Blog2020-09-10T09:57:00+00:00

Producing great work or making things happen? Which motivates you?

Think back to the last time you felt really pleased* with your work. What caused you to be pleased? Did you produce some really good quality work - a design, a report, an ad campaign? Or did you make something happen - hit a target, win a new client? I don't want to suggest that these things are mutually exclusive, ...

July 26th, 2023|

Why do so few businesses have a decent strategy?

In my 25 years as a business psychologist, I've worked with a lot of businesses, particularly mid-sized companies, and it's surprising just how few of them have a decent strategy. By 'a decent strategy' I mean that the business knows where it's going and how it's going to get there. "We want to double in size in the next five ...

December 12th, 2022|

The riskiest behaviour I’ve engaged in – and I bet you have too

I don't think of myself as much of a risk taker. I'm generally fairly cautious - no high risk investments, Vegas holidays or adventure sports for me. But recently I've noticed just how risky some of my behaviour can be. I guarantee some of yours is too. To illustrate, let me tell you about my garden. When we moved into ...

May 31st, 2022|

How should we address climate change at work? Part 2 – let’s talk about it

In November I wrote the first of a two-part series looking at the climate crisis in a work context. It explored the psychological barriers that stop us even thinking about the subject and ended with a promise that next time I'd explore what we should actually do. It's taken me four months to reach the conclusion that I don't know. ...

March 29th, 2022|

How should we address climate change at work? Part 1 – thinking about it.

This is the first of a two part series on the key topic of our age, the climate crisis. Specifically, looking at it in the context of work.  Your immediate reaction might be "Really, do I have to? It's bad enough when it's on the news and I have got quite a lot on right now". I get it. I ...

November 23rd, 2021|

How do you navigate organisational politics?

What do you think of when you hear the term 'organisational politics'? My hunch is it's back stabbing, pointless rivalries, sucking up to the boss, that kind of thing. I'm not going to pretend that that isn't a feature of many workplaces. If you work somewhere with really dysfunctional politics, it pays to be alert, to work out who you ...

October 4th, 2021|

In too deep? 7 questions to judge how involved to get in a piece of work

How involved should you get in work which is not your sole responsibility? It sounds like a straightforward question, but actually it can be quite tricky to work out. I've been thinking about this lately while coaching a client I'll call Brian. Brian is a very senior manager in a large and complex organisation, who has just taken on a ...

May 27th, 2021|

Who do you think you are?

I'm not issuing that as a challenge, more an invitation for some gentle introspection. The way we think about our identity - the way we describe ourselves to ourselves and to others - has an impact on the way we operate in the world. This is particularly true in our working lives and sometimes that impact is not helpful. So ...

April 20th, 2021|

What do we mean by resilience? A conversation with a CEO

Resilience. There's a topic that's had loads of airtime over the last year. How resilient are you? How do you improve your resilience? I wrote about it myself just a few months ago. But what do we really mean by resilience – and might some definitions actually be unhelpful? This month's blog was inspired by a conversation with an experienced ...

March 12th, 2021|

Joining at a distance: Five things missing when people start new jobs remotely

We’re nearly a year into the pandemic and, for many of us, life goes on. I'm working with companies who are recruiting and coaching a couple of people who’ve started new leadership positions during lockdown. But starting a new job is different now.  This month I want to focus what's missing when people start new jobs in a pandemic. So ...

February 13th, 2021|

Resilience: 8 tips for getting through the next few months

Well here we are again. Back in lockdown and somehow, this time it feels harder, probably because it's the middle of winter. There is light at the end of the tunnel but we've suddenly realised that the tunnel is longer than we thought and has a murky difficult section we hadn't anticipated. So how do we get through the next ...

January 8th, 2021|

Are you in control of your destiny?

How much do you feel in control of your own destiny? Do you see your successes as the results of your efforts? What about your failures? This month I’m going to look at a concept that psychologists call ‘locus of control’ – whether you see control of your life being internally or an externally driven. This is something which is ...

November 30th, 2020|

Do we need more blitz spirit?

Blitz spirit. There's a topic I doubt people expected me to write about. But it's been gnawing at me, ever since Maureen from Barnsley was hailed as the Voice of the Nation for saying that we needed to show more blitz spirit during the pandemic. As a concept, I find it both psychologically fascinating and rather irritating. My guess is ...

October 30th, 2020|

Are we all imposters now?

A recent survey on LinkedIn suggested that the pandemic has caused an outbreak of Imposter Syndrome among senior leaders. Apparently 52% of the leaders surveyed have found themselves doubting their ability to lead their organisations through this crisis. I wasn't surprised by this - who can really say that they know what they're doing right now? The only people who've ...

September 30th, 2020|

Work / Life balance – It’s all about boundaries

The key to work/life balance is understanding your boundaries - time, location, spatial and inter-personal boundaries. Over the past six months, the boundaries between home and work have become a lot fuzzier. As we settle in for the long haul, it's worth reviewing how well things are working for you. Whether you're working from home indefinitely, back in the office ...

August 30th, 2020|

COVID-19: What will September bring?

It may be only the end of July but I'm turning my attention to September as I think it's worth planning for now. September has always had a feel of New Year, back to normal about it, but this year what kind of normal will it be? Even if you're going to keep working from home well into next year, ...

July 29th, 2020|

COVID-19: What next? Who knows? Living with uncertainty

So here we are, tentatively venturing back out into the world and wondering what life will be like. There is no shortage of commentators predicting the business, societal and political changes which will result from the pandemic. I am not one of them. What I want to look at is how we handle the level of uncertainty we are facing. ...

June 26th, 2020|

Self-compassion, not self-indulgence – Looking after number one

My intention this month was to write about compassion. Lord knows we could all do with some of that right now. But then a post on LinkedIn caused me to rethink. It bemoaned the number of articles exhorting us to "Be Kind" when actually many people are at the end of their tether. Someone added in the comments "I can't ...

April 30th, 2020|

COVID-19: Expert leadership resources

This is not an ordinary blog post, it's a space to collect resources that may be useful to leaders in this time of crisis. The first resource is the free Primary Colours Covid-19 Leadership Survival Guide which I have devised in conjunction with Edgecumbe Consulting Group who own the model. The aim of the guide is to give leaders a ...

April 9th, 2020|

Finding focus in difficult times – A leadership challenge

If you're a leader, how do you find focus at a time like this? It's unlikely you've ever faced such a significant challenge. You may be in a front line organisation with staff in personal danger; you may be worried for the very survival of your business or you may be struggling to cope with unprecedented demand for your services.  ...

March 31st, 2020|

Why is teamwork so hard? How to develop better team working

Having worked out what is and isn't a team last month, this month I'm looking at why so many teams fail to work well together and what you can do to develop better team working. The insecure leader One of the first reasons teams fail is not recognising that they are - or should be - a team in the ...

February 29th, 2020|

What is a team? It’s not as straightforward as you think

Does that sound like a daft question? Surely everyone knows what a team is. But actually, it's not as straightforward as you might think. For example, a group of people working for the same boss is not necessarily team, no matter how much the manager talks about "my team". A team is a group of people working towards a shared ...

January 31st, 2020|

Seven psychological tips for making change that lasts

Last month, you may recall, I wrote about how to feel better about yourself if you hadn't achieved all you wanted to as we approached the end of the year. This month, as we contemplate a new decade and you might want to do things differently, I'm looking at what psychology tells us about making changes that stick. 1. ...

December 31st, 2019|

And so this is Christmas – and what have you done?

Another year over, a new one just begun. I've been living with this song for weeks as the choir I sing with rehearses for Christmas. I don't know about you but the line 'another year over' tends to leave me with a slight feeling of existential dread. It's worse this year, as another decade is over and what have I ...

November 30th, 2019|

The one thing that enhances your chances of career success

  What makes some people more successful in their careers, particularly leadership careers, than others? It's tempting to answer that by considering the attributes of successful people. Generally, they are smart enough to handle the complexity inherent in a senior role and to make decisions whose ramifications may not be fully understood for five or ten years. They have good ...

October 31st, 2019|

Part 3: A leadership coaching journey – Analysing the business plan

This is the final instalment of an exploration of one person's leadership coaching experience. This is a real client, who kindly agreed to become a case study, with details changed to maintain his anonymity. "Andrew" was the newly appointed MD of an IT company employing around 150 people.  In the first instalment, I looked at coaching conversations related to Andrew's working ...

September 30th, 2019|

Part 2: A leadership coaching journey – Delegation and team working

This is the second instalment of an exploration of one person's leadership coaching experience. This is a real client, who kindly agreed to become a case study, with details changed to maintain his anonymity. "Andrew" was the newly appointed MD of an IT company employing around 150 people. Last month I looked at coaching conversations related to Andrew's working relationships. ...

August 31st, 2019|

Part 1: A leadership coaching journey – Improving working relationships

Leadership coaching is one of the key services I offer but it's not easy to explain what it's actually like. So over the next couple of months I'm going to tell the story of one person's coaching journey to try to bring it to life. This is a real client, who has kindly given his permission (thanks "Andrew"). Whilst it ...

