Nina Noonan Power of Reflection and Blossoming

Nina Noonan  The Power of Blossoming

Nina Noonan is living proof of her own advice. She took time out after earning her degree and working in banking to ask herself  ‘is this what I really want for my career?’ She changed course, changed country and pivoted her life to where she is now, working as a leadership trainer and coach in Ireland. In the podcast Nina talks about the importance of taking time out to consider what you want from your career.

Nina was born in Germany near Stuttgart and like many Germans her family liked coming to Ireland on holidays when she was young.  “My parents gave us a kind of cycling trip  in Donegal when we finished school exams. And I just fell in love with the country. So we came back for a few more holidays along the way. It was just the first place I could think of where I wanted to be, when I had a few months to just stop and think for a bit.” Stopping and thinking is something Nina now recommends for the people she coaches and for the companies she works with in the IMI – Irish Management Institute.

Having worked in banking in Germany for a while, she decided to try something new and made the move to Ireland when in her 20s. She did a Masters Degree in Human Resources with Smurfit UCD.  This is where Nina really found her calling was in learning and development and especially Leadership Development. When people ask her what is it she actually does, she says she tries to facilitate people’s learning and what is at the core of it. “I can help somebody to take a step in a different direction or a step up, or to look at their mindset in a different way, so that they’re enabled to do something different.”

Pivotal Life Moments Going Beyond Expectations

People often reassess their career choices at different points in their lives she says. “I think it can happen at different stages but usually when there’s a bit of a milestone, so it can happen to young people as they come into their careers, maybe when they complete a graduate program and then that comes to an end.” Sometimes there’s the question people ask themselves such as ‘is this really what I want to continue doing for the rest of my life’ she adds. Similar things happen in mid career.  “I think in particular, my own generation, where I can see that in mid career, there is an element of having done the thing that we were supposed to do, you went to school and you went to college, and we had maybe different opportunities to our mothers, and we’ve been a good girl.” These are the moments for exploring your purpose and blossoming, she says.

Reflection – Taking Time Out

Development works best when there is a lot of self-reflection there she believes. “Sometimes I see people coming on to a course because somebody said that ‘you should go on a course’ or  companies say let’s send you on a course or to coaching. That doesn’t have the same impact initially, or it just takes longer to get to a point of real learning. Whereas if somebody really chooses to be there, and has had some of that self-reflection and can continue that journey of self-reflection, then that’s where learning really hits the spot, because then you’re able to connect what you’re learning on a program or during a coaching engagement, where you can connect that to your own life and apply it and reflect on how that’s working, and then make choices that maybe say, ‘actually, I’m bang on in the right place and this is where I want to be’, or ‘do you know what I really want to build on this and develop into a different place’.”

“how to create accountability within the team without creating conflict or aggression, that’s a massive step forward for how people work together”

Benefits For Companies

Nina Noonan has worked with semi state organisations and with private companies and has seen real learning and improvements to the effectiveness of organisations as a result of these leadership programmes. She works as a Programme Director for customized leadership programs in the IMI as well as a career coach.

“If a company really takes the time to put something together that is valuable to them as an organization and then plan certain outcomes they want to work towards, they are also enabling and empowering their people to learn and to develop for their own benefit,” she says, then there is an organizational benefit. “I think organizations get pay back for the investment of a training program, not just because I work on those training programs, but because I can see it every day. When you get your leaders and your team members to reflect on how they work together, for example, and you create a team where all of a sudden, you move into a space of we know how to build trust amongst ourselves, as opposed to competing all the time, consciously or subconsciously, or we know how to create accountability within the team without creating conflict or aggression, that’s a massive step forward for how people work together, how engaged they are, how much they want to be there and want to perform. And it also impact your bottom line. So ultimately, that really is a win win situation.”


System Needs To Change For Women In Leadership

Systemic barriers still exist for women in the workplace and often companies are not aware of it until someone points it out. “Some organizations have picked up on that and are trying to create a different system around that. But you know, very often, if there’s a systemic barrier, we might not even know it is one, until somebody points that out. But if a meeting is being scheduled for five o’clock, and we don’t stick to a clear finishing time, by default, it might affect your female colleague, the one who has to excuse herself perceived early and run off because the crash closes at six. That may not be a problem for your male colleague who doesn’t have to go off because his wife picks up the child. So nobody might say I’m putting up a barrier deliberately here for women, but ultimately, what it means is if it is a woman who has to leave early, that’s how she’s going to be perceived.”

Arranging networking opportunities during working hours is also another thing that can benefit women in leadership. Nina has more suggestions like these in the podcast and is well worth a listen no.

Angela Mezzetti
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