Shelly McElroy, the 325th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is definitely one of those people you’d describe as infectious.

She’s full of energy, she’s a great conversationalist and she’s got many interesting insights to share.

Shelly owns a leadership and training consultancy, Dream Culture, where she puts these traits to good use, by helping companies improve their teamwork and culture.

George Bernard Shaw eloquently expressed the reason so many teams are dysfunctional – “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Just because people talk to each other, doesn’t mean they understand each other.

Shelly has noticed that workplace communication has deteriorated in recent years, due to the amount of remote work we’ve been doing since the pandemic. People are now less comfortable in group settings and so are less willing to contribute to team meetings, she says.

For our wonderful lunch, we met in a city restaurant where Shelly was certain the food would be great – because she used to run it.

Back when she was 12, and living in her native Dublin, Shelly got her first job, which happened to be in a restaurant. She immediately fell in love with hospitality, because she got so much enjoyment from mixing with people. Shelly studied media and communications at university, and worked for a while in television, but after moving to Sydney, she returned to hospitality and ended up managing several venues.

Once Shelly had children, she wanted to work more family-friendly hours, so she moved into a training and development role with the same company. If anything, Shelly loved this kind of work even more, because it played to all her strengths and gave her even greater capacity for personal development. Seven years later, she founded her own coaching business.