July 31st, 2019|

Should work be fun?

I nearly made this the last of my workplace myths series but couldn't decide which was the more prevailing myth. On the one hand, the prevalence of ping pong tables in office foyers suggests a contemporary expectation that work should be fun. On the other hand, I've met many a manager (often in finance, interestingly) who believes that, unless people ...

June 30th, 2019|

Myth #6: EQ is more important than IQ

In the latest in my series on workplace myths, I'm turning my attention to emotional intelligence. There are numerous articles out there claiming that, not only is emotional intelligence important, but that, for career success, it's more important than intelligence. But is it? Let's go back to basics: What is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence is the ability to: a) recognise ...

April 30th, 2019|

Myth #5: Perfectionism is an allowable weakness

In the fifth of my series on workplace myths, I'm turning my attention to perfectionism. I'm sure you're all familiar with this hackneyed exchange: Interviewer: "What are your weaknesses?" Candidate: "Well sometimes I can get a bit perfectionist about my work". Job done. The candidate smiles inwardly knowing that a) what they really meant was "sometimes I'm just too damn ...

March 31st, 2019|

Myth #4: Female leaders are more nurturing

This is the fourth in a series on workplace myths, those pervasive beliefs that hold a grain of truth but might not be as widely applicable as we think. This one feels very 21st century to me. We've got used to seeing more women in leadership roles (until you get to the very top) and there's a feeling that they ...

February 27th, 2019|

Myth #3: Experienced professionals don’t need managing

This is the third in my series on workplace myths - those pervasive beliefs that contain a grain of truth but may not be as applicable as you think. Some of you may be wondering why I'm considering this one as a myth at all. If you've suffered the horrors of a control freak micro-manager, you may long to be ...

January 24th, 2019|

Myth #2: Geeks have no social skills

This is the second in a short series exploring workplace myths. Having started my career as a computer programmer, this one is close to my heart and I use the term geek affectionately. IT departments are, of course, Geek HQ, but similar stereotypes apply to other specialists. For example, how can you spot an outgoing auditor? They look at your ...

November 29th, 2018|

Myth #1: Technical specialists make lousy managers

This is the first in a series on workplace myths, many of which are based on stereotypes - soft female leaders, socially awkward geeks, psychologists obsessed with feelings. Like most stereotypes, there's generally a grain of truth in them. There's a reason we talk about German efficiency and Italian style, not the other way round. But stereotypes don't apply in ...

October 31st, 2018|

Delegation: The art of self-management?

Last month, I discussed the dimensions of delegation, which prompted one reader to tell me that, for him, the hardest part of delegating is managing his own responses - dealing with frustration and reining in his inner control freak, for example. I recognise from my years of coaching that this is something many people struggle with. So this month, I'm looking ...

September 28th, 2018|

Giving it all away? Seven dimensions of delegation

Getting someone else to carry out tasks on your behalf is a key management skill and one that a lot of people struggle with. They micro-manage and interfere too much or they abdicate responsibility and leave people floundering. There's no formula for good delegation - it depends on the task and the individual you're delegating it to. But you may find ...

August 30th, 2018|

Think you understand the workplace? Five ways you’re probably wrong.

I like to keep up with psychology research. I feel it's part of my responsibility as a practising psychologist to have at least some idea of the latest findings. What's struck me recently is how often the research has confounded my thinking, suggesting something counter-intuitive. So here are five pieces of common sense, received wisdom about the workplace that recent ...

July 28th, 2018|

Lopsided leadership – Too much of a good thing?

Play to your strengths - that's good advice, right? Well generally, yes, it is. There's a whole school of thought in HR and business psychology that says you're much more likely to improve your performance if you keep developing something you're already good at and use it more, than if you doggedly try and overcome some persistent weakness. But that's ...

June 30th, 2018|

The psychology of influence – Seven psychological insights to increase your influence

I'm sure most of us would like to be more influential.  You probably won't be surprised to hear that understanding a bit of psychology can help. Ultimately, influence is all about decision-making. You want someone to decide to do what you want them to do. What psychological research tells us is that decision-making is such hard work that our brains ...

May 29th, 2018|

Why do people behave badly at work? Four drivers of bad behaviour

Imagine you see someone behaving badly at work - maybe doing something ethically questionable or taking their anger out on the trainee or not pulling their weight in a crisis. If you're like most people, you'll attribute that behaviour to some aspect of their character - he's dishonest, she's aggressive, they're lazy and so on - unless you know them ...

April 27th, 2018|

Three reasons why stress is a meaningless concept

Is your job stressful? Do you feel stressed right now? Or are some of your colleagues going through a stressful time? If so, you and your organisation would be fairly typical of the modern workplace. So given that I'm a psychologist, you're probably anticipating some tips on how to deal with workplace stress. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I actually ...

February 28th, 2018|

Part 4: Caution emotion at work – How to handle personal and colleague envy

This is the final article in my series on emotion at work and this time I'm tackling the one that rarely gets talked about - envy, and its frequent companion, resentment. Whereas feeling anxious or angry is seen as fairly normal at work, envy seems to be more of a shameful secret. After all, if you're envious it means someone ...

January 25th, 2018|

Part 3: Caution emotion at work – How to handle someone else’s anger at work

This is the third in a series on emotion at work. Having looked last time at how to handle your own anger at work, this month I'm focusing on dealing with someone else's anger. Angry people can be intimidating, so it's useful to have strategies for dealing with them, depending on where their anger is directed. 1. Rage against the ...

December 19th, 2017|

Part 2: Caution emotion at work – How to handle your anger at work

This is the second in a short series on emotion at work. Last month I tackled anxiety, this month I'm moving on to anger. I realised while writing this that there's enough to say about handling your own anger at work to fill an article, so I'm saving other people's anger til next time. Anger tends to be the emotion ...

November 29th, 2017|

Part 1: Caution emotion at work – Managing and supporting personal anxiety

Wouldn't it be great if work was a place of calm and rationality all the time? Somewhere where you didn't have to deal with messy feelings - yours or anyone else's. In the not too distant future, when we've mostly been replaced by robots, that'll probably be the case, but until then emotions will remain an integral part of work. ...

October 31st, 2017|

Back to work with a bang – Working out what you want to achieve

So here we are in the last days of summer before we revert to 'back to school' normality next week. I've written here before about the idea that for many of us September feels much more like New Year than January does. This is the time when we start afresh. You may come back to work with renewed determination to ...

August 30th, 2017|

Passing the baton – A succession planning guide

How do you hand on a business you’ve spent years nurturing? This is a challenge facing many business owners as they eventually accept that they cannot go on forever. This month I’ve teamed up with Peter Jenner, from William Battle Ltd, who specialises in business succession to compare his process-focused approach with my psychological perspective. Peter has a model which aims ...

July 24th, 2017|

Business is business – Six pitfalls of family business leadership

First and foremost, family businesses are businesses. Like all organisations they require good leadership. In this article, I'd like to highlight some of the common pitfalls of family business leadership. But first, let's recap what leadership involves. In a previous article, I talked about what leaders do based on a leadership model called the Primary Colours® Model. The model identifies the tasks ...

June 28th, 2017|

Five strategies for avoiding conflict and why you should ditch them all

What do you think of when you hear the word 'conflict'? I think for a lot of us, conflict conjures up a particularly bad Eastenders' Christmas - raised voices, harsh words, fists flying, someone trying to calm things down by saying "Leave it Barry, he ain't worth it". In fact, many of us are so afraid of this kind of conflict ...

May 24th, 2017|

Can I trust you? Six aspects of human interaction where questions of trust arise

I've been thinking a lot about trust lately, partly because I've been working with teams. Trust is the bedrock of team work, but the more I talk and read about it, the more I realise that we're not always talking about the same thing. It's not as straightforward as 'I trust you or I don't'. It's not even about trusting ...

April 27th, 2017|

Think you’re a good listener? Seven scenarios where you might not be listening as well as you could

How good a listener are you? I was reminded of the importance of good listening recently while attending a talk by a coach who brings real focus and attention to her coaching. Her clients really do get a damn good listening to. I like to think that mine do too, but it made me reflect on the times when perhaps I ...

March 28th, 2017|

The great taboos. The legal and psychological ramifications of discussing politics and religion at work

“Never discuss religion or politics”. This sage advice has been around for at least a century. But in these days of Brexit and Trump, politics seems harder and harder to avoid and religion has got wrapped up in it in a way it hasn’t been – or at least not in the UK – for decades. So what happens when ...

February 28th, 2017|

Dealing with self-criticism – Four strategies for handling your inner critic

How strong is your inner critic? Most of us have a critical voice in our heads at some point but for some people it's relentless and often vicious. People who would never dream of calling someone else a completely useless idiot are often all too willing to apply the label to themselves. I'm not suggesting that self-criticism has no function: ...

January 24th, 2017|

Not so bad after all. Four reasons to change your perspective on negative thinking

Last month I wrote about the surprising downsides of positive thinking. This month I want to flip that around and consider four reasons we might want to change our perspective on negative thinking. 1. You're going to do it anyway Cast your mind back to the last time you were worried about something. If someone had told you to stop worrying ...

