Where did you find that confidence?

It was 2001, at a pre-formal in Dempsey’s on the Dublin road. It’s gone now. Don’t know it? Think “Shabby Chic” – just without the Chic. The kind of place that let you host school parties without asking too many questions.

The inquiry was directed at a friend. I wasn’t sure if it was coming from a place of admiration or bafflement.

What a question.

As kids, I think confidence flows from our place in family. Early education. “Big school”. Sport. Art. Reading. Role models. Teachers. Part time work. Travel, people you meet, experiences you have. Then Uni, relationships, and the big world of work.

They’re all opportunities to develop a sense of self that projects comfort and ease with who we are. Put together, it tends to win the buy-in, support and warmth of others. That’s my idea of confidence. Hard to define, but unmistakable when you see it.

But people are complex. Labelling a person simply as Confident / Insecure isn’t helpful.

Confidence is situational. Some environments draw the best from us – others…don’t.

In the wrong environment, talented people can seem to shrink, become anxious and hesitant.

What’s the point?

Sadly, in the workplace – some people with the very important role of managing and developing people, don’t seem to have the will (or the skill) for the brief. That leaves people stressed, insecure, prone to self-doubt.

Obviously work will be poor in such conditions, errors are made because people don’t believe in themselves, they’ve lost their curiosity, the drive to challenge, seek clarity and often end up taking all the wrong kinds of risks.

What causes this?

Being kind, it’s manager workloads.

Being real, not everyone is comfortable managing others.

If we’re being cynical – maybe some people are over-promoted. They have laser-like focus to reach a level but no regard to the responsibility that goes with it. Didn’t look that far.

They faked it, made it, and now everyone else is paying the price.

Good leaders embed confidence. That means ensuring people have had relevant training and support to be competent with the subject matter.

They’ll actively listen, encourage, build trust, and make you feel safe and in asking questions. Your issues aren’t a burden, in fact they’re energised by facing these down alongside you.

They see your strengths and highlight them to you. You hear it, then you believe it. They plant good seeds that cultivate happy teams.

These are just some ingredients for the kind of leader that builds confidence in work.

Confidence is the greatest gift you can give your team, they pay it back tenfold in delivery, loyalty and lifting their peers. Great leaders let it flow like the wine at Cana and reap the rewards.





I provide Talent Sourcing in Accounting and Finance for businesses in NI. If you want to know what I can do for you contact me directly today.

Is your Salary really what’s driving inflation?

As we edged towards the end of a yet another “unprecedented” year in 2022, debate was raging on how pay-setters should approach pay reviews in the context of the cost-of-living crisis.

The argument went as follows. Yes, workers will need a meaningful uplift in pay to cope in the face of price rises and an uncertain energy market. However, unless this is managed prudently, there is the risk that excessive wage growth will fuel even greater inflation.

So, employers would need to show “restraint” in how they review pay for their staff in 2023.

We did not hear much talk of restrain on how businesses set prices for households / clients.

Commerce 101. The key test to how Business balances it’s costs and revenue is profit. Drilling down further, we can review Margins and what comprises any growth thereon.

Like an old polaroid, a picture is slowly emerging on how that’s went.

The IMF report that 45 per cent of inflation growth since the start of 2022 in Europe is driven by corporate profits.

This, bluntly, suggests that employees and households have been shouldering a disproportionate burden of inflationary increases as profit margin growth outstrips wage growth.

What’s going on in the UK?

“Using the latest available figures for the largest 350 companies on the London stock exchange, Unite the union has shown how profit margins for the first half of 2022 were nearly double—89% higher—than for the same period in 2019, before the pandemic. Unite’s report finds that in the last six months company profits are responsible for almost 60% of inflation.”

This state is variously referred to as price-gouging, profiteering and greedflation.

As linked below, UKG are beginning to take note.

As we look to 2024, UK mortgage holders are projected to pay an additional £16B in borrowing costs. That’s a cruel impact of the Independent BOE’s attempts to cool inflation via interest rate hikes.

Last year there was a significant intervention in the UK energy market, at huge cost to the taxpayer.

Only last week there were the first tentative moves at engaging with UK Banks on mortgage support. I expect those initial (very light) measures will be revisited without a significant reversal in interest rates.

You can expect other big players such as supermarkets to be called to account for soaring prices.

