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Part of my blog journey focusses on interviewing amazing people that I feel you should know about. I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with Louisa Meehan for Network Ireland.
In short, Louisa is a bit of a legend and all round amazing person, stellar individual and someone you want to have on your side. She owns and runs her own company, Woodview HRM, but why I took the time to interview her was to get her thoughts on her 2020 Presidency of the national network, Network Ireland.
Where She Comes From
I always think it’s important to get perspective on an individual’s journey and find out what makes them tick.
Louisa has always worked in HR. She studied HR and industrial relations at college and this has always been her passion.
As Simon Sinek would say, we should always start with why. So Louisa’s why is that work is such a massive part of our lives. She feels that people should enjoy what you are doing.
Her sage advice: ‘You should find your niche – what makes you happy.’
She wants her job to help people managers to be better at managing people, so it’s better for business and better for indiviuals to achieve their full potential.
Louisa has worked in the public and private sectors. She now focusses on the SME sector, offering a full suite of HR services, including HR handbooks and policies, conflict and performance management, investigations, disciplinary management and engagement.
But what she enjoys most is training people managers on specific skills and providing mentoring on how they can do better to support other people managers to become the best version of themselves.
She Got Bitten By The Entrepreneurial Bug
In 2015 she set up Woodview HRM. Like many professional business women and ambitious career ladies, she needed the flexibility, control and autonomy on what she was doing around her family and children. She wanted to have choice in what she was doing and who she was working with.
A Brief Segway
As an aside, I met Louisa very early on in my networking journey, at a NEW Wicklow Event, a small networking group with the Local Enterprise Office in Wicklow.
I remember her telling the story of setting up her business and then not having the confidence to tell anyone about it. Her husband did and she would then chastise him for telling people.
Obviously, as rationale, intelligent people setting up in business, this makes absolutely no sense, but I’m guessing many, many of you out there, who have taken the entrepreneurial leap, understand this all too well.
I can say from experience that it takes time for your identity to catch up with your reality and for you to fully embrace who you are, to own it, run with it, love it and be proud of it.
Getting Drafted In
And now we get to the core of why I wanted to chat to Louisa. Louisa has an innate skill for leadership. I met Louisa in Avoca in Co Wicklow one day for a coffee. I wasn’t even on the committee and I was literally meeting her to find out about Network Ireland and what it was all about.
Before my coffee was finished she had me on the committee. To this day, I’m still not quite sure how it happened, but I’m truly thankful that it did, as I entered a phenomenal community of supportive business women.
The Journey with Network Ireland
I started by asking Louisa when and why she got involved in Network Ireland.
When she first started in business she wanted to find networking opportunities. She had met Serena Bryans who represented NEW Wicklow, but found that there where no business to business (B2B) networking groups. Those that were available were early morning and it simply didn’t suit around the children.
Enter another phenomonal lady to the story.
Louisa met the indomitable Becci Harrison of Fishers in Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow (who I’ll be interviewing soon too).
Louisa had heard that Becci, who was National President of Network Ireland in 2017, was looking to establish a group in Wicklow as part of her Presidency. So to cut that long story short, Wicklow got its Network Ireland branch established and Louisa then served as branch president for two years.
Louisa helped Becci set up her International Women’s Day conference in 2017 and got involved in the annual conference too. This exposure afforded her the opportunity to get to know the National Executive (NE) of Network Ireland. The NE spans business women from right across the country.
Network Ireland Wicklow is Born
Louisa set about putting together a committee of talented and enthusiastic female entrepreneurs, so that little by little the branch grew.
I’m glad to report that it is flourishing and that I have the honour to follow in great footsteps to become the 4th Network Ireland Wicklow President as of December 2020.
Candidate for 2020
I wanted to then find out why Louisa put herself forward for the national presidency of Network Ireland. One thing to note is that under the constitution, you have to have served as branch president in order to become national president.
Louisa says she put herself forward as a candidate in 2018. It was an opportunity for her to be the leader of an organisation that helps develop others which is part of what she does and what she could give to the world.
Network Ireland is about building strong relationships, friendships & connections. Your business evolves and develops as a result of that. Friendship and support come first. The business comes after. She likes the value system.