December 20th, 2016|

Think positive? – Three examples of positive thinking that could be counter-productive

Positive thinking - it's a good thing, right? Whether we're talking about a traditional British "Chin up old chap, look on the bright side" or a 21st century, social media motivational quote - "Find a place inside yourself where nothing is impossible" - it's all, well, positive, isn't it? Well, actually, no; it turns out isn't. Here are three examples of positive ...

November 29th, 2016|

Can you be a nice leader? How to grow as a leader and develop your ‘inner Jim’

A little while ago, someone sent me an article from the Havard Business Review about the dangers of hiring a nice CEO. I found I had quite a strong reaction just to the title. I know a number of nice, decent, successful CEOs, MDs and other leaders in senior positions and was primed to leap to their defence. Were they suggesting hiring ...

October 27th, 2016|

“Maybe you should see a psychologist” – How do you bring up this sensitive subject?

"Maybe you should see a psychologist". Has anyone ever suggested this to you? If they did, would you see it as a positive suggestion or would you be affronted, as if they were implying that all was not right in your head? It's tricky, isn't it? A bit of a taboo subject. Recently,  I've had a few conversations with people ...

September 30th, 2016|

Psychology snippets – Four things you’ll be discussing at the water cooler

It’s August. You’re probably on holiday or wishing you were. In the press, this is the season where traditionally the quirkier stories get an airing, so I thought I’d do the same here. These are the four most interesting bits of psychological research or thinking that I’ve seen in the last few months: 1. How quickly should you answer emails? ...

August 25th, 2016|

The age of female leadership? – Why female leaders are perceived differently

Well isn't this interesting - women are taking over the world. We have a female Prime Minister, the most powerful politician in Europe is a woman and I can't be the only one fervently hoping that the next US president is a woman because the alternative is too ghastly to contemplate. But will things be any different? Do women bring different ...

July 29th, 2016|

The psychology of ‘us’ and ‘them’ – How did Brexit get so tribal?

I didn't really want to write a BREXIT blog, but my blogging deadline was upon me and it really is the only subject in town. Everything else feels irrelevant. And surely psychology has something to say about the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in. In fact, psychology adds multiple perspectives, as these thoughtful analyses from the British Psychological Society demonstrate. ...

June 30th, 2016|

You can lead a horse to water – A powerful psychological technique to encourage change

How do you persuade people to change? Maybe you have a colleague or a client who stubbornly refuses to do the one thing that everyone else can see would be in their best interests – the overloaded manager who won't delegate, the blundering leader who really needs coaching but sees it as a navel-gazing waste of time; the 60-something family ...

May 26th, 2016|

Conquering your anxieties. Tiny steps of astonishing bravery

How do you make progress with those day-to-day anxieties that hold you back in life and at work? I’m thinking of those fears that seem irrational when you try to explain them to others but which can exert a great hold over you. Most of us have some niggling worries, but some people have more than their fair share to ...

March 31st, 2016|

Are you passionate about your work? Well stop it!

Once upon a time, passion for work was limited to artists and fire-brand politicians. But in today’s workplace, it seems to be all the rage. LinkedIn is full of people who are passionate about everything from customer service to quantity surveying and even embroidery. And employers seem to want people who are passionate about a type of work, a product or brand ...

February 29th, 2016|

Three management fads to be wary of in 2016

So we’re well into the New Year, your feet are back under the desk, Christmas is a distant memory and maybe you’re thinking about things you might do differently at work in 2016. There’ll be no shortage of people to advise you on exciting new approaches you might want to try but how do you know what works? Well here ...

January 27th, 2016|

Crisis management – What’s the worst that can happen?

What are you like in a crisis? I don't mean the life or death, split-second decision type crises that we all hope we'll never face - escaping a burning building, being taken hostage by terrorists or other stuff of nightmares. None of us really knows how we'd react in those situations and, if we're lucky, we never find out. I'm thinking ...

November 30th, 2015|

VUCA: What can the American military teach us about business?

Don’t worry, this isn’t another one of those articles suggesting that you need the camaraderie and grit of the marines as you lead your team through another gruelling week servicing the nation’s photocopiers or whatever it is you do for a living. This military lesson isn’t really about people at all. It’s about a way of thinking about situations. Developed ...

October 31st, 2015|

Finding your own natural authority – Can you handle power?

How do you feel about power? Is it something you crave or something which makes you feel uncomfortable? And how powerful do you actually feel as a person? I’ve been thinking a lot about power recently while working with some senior leaders. In particular, I’m interested in the match – or mismatch – between the power people get from their roles ...

September 30th, 2015|

What have I got myself into? 7 tips for handling a ‘poisoned chalice’ career opportunity

Have you ever been given a fabulous career opportunity that didn't turn out to be quite such an unalloyed joy after all? In the last month or so, I've worked with five different people - some in medium-sized businesses, some in multi-national corporations - whose exciting new jobs turned out to be something of a poisoned chalice. It seemed worth ...

August 31st, 2015|

Looking for the potential in people – Should your career have breadth or depth?

Many organisations spend a lot of time and money identifying and developing ‘high potential’ employees. This is understandable – at least some of them are likely to be future leaders of the business. But what about everyone else? Don’t they deserve the chance to fulfil their potential too? Maybe it’s time we stopped looking for ‘people with potential’ and started ...

July 31st, 2015|

Need a NED? How to avoid the pitfalls when engaging a Non-Executive Director

A good non-exec director can do wonders for an SME, bringing experience and a different perspective, acting as a sounding board and challenging the exec team to ensure they focus on the right stuff: the important not the urgent, the long-term strategy, good corporate governance and so on. And yet companies don’t always seem to get non-exec appointments right. I want ...

June 30th, 2015|

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. How much experience do you need to dabble in someone else’s job?

How much do you need to know about someone else’s job to have a say in it? Do you have to have done the job yourself to know whether they’re doing it properly? Common sense would suggest not – you don’t have to be a trained chef to recognise a badly cooked meal, for example. Yet a lot of people, ...

May 31st, 2015|

Experience or brains – Which matters more in a senior role?

Which matters more when you're hiring someone for a senior job - intelligence or experience? You may be thinking, 'it's obvious, go for the experience'. On the other hand, you may be thinking, 'it's obvious, go for the brains'. Which one you favour tends to reflect your own biases rather than any universal truth. Ideally, of course, you'd want both, ...

April 30th, 2015|

Unravelling the mysteries of in-depth psychological profiling

As a business psychologist, one of my main activities is in-depth psychological profiling of people. It’s not the only thing I do but it’s certainly a big part of my job. What I’ve realised when I talk to people, however, is that they don’t really understand what I mean by it. So this month I thought I’d go back to ...

March 31st, 2015|

One simple – but not easy – technique for better concentration and more emotional resilience

If I offered you a pill that had no side effects and promised to make you less stressed, more focused and less emotionally-reactive would you take it? Almost certainly, you would; you’d be a fool not to. And if it could also help you sleep better, improve your memory and concentration and might even help ward off dementia, you’d probably ...

February 27th, 2015|

Life in the fish tank – Where are you in this picture?

Do you advise businesses or other organisations for a living? Maybe you're a lawyer or an accountant, a management consultant or a non-exec director. Then this blog is for you. I want you to imagine an organisation as a fish tank.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a very small tank with just a few fish in it or a huge ...

January 28th, 2015|

The 7 most useful, interesting or just plain weird bits of psychology from 2014

It’s that time of year for annual roundups and reviews of the highlights of the year, so here are 7 of my favourite random bits of psychology from 2014, including when bankers cheat, the nasty side of niceness, the unexpected effect of women handling men’s underpants and why Brummies should consider relocating to Tel Aviv……… 1. How to appear more ...

December 18th, 2014|

Lacking inspiration? Six ways to kick start your brain

Do you ever find yourself lacking in inspiration, trying to solve a problem or make sense of a situation but coming up with nothing? I think it’s a fairly common experience and one I faced when I realised I’d need to write a blog for November and had absolutely no ideas – until it occurred to me to write about ...

November 27th, 2014|

Targets or deadlines – What’s your key driver?

Which motivates you more – targets or deadlines? That may sound like an odd question. They’re both about meeting some kind of goal in a certain time frame, after all. Well yes, but in my experience people tend to focus on one or the other and this has a profound impact on the way they work. People who focus on ...

October 31st, 2014|

Too much of a good thing – The hidden dangers of being too modest

No one likes a show off, right? We can all think of people who constantly bang on about how brilliant they are and what they’ve achieved this month. People who make sure you know what their house is worth or tell you the detailed spec of their high end car and so on and so on. It grates and, frankly, ...

September 30th, 2014|

Happy New Year – Working towards the future you envision

I don’t know about you but I always associate autumn with new beginnings. All those years of back-to-school shoe shopping, shiny new pencil cases and adjusting to a new form teacher ingrained the idea that September is when the new year begins. Even as an adult, September is the time you’re most likely to start learning French, sign up for a ...

