As an Author, Speaker, and Coach Gill McKay is an expert voice in the field of neuroscience. She took some time out to talk to The Industry Leaders about how she got started in the industry, and how the Covid pandemic has enabled her to reach a wider audience.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
All I knew as a youngster was that I wanted to work with people - a broad scope! And, loving variety, it was challenging to pin it down, so I was fortunate to land in a company that encouraged lateral moves for developmental purposes.
From a sales and marketing role straight from university, I moved into employee communications and quickly realised I loved facilitating group conversations. That heralded a move into Learning and Development - and I found my career "home". The neuroscience angle came from my joy of enabling people to learn, stretch and grow - and what better way than to understand that change is possible by making friends with your brain!
What kind of work does your role involve?
My work is twofold; firstly I teach coaches, trainers and HR professionals to use neuroscience to amplify the results they gain with their clients. We offer an accredited qualification in applied neuroscience, where we teach how to have brain-based conversations with clients and how their richness and depth can provide accelerated and longer-lasting transformations. We have pivoted into the digital world and now have online offerings too - COVID forced that on us, and it has been a steep learning curve. However, it has been great fun and allowed us to connect with a much wider community.
Secondly, I work directly with clients 1-1 or in groups to enable them to embrace and leverage their unique combination of strengths. My work is all about awareness, change and learning, and it is so cool I get to do that every day.
What gets you excited about your industry?
I love that there is so much more to learn about the brain. Neuroscience is in its infancy with new insights uncovered every day from scientists and clinicians around the world. I am excited that we now have the ability to begin to find some answers to the underpinning physiology of human behaviour - yet at the same time, we are all unique individuals. With the advent of more sophisticated scanning techniques, we can apply neuroscience discoveries beyond the medical field. It adds enormous value to the world of business by giving us some clues about what is going on inside our brains in our day-to-day interactions.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
My mother always taught me to be myself and not to compare myself to others. I felt different from my friends as a child as I was born with a heart condition which meant I was smaller than others until I had my operation at 12. It didn't stop me, though and drove me forward to tackle whatever came up in life! And the advice continues to fuel me - the joy of my work is enabling people to embrace their individuality, to discover their authentic self, to give them a voice for their unique combination of strengths and how they show up in the world. They may look physically different, but each of us has a unique brain, full of unique memories, experiences and future possibilities.
What, or who inspires you?
So many people! Those who consider their role in the world to be of service to others and a messenger for growth and kindness. And those who have triumphed over adversity.
My father particularly, has been a role model in my life. His own father died when he was 7, and with the guidance of my magnificent Grandmother, he struggled against the odds to study medicine. He wore his values of empathy and kindness on his sleeve as a doctor he was loved by his patients. He became an obstetrician bringing babies into the world every day - and I was so lucky to be brought up in an environment where there was always hope and possibility.
From other spheres I am inspired by Barack Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Princess Diana, Serena Williams and all my clients - it is a long list! And all the medics and scientists involved with the development of the vaccine for the pandemic.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
I am an avid reader and add to my book collection almost daily. Networking is also important to me as I like to build connections with new people and always learn from discussions and gain insights. The online world has opened up so many more opportunities for connecting with amazing people worldwide, and I attend conferences and summits as both a participant and speaker whenever I can.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
On a personal level, it was writing my book. The irony isn't lost on me that I became stuck with imposter syndrome and allowing distractions to come into play - when as a coach and trainer, I help clients with these issues all the time! What helped was keeping connected to my purpose of sharing stories about coaching clients who had achieved successful change through understanding how their brains were responding to their challenges and building their self-belief.
As for many others, the pandemic has recently been challenging, forcing us to turn our business on its head and move our face-to-face training programmes online. As with many situations in life that we can't control, this has been liberating and has so many upsides - not least learning how to operate in a digital learning world. It really is never too late to learn a new approach.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
If I couldn't find its rightful owner, I would view it as a message from the universe and put it to good use! There is a huge amount that $10 million can catalyse and change in the world. My value of fairness drives a passion for providing opportunities for all, no matter what their start in life. So I hope it would provide a platform and some currency to lobby for even further investment to change the world for good.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I have a busy household with 3 young adult kids, 2 dogs and my husband, so there is always a fun conversation to catch up on over the family dinner. I enjoy running, which is as much about the mental space it offers as the physical benefits. We relax with cooking, playing pool, listening to music or watching a good movie - when we can decide on one between us!
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
That we educate our children to believe in themselves and embrace their uniqueness, not just to pass exams.
That we tackle head-on the esteem and mental health challenges that begin so young in life.
That companies recognise that development is a life long journey and not a line labelled "training" in the company accounts. Success in organisations comes from the innovation, creativity, engagement and passion of people and the most significant investment we can make is in our people.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
Book highlights for me are:
The Brain: The Story of You, David Eagleman
Daring Greatly, Brene Brown
Start With Why, Simon Sinek
Normal Sucks, Jonathan Mooney
Emotional Agility, Susan David
My favourite podcast is Unlocking Us with Brene Brown, and I love listening to Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4.
How should people connect with you?
Linked In: linkedin.com/in/gillmckay