The 1% Podcast

Enda McNulty

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    Enda McNulty

    Maximising human potential Lincoln Recruitment Specialists

My guest today is Enda McNulty. 

Enda played on the Armagh team that won the All Ireland in 2002, and was awarded an All Star that year and won seven Ulster titles with that team. Enda earned degree in psychology from Queens University Belfast and a degree in Sports Science from University of Ulster.

He worked for 7 years as performance coach to the Leinster rugby team that won three European Heineken Cups in 5 years. He also coached Olympic and professional sportsmen and women like Brian O’Driscoll, Seán O’Brien, Johnny Sexton, Annalise Murphy, Paul Galvin and David Gillick.

Off the field, with his own leadership consultancy firm he has worked with a wide array of corporate clients in Ireland, Europe, North America and Asia and has successfully delivered unique motivational programmes on human performance, leadership, team performance and mental toughness to companies such as Microsoft, Intel, Merck, Kelloggs, Google, Lidl, and Morgan Stanley. In 2017 Enda published Commit: Make Your Mind and Body Stronger and Unlock Your Full Potential.





Show Summary


3:12 Early years

  • Growing up on the edge of Slieve Gullion
  • The hurling history of this mythical mountain
  • How a blend of nature and nurture shaped him
  • Working for Crillys Sweets, his uncle’s confectionary business
  • Listening to motivational tapes in the car with his dad
  • Having a serious farm accident

9:38 The Armagh team

  • Their 2002 All-Ireland win
  • Understanding the success of the team
  • The role of the players’ good upbringing
  • Observing other successful teams for motivation
  • Being encouraged by college-level and club-level wins
  • Enda’s list of the many influential leaders on the team
  • The importance of looking at what came before the All-Ireland win
  • How Brian McAlinden and Brian Canavan created a strong base and a strong culture

12:42 How Irish football has changed

  • The tactical, physical, and professional changes
  • How skill execution was underestimated

14:39 Advice to returning coaches post-COVID

  • Using this time as an opportunity to develop skills and fitness
  • Putting the risk of Corona infection during a game into perspective

16:51 Moonshot goals

  • Moonshot goals: audacious goals that from the outside seem impossible
  • The importance of setting smaller, tangible goals on the way to a moonshot goal
  • Why Enda feels like he’s just getting started: “I don’t believe I’ve achieved nearly enough”

21:02 New clients

  • How Enda gets to know his new clients and connects with their goals
  • Which players stood out in the Leicester team and why
  • Noticing who was first on and off the field
  • How he customizes programs for teams or individuals while sticking to the basics

27:22 Growth/fixed mindset

  • Johnny Sexton as an example of someone with a growth mindset
  • Having a growth mindset: being open to new ideas and accepting failure
  • Having a fixed mindset: not seeking feedback or improvement and perceiving failure as proof that future success is impossible

32:01 Setting goals

  • Examples of process, performance and outcome goals

35:02 The mental side of performance

  • The “40% rule”
  • What to do when you reach the point of perceived exhaustion
  • The importance of training the mind
  • Starting early in the morning with affirmations and visualization

38:50 Getting out of your comfort zone

  • Finding the balance between pushing yourself too far or not far enough
  • Coaching examples: Tiger Woods and David Gillick
  • The role of the coach: knowing how much to challenge a player

41:10 Trying softer not harder

  • How Enda feels that he sabotaged his football career by trying too hard
  • Learning this “soft” attitude from martial arts and Zen Buddhism
  • Getting into a “flow” state

44:27 Motivation

  • Arsene Wenger from the Chelsea club and the idea of “motivational stamina”
  • The three measures of motivation: activation, intensity, and stamina of motivation
  • If the “why” is strong enough the motivation will look after itself

47:32 Taking ownership

  • Why leaders must set the culture
  • How to craft a culture by tying together values, behaviours, and performance indicators

49:17 Negative self-talk

  • Enda’s tips:
    • Remembering that this is normal
    • Observing it without judgment
    • Deciding that you can manage your emotions
    • Being aware that you are not your thoughts
    • Controlling your breath
  • How Enda overcame these negative thoughts before a big game
  • Hiw own experience of choking under pressure and remembering that it even happens to the best athletes

57:08 Self-improvement

  • Why we can’t always be “on”
  • Enda’s personal challenge: to not always be striving
  • Finding a balance between performing/achieving versus just “being”

58:55 Transitioning to coaching and business

  • How his transition from playing to coaching started at the age of 14
  • Gaining experience coaching all ages and levels
  • Coaching the Ulster Bank team to victory
  • How this led to coaching Longford Town, then to working with other large organizations

1:02:47 Motivating remote staff

  • Acknowledging his own mistakes in this space and learning from them
  • Why some companies stopped measuring performance during COVID
  • The importance of leading differently during this time

1:06:22 Leadership

  • Important qualities in a leader:
    • Compassion and empathy (and being able to switch between being pragmatic and compassionate)
    • Being strategic
    • Good communication
    • Resilience and grit
    • The ability to create a following
  • What companies should focus on and what many of them have neglected
  • Key performance indicators

1:10:37 Lessons from sport to business

  • Why Enda is tired of hearing about what business can learn from sport and now wants to see sport learn from business
  • With a growth mindset, we can learn from anywhere and anybody
  • How our natural childhood curiosity gets suppressed as adults

1:18:12 Mental toughness

  • Explaining “mental toughness” to Joe Schmidt, the Irish rugby coach
  • How to develop it

1:22:06 Triggers

  • How triggers, the equivalent of pressing the “reset” button, can help athletes and elite performers
  • Why this needs to be accompanied by practice and conditioning

1:24:27 Current curiosities

  • “One thing I know for sure is: I know nothing”
  • Enda’s long-term goals
  • Learning how to unlock more potential in himself
  • His interest in the future of purpose-driven business
  • Why COVID is a wake-up call
  • Learning about how to scale an organization for maximum impact

1:28:25 Final advice

  • “Realize that you know nothing” and seek out knowledge, help and mentorship