Holly O’Driscoll – Developing Talent


ER – Hello and welcome to the Audrey McGuckin Leadership Podcast. This podcast is dedicated to providing helpful insights, from some of the industry’s best and most respected leaders in the Human Capital space.

ER – I’m your host Erica Richey the Chief Client Officer at Audrey McGuckin, Talent Solutions and today we’re joined by our CEO Audrey McGuckin along with Holly O’Driscoll the Founder & CEO at Ampersand Innovation and Former Global Design Thinking Leader at P&G.


ER – Holly before we get started here – why don’t you share with our listeners a little yourself

HO– My background in in Design Thinking, I spent 22 years in P & G. For me it was a life changing experience, I find it’s really important to leadership philoshopy and changing the culture and leadership in organizations.

ER – Audrey tell us about how you and holly know each other.

AM – It’s a great story, as the Program Director for The Conference Board, I met Holly at a conference in NYC. Holly supported us with a design thinking workshop to delivering. It was a serendipitous moment where Holly and I came together.

HO – Yes – there is no randomness and the universe delivers what you need exactly when you need it. The most exciting thing is that when you know you’re making a differene for our clients and that’s what we’re about.

ER – Let’s dive into this, shall we? We have found the biggest problem that our clients have is bridging the gap between their stated strategy and getting the promised value – we know that 9 out of 10 companies fail to execute their strategy and we also know that the majority of the time it comes down to leadership and talent. I know our listeners would love to hear from both of you on this topic of people.

AM – We have a very strong brand in the market and a phrase I have heard you said many times is “The fish rots from the head” Can you first tell me where that came from.

AM- Sure. I lived in Asia for a number of leaders and worked with amazing talent and my dear friend Linda Tan she would say the ‘fish rots from the head’. When you’re trying to make impact – if you can’t have the leader get behind the change in a real and authentic way.

ER – Tell us a little more about what what means. Sometimes we see people brace and have a reaction as people say that. why do you think that is?

AM – The strong reaction comes from being a reluctant to acknowledge ‘where are we at” – we encourage client to take the first easy step and often it’s acknowledgement to where you’re at.

HO – Facing reality, starting with facing reality. Only if you’re clear on where you are today and in the moment and can you imagine where you want to get to. To just acklowledge where you’re at can demonstrate vulnerability. People can sense what’s going on. If it’s not talked about then how can it be addressed.

AM – sometimes it can be really hard if you’re part of it. We’re able to hold up that mirror for our clients so that they can really see and observe what’s happening.

HO – Often I get invited to facilitate and navigage conversations that may be too hard to do on their own. It’s important – you get a lot farther having someone from the outside driving that dialogue. Often I ask a question and they have been thinking it for months and haven’t asked it. Getting to the breakthrough dialogue is critical.

AM – a recent client, a lot of unknowns, a lot of uncertainty, spent time with the leadership team doing early discovery work – 2 people came to us to say that was really therapeutic. It’s back to this notion of being human centered and acknowledging where people are at.

HO – one of the principles of design thinking is the process of empathy – one of the best ways to manage through change. The strength of our conections to each other.

AM – what does good look like. We have a great client, Kimball Electronics. Their CEO has a tremendous amout of empathy – he’s always asking the ‘who’ question despite the pressures of strategic focus and client exection, he stays true to this notion of empathy. Creating space to do that in a meaningful way and an authentic way.

HO – we don’t take time inside of large organizations, how did that behavior come across, how did those words land. Having people pause and ask, what will get in the way, pick one or two things that will elevate those levels of performance. The fish does rot from the head and when the head is looking up to say who am I solving for.

ER – What is one thing you could ask a leader could do to build empathy?

HO – Pausing and get intentional about having a conversation, and I’m going to pay attention to their body language. A lot of times we’re dehumanizing the expeirene. How might you humanize your organization, how can you connect to your people?


ER – Fantastic perspective from Holly + Audrey McGuckin. It is always a pleasure to be with you both. We. Could be here for hours! But for now, we will say goodbye. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Audrey McGuckin Leadership podcast. We look forward to our next episode.