Analysis: we can all learn from the comedian's ability on his TV show to see and draw out the value in people.

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There is much commentary out there on the future of work. There is no doubt that we are at a critical juncture, moving slowly and steadily out of the pandemic and hopefully towards a new world of work shaped by social discourse and our collective experience of the crisis.

One discussion has been around the perceived value of carers, medics and grocery retail employees but also the value of all employees. Unfortunately, we were reminded of this value when many businesses had to close their doors and let people go. Other businesses were reminded of this when they had to move jobs into people's homes, literally overnight. But work productivity was sustained, even increasing in some instances, as Ireland’s workforce put their collective shoulders to the wheel.

We've also discussed the value of being together at work. Do we miss the hidden value in random conversation or the way we make sense of work problems by talking things through, sometimes formally in meetings but more often informally? While apart, we realised that even a throwaway comment on a corridor has the potential to turn into something critical.

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From RTÉ Brainstorm, how the end of the office may also mean the end of your boss

Finally, we began to talk more about the stress that can be associated with work. We've discovered techno-stress from being 'always on’, but we are also managing work-life balance as our home lives are literally on display on Zoom. Many began to question how positive or negative their general experiences of work might be.

So how do we move forward? We could consult the wealth of academic evidence (you will find some of it in the KBS Work Futures Lab if you are interested) or it could be as simple as bringing Tommy Tiernan to work.

The comedian has captured all our attention on Saturday nights with his special ability to see and draw out the value in people. If every leader in Ireland watched a few episodes and emulated his approach, the future of work would be safe. Here's what we've learned from him so far.

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From RTÉ One's Tommy Tiernan show, interview with FeliSpeaks and Tolü Makay

Tommy is never in a rush, yet gets there nearly every time.

Digitisation has increased the pace of work exponentially and it is eroding the spaces we have to think and reflect. Tight timelines exacerbated by a focus on business targets leads to short-termism; organisations rush at things, employees don’t feel they can take the time to think things through and this can lead to costly mistakes in the longer term. Leaders need to step back a little, allow employees talk, reflect and make sense of things and the business targets will look after themselves. One of the best things about Tommy is his comfort with silence, allowing himself or his guest a moment to reflect and gather thoughts before taking the next step.

Tommy never worries if he doesn’t always get there

Perfection stifles innovation and productivity. Allow people make mistakes, learn from them and move on, but understand that it’s ok for leaders to make mistakes too. Leading people is the hardest job ever and requires personal and professional risk-taking. However, a leader saying ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I could have done things better’ actually role models the exact behaviours seen in successful organisations. Leaders need to distribute their leadership more and create the spaces for their employees to innovate, experiment and step-up to the challenges they encounter.

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From RTÉ One's Tommy Tiernan show, Marian Keyes talks about her punk moment

Tommy is curious about things

One of the most important things a leader can do is keep asking questions, especially when they don’t have the answers. Tommy is not afraid to ask even the hardest of questions. In a business environment asking and inviting the hard questions can be the difference between success and failure.

Tommy is himself. Not perfect perhaps, but a decent human being

Tommy’s curiosity appears to stem from a warts-and-all sense of self, humanity and the inherent value in all people – their talents, stories, experiences and journey. Leaders need to bring their whole selves to work, remind themselves daily of both their own value and all employees, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or work status.

It is likely that Tommy reflects a lot. Leaders need to be more reflective and remind themselves to be kind, to breathe, to allow some silence, to create safe spaces for the questions to form, the responses to take shape and the right solutions to emerge. They should not worry too much if they don’t arrive quickly at that solution as we will have learned so much along the way that we can apply to the next problem.

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From RTÉ One's Tommy Tiernan show, 'what do you do, Vogue?'

Tommy is great crack

Despite the importance of professionalism, dignity and respect at work, there should always be a little room for fun and irreverence. Leaders need to set this tone. It is closely related to how open your team will be to question you when it might matter most. Life is hard enough whether your job is highly-skilled and challenging or fairly simple and routine so we all need a bit of humour to help us along.

The next time you find yourself stressed, hassled or stuck on something in a business meeting, just smile, embrace the moment and ask yourself ‘what would Tommy do’?


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