By Tom Gillespie
WHILE sailing a small yacht for 120 days from New Zealand to Ireland, Castlebar native Eithne Sweeney realised it took great communication and teamwork between herself and husband Myles Henaghan from Louisburgh to complete the journey.
It didn’t take them long to realise they were speaking different languages due to one being a specialist and the other being a generalist.
To succeed on the 10-month, 11,241 mile trip, on land and sea, they needed to speak a common language.
And so a business idea was conceived.
Today Eithne is a director and co-founder of Wires Uncrossed, a business in New Zealand dedicated to helping technical experts and teams connect.
She and Myles draw on their sailing experience to explain the common challenges faced by technical experts and teams, and how more effective communication is key to overcoming these issues.
Daughter of JJ and Kathleen Sweeney, Balloor, Castlebar, Eithne said: “Our future relies heavily on technical experts but there is a disconnect between them and the less technical people who can bring their ideas to life.
“Half the crew is calling to tighten or trim the sail and the other half is working to take the sail down and put a new one up.
“Technology experts, software developers, engineers, scientists and other subject matter experts use their deep knowledge and specialized skills to visualize a better world.
“And yet, that world eludes us because of the challenge they face to articulate their vision and engage people whose help they need to achieve it. But the good news is: it’s easily fixed.”
It is Eithne’s passionate belief that building stronger connections within technical teams is the key to solving the world’s greatest problems.
She added: “Human connection is still the key to unlocking the potential of technical experts and teams.
“Whether it’s about communicating technical topics to non-technical audiences, or one subject matter expert communicating with another, technical experts need practical wisdom, words and ways to consistently communicate effectively.
“Stronger connections lay the groundwork for a sustainable organization culture with high staff engagement and motivation, and low rates of staff turnover.”
Wires Uncrossed helps people learn about how workplace communication works, and gives them tools, tactics and techniques to communicate more effectively.
Eithne added: “Our tailored solutions for clients’ specific situations include workshops, coaching or on-site support – whatever it takes to make lasting changes in the team or organisation.
“One of the keys to effective communication is creating a safe environment for people to express themselves openly and honestly. People need reassurance that they are being listened to. They need to feel respected.
“They need to be able to challenge and question their peers and managers without the risk of being ridiculed or humiliated. For cross-functional teams in the workplace, discovering a common language has benefits for the individuals and the team.
“The individual feels accepted and respected and appreciated by the team, and, under pressure, seeks to protect their unit and teammates.
“The team hums through their work, they act as one and generally they communicate more through non-verbal communication than through words.”
She continued: “Every team will have a different combination of thinking styles, communication styles, cultural mix and backgrounds.
“This means that every team needs to figure out their own common language. It’s about creating a sense of ownership or belonging by giving people a voice through speaking, writing or images.
“Our clients learn how to communicate appropriate information to their listeners or readers as clearly and concisely as possible.
“This involves understanding the needs of their audience and ‘translating’ detailed or complex information into a form that can be readily understood.
“The outcome is that their audience spends less time and understanding the information. It also minimises the possibility of the listener misunderstanding the message or using it incorrectly.”
Eithne, who spent her transition year work experience in The Connaught Telegraph in 1996, now shows clients how to navigate the world of technical team communication, using simple, effective ways for every team member to speak the same common language.
She started her career working for large multinationals in China, where she helped technical teams overcome the barriers of language, culture and distance to build strong connections.
Since moving to New Zealand in 2007, she spent 10 years working alongside technical specialists in some of their largest companies, equipping them with the skills and structures to foster effective communication. In 2019, she founded Wires Uncrossed.
Eithne, who was back in Castlebar for the walking festival, holds a bachelor’s degree in international business and languages.
Having circumnavigated the globe, she remains a keen sailor, and enjoys getting out on the water with her husband Myles and their two children. The family now live in Auckland, New Zealand.