August 26th, 2014|

Maybe it’s personal – Real and imagined family dynamics at work

Is there someone at work who really drives you nuts? Not just the usual workplace niggles but someone who really gets under your skin? Someone with whom it feels personal? Well maybe it is. Perhaps it all started with your family. That person may remind you of some you grew up with and you just haven’t noticed. Many workplaces take ...

July 31st, 2014|

How do you handle disagreement at work and what does that say about your level of maturity?

Think for a moment about a time when you disagreed strongly with a colleague. What was it like? How did you feel? What did you do? I’m thinking particularly about those situations where you can’t ‘agree to disagree’; you have to come up with an agreed course of action. These situations tend to occur most in your family life and ...

April 29th, 2014|

So you’re a leader – What do you actually do?

Much has been written about leadership and leaders. Are they born or made? Can you teach leadership? What are the characteristics of a great leader? And so on and so on. What is frequently omitted, however, is the question ‘What does a leader actually do?’. What is the job of leadership? It’s as though we think the answer is obvious, ...

March 31st, 2014|

Did psychologists bring down a bank?

If you’ve read the business pages of the papers recently, you might begin to believe that people like me, with our dangerous voodoo magic, at least indirectly caused the demise of the Co-op Bank. It follows revelations at a Treasury select committee hearing that – shockingly, it would seem – some (unspecified) form of psychometric testing was used in the ...

February 27th, 2014|

How do you focus on the stuff that matters?

Think back a month. A new year was about to start, you’d probably had at least a week away from work and maybe that had given you a sense of perspective. Perhaps you didn’t think about work at all, as you spent time on other things that matter in your life. Or maybe you got a different angle on some ...

January 31st, 2014|

Mince pies, mischief and malice – The dark side of the office Christmas party

In last month’s blog, I discussed the ‘shadow side’ of personality, i.e. those bits of ourselves which we normally keep hidden but which emerge when we’re too stressed, tired or drunk to keep up a polite façade any longer. I described three broad trends – under pressure some of us move towards others, some move away from others and some ...

December 18th, 2013|

Can psychology predict who will go off the rails?

So the former chairman of the UK’s leading ethical bank has been revealed as having an illegal drug habit and a colourful private life not entirely in-keeping with his image as an upstanding member of the community and man of the church. Naturally questions have been asked about just what kind of assessment or vetting process the Co-Op and the ...

November 22nd, 2013|

What does it take to get to the top in business?

Yesterday I was asked what it takes to reach the boardroom. It's not an unusual question to ask a business psychologist and when I coach on leadership programmes it's the background noise to most discussion. But it's not often I get asked by the Financial Times* and it led to an interesting conversation. What are senior leaders like? We started ...

September 28th, 2013|

Why it doesn’t pay to be too smart when you’re learning

How quickly do you learn? Are you one of those people who picks things up with ease? Feel slightly smug in training courses? Don’t need anything explaining twice? Well here’s a way of thinking about learning that might give you pause for thought. From my favourite assessment measure, the Cognitive Process Profile (CPP), comes the distinction between ‘Quick Insight’ and ...

August 28th, 2013|

The importance of managerial judgement

In my last blog post, I looked at how you can tell whether someone has the intellectual firepower to cope with a senior job. This is incredibly important but it's just the start. In situations where there is no 'right answer', people need to exercise judgement and a surprising number of people find this difficult. Good judgement pre-supposes that you've ...

July 11th, 2013|

How do you know if someone is up to the job?

You’ve got a vacancy for senior position. It’s critical you get the right person. You’ve got a range of qualified, experienced candidates to choose from. How do you know which ones are up to the job? I don’t mean here ‘Will they take on the responsibility?’ or ‘Can they handle the pressure?’. These are important factors and will be the ...

June 13th, 2013|

Why you might not want to rely on gut feeling when hiring new staff

When you’re hiring staff, how quickly do you make up your mind? Are you one of those managers who prides themselves on knowing the minute someone steps through the door whether they’re right for you? You get that ‘gut feeling’, you just know? Well here are some scientifically-grounded reasons why you might want to rethink your reliance on gut feeling. ...

August 8th, 2012|

Joining at a distance: Five things missing when people start new jobs remotely

We’re nearly a year into the pandemic and, for many of us, life goes on. I'm working with companies who are recruiting and coaching a couple of people who’ve started new leadership positions during lockdown. But starting a new job is different now.  This month I want to focus what's missing when people start new jobs in a pandemic. So ...

February 13th, 2021|

Myth #1: Technical specialists make lousy managers

This is the first in a series on workplace myths, many of which are based on stereotypes - soft female leaders, socially awkward geeks, psychologists obsessed with feelings. Like most stereotypes, there's generally a grain of truth in them. There's a reason we talk about German efficiency and Italian style, not the other way round. But stereotypes don't apply in ...

October 31st, 2018|

VUCA: What can the American military teach us about business?

Don’t worry, this isn’t another one of those articles suggesting that you need the camaraderie and grit of the marines as you lead your team through another gruelling week servicing the nation’s photocopiers or whatever it is you do for a living. This military lesson isn’t really about people at all. It’s about a way of thinking about situations. Developed ...

October 31st, 2015|

Looking for the potential in people – Should your career have breadth or depth?

Many organisations spend a lot of time and money identifying and developing ‘high potential’ employees. This is understandable – at least some of them are likely to be future leaders of the business. But what about everyone else? Don’t they deserve the chance to fulfil their potential too? Maybe it’s time we stopped looking for ‘people with potential’ and started ...

July 31st, 2015|

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. How much experience do you need to dabble in someone else’s job?

How much do you need to know about someone else’s job to have a say in it? Do you have to have done the job yourself to know whether they’re doing it properly? Common sense would suggest not – you don’t have to be a trained chef to recognise a badly cooked meal, for example. Yet a lot of people, ...

May 31st, 2015|

Experience or brains – Which matters more in a senior role?

Which matters more when you're hiring someone for a senior job - intelligence or experience? You may be thinking, 'it's obvious, go for the experience'. On the other hand, you may be thinking, 'it's obvious, go for the brains'. Which one you favour tends to reflect your own biases rather than any universal truth. Ideally, of course, you'd want both, ...

April 30th, 2015|

Unravelling the mysteries of in-depth psychological profiling

As a business psychologist, one of my main activities is in-depth psychological profiling of people. It’s not the only thing I do but it’s certainly a big part of my job. What I’ve realised when I talk to people, however, is that they don’t really understand what I mean by it. So this month I thought I’d go back to ...

March 31st, 2015|

Too much of a good thing – The hidden dangers of being too modest

No one likes a show off, right? We can all think of people who constantly bang on about how brilliant they are and what they’ve achieved this month. People who make sure you know what their house is worth or tell you the detailed spec of their high end car and so on and so on. It grates and, frankly, ...

September 30th, 2014|

Did psychologists bring down a bank?

If you’ve read the business pages of the papers recently, you might begin to believe that people like me, with our dangerous voodoo magic, at least indirectly caused the demise of the Co-op Bank. It follows revelations at a Treasury select committee hearing that – shockingly, it would seem – some (unspecified) form of psychometric testing was used in the ...

February 27th, 2014|

Mince pies, mischief and malice – The dark side of the office Christmas party

In last month’s blog, I discussed the ‘shadow side’ of personality, i.e. those bits of ourselves which we normally keep hidden but which emerge when we’re too stressed, tired or drunk to keep up a polite façade any longer. I described three broad trends – under pressure some of us move towards others, some move away from others and some ...

December 18th, 2013|

Can psychology predict who will go off the rails?

So the former chairman of the UK’s leading ethical bank has been revealed as having an illegal drug habit and a colourful private life not entirely in-keeping with his image as an upstanding member of the community and man of the church. Naturally questions have been asked about just what kind of assessment or vetting process the Co-Op and the ...

November 22nd, 2013|

Why it doesn’t pay to be too smart when you’re learning

How quickly do you learn? Are you one of those people who picks things up with ease? Feel slightly smug in training courses? Don’t need anything explaining twice? Well here’s a way of thinking about learning that might give you pause for thought. From my favourite assessment measure, the Cognitive Process Profile (CPP), comes the distinction between ‘Quick Insight’ and ...

August 28th, 2013|

The importance of managerial judgement

In my last blog post, I looked at how you can tell whether someone has the intellectual firepower to cope with a senior job. This is incredibly important but it's just the start. In situations where there is no 'right answer', people need to exercise judgement and a surprising number of people find this difficult. Good judgement pre-supposes that you've ...

July 11th, 2013|

How do you know if someone is up to the job?

You’ve got a vacancy for senior position. It’s critical you get the right person. You’ve got a range of qualified, experienced candidates to choose from. How do you know which ones are up to the job? I don’t mean here ‘Will they take on the responsibility?’ or ‘Can they handle the pressure?’. These are important factors and will be the ...

