Danica Murphy

Danica Murphy is an internationally recognised expert in the areas of High Performance Team Development, Executive Coaching, Training Design, Facilitation and Strategic Development.

Her deep understanding of the interdependency between business practice and human psychology led her to establish her business PRISM http://www.prismlcc.com/ over 20 years ago.

Danica specialises in helping leaders to develop the mindset for high performance.  Women in leadership, organisational transformation and change, board effectiveness and strategy design are just some of the topics that energise her.  She is passionate about working with people and organisations who want to make a real impact and perform better.

In recent years, Danica developed a customised framework for delivering and receiving feedback in the workplace.  She built this tool based on the neuroscience of feedback and as a result of the demand for feedback being driven by the millennial generation and gen Z who now make up the vast majority of the workforce.   She has been partnering with organisations to help them build a culture of feedback to drive excellence.

As a Faculty and Programme Director at the Irish Management Institute, she designed the training Mastering the Performance Mindset and delivers this training to senior leaders.

Under what conditions do you get your best work done?

I get my best work done with the right amount of fear, fun and focus.  Having a background in psychology and neuroscience, I know how important these conditions are for performance.  ‘Fear’ means doing something outside my comfort zone; this stretch releases noradrenaline in the brain.  Fun is having curiosity and competency with what I am doing to release dopamine in the brain.  Focus is being able to prioritise from impact to release acetylcholine in the brain.  Everyone should strive to work on projects or in situations that provide them with fun, fear and focus.

As organisations get larger there’s often a tendency toward dampening inspiration. How do you encourage creative thinking within you or your client’s organisations

Mining intellectual curiosity and growth mindset in myself means that I am always researching, inquiring and exploring to find new ways to bring inspiring concepts to life for my clients. Being brave enough to work through new concepts with clients and learn together is exciting for me, the client and anyone participating in the process.

Have you had a mentor and if so how did this person impact you?

I have a “board of mentors” to help steward and challenge me. I reach out to a particular mentor based on the item that I am trying to work through. For example, I have used my mentors in relation to life balance, professional growth, market positioning and legacy/succession planning.

I recognise how fortunate I am to have these mentors in my network.  They have proven invaluable in their ability to quiet any self doubt, properly help scope/define issues or challenges, and constructively generate solutions- taking into consideration their own profession and life experiences.

What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?

Many leaders have been promoted for modelling certain attributes such as ambition, decision making and courage which are all important and admirable. The challenge arises when leaders fail to recognise the unconscious impact that “being the boss” has on them and their teams. Not having a team or forum for honest and challenging debate and reflection is a challenge that I see for so many senior leaders.

Have you ever been professionally stuck? How did you become unstuck?

Yes I have, particularly when things are out of balance with life and work.

I have experienced feeling a sense of failure and being brought to tears doing the same old thing without having the energy or spark behind it.

This is where my mentors have become so invaluable. It takes courage to admit “I’m stuck and I need support”.  Having people around me who can listen, provide honest feedback and provide advice is critical for me to become unstuck. Practically speaking, the other thing that has worked very well is being assigned or winning a complex, challenging project where being stuck will result in failure.  It gies me a compelling case to unstick myself, regain curiosity, ask for input, collaborate and get the productive ball rolling again.

What qualities do you believe are the most important to be a leader? If not all these qualities come naturally, do you have any tips on how to cultivate them?

There are so many.  Confidence – the belief in oneself.  Resourcefulness – to understand what and who is required.  A commitment, passion and hard-working approach. Emotional Intelligence – to have self-awareness, be able to empathise with others and to be able to empower others.   Resilience – to be able to pick yourself up after set backs.

My advice is to remain open to learning, self-development, coaching and mentorship.  Leadership requires constant mental exercise and learning.

If you were designing a leadership program for schools what would you focus on?

Self belief and confidence

The role of perception; the fact that there are multiple truths depending on people’s starting position

Leading without authority which is the call to have an impact in your world

If you had to name three characteristics of great leaders what would they be?

Self awareness = being aware of their own tendencies and behaviour and the impact they have on people around them

Smart = they know their industry/area enough to know what they do not know- and bring others in around them who do

Brave = making the difficult decisions required to navigate a complex environment and having difficult conversations, holding the line in terms of standards and integrity at all times

What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, people, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?

Patrick Lencioni- 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

Captain Marquet- Turn the Ship around (TedTalk/google talk as well as books)

Good to Great by Jim Collins (older but still so relevant)