Beyond that, who knows what other industries will be questioned on how they’re managing prices.

What does this mean for employees?

Pay-setting and Salary reviews have never been more material for UK households. Employees will have greater expectations on how their efforts are remunerated in this economic climate. On the back of navigating the pandemic, and the huge effort that entailed for individuals, the psychological contract was placed under great strain – manifested in the “Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting.”

What does this mean for employers?

Well-informed employees appreciate that costs need controlled. But when prices and profits exceed their salary-bump, this begins to impact their ability to maintain a lifestyle, and even afford the basics. It is therefore extremely important that pay discussion are made with reference to company performance in a meaningful and transparent way – ideally this is set out at the beginning of the cycle.

In closing

The outlook continues to be uncertain. Taxpayers funded huge support packages during Covid (to households and businesses) and then again in the fuel crisis. This has a cooling effect on how much the state can do to subsidise households and businesses through any future crisis.

As we sit dead in the middle of 2023, there will be huge focus on how businesses manage salary reviews in the next 12 months. Increasingly, other stakeholders – government, clients/customers, take a keener interest in these processes being fair and transparent.

Football and Sustainable Investment

Big news in the football world as Manchester United (“an exempted company with limited liability incorporated under the Companies Law (as amended) of the Cayman Islands) is up for sale.

The total valuation of the club could be north of £4 Billion.

Any new owner will find a club requiring somewhere around 15% of that figure again to invest in infrastructure on the stadium, more on playing staff and a fair amount of time and heartache in reviewing and restructuring an organisation whose sole focus has been on commercial success in order to service the debt the current owners used to acquire the club in 2005.

The years since offer an insightful case study in sustainable and responsible investment. For me, a sustainable investment approach works in the long terms for all stakeholders. You leave the business in a better state than how you found it.

There isn’t much debate on which stakeholders have taken precedence the last 17 years and I expect that will be feature heavily in negotiations with any interested parties. United will remain a hugely attractive target for the right party – a global commercial powerhouse with few peers. Supporters, staff and other stakeholders will now take a keener interest in how that cash is to be deployed in future.

Football remains big business, Billion pound TV rights deals abound. It also happens to be a business like no others.  The Demand is insatiable. I remember learning about Demand curves in school – elastic and inelastic and how they respond to price changes. 📈

The example of inelastic demand was cigarettes, regardless of price it sits stubbornly upright – not fully vertical but something like the Albert Clock. Smokers can tolerate a lot of tax. That’s how football is. The “price” is literal (what you’ll pay for TV subscriptions) but also increasingly around your personal values and conscience.

How much can you stomach? The financial aspect is more easily measurable: I’m sure the powers that be are all over that one. The values – sustainability, ethics, inclusivity, social impact are more difficult to assess. This is really being put to the test if you consider where the world cup is being staged as I write this.

There are plenty of signs for hope among the noise and it’s important to avoid cynicism. The value systems of society are changing and that is feeding in to big business, the brands you know and use on a daily basis understand we’re increasingly concerned about social responsibility and being sustainable. That’s no-longer in the nice to have column and empty insubstantial gestures won’t do the trick – sportswashing and greenwashing are widely understood processes by now.

Can anyone recover our soul at MUFC? I hope so. If not, please switch the lights off on your way out. 😰


The Old Lady who swallowed a Fly

Have you swallowed a fly? 😖

⚠ Not literally

How do you handle those unforeseen issues that strike when you least expect them in the workplace?

There’s an old nursery rhyme called “the old lady who swallowed a fly.”

If you’re unfamiliar, (spoiler alert!), well, our protagonist accidently swallows a fly.

In hopes of fixing this, she swallows a spider, so that the spider will catch the fly – it just makes things worse and we escalate to ever-larger animals to a ridiculous extent…finally a whole cow is swallowed ultimately leading to her demise. Tragic. ⚰

In work, this may take the form of a process/practice/approach to something that, when looked at with fresh eyes, seems strange.

I’ll paint you a picture.

You’re a FC at a FMCG’s business. The new CEO complains that your monthly reporting “needs more data on Sales.”

You get someone on it right away.

They build a beautiful new template, it is succinct, kept to a clean, single, *digestible* A4.

Best let the CEO review/comment, they raised the concern.

But don’t stop there, procurement can add insight. And if they’re reviewing then better let all department heads sign off.

