Creating an open and compassionate workplace culture leads to business success

Meet Yulia O'Mahony
Former Vice President

AlixAlumna Yulia O'Mahony envisions a world where companies and teams are sustainably high-performing and where mutual compassion and trust drives productivity.
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As an expert on people experience and organizational culture, AlixAlumna Yulia O'Mahony is thinking a lot about how 2020 will change the way we work in the future. She feels we are living through an inflection point, which will bring about lasting change to our personal and professional lives, and she is hopeful that these changes will have a positive impact on people and organizations across the globe.

“This year led to multiple and often overnight transformations of business processes, ways of working, human relationships. Some of these transformations revealed latent reserves, led to innovation, and resulted in a strong sense of pride. However, for some, the disruptions brought on by new ways of working threaten to erode invaluable company culture and may require some companies to rebuild their culture from scratch.” Yulia said. “My hope is that as companies reset, they will build a better, more sustainable workplace on the basis of trust, respect for each other’s differences and the need to recharge. Achieving a better work/life balance will ultimately lead to highly productive teams in the long term.”

Yulia, who worked in the AlixPartners London office as a Vice President, Enterprise Improvement, currently leads her own consultancy focused on people experience and culture transformation, while also pursuing her Post-Graduate Certificate in Psychology and Neuroscience of Mental Health, at King’s College London. After leaving AlixPartners in 2013, Yulia moved to the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) where she initially led the financial strategy team, then taking an opportunity to support the Chairman of British Retail Consortium in leading a 6-month project with the aim of improving productivity in UK retail.  This project revealed untapped reserves of creativity and ideas at the entry levels of retail organizations, as well as the potential to improve the lives of the low-paid workers while boosting business results. This paved the way for her to become JLP’s first Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing, prior to beginning her own consulting practice at the start of this year.

Yulia feels that the silver lining of the crisis is that disruption offers an opportunity to step outside the “old normal” and create a culture that is future-fit.  Leaders can start by focusing on building sustainably high-performing teams, as the role of teams and team dynamics in a more uncertain and interconnected world becomes paramount. In her research, Yulia found that the most effective teams, in addition to having a strong sense of purpose and clarity of roles, are based on trust and compassion. She suggests that leaders create space for their teams to reflect on the recent events at a personal, as well as collective, level, and craft a culture that would take into account the learnings as well as future aspirations.

“The key is to ensure that personal wellbeing is not overlooked. Our energy is finite, and we need to be careful how we spend it, as well as to make sure that we top it up. ‘Running on empty’ is dangerous for individual’s health and detrimental to creativity and innovation,” Yulia says.

Yulia also emphasizes the importance for leaders to look after their own wellbeing. She suggests mindfulness practice, which has growing neuroscience evidence to support its effectiveness and positive impact on the brain and body at a cellular level.

“The thing that improved my wellbeing the most was the discovery of mindfulness,” she said. “Our mind is our most important ‘tool,’ and yet most of us spend very little time looking after it. It took some practice but through mindfulness, I have been able to calm my reactions, be present, which in turn improved my problem-solving and decision making, as well as reduced my stress levels.”

this can happen talk
yulia speaking at reba
yulia omahony jlp
Top and left: Yulia speaks at two events promoting the culture of wellbeing and looking after mental health. Right: On the park bench, "I find that the best way for me to relax and restore my energy is to connect with nature, go for a walk, sit in the park and be in the moment."

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