Monday 5 December 2016

The value of your own instinct can only be fully appreciated when you are unsuccessful

Susan O'Dwyer, chief executive, Make a Wish Ireland

Susan O'Dwyer

Published 27/11/2016 | 02:30

Susan O'Dwyer, chief executive, Make a Wish Ireland
Susan O'Dwyer, chief executive, Make a Wish Ireland

Over the course of my career I have learned many things that have been valuable to me both personally and professionally.

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A really useful piece of advice I received was to hone your instinct and learn to trust your gut. It helps you to embrace what I like to call "positive risk". This is something I struggled with at the beginning of my career. I resisted using my instinct and wanted only proven formulas to underpin my work. Over time though, experience meets you like an old friend; scenarios begin to show similarities to what you have seen before. You gain confidence and learn to allow that honed instinct to play a role and guide you.

The value of your own instinct can only be fully appreciated when you are - inevitably - unsuccessful at times. It is old advice, but you need to make mistakes to learn from them. It is your willingness to stand back and honestly review what went wrong and your part in it that allows you to evolve professionally. It's an evolution that means you begin to trust your own decisions and, crucially, take responsibility for them as well.

Throughout my professional life I have done my best to apply the personal traits that I value most highly; trust, respect and empathy. They are my three "watchdogs" if you like.

Empathy is something that you don't always start your career with, but it's a definite leadership characteristic. If you can't empathise then you will never allow yourself to absorb the full picture and make a decision in full possession of the facts.

It humanises you and makes you a leader who is accessible to their team.

The day I feel I know it all is the day I need to quit. In my opinion, there is learning to be had each day from every by challenging yourself - seek out new lessons. One of the more difficult challenges I set myself recently was the completion of my Masters.

Going back to school is never an easy feat and incorporating a hectic study load with an already top heavy work-life balance was a major challenge that I struggled with. I realised that the learning I was gaining was not only benefiting me personally but it was furthering my professional development. That's a task I feel was entirely worthy.

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