Consolidating everyone’s points, the project head presents the new report.

You stand back and look.

It’s hard to make sense of it; running to multiple pages, littered with footnotes, call-outs, x-refs and caveats.

So, Monthly reporting takes an extra two days now, and the sales team must find time to feed the new data into the monthly reporting cycle.

Sales start to dip. Morale seems to be moving in the same direction.

What a nightmare!

How can you arrest this narrative?

1.     Be pragmatic. Perfection can’t be the enemy of good.
2.     Keep perspective. A fee-earner’s pain in implementing change must be justified by the benefits they realise.
3.     Dissent – if you see what is being proposed as an overcorrection, then say it.

Internal affairs are typically a balancing act. It is tempting to “err on the side of caution”, avoid the fight, and tolerate more bells and whistles.

Incrementally, in isolation, your steps are reasonable.

To your people, in aggregate, it can look all wrong.

Its rare that your people will take issue with well-meaning individual steps taken, but it’s our cumulative approach that defines culture.

If that’s off, it can see your new people scratching their heads and your tenured people looking towards the door.

So, next time you come across this I hope you’ll preach the old lady who swallowed the fly.

Image credit: David Sym-Smith


Feedback Matters

I’ve met so many new people in the course of developing and then going live with Reconcile Search this year. Building knowledge is what I enjoy most, it’s what energises me and drives solutions.

On the area of *feedback* I think its fair to say a lot of accountants are flying blind in 2022.

Last time I heard “flying blind” was in the treasury committee’s take on Kwasi Kwarteng’s decision to insulate his “mini-budget” from OBR scrutiny. Unless you’ve been on a wilderness retreat for the last month, you’ll be painfully aware of how poorly that ended for the former chancellor, and the rest of us for that matter.

Flying blind isn’t wise. We’ve now been reminded why, as events unfolded in one of the great offices of state. A wilderness retreat, on the other hand, is an excellent idea and the case for grows by the day. 

Some perspective. I should acknowledge that you not receiving good, timely feedback from your boss is unlikely to crash the Pound, send bond yields soaring and tank the FTSE – but I bet you’d still rather have it, if not in the name of UK economic stability, then maybe just to enhance your self-awareness? 

To a more serious angle – pay reviews, bonus, promotions and even more sensitive (thankfully rare) headcount reviews: in these cases – facts of professional life, feedback doesn’t fall under “nice to have,” but “need to have.”

Setting aside these awkward, anxiety-inducing subjects, how do we improve in anything without first understanding where we went wrong?

My preference for receiving feedback was always direct and in the moment. That goes back to working in audit when I’d report to multiple managers simultaneously, it gave me exposure to people from different backgrounds, all with a range of styles and personalities.

The best managers read the room, appreciate your personality and mood: adjusting for that, they have a clear view of just how direct they can be, deftly delivering the news that you fell short without causing pain or embarrassment. It’s a lot like a covid jab – no pain on contact.

Perhaps more common approaches fall here:

–       No feedback
–       Vague/second hand feedback
–       Out of date/irrelevant feedback
–       All good, everything you do is great!

In these cases there’s not really anything to get your teeth into.

As with everything in your professional life, you’re not an innocent bystander here. Are you doing everything you can to facilitate good, open, agenda-free dialogue with your manager? If that relationship isn’t right, it’s difficult (but not impossible) to straighten out. Discuss your preference for how/when you prefer to get feedback from your manager – it doesn’t guarantee anything of course, but it’s the only course open to you that will preserve trust.

This is a potentially powerful conversation, something that may well set you apart and marks out the first steps in developing your own approach to people management.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

How was your Summer?

How was your Summer?

Felt more like what I’ve been used to pre 2020 and I think that’s a great thing, certainly one worth celebrating. 

I made the most of relaxed travel, reconnecting with F&F, Live shows, new restaurants, homecomings, reading, and ….well, weddings, a whole heap of weddings. I sense I’m not alone here. Feast or Famine!

Everyone lets the guard down on such occasions, but after our mutual “challenges”, that bonhomie has really gone up a notch, something I hope is a permanent thing – life is short, let your hair down, I say!

One get-together let me spend time away with my close family (sans kids and partners) for the first time in many years which was special.

