Joanne Keane is CEO of LIA, the centre of excellence for the education and development of Finance Professionals. Recently announcing details of a partnership with Sport Ireland Institute, here Joanne tells us more about their new financial wellbeing programme, what a typical day in the life entails and the most invaluable thing she’s learned in her career so far.
Did you always want to be a Chief Executive?
I don’t think I had the belief in myself that I could become a Chief Executive, but I did find myself throughout school, college and outside activities gravitating towards leadership roles.
In college, I studied… I initially trained in travel and tourism and worked in the travel industry for 10+ years. While working in the industry I also studied a number of leadership courses along with a Public Relations Course.
My most formative work experience was… my role managing a travel agency for members of An Garda Siochana.
My first real job was… working for the Ryan Hotel Group, based in the Gresham Hotel, O’Connell Street, looking after reservations for the Ryan Group who had hotels throughout Ireland and Belgium at the time.
The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… to work hard, be honest, empathetic and treat people with respect.
A common misconception about what I do is… work in an “ivory tower” away from reality and the cold face of the organisation. I also think many people think being a CEO can be very glamorous. In a small organisation, nothing could be further from the truth!
My main responsibility in work is to… ensure that we as an organisation are delivering on our mission, vision and values for our customers, stakeholders, and staff.
Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from?
I have been very fortunate throughout my career to work for and with some wonderful people and I have learnt something from them all. Within LIA I have worked with the two former CEOs and some amazing board members who have helped me along the way and still provide guidance to me. I also work with an executive coach and these resources are all invaluable to me. The role of a CEO can be a lonely place to find yourself in and these individuals and their support provide me with a sounding board, but also give me a reality check when I need it. At a recent session with my executive coach, he told me about the mantra he uses which is “suck it up buttercup”, and that has really resonated with me – yes, some days/weeks can be tough, but we as individuals are tougher… we suck up the tough times!
The biggest risk I have taken in my career so far is… being 8 weeks into the role of CEO in March 2020 and agreeing to move all of our exams and events from in-person to online in anticipation of the impending arrival of Covid. Thankfully the risk paid off!
I wake at… on a typical day, I wake up around 7am.
The first thing I do every morning is.. feed our two boxer dogs if I am on duty that morning (my husband and I take turns) and sort the adult kids’ lunches! If not on duty I do a 10-minute meditation first thing.
My morning routine is… look after the dogs, lunches, meditation, shower and hit the desk with a coffee.
I can’t go to work without… my phone, work bag and a Diet Coke!
I travel to work by… we are very lucky in LIA to have the facility to work from home 4 days a week. So unless I am in the office on our team day or at meetings which I travel to by car, I am fortunate enough to walk up the stairs to my office – so no commute time at all!
On an average workday I… have a number of meetings with different members of the team, external stakeholders, and work on a number of internal projects.
I start my working day at… if I do not have off-site meetings, I normally start my working day around 8:30am.
The first thing I do at work is… review Teams messages, emails and tasks within Asana (our task management system).
I usually spend the first portion of the day… clearing down emails, messages and tasks that are quick and easy to address.
I break for lunch at… I tend not to break for lunch, unless attending a business lunch. If I do take a break, it’s usually to take a quick walk and get some fresh air and have something small to eat.
The most useful business tool I use every day is… Outlook and Teams.
I save time by… asking myself “is this a good use of my time” and if not, I delegate the task or abandon it.
I rarely get through my working day without… a meeting of some sort.
The best part of my day is… working on projects that will make a difference with an enthusiastic team.
The most challenging part of my day is… dealing with a challenging stakeholder/customer or working through a challenging staffing situation.
I know it’s been a good day if… I have gotten through my to-do list!
I usually end my day at… my typical finish time varies from day to day and depends on the time of the year. In a quieter period, I can finish shortly after 5pm. If however, I have meetings such as a board meeting coming up, I would often work beyond 7pm in the run-up to that meeting. At different times of the year, there are a lot of evening events to attend, in which case I am working till midnight or later.
I switch off from work by… it can be difficult to switch off when you have the responsibility of running an organisation, my mind tends not to switch off! It is a big responsibility, and you know that not only are your members relying on you to run a viable business, but you’re also responsible for people’s livelihoods. That said, I love walking the dogs with my husband, meeting up with friends and going on holidays to try and get some time away from work!
Before I go to bed… I try not to be on my phone (not easy!), maybe read for a while or listen to a meditation.
I often prepare for tomorrow by… clearing my desk the evening before, having my to-do list up to date, checking my diary for the next couple of days so I know what I have on and can prep for any meetings I have.
After a long work week, I destress by… walking the dogs with a nice to-go coffee. Getting my nails done, or going for a massage. Catching up with friends and family for something to eat or binge-watching my latest favourite TV series in the evening time with a vodka and Diet Coke (or two!).
The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… outside of watching my two children achieve their ambitions/goals, the thing I am most proud of is having the role of CEO of LIA.
If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is to… work hard, and never stop educating yourself. Surround yourself with people with a positive outlook and a can-do attitude and be prepared to fail at times.
I’ve just finished working on… launching “Smart Money Habits”, a financial well-being programme for Olympic and Paralympic athletes at all stages of their sporting careers. We’ve partnered with Sport Ireland Institute for this. The “Smart Money Habits” programme was originally developed by LIA in collaboration with Rugby Players Ireland, and following its success with elite rugby players, we sought to expand the reach of the programme to other sporting bodies. In consultation with the Performance Life Skills team from Sport Ireland Institute, LIA will deliver the programme to help current, and up and coming, as well as retired athletes, face the financial challenges they typically encounter throughout their careers. At the moment I’m working on an organisational restructure and a project that is one of the many strategic deliverables for this year.