Louisa felt she had a different vision to offer. She wanted to see consistency. She likes leading by direction and vision, but also bringing people along on a journey. She could bring a collaborative and community orientated approach.
At present, Network Ireland represents 1200 women, currently across 15 branches.
Network Ireland ‘s 2020 Theme
Each year the president chooses a theme for their year. Louisa chose #PowerWithin.
As I attended my first National Executive meeting in January 2020, due to my role as vice-president of the Network Ireland Wicklow branch, I can testify that this theme was universally accepted.
However, no-one could have had the foresight to know what we would all have to deal with in 2020 due to Covid19 and how much each and every one of us would have to channel our resilience and find our #powerwithin.
I wanted to know why Louisa picked this particular theme.
She said that it was the beginning of a new decade. Themes are always inspirational and she wanted the Network Ireland members to take a moment to pause and think about how much they have already achieved and look and recognise how they have the power within to help them understand how phenomenally brilliant they already are.
She continued: ‘It’s easy to look at celebrities and big CEOs, but the real relatable inspiration is from people we know – our neighbours, people in our network – there is so much #powerwithin. And these ladies are truly inspirational.
We have this misnomer of fame and success about being power…but someone who is quiet can be positive, inspirational, amazing…it’s about recognising whomever helps you achieve.’
I truly believe that everyone should define what success is going to look like, for our personal lives, our professional lives and indeed any leadership roles that we take on. If we don’t reflect on this, write it down, then we will be unable to achieve our goals and objectives.
Success as Defined by Louisa
Louisa wanted to have two successful events and awards. From a stragegic perspective, it was an increased level of consistency that was the goal.
We don’t need to remind people that 2020 was fraught with challenges. Open twitter, listen to the news, leaf through a newspaper and you’ll instantly know what’s going on.
Instead, I wanted to discuss and focus on the positive outcomes from Louisa’s perspective.
She agreed that it was a very challenging year, but together a lot was achieved.
For her, the highlights include: two successful events, key objectives achieved, amazing awards which were all moved online this year. The awards had more applicants than ever.
Louisa beams, ‘We have celebrated the success stories of the network. We have seen the success stories of collaboration – pure support, for no personal reason – help for each other, time and time again.
Because things went virtual, branches and members were able to build relationships across groups, which was a definite upside to the year.’
She continued that the biggest thing she has missed was being together. To have a hug, chats, general catch ups…
I asked Louisa about her legacy for 2020 and how she will remember this year.
She says the theme, #powerwithin for sure and it’s something she wants to bring it with her and she’ll use it as a theme in her business. She really enjoyed having the opportunity to get more speaking experience.
Louisa reflected that for the majority of people, 2020 has given people obstacles that they thought were insurmountable, but people have survived and got through it.
She admits it was a bit too busy, but really good overall. A side benefit is that we are reconnecting with the people in our communities and it’s good that we are looking out for each other and being there for each other. We’ve shown resilience and what we are capable of.
‘This feels very different to 2008 (harking back to the last recession)’, she continues. ‘This has emotionally impacted on every single person in our society. We need to find ways to support and connect each other and Network Ireland has been a beacon in this regard.’
So What Next?
For Network Ireland
Louisa will take on the mantle in 2021 of ex officio on the National Executive. Two priorities for her will be getting the website issues resolved and working on delivering hybrid events that manage the future of how we will network and connect in the the future and post Covid19. She wants to support Aisling O’Neill, the incoming 2021 National President in her role and any other designated tasks.
For Louisa’s Career
As far as her work and career are concerned she would love to develop her speaking experience and get more engagements talking about all things HR and mediation. Her ultimate dream is to have radio show.
The Future of Network Ireland
Where next for the branch development?
15 is the current number of branches and there are soundings of interest from Kerry and Donegal, so that bodes well. Meath was a new entrant in 2020.
Louisa has shown exceptional leadership and empathy in an unprecedented year and Network Ireland could not have had a better National President to lead us through 2020.
I’m very grateful to count Louisa as a friend and will continue to watch and learn from her as she continues to drive the vision of growth and consistency in Network Ireland.
Connecting with Louisa
She’s on Linkedin, Twitter and Instagram. You can also email her directly to find out more about her HR services or to investigate setting up a Network Ireland branch in your county!
Connecting With NetworkingJeanie
You can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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