The heady days of mid-summer where it seems to stay bright until all hours have a way of taking the weight off your shoulders, time is limitless, troubles far away, opportunities present themselves and you feel more inclined than ever to get involved.

All of this is a welcomed change of pace, time for reflection before getting back, renewed, refreshed, ready to go again.  

I find a change in environment has a habit of triggering those delicious Eureka! moments where I’ll hit upon a solution to a stubborn work issue when my mind couldn’t be further from such things. I think the chance to speak to people outside normal circles helps too. More likely? Its just giving the mind a genuine rest and having patience/confidence that you’ll get what you were looking for in time.

I’ll hold on to the memories, make a real effort to continue the good habits established and add some more as I go, then I will use that energy to face off the inevitable headwinds. I hardly ever talk about this so you might not have heard: following 12 years in Accounting, I left my last role to set up Reconcile Search just the other end of Summer. It’s different!

I hope you took the chance in the quieter weeks to catch up with friends, family, meet some new faces and visit those places you dreamed of during those long, dreary, groundings we’ve experienced in the last few years.

It can be difficult to find motivation through the toil of work, the sacrifices you make during the shorter days seem even more exaggerated somehow, and the Purpose of it all can feel….elusive?

These kinds of experiences are a huge driver. You may be lucky and have a fantastic manager who consistently motivates and inspires you – I have to find other ways now. If you want my advice you should find your own ways too; managers/leaders can have bad days too, right? Reward yourself, share the spoils with your nearest and dearest and recognise what you did to achieve those experiences. Simply put, “earn your beer” and it will taste all the sweeter.

So, *one more* wedding for me then its time to hang up those the dancing shoes and buckle down to a simpler, steady and wholesome period looking ahead to 2023!

I am looking forward to a productive and collaborative Autumn supporting you with Reconcile Search.

Benefits Packages that will Turn Heads!

Does your company offer unlimited holiday? How about free catering on site? Free hair dresser? On site dentist? Do you get to bring your dog to work? £2,000 annual travel allowance for all permanent staff?

If you enjoy even one of these, I am pleased for you, you have played a blinder!

In the more likely event that this all seems foreign to you, I am talking about “Big Tech” rewards culture. See link for more examples: Benefits Tech Companies Offer to Attract Top Talent (

How are Big Tech Companies capable of offering so much?

Tech companies, the big household names we all know, exist in rarefied air. They typically possess a hugely privileged position of generating vast sums of free cash-flow, dominance in their market and crucially, they are relatively new. The consequences of this, are as follows:

  1. Deep pockets facilitate both resource into researching market-leading rewards as well as funding said benefits.
  2. Few barriers to change; no existing structures to break and remodel: if they want to change, they change. 
  3. The propriety technology which these companies deliver, simply didn’t exist just a few years ago; so regulatory, legal, and tax regimes are in a constant state of catch-up to apply many of the rules which burden established businesses.
    1. In addition, we see governments around the world compete by offering favourable terms to big tech companies, seduced by “the shiny new thing” in hopes of future-proofing their economies.

Why do Big Tech Companies offer such attractive packages?

Your instinct on reading the above is probably a very reasonable “because they Can?”

They definitely Can.

However, the key reason they do it is because they have to. It is born of necessity. Staff retention in Silicon Valley is just as much of a challenge as anywhere else.

Average tenure stats sampled below:

AirBnB                 1.64 years

Google                1.90 years

Meta                   2.02 years

Those numbers do not shout happy, engaged employees, here for the long haul to me. I think there’s at least a crumb of comfort for any local hiring managers or business owners reading this. On the face of it, it is counter-intuitive; some of the benefits cited are incredible, and it is generally accepted that a solid suite of perks is a vital lever in attracting and retaining the best people, so does that idea need revisited?

What does it all mean?

It appears that the correlation between retention and perks (in Big Tech at least) is weak. In my view, that is because people are much more complex. There are a whole range of reasons for changing jobs, but it’s always a big call requiring some thought, and its likely that many of those fringe benefits seem trivial in the final assessment.

The turnover rates also support the view that these employers do a great job of attracting talent, but are much less successful in retaining it.

There also seems to be an element of diminishing returns in regards benefits initiatives. Google didn’t have on-site massage therapy on Day One, this is something grew with time. Others have not only bought into this, but seem to be competing to devise the most eye-catching and innovative perks out there – it’s like a benefits arms race. But adding more and more bells and whistles hasn’t moved the needle on retention.

