leadership development


Padraig Inc. 10 Years of Leadership Development

Dec 12, 2022 | Coach's Questions

We’re excited to celebrate 10 years of helping organizations develop leaders who are talented, confident, adaptable and successful. 

The first decade offering leadership development has seen the Padraig team grow and innovate as the client list has expanded across Canada as well as into the US and overseas. 

“If you look at our stats over these 10 years, what is most gratifying to me is that close to 95% of Padraig clients return for repeat business and/or refer us to others,” says Padraig founder and President Patrick O’Reilly.

As we look back, a lot has happened very quickly (and we have more leadership development opportunities in the works!). 

Before Padraig

As a leader, Patrick rose quickly in government. He was a senior executive at just 28 and the CEO of a Crown corporation leading a large team at 30-something. When he left his last leadership position and decided to stay in Winnipeg to “hang up a shingle” as a consultant, he was drawn to coaching because he was aware of how many leaders feel isolated and lack support for their own development.

“When I was a leader, I had all the classic challenges of imposter syndrome, perfectionism and feeling lonely at the top. My urgent need to get things done got me to those lofty roles quickly, but didn’t help me fit comfortably into the leader’s shoes. It certainly was stressful and difficult for me and for those I was leading.” says Patrick.

“I rarely, if ever, had an opportunity to attend really helpful, relevant leadership training. I was good at the work I was doing so I was made the leader of the group doing that work. That was it – no training to be the leader.  That occurred over and over throughout my career as an executive. I hadn’t even heard of executive coaching until I was a CEO/COO, and back then, I thought getting a coach was a sign of being weak.”

How it started

When he was first easing into being a consultant, Patrick met, by chance, a young man who had been appointed COO of a national television network. This young leader asked if Patrick did any coaching. 

“I told him I had ‘coached’ a lot of folks who had worked for me and so he hired me and we started working together,” explains Patrick. This client recommended Patrick to peers and soon other people started to call for coaching. 

Given the increased interest, Patrick decided to look to see if there was any formal training for coaches and chose to study at the graduate level at Royal Roads University in BC. 

“Once I started at Royal Roads, I realized that I was actually mentoring that first client, not coaching,” says Patrick. “That first week I was on campus, he called me for a brief coaching session. He noticed immediately that I was using a different approach now (1:1 coaching) and it was helpful.” 

That executive is now the CEO of a grant-giving organization. He is still a client and his organization hires Padraig to work with its leadership team members. 

“When I finished at Royal Roads in November 2012, I was fully committed to coaching,” recalls Patrick. He incorporated Padraig as a business on December 12, 2012 (12-12-12 is a memorable date!). He was already coaching a number of leaders from the prairies and was starting to hire respected colleagues from his graduating class to help meet the needs.

In those early years, Padraig broadened from private one-to-one clients to organizational contracts as well. It’s interesting to note that while the company is proudly based in Winnipeg, in the first eight years roughly 90-95% of clients were from outside of Manitoba.

“We had a deep connection with chief executives and HR leaders, who shared with us the culture shifts they needed in their organizations and recognized how our coaching and our newly introduced leadership training could help their organizations,” says Patrick. 

The City of Medicine Hat brought Padraig in to help them dissolve siloes and improve teamwork across 27 managers and four commissioners. Patrick remembers many deep and thoughtful conversations with the leaders in Medicine Hat. 

Merete Heggelund, who has since retired but was the Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Medicine Hat at the time, later wrote, “Working with Patrick and his team has been such a positive, transformational experience for our organization. The insights provided into our leadership culture and team dynamics, the flexibility to adapt deliveries to meet emerging needs as we go through the process, and the commitment to results are all outstanding.”

Patrick says the “a-ha” moments – those times when clients see a way forward they couldn’t before – always stick with him and his fellow coaches. “Helping individual leaders to know they’re not alone, to know where to find supportive, empathetic and highly trained assistance, is why we’re here and it’s hugely rewarding.”

How it’s going

By the spring of 2019, Padraig had grown to seven coaches and a part-time support staff member, and Padraig opened offices in Winnipeg. Up until that time, everyone had been working from home. 

“The grand opening was a great occasion because we brought our team from across the country together to host clients at an open house,” says Patrick. “We were ready to grow into our next phase.” 

Of course, rather ironically, the pandemic hit a mere eight months later and caught everyone by surprise, shifting back to work from home. The difference now was that our clients were having to make that shift, too, and turning to us for assistance.  