June 13th, 2013|

Why you might not want to rely on gut feeling when hiring new staff

When you’re hiring staff, how quickly do you make up your mind? Are you one of those managers who prides themselves on knowing the minute someone steps through the door whether they’re right for you? You get that ‘gut feeling’, you just know? Well here are some scientifically-grounded reasons why you might want to rethink your reliance on gut feeling. ...

August 8th, 2012|

Why do so few businesses have a decent strategy?

In my 25 years as a business psychologist, I've worked with a lot of businesses, particularly mid-sized companies, and it's surprising just how few of them have a decent strategy. By 'a decent strategy' I mean that the business knows where it's going and how it's going to get there. "We want to double in size in the next five ...

December 12th, 2022|

How should we address climate change at work? Part 2 – let’s talk about it

In November I wrote the first of a two-part series looking at the climate crisis in a work context. It explored the psychological barriers that stop us even thinking about the subject and ended with a promise that next time I'd explore what we should actually do. It's taken me four months to reach the conclusion that I don't know. ...

March 29th, 2022|

How should we address climate change at work? Part 1 – thinking about it.

This is the first of a two part series on the key topic of our age, the climate crisis. Specifically, looking at it in the context of work.  Your immediate reaction might be "Really, do I have to? It's bad enough when it's on the news and I have got quite a lot on right now". I get it. I ...

November 23rd, 2021|

In too deep? 7 questions to judge how involved to get in a piece of work

How involved should you get in work which is not your sole responsibility? It sounds like a straightforward question, but actually it can be quite tricky to work out. I've been thinking about this lately while coaching a client I'll call Brian. Brian is a very senior manager in a large and complex organisation, who has just taken on a ...

May 27th, 2021|

The psychology of influence – Seven psychological insights to increase your influence

I'm sure most of us would like to be more influential.  You probably won't be surprised to hear that understanding a bit of psychology can help. Ultimately, influence is all about decision-making. You want someone to decide to do what you want them to do. What psychological research tells us is that decision-making is such hard work that our brains ...

May 29th, 2018|

Passing the baton – A succession planning guide

How do you hand on a business you’ve spent years nurturing? This is a challenge facing many business owners as they eventually accept that they cannot go on forever. This month I’ve teamed up with Peter Jenner, from William Battle Ltd, who specialises in business succession to compare his process-focused approach with my psychological perspective. Peter has a model which aims ...

July 24th, 2017|

“Maybe you should see a psychologist” – How do you bring up this sensitive subject?

"Maybe you should see a psychologist". Has anyone ever suggested this to you? If they did, would you see it as a positive suggestion or would you be affronted, as if they were implying that all was not right in your head? It's tricky, isn't it? A bit of a taboo subject. Recently,  I've had a few conversations with people ...

September 30th, 2016|

You can lead a horse to water – A powerful psychological technique to encourage change

How do you persuade people to change? Maybe you have a colleague or a client who stubbornly refuses to do the one thing that everyone else can see would be in their best interests – the overloaded manager who won't delegate, the blundering leader who really needs coaching but sees it as a navel-gazing waste of time; the 60-something family ...

May 26th, 2016|

Need a NED? How to avoid the pitfalls when engaging a Non-Executive Director

A good non-exec director can do wonders for an SME, bringing experience and a different perspective, acting as a sounding board and challenging the exec team to ensure they focus on the right stuff: the important not the urgent, the long-term strategy, good corporate governance and so on. And yet companies don’t always seem to get non-exec appointments right. I want ...

June 30th, 2015|

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. How much experience do you need to dabble in someone else’s job?

How much do you need to know about someone else’s job to have a say in it? Do you have to have done the job yourself to know whether they’re doing it properly? Common sense would suggest not – you don’t have to be a trained chef to recognise a badly cooked meal, for example. Yet a lot of people, ...

May 31st, 2015|

Life in the fish tank – Where are you in this picture?

Do you advise businesses or other organisations for a living? Maybe you're a lawyer or an accountant, a management consultant or a non-exec director. Then this blog is for you. I want you to imagine an organisation as a fish tank.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a very small tank with just a few fish in it or a huge ...

January 28th, 2015|

In too deep? 7 questions to judge how involved to get in a piece of work

How involved should you get in work which is not your sole responsibility? It sounds like a straightforward question, but actually it can be quite tricky to work out. I've been thinking about this lately while coaching a client I'll call Brian. Brian is a very senior manager in a large and complex organisation, who has just taken on a ...

May 27th, 2021|

Joining at a distance: Five things missing when people start new jobs remotely

We’re nearly a year into the pandemic and, for many of us, life goes on. I'm working with companies who are recruiting and coaching a couple of people who’ve started new leadership positions during lockdown. But starting a new job is different now.  This month I want to focus what's missing when people start new jobs in a pandemic. So ...

February 13th, 2021|

Are we all imposters now?

A recent survey on LinkedIn suggested that the pandemic has caused an outbreak of Imposter Syndrome among senior leaders. Apparently 52% of the leaders surveyed have found themselves doubting their ability to lead their organisations through this crisis. I wasn't surprised by this - who can really say that they know what they're doing right now? The only people who've ...

September 30th, 2020|

Finding focus in difficult times – A leadership challenge

If you're a leader, how do you find focus at a time like this? It's unlikely you've ever faced such a significant challenge. You may be in a front line organisation with staff in personal danger; you may be worried for the very survival of your business or you may be struggling to cope with unprecedented demand for your services.  ...

March 31st, 2020|

Part 3: A leadership coaching journey – Analysing the business plan

This is the final instalment of an exploration of one person's leadership coaching experience. This is a real client, who kindly agreed to become a case study, with details changed to maintain his anonymity. "Andrew" was the newly appointed MD of an IT company employing around 150 people.  In the first instalment, I looked at coaching conversations related to Andrew's working ...

September 30th, 2019|

Part 2: A leadership coaching journey – Delegation and team working

This is the second instalment of an exploration of one person's leadership coaching experience. This is a real client, who kindly agreed to become a case study, with details changed to maintain his anonymity. "Andrew" was the newly appointed MD of an IT company employing around 150 people. Last month I looked at coaching conversations related to Andrew's working relationships. ...

August 31st, 2019|

Part 1: A leadership coaching journey – Improving working relationships

Leadership coaching is one of the key services I offer but it's not easy to explain what it's actually like. So over the next couple of months I'm going to tell the story of one person's coaching journey to try to bring it to life. This is a real client, who has kindly given his permission (thanks "Andrew"). Whilst it ...

July 31st, 2019|

“Maybe you should see a psychologist” – How do you bring up this sensitive subject?

"Maybe you should see a psychologist". Has anyone ever suggested this to you? If they did, would you see it as a positive suggestion or would you be affronted, as if they were implying that all was not right in your head? It's tricky, isn't it? A bit of a taboo subject. Recently,  I've had a few conversations with people ...

September 30th, 2016|

Conquering your anxieties. Tiny steps of astonishing bravery

How do you make progress with those day-to-day anxieties that hold you back in life and at work? I’m thinking of those fears that seem irrational when you try to explain them to others but which can exert a great hold over you. Most of us have some niggling worries, but some people have more than their fair share to ...

March 31st, 2016|

How do you handle disagreement at work and what does that say about your level of maturity?

Think for a moment about a time when you disagreed strongly with a colleague. What was it like? How did you feel? What did you do? I’m thinking particularly about those situations where you can’t ‘agree to disagree’; you have to come up with an agreed course of action. These situations tend to occur most in your family life and ...

April 29th, 2014|

Producing great work or making things happen? Which motivates you?

Think back to the last time you felt really pleased* with your work. What caused you to be pleased? Did you produce some really good quality work - a design, a report, an ad campaign? Or did you make something happen - hit a target, win a new client? I don't want to suggest that these things are mutually exclusive, ...

July 26th, 2023|

The one thing that enhances your chances of career success

  What makes some people more successful in their careers, particularly leadership careers, than others? It's tempting to answer that by considering the attributes of successful people. Generally, they are smart enough to handle the complexity inherent in a senior role and to make decisions whose ramifications may not be fully understood for five or ten years. They have good ...

October 31st, 2019|

Myth #1: Technical specialists make lousy managers

This is the first in a series on workplace myths, many of which are based on stereotypes - soft female leaders, socially awkward geeks, psychologists obsessed with feelings. Like most stereotypes, there's generally a grain of truth in them. There's a reason we talk about German efficiency and Italian style, not the other way round. But stereotypes don't apply in ...

October 31st, 2018|

Delegation: The art of self-management?

Last month, I discussed the dimensions of delegation, which prompted one reader to tell me that, for him, the hardest part of delegating is managing his own responses - dealing with frustration and reining in his inner control freak, for example. I recognise from my years of coaching that this is something many people struggle with. So this month, I'm looking ...

September 28th, 2018|

Giving it all away? Seven dimensions of delegation

Getting someone else to carry out tasks on your behalf is a key management skill and one that a lot of people struggle with. They micro-manage and interfere too much or they abdicate responsibility and leave people floundering. There's no formula for good delegation - it depends on the task and the individual you're delegating it to. But you may find ...

August 30th, 2018|

Lopsided leadership – Too much of a good thing?

