with, whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Other persons and companies portrayed in the stories are not based on real people or entities.