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EP: 54 – Smart Conversations with Teams

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Irial O Farrell

Introduction: Irial O Farrell is the owner of her own company called Evolution Consulting which will soon merge with a company called Pebble, an Irish Consulting company. Irial is an accredited Master in Change Management and distinguished in other disciplines such as Learning and Development, Emotional Intelligence, Organisational Design and Executive Coaching. She is also the author of two books; Values; Not just the office Wall Plaque and SMART Objective setting for managers, a roadmap


Show Notes

Podcast episode Summary: The book, SMART objective setting for managers: A roadmap, unpacks many of the conundrums faced by managers in managing others. This episode explores the content and relevance for SMART objectives on teams. Irial helps us understand why SMART objectives are often outsourced, overlooked & misunderstood. The book is a roadmap to substantially improve the design and setting of effective objectives including behavioural objectives to really drive increased performance.

Points made throughout the Episode:


  • Performance & our behaviours at work is a consequence of the systems we are apart that are often unconscious or blind to us.
  • Part of the work of performance management is making those systems clear and aligned.
  • Building better business is primarily about clarity, clarity of design and alignment of many parts of the business, including Purpose, Vision, Strategy, Plans & Processes as well as the human capabilities needed to execute against these design initiatives.
  • The interface between system sight and capabilities is where things often go wrong
  • Performance management is the subject matter about which Irial choses to write.
  • Her first book was born in 2011. Values only made sense to Irial after a coaching course she attended in 2006.
  • Understanding the role & purpose of values can provide enormous relief and avoid the potential for conflict and emotional turmoil. The same is true for teams organisations
  • In 2019 the book SMART objective setting for managers was written to help managers have meaningful conversations with others around performance
  • Objective setting is often seen as something important to HR and not as a sacrosanct Manager tool- as such the potency and richness of dialogue is lost
  • The tasks involved in a managers role are often misplaced. More definition and clarity is required.
  • SMART is a framework that has endured and it is especially potent as an individual tool. When it is brought forward in a 1:1 capacity or with a team it is the communication that is critical and often lost. We have to be careful about our unspoken expectations and assumptions in order to have meaningful dialogue
  • SMART objectives can enhance team behavioural norms. Some of the letters in the anacronym are particularly useful especially if things do not go to plan. The A in smart is helpful to course or chart alternative strategies for example in Covid.
  • Some of the traps that managers and teams fall prey to include work being done at the wrong level, managers afraid to let go some of the more tangible tasks about which they are comfortable to engage in less tangible conversations -management conversations like feedback, development conversations, coaching conversations.
  • Covid-19 has for sure thrown teams into a virtual reality that works for those who know their roles but for others it is problematic. New hires for example need to be onboarded.
  • Important that managers actively think about the conversation they might need to have with people who ordinarily used informal channels to seek out information. Not as easy today.




  2. Irial,O Farrell. Smart Objective Setting For Managers: A Roadmap
  3. Irial,O Farrell. Values- Not just for the office Wall Plaque-How personal and company values interect
  4. Ram Charan; Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company
  5. The Arbinger Institute, Leadership and Self Deception

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