For Patrick, there is a special irony in the surprise at the impact of the pandemic because earlier in his career – after SARS hit Canada and as an executive in Public Safety – he sat on the committee for national pandemic preparedness. “With that background, I anticipated many aspects, like border closures, limiting gatherings and masking but until I was a business owner myself it hadn’t really sunk in how much it would affect every aspect of the economy for a prolonged time.”

During lockdown, Patrick curated blog topics that would help leaders navigate the uncertainty (one of the most popular was how to manage grief and anxiety in uncertain times).  As well, he and his team started rewriting the group and team programs offered by Padraig to make them just as interesting, engaging and valuable when presented live online rather than onsite.

To help leaders during the pandemic, the company also created coached peer group programs called The Network (for relatively new managers) and The Partnership (for experienced leaders and senior executives). Uptake was swift and steady and continues to this day. There was clearly a need for leaders to find like-minded peers to learn from while being guided by the Padraig team.

“As we launched those peer-level programs, we had many more calls from leaders and HR managers who wanted leadership development for team members and peer learning opportunities to help good people be great,” says Patrick. 

Following that success, Padraig partnered with another fantastic Winnipeg-based firm, Eclectic Communications, to launch the online learning portal Odality.ca in 2022. The portal provides access to Padraig’s leadership programs and Eclectic’s communication courses for smaller organizations who might not otherwise be able to host a private cohort. As well, it allows Padraig’s previous clients to send new recruits to take courses that the rest of the staff have already completed.

Lessons learned over 10 years

As he reflects on the last decade leading Padraig, Patrick says he has learned a few things that surprised him. 

“First, I learned that I am an entrepreneur. After 22 years in government, I didn’t see that coming,” he chuckles. 

“That said, the last deputy minister I worked with reached out to me and said she was not surprised, at all, that I was enjoying and thriving in entrepreneurship. She said she always knew I had an entrepreneurial spirit. I think that’s a good reminder for all of us that we have strengths that we don’t see or that we diminish – and others see it and maybe don’t say it.”

Second, Patrick says he learned to hire expert help as soon as you can afford it, because delegating effectively saves time and sanity.

“In those early days as a business owner, I was doing it all – the bookkeeping, logistics and coordination and writing. Of course that was on top of coaching, facilitating and making sure every one of our clients was getting enormous Return on Investment as well as Return on Expectations. When I finally hired an accounting firm, a coordinator and a writer, that lifted so much stress and freed me to do the work of a CEO,” says Patrick, who admits he wishes he had outsourced those tasks earlier. 

“It gave me time to envision, innovate, develop and launch new product lines, and build relationships instead of being mired in the details and day-to-day.”

While so much of coaching is rewarding for Patrick, he says he’s learned that he really enjoys being a business owner.

“It’s thrilling to own a business that is big enough to hire others. It makes a difference in their lives and for their families and it allows us to help far more leaders and organizations who are supporting their leaders.”

Overall, Patrick says that as the team has grown, he’s happiest with how they model what they hope to help other leaders learn: cohesive and collaborative teamwork and a commitment to the shared goal of helping organizations develop strong and effective leaders.

“I’m very proud that we live our values, which we articulate together with input from the whole team.”

What’s next

The Padraig team is busy with more ways to help organizations develop talented, capable and confident leaders. 

“We firmly see the last few years and the next few years as a new industrial revolution,” explains Patrick. “The pandemic was/is the start of a new epoch. As work changes and we figure out this virtual, dispersed, hybrid workplace, we’re continuing to double-down on the good work that we do to help clients.”

Next out of the gate will be our self-paced learning portal with 24/7 access to courses which will soon be found at myleadershiptools.com. This will be a tremendous resource for people who prefer to learn at their own pace and as a supplement to other live training. Watch for that in early 2023.

To celebrate a decade of coaching, Patrick and his team of certified coaches have been offering complimentary 1:1 coaching services to those whose organizations have modest professional development budgets. 

“There are no strings attached!” Patrick stresses. “We will not rope people in for a sales pitch. Everyone will get pro bono coaching and an invitation to subscribe to our blog, which is a free resource online that is leadership development focused. There’s no other catch, no sales pitch. If you know of anyone who might benefit, please let them know.”

In February 2023, the entire Padraig team is flying into Winnipeg (yes, a team gathering in Winnipeg in February!). 

“We’re excited to gather the team to learn from each other and celebrate together,” says Patrick. “We’ve got a lot to celebrate and big things in leadership development coming!”