Play to your strengths - that's good advice, right? Well generally, yes, it is. There's a whole school of thought in HR and business psychology that says you're much more likely to improve your performance if you keep developing something you're already good at and use it more, than if you doggedly try and overcome some persistent weakness. But that's ...

June 30th, 2018|

Can you be a nice leader? How to grow as a leader and develop your ‘inner Jim’

A little while ago, someone sent me an article from the Havard Business Review about the dangers of hiring a nice CEO. I found I had quite a strong reaction just to the title. I know a number of nice, decent, successful CEOs, MDs and other leaders in senior positions and was primed to leap to their defence. Were they suggesting hiring ...

October 27th, 2016|

Finding your own natural authority – Can you handle power?

How do you feel about power? Is it something you crave or something which makes you feel uncomfortable? And how powerful do you actually feel as a person? I’ve been thinking a lot about power recently while working with some senior leaders. In particular, I’m interested in the match – or mismatch – between the power people get from their roles ...

September 30th, 2015|

Looking for the potential in people – Should your career have breadth or depth?

Many organisations spend a lot of time and money identifying and developing ‘high potential’ employees. This is understandable – at least some of them are likely to be future leaders of the business. But what about everyone else? Don’t they deserve the chance to fulfil their potential too? Maybe it’s time we stopped looking for ‘people with potential’ and started ...

July 31st, 2015|

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. How much experience do you need to dabble in someone else’s job?

How much do you need to know about someone else’s job to have a say in it? Do you have to have done the job yourself to know whether they’re doing it properly? Common sense would suggest not – you don’t have to be a trained chef to recognise a badly cooked meal, for example. Yet a lot of people, ...

May 31st, 2015|

Experience or brains – Which matters more in a senior role?

Which matters more when you're hiring someone for a senior job - intelligence or experience? You may be thinking, 'it's obvious, go for the experience'. On the other hand, you may be thinking, 'it's obvious, go for the brains'. Which one you favour tends to reflect your own biases rather than any universal truth. Ideally, of course, you'd want both, ...

April 30th, 2015|

Targets or deadlines – What’s your key driver?

Which motivates you more – targets or deadlines? That may sound like an odd question. They’re both about meeting some kind of goal in a certain time frame, after all. Well yes, but in my experience people tend to focus on one or the other and this has a profound impact on the way they work. People who focus on ...

October 31st, 2014|

So you’re a leader – What do you actually do?

Much has been written about leadership and leaders. Are they born or made? Can you teach leadership? What are the characteristics of a great leader? And so on and so on. What is frequently omitted, however, is the question ‘What does a leader actually do?’. What is the job of leadership? It’s as though we think the answer is obvious, ...

March 31st, 2014|

What does it take to get to the top in business?

Yesterday I was asked what it takes to reach the boardroom. It's not an unusual question to ask a business psychologist and when I coach on leadership programmes it's the background noise to most discussion. But it's not often I get asked by the Financial Times* and it led to an interesting conversation. What are senior leaders like? We started ...

September 28th, 2013|

Why it doesn’t pay to be too smart when you’re learning

How quickly do you learn? Are you one of those people who picks things up with ease? Feel slightly smug in training courses? Don’t need anything explaining twice? Well here’s a way of thinking about learning that might give you pause for thought. From my favourite assessment measure, the Cognitive Process Profile (CPP), comes the distinction between ‘Quick Insight’ and ...

August 28th, 2013|

The importance of managerial judgement

In my last blog post, I looked at how you can tell whether someone has the intellectual firepower to cope with a senior job. This is incredibly important but it's just the start. In situations where there is no 'right answer', people need to exercise judgement and a surprising number of people find this difficult. Good judgement pre-supposes that you've ...

July 11th, 2013|

How do you know if someone is up to the job?

You’ve got a vacancy for senior position. It’s critical you get the right person. You’ve got a range of qualified, experienced candidates to choose from. How do you know which ones are up to the job? I don’t mean here ‘Will they take on the responsibility?’ or ‘Can they handle the pressure?’. These are important factors and will be the ...

June 13th, 2013|

The riskiest behaviour I’ve engaged in – and I bet you have too

I don't think of myself as much of a risk taker. I'm generally fairly cautious - no high risk investments, Vegas holidays or adventure sports for me. But recently I've noticed just how risky some of my behaviour can be. I guarantee some of yours is too. To illustrate, let me tell you about my garden. When we moved into ...

May 31st, 2022|

How should we address climate change at work? Part 1 – thinking about it.

This is the first of a two part series on the key topic of our age, the climate crisis. Specifically, looking at it in the context of work.  Your immediate reaction might be "Really, do I have to? It's bad enough when it's on the news and I have got quite a lot on right now". I get it. I ...

November 23rd, 2021|

Who do you think you are?

I'm not issuing that as a challenge, more an invitation for some gentle introspection. The way we think about our identity - the way we describe ourselves to ourselves and to others - has an impact on the way we operate in the world. This is particularly true in our working lives and sometimes that impact is not helpful. So ...

April 20th, 2021|

What do we mean by resilience? A conversation with a CEO

Resilience. There's a topic that's had loads of airtime over the last year. How resilient are you? How do you improve your resilience? I wrote about it myself just a few months ago. But what do we really mean by resilience – and might some definitions actually be unhelpful? This month's blog was inspired by a conversation with an experienced ...

March 12th, 2021|

Resilience: 8 tips for getting through the next few months

Well here we are again. Back in lockdown and somehow, this time it feels harder, probably because it's the middle of winter. There is light at the end of the tunnel but we've suddenly realised that the tunnel is longer than we thought and has a murky difficult section we hadn't anticipated. So how do we get through the next ...

January 8th, 2021|

Are you in control of your destiny?

How much do you feel in control of your own destiny? Do you see your successes as the results of your efforts? What about your failures? This month I’m going to look at a concept that psychologists call ‘locus of control’ – whether you see control of your life being internally or an externally driven. This is something which is ...

November 30th, 2020|

COVID-19: What next? Who knows? Living with uncertainty

So here we are, tentatively venturing back out into the world and wondering what life will be like. There is no shortage of commentators predicting the business, societal and political changes which will result from the pandemic. I am not one of them. What I want to look at is how we handle the level of uncertainty we are facing. ...

June 26th, 2020|

Self-compassion, not self-indulgence – Looking after number one

My intention this month was to write about compassion. Lord knows we could all do with some of that right now. But then a post on LinkedIn caused me to rethink. It bemoaned the number of articles exhorting us to "Be Kind" when actually many people are at the end of their tether. Someone added in the comments "I can't ...

April 30th, 2020|

Seven psychological tips for making change that lasts

Last month, you may recall, I wrote about how to feel better about yourself if you hadn't achieved all you wanted to as we approached the end of the year. This month, as we contemplate a new decade and you might want to do things differently, I'm looking at what psychology tells us about making changes that stick. 1. ...

December 31st, 2019|

And so this is Christmas – and what have you done?

Another year over, a new one just begun. I've been living with this song for weeks as the choir I sing with rehearses for Christmas. I don't know about you but the line 'another year over' tends to leave me with a slight feeling of existential dread. It's worse this year, as another decade is over and what have I ...

November 30th, 2019|

Myth #6: EQ is more important than IQ

In the latest in my series on workplace myths, I'm turning my attention to emotional intelligence. There are numerous articles out there claiming that, not only is emotional intelligence important, but that, for career success, it's more important than intelligence. But is it? Let's go back to basics: What is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence is the ability to: a) recognise ...

April 30th, 2019|

Myth #5: Perfectionism is an allowable weakness

In the fifth of my series on workplace myths, I'm turning my attention to perfectionism. I'm sure you're all familiar with this hackneyed exchange: Interviewer: "What are your weaknesses?" Candidate: "Well sometimes I can get a bit perfectionist about my work". Job done. The candidate smiles inwardly knowing that a) what they really meant was "sometimes I'm just too damn ...

March 31st, 2019|

Three reasons why stress is a meaningless concept

Is your job stressful? Do you feel stressed right now? Or are some of your colleagues going through a stressful time? If so, you and your organisation would be fairly typical of the modern workplace. So given that I'm a psychologist, you're probably anticipating some tips on how to deal with workplace stress. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I actually ...

February 28th, 2018|

Part 4: Caution emotion at work – How to handle personal and colleague envy

This is the final article in my series on emotion at work and this time I'm tackling the one that rarely gets talked about - envy, and its frequent companion, resentment. Whereas feeling anxious or angry is seen as fairly normal at work, envy seems to be more of a shameful secret. After all, if you're envious it means someone ...

January 25th, 2018|

Part 3: Caution emotion at work – How to handle someone else’s anger at work

This is the third in a series on emotion at work. Having looked last time at how to handle your own anger at work, this month I'm focusing on dealing with someone else's anger. Angry people can be intimidating, so it's useful to have strategies for dealing with them, depending on where their anger is directed. 1. Rage against the ...

