“Think well of people.” — 60 Seconds With: Maura McGrath, Director, McGrath Associates and Chair of the National Concert Hall

60 Seconds With | Tue 16 Oct | Author – Business & Finance
Maura McGrath, Director, McGrath Associates and Chair of the National Concert Hall

Maura McGrath, Director, McGrath Associates and Chair of the National Concert Hall takes on the Business & Finance 60-second interview challenge.

Q. What was your first job?

My first job was looking after my sister Bernie who is four years younger than me! My first paid job was working as a young Bank Official in Terenure in Dublin, looking after customers in the early 70s. I actually married one of my customers! A dashing young Army Officer came into my branch one day and invited me to his Military Christmas Dress Dance and the rest is history as they say.

Q. What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

Undoubtedly my wonderful family – my husband Maxie, and my daughters Lisa, Maria and Jennifer and my four beautiful grandchildren. We have worked hard together to build and nurture a close family bond alongside the demands of a busy but very satisfying working life.

From a work perspective I was assigned at an early stage to the HR discipline and specifically to learning and talent management. I was selected to undertake a Masters in Organisational Behaviour at Trinity College Dublin, which was a significant learning curve for me. I very much enjoyed spearheading innovative programmes in the areas of Leadership and Business at Bank of Ireland. I undertook part time lecturing assignments at Trinity College and the Irish management institute, which launched a whole new vista of opportunities for me both at home within the Public Service, and abroad with the Business School at ING Bank in The Netherlands.

I represented the Bank at various fora and was honoured to lead in the creation of development programmes for women in business. For me, engaging and working with people, and contributing to personal development and self-worth is very special and a source of great satisfaction.

Q. In three words or less, how do you define success?

Life – Well – Lived!

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Even in the most trying of times or circumstances, ‘always try to walk in the other person’s moccasins.’ I always remind myself to be aware of those around me and to never judge a situation without first making the effort to listen and to hear, to understand the motivations, the concerns and the needs of the person across from me.

Q. How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

I believe that maintaining a deliberate focus on what people do well is an essential attribute in all business settings. People respond to positive affirmation, we all do. Instil confidence by recognising strengths, and noting contributions made and efforts undertaken. It is more productive to address issues of concern when you have created a positive environment. It’s easy to fall into the criticism camp, we all slip now and again. I strongly believe in mentoring and coaching. It’s a two-way street and, more often than not, you get back more than you give.

I am very fortunate that my career has brought me to the area of people and talent development within strategic HR, so I am regularly connected with inspiring and progressive thought leaders, from home and abroad. Meeting people from diverse backgrounds and sectors means I continue to grow and learn from the unique experiences and insights of others. Being amenable to new ideas, new thinking invigorates me, keeping me interested and excited in my work. I am passionate about creating environments and circumstances that enable people to give their very best and in return receive recognition for their achievements and enjoy a fulfilling and balanced working life.

Q. If you could step into the shoes of one business person for the day, who would it be and why?

I very much admire Christine Lagarde, Managing Director and Chairwoman of the International Monetary Fund. She is such a compelling force on the European stage, her contributions are many and significant, and she always she comes across as an independent voice, very much her own person. I am always impressed by her unique approach, the manner in which she engages with her audiences both at individual and group level. She is informed, cultured and very elegant. She wears her years well and with pride, I like that!

Q. How do you relax?

I like to go for an early morning walk with my very special King Charles, Rupert. I play golf with family and friends. At home, I like to play some Chopin and I love to attend live concerts at the NCH and in the many great venues that we have around the country. I love to discover new music and new performers.

Q. What’s your motto?

Think well of people. It never ceases to surprise me how much this works!

Q. What are your aspirations for the future of your business?

At McGrath Associates, we manage organisational change and provide Human Resources consultancy. I am committed to developing and furthering our role as facilitators and moderators. I would like to think that our work will continue to bear fruit for both the individuals and the organisations that we partner with, nurturing great careers and building dynamic workforces. To see each and every one of our clients fully realise their potential is my greatest business aspiration.

As Chairperson of the National Concert Hall, I look forward to seeing our beloved and iconic NCH returned to its full aesthetic glory with the expansion and upgrade of our facilities through the forthcoming redevelopment. I am excited to be part of a process that will see the NCH build on the great plans already underway to provide a creative, dynamic musical hub for all the people of Ireland, that embraces Irish music of all colours and hues, both traditional and contemporary and reflects our modern, diverse, multicultural society. We have the opportunity now to become a world leader in music, a place of growth and learning, facilitating and enabling artists, igniting new ideas, uncovering new voices to enrich our musicality and nurturing a love of music with our young people. To truly become a ‘national’ concert hall and to continue as a source of great pride for all the people of Ireland and our diaspora across all corners of the world.

Even in the most trying of times or circumstances, ‘always try to walk in the other person’s moccasins.’