There must be more fundamental factors at play in retention. Here are a couple of tech-specific issues driving lower retention rates:

  1. Short termism, e.g. goal to get to share price $x to trigger certain events can become exhausting and cyclical, not supporting the long term and this often colours the approach to people.
  2. Leaders tend to rise through the ranks not based on their people-skill, but on their expertise with their subject matter; delivery will typically take precedence over people as that’s the comfort zone for managers and ultimately that’s what keeps the lights on.

That sounds a lot like a “results first, people second” culture, something that isn’t unique to Big Tech.

In closing

If you are on the job-hunt, look for benefits that make a meaningful difference to you as opposed to things that may sound cool but have no material impact to your enjoyment of work.

Exercise caution where there are eye-catching benefits touted in your offer: Is this actually Live? Does it really function? Do all your managers and leader fully support employees who wish to engage with what is offered?

It is encouraging that more employers are reviewing and refreshing what they are offering their people locally. I can nearly guarantee that you will see an uptick in interest in your roles if you deliver a market-leading package of benefits; in time, that will also convert to fresh faces coming through the door, motivated to work in a forward thinking and positive environment.

However, never lose sight of the fundamentals:

  1. Basic Salary
  2. Clarity of Purpose (Company and Individual)
  3. Good Manager
  4. Work Life Balance

For the vast majority of us, it is these factors that are key to retention – all of the other perks are nice to have, but they will not sustain us long-term unless it fits a broader picture of company culture and traditional remuneration.

Thank you for reading my article. Please feel free to drop in your most outlandish/favourite benefits requests in the comments.

The Geriatric Millennial

In May 2021, Erica Dhawan caused a stir by first coining the term Geriatric Millennial (you can read her essay here). Dhawan defined geriatric millennials as those born between 1980 and 1985. The term arose from a 10-year study which Dhawan conducted, assessing collaboration and communication with the American workplace. The research forms the basis for her book “Digital Body Language” where she interviewed employees at all levels across a broad spectrum of industries. Given the sudden and global move to remote working we were all experiencing at that time, it is no surprise that the term gained some serious traction.

Here are the key takeaways. 

  • Geriatric millennials straddle the generational divides of older and younger people in the workplace. Since geriatric millennials remember life and work before smartphones, the related explosion in digital communications and social media, they can comfortably flex between traditional and digital forms of communication. 
  • Older and younger members of the workforce cannot do this as easily, or so the research goes. It is said that it can often feel difficult for these cohorts to connect to one another, almost as though they’re speaking different languages, this can create unintended tensions in the workplace and damage morale, productivity, and progress. 
  • The geriatric millennial has an innate ability to bridge this communication gap and organisations should ensure such people are at the centre of decision-making and communications to support workplace cohesion and generational inclusion. 

Dhawan’s book was an instant Wall Street Journal Bestseller. 

I have my reservations, while clearly a huge success does this work run the risk of pigeon-holing people? There seems to be an appetite for labels, definition, finding “your tribe” – but doesn’t that simply entrench us division?

What the paper does for me is spark an interesting and really valuable analysis of how we communicate in the workplace – one area that always warrants revisiting. We should all be showing consideration to the values, personality, background and preferences of our audience – but clearly, your date of birth is a blunt instrument, so focussing on age in the first instance risks overlooking all the many other values that we possess.  

I see exceptions to received generational norms regularly; from clients to colleagues, managers, to direct reports, friends and family, and it is always refreshing to see. The best communicators in your organisations stand out, you notice how they connect at ease with everyone – across all levels, all departments and all backgrounds, and (yes) all generations. They take time, listen carefully to understand the individual, appreciate nuance, and they will likely tell you there are no short-cuts or tricks to building relationships. 

Since the shift to remote working in March 2020, we have all had the opportunity to develop our “digital body language.” Right now, I see the widespread (and likely permanent) shift to new, hybrid models as a similar, shared lesson in moving successfully between traditional and digital communication and one where all can all look forward to closing the Gap. 

Thanks for reading, 


Reconcile Search Ltd was established in 2022 to offer a new approach to talent sourcing: for Accountants, by Accountants. If you are interested in hearing more about what Reconcile Search Ltd can offer you as a candidate, or employer, please get in touch via