December 19th, 2017|

Part 2: Caution emotion at work – How to handle your anger at work

This is the second in a short series on emotion at work. Last month I tackled anxiety, this month I'm moving on to anger. I realised while writing this that there's enough to say about handling your own anger at work to fill an article, so I'm saving other people's anger til next time. Anger tends to be the emotion ...

November 29th, 2017|

Part 1: Caution emotion at work – Managing and supporting personal anxiety

Wouldn't it be great if work was a place of calm and rationality all the time? Somewhere where you didn't have to deal with messy feelings - yours or anyone else's. In the not too distant future, when we've mostly been replaced by robots, that'll probably be the case, but until then emotions will remain an integral part of work. ...

October 31st, 2017|

Five strategies for avoiding conflict and why you should ditch them all

What do you think of when you hear the word 'conflict'? I think for a lot of us, conflict conjures up a particularly bad Eastenders' Christmas - raised voices, harsh words, fists flying, someone trying to calm things down by saying "Leave it Barry, he ain't worth it". In fact, many of us are so afraid of this kind of conflict ...

May 24th, 2017|

Can I trust you? Six aspects of human interaction where questions of trust arise

I've been thinking a lot about trust lately, partly because I've been working with teams. Trust is the bedrock of team work, but the more I talk and read about it, the more I realise that we're not always talking about the same thing. It's not as straightforward as 'I trust you or I don't'. It's not even about trusting ...

April 27th, 2017|

Think you’re a good listener? Seven scenarios where you might not be listening as well as you could

How good a listener are you? I was reminded of the importance of good listening recently while attending a talk by a coach who brings real focus and attention to her coaching. Her clients really do get a damn good listening to. I like to think that mine do too, but it made me reflect on the times when perhaps I ...

March 28th, 2017|

Dealing with self-criticism – Four strategies for handling your inner critic

How strong is your inner critic? Most of us have a critical voice in our heads at some point but for some people it's relentless and often vicious. People who would never dream of calling someone else a completely useless idiot are often all too willing to apply the label to themselves. I'm not suggesting that self-criticism has no function: ...

January 24th, 2017|

Not so bad after all. Four reasons to change your perspective on negative thinking

Last month I wrote about the surprising downsides of positive thinking. This month I want to flip that around and consider four reasons we might want to change our perspective on negative thinking. 1. You're going to do it anyway Cast your mind back to the last time you were worried about something. If someone had told you to stop worrying ...

December 20th, 2016|

Think positive? – Three examples of positive thinking that could be counter-productive

Positive thinking - it's a good thing, right? Whether we're talking about a traditional British "Chin up old chap, look on the bright side" or a 21st century, social media motivational quote - "Find a place inside yourself where nothing is impossible" - it's all, well, positive, isn't it? Well, actually, no; it turns out isn't. Here are three examples of positive ...

November 29th, 2016|

“Maybe you should see a psychologist” – How do you bring up this sensitive subject?

"Maybe you should see a psychologist". Has anyone ever suggested this to you? If they did, would you see it as a positive suggestion or would you be affronted, as if they were implying that all was not right in your head? It's tricky, isn't it? A bit of a taboo subject. Recently,  I've had a few conversations with people ...

September 30th, 2016|

Conquering your anxieties. Tiny steps of astonishing bravery

How do you make progress with those day-to-day anxieties that hold you back in life and at work? I’m thinking of those fears that seem irrational when you try to explain them to others but which can exert a great hold over you. Most of us have some niggling worries, but some people have more than their fair share to ...

March 31st, 2016|

Crisis management – What’s the worst that can happen?

What are you like in a crisis? I don't mean the life or death, split-second decision type crises that we all hope we'll never face - escaping a burning building, being taken hostage by terrorists or other stuff of nightmares. None of us really knows how we'd react in those situations and, if we're lucky, we never find out. I'm thinking ...

November 30th, 2015|

One simple – but not easy – technique for better concentration and more emotional resilience

If I offered you a pill that had no side effects and promised to make you less stressed, more focused and less emotionally-reactive would you take it? Almost certainly, you would; you’d be a fool not to. And if it could also help you sleep better, improve your memory and concentration and might even help ward off dementia, you’d probably ...

February 27th, 2015|

Lacking inspiration? Six ways to kick start your brain

Do you ever find yourself lacking in inspiration, trying to solve a problem or make sense of a situation but coming up with nothing? I think it’s a fairly common experience and one I faced when I realised I’d need to write a blog for November and had absolutely no ideas – until it occurred to me to write about ...

November 27th, 2014|

Too much of a good thing – The hidden dangers of being too modest

No one likes a show off, right? We can all think of people who constantly bang on about how brilliant they are and what they’ve achieved this month. People who make sure you know what their house is worth or tell you the detailed spec of their high end car and so on and so on. It grates and, frankly, ...

September 30th, 2014|

Maybe it’s personal – Real and imagined family dynamics at work

Is there someone at work who really drives you nuts? Not just the usual workplace niggles but someone who really gets under your skin? Someone with whom it feels personal? Well maybe it is. Perhaps it all started with your family. That person may remind you of some you grew up with and you just haven’t noticed. Many workplaces take ...

July 31st, 2014|

How do you handle disagreement at work and what does that say about your level of maturity?

Think for a moment about a time when you disagreed strongly with a colleague. What was it like? How did you feel? What did you do? I’m thinking particularly about those situations where you can’t ‘agree to disagree’; you have to come up with an agreed course of action. These situations tend to occur most in your family life and ...

April 29th, 2014|

Mince pies, mischief and malice – The dark side of the office Christmas party

In last month’s blog, I discussed the ‘shadow side’ of personality, i.e. those bits of ourselves which we normally keep hidden but which emerge when we’re too stressed, tired or drunk to keep up a polite façade any longer. I described three broad trends – under pressure some of us move towards others, some move away from others and some ...

December 18th, 2013|

Why you might not want to rely on gut feeling when hiring new staff

When you’re hiring staff, how quickly do you make up your mind? Are you one of those managers who prides themselves on knowing the minute someone steps through the door whether they’re right for you? You get that ‘gut feeling’, you just know? Well here are some scientifically-grounded reasons why you might want to rethink your reliance on gut feeling. ...

August 8th, 2012|

Passing the baton – A succession planning guide

How do you hand on a business you’ve spent years nurturing? This is a challenge facing many business owners as they eventually accept that they cannot go on forever. This month I’ve teamed up with Peter Jenner, from William Battle Ltd, who specialises in business succession to compare his process-focused approach with my psychological perspective. Peter has a model which aims ...

July 24th, 2017|

Business is business – Six pitfalls of family business leadership

First and foremost, family businesses are businesses. Like all organisations they require good leadership. In this article, I'd like to highlight some of the common pitfalls of family business leadership. But first, let's recap what leadership involves. In a previous article, I talked about what leaders do based on a leadership model called the Primary Colours® Model. The model identifies the tasks ...

June 28th, 2017|

Life in the fish tank – Where are you in this picture?

Do you advise businesses or other organisations for a living? Maybe you're a lawyer or an accountant, a management consultant or a non-exec director. Then this blog is for you. I want you to imagine an organisation as a fish tank.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a very small tank with just a few fish in it or a huge ...

January 28th, 2015|

Maybe it’s personal – Real and imagined family dynamics at work

Is there someone at work who really drives you nuts? Not just the usual workplace niggles but someone who really gets under your skin? Someone with whom it feels personal? Well maybe it is. Perhaps it all started with your family. That person may remind you of some you grew up with and you just haven’t noticed. Many workplaces take ...

July 31st, 2014|

How do you navigate organisational politics?

What do you think of when you hear the term 'organisational politics'? My hunch is it's back stabbing, pointless rivalries, sucking up to the boss, that kind of thing. I'm not going to pretend that that isn't a feature of many workplaces. If you work somewhere with really dysfunctional politics, it pays to be alert, to work out who you ...

October 4th, 2021|

In too deep? 7 questions to judge how involved to get in a piece of work

How involved should you get in work which is not your sole responsibility? It sounds like a straightforward question, but actually it can be quite tricky to work out. I've been thinking about this lately while coaching a client I'll call Brian. Brian is a very senior manager in a large and complex organisation, who has just taken on a ...

May 27th, 2021|

The psychology of influence – Seven psychological insights to increase your influence

I'm sure most of us would like to be more influential.  You probably won't be surprised to hear that understanding a bit of psychology can help. Ultimately, influence is all about decision-making. You want someone to decide to do what you want them to do. What psychological research tells us is that decision-making is such hard work that our brains ...

May 29th, 2018|

You can lead a horse to water – A powerful psychological technique to encourage change

How do you persuade people to change? Maybe you have a colleague or a client who stubbornly refuses to do the one thing that everyone else can see would be in their best interests – the overloaded manager who won't delegate, the blundering leader who really needs coaching but sees it as a navel-gazing waste of time; the 60-something family ...

May 26th, 2016|

Finding your own natural authority – Can you handle power?

How do you feel about power? Is it something you crave or something which makes you feel uncomfortable? And how powerful do you actually feel as a person? I’ve been thinking a lot about power recently while working with some senior leaders. In particular, I’m interested in the match – or mismatch – between the power people get from their roles ...

September 30th, 2015|

What have I got myself into? 7 tips for handling a ‘poisoned chalice’ career opportunity

Have you ever been given a fabulous career opportunity that didn't turn out to be quite such an unalloyed joy after all? In the last month or so, I've worked with five different people - some in medium-sized businesses, some in multi-national corporations - whose exciting new jobs turned out to be something of a poisoned chalice. It seemed worth ...

August 31st, 2015|

Producing great work or making things happen? Which motivates you?

Think back to the last time you felt really pleased* with your work. What caused you to be pleased? Did you produce some really good quality work - a design, a report, an ad campaign? Or did you make something happen - hit a target, win a new client? I don't want to suggest that these things are mutually exclusive, ...

July 26th, 2023|

Why do so few businesses have a decent strategy?

In my 25 years as a business psychologist, I've worked with a lot of businesses, particularly mid-sized companies, and it's surprising just how few of them have a decent strategy. By 'a decent strategy' I mean that the business knows where it's going and how it's going to get there. "We want to double in size in the next five ...

December 12th, 2022|

The riskiest behaviour I’ve engaged in – and I bet you have too

I don't think of myself as much of a risk taker. I'm generally fairly cautious - no high risk investments, Vegas holidays or adventure sports for me. But recently I've noticed just how risky some of my behaviour can be. I guarantee some of yours is too. To illustrate, let me tell you about my garden. When we moved into ...

May 31st, 2022|

How should we address climate change at work? Part 2 – let’s talk about it

In November I wrote the first of a two-part series looking at the climate crisis in a work context. It explored the psychological barriers that stop us even thinking about the subject and ended with a promise that next time I'd explore what we should actually do. It's taken me four months to reach the conclusion that I don't know. ...

March 29th, 2022|

How do you navigate organisational politics?

What do you think of when you hear the term 'organisational politics'? My hunch is it's back stabbing, pointless rivalries, sucking up to the boss, that kind of thing. I'm not going to pretend that that isn't a feature of many workplaces. If you work somewhere with really dysfunctional politics, it pays to be alert, to work out who you ...

October 4th, 2021|

Who do you think you are?

I'm not issuing that as a challenge, more an invitation for some gentle introspection. The way we think about our identity - the way we describe ourselves to ourselves and to others - has an impact on the way we operate in the world. This is particularly true in our working lives and sometimes that impact is not helpful. So ...

April 20th, 2021|

What do we mean by resilience? A conversation with a CEO

Resilience. There's a topic that's had loads of airtime over the last year. How resilient are you? How do you improve your resilience? I wrote about it myself just a few months ago. But what do we really mean by resilience – and might some definitions actually be unhelpful? This month's blog was inspired by a conversation with an experienced ...

March 12th, 2021|

Joining at a distance: Five things missing when people start new jobs remotely

We’re nearly a year into the pandemic and, for many of us, life goes on. I'm working with companies who are recruiting and coaching a couple of people who’ve started new leadership positions during lockdown. But starting a new job is different now.  This month I want to focus what's missing when people start new jobs in a pandemic. So ...

February 13th, 2021|

COVID-19: What will September bring?

It may be only the end of July but I'm turning my attention to September as I think it's worth planning for now. September has always had a feel of New Year, back to normal about it, but this year what kind of normal will it be? Even if you're going to keep working from home well into next year, ...

July 29th, 2020|

COVID-19: What next? Who knows? Living with uncertainty

So here we are, tentatively venturing back out into the world and wondering what life will be like. There is no shortage of commentators predicting the business, societal and political changes which will result from the pandemic. I am not one of them. What I want to look at is how we handle the level of uncertainty we are facing. ...

June 26th, 2020|

COVID-19: Expert leadership resources

This is not an ordinary blog post, it's a space to collect resources that may be useful to leaders in this time of crisis. The first resource is the free Primary Colours Covid-19 Leadership Survival Guide which I have devised in conjunction with Edgecumbe Consulting Group who own the model. The aim of the guide is to give leaders a ...

April 9th, 2020|

Finding focus in difficult times – A leadership challenge

If you're a leader, how do you find focus at a time like this? It's unlikely you've ever faced such a significant challenge. You may be in a front line organisation with staff in personal danger; you may be worried for the very survival of your business or you may be struggling to cope with unprecedented demand for your services.  ...

March 31st, 2020|

Why is teamwork so hard? How to develop better team working

Having worked out what is and isn't a team last month, this month I'm looking at why so many teams fail to work well together and what you can do to develop better team working. The insecure leader One of the first reasons teams fail is not recognising that they are - or should be - a team in the ...

February 29th, 2020|

What is a team? It’s not as straightforward as you think

Does that sound like a daft question? Surely everyone knows what a team is. But actually, it's not as straightforward as you might think. For example, a group of people working for the same boss is not necessarily team, no matter how much the manager talks about "my team". A team is a group of people working towards a shared ...

January 31st, 2020|

Part 3: A leadership coaching journey – Analysing the business plan

This is the final instalment of an exploration of one person's leadership coaching experience. This is a real client, who kindly agreed to become a case study, with details changed to maintain his anonymity. "Andrew" was the newly appointed MD of an IT company employing around 150 people.  In the first instalment, I looked at coaching conversations related to Andrew's working ...

September 30th, 2019|

Part 2: A leadership coaching journey – Delegation and team working

This is the second instalment of an exploration of one person's leadership coaching experience. This is a real client, who kindly agreed to become a case study, with details changed to maintain his anonymity. "Andrew" was the newly appointed MD of an IT company employing around 150 people. Last month I looked at coaching conversations related to Andrew's working relationships. ...

August 31st, 2019|

Part 1: A leadership coaching journey – Improving working relationships

Leadership coaching is one of the key services I offer but it's not easy to explain what it's actually like. So over the next couple of months I'm going to tell the story of one person's coaching journey to try to bring it to life. This is a real client, who has kindly given his permission (thanks "Andrew"). Whilst it ...

July 31st, 2019|

Myth #5: Perfectionism is an allowable weakness

In the fifth of my series on workplace myths, I'm turning my attention to perfectionism. I'm sure you're all familiar with this hackneyed exchange: Interviewer: "What are your weaknesses?" Candidate: "Well sometimes I can get a bit perfectionist about my work". Job done. The candidate smiles inwardly knowing that a) what they really meant was "sometimes I'm just too damn ...

March 31st, 2019|

Myth #4: Female leaders are more nurturing

This is the fourth in a series on workplace myths, those pervasive beliefs that hold a grain of truth but might not be as widely applicable as we think. This one feels very 21st century to me. We've got used to seeing more women in leadership roles (until you get to the very top) and there's a feeling that they ...

February 27th, 2019|

Myth #3: Experienced professionals don’t need managing

This is the third in my series on workplace myths - those pervasive beliefs that contain a grain of truth but may not be as applicable as you think. Some of you may be wondering why I'm considering this one as a myth at all. If you've suffered the horrors of a control freak micro-manager, you may long to be ...

January 24th, 2019|

Myth #1: Technical specialists make lousy managers

This is the first in a series on workplace myths, many of which are based on stereotypes - soft female leaders, socially awkward geeks, psychologists obsessed with feelings. Like most stereotypes, there's generally a grain of truth in them. There's a reason we talk about German efficiency and Italian style, not the other way round. But stereotypes don't apply in ...

October 31st, 2018|

Delegation: The art of self-management?

Last month, I discussed the dimensions of delegation, which prompted one reader to tell me that, for him, the hardest part of delegating is managing his own responses - dealing with frustration and reining in his inner control freak, for example. I recognise from my years of coaching that this is something many people struggle with. So this month, I'm looking ...

September 28th, 2018|

Giving it all away? Seven dimensions of delegation

Getting someone else to carry out tasks on your behalf is a key management skill and one that a lot of people struggle with. They micro-manage and interfere too much or they abdicate responsibility and leave people floundering. There's no formula for good delegation - it depends on the task and the individual you're delegating it to. But you may find ...

August 30th, 2018|

Lopsided leadership – Too much of a good thing?

Play to your strengths - that's good advice, right? Well generally, yes, it is. There's a whole school of thought in HR and business psychology that says you're much more likely to improve your performance if you keep developing something you're already good at and use it more, than if you doggedly try and overcome some persistent weakness. But that's ...

June 30th, 2018|

Passing the baton – A succession planning guide

How do you hand on a business you’ve spent years nurturing? This is a challenge facing many business owners as they eventually accept that they cannot go on forever. This month I’ve teamed up with Peter Jenner, from William Battle Ltd, who specialises in business succession to compare his process-focused approach with my psychological perspective. Peter has a model which aims ...

July 24th, 2017|

Five strategies for avoiding conflict and why you should ditch them all

What do you think of when you hear the word 'conflict'? I think for a lot of us, conflict conjures up a particularly bad Eastenders' Christmas - raised voices, harsh words, fists flying, someone trying to calm things down by saying "Leave it Barry, he ain't worth it". In fact, many of us are so afraid of this kind of conflict ...

May 24th, 2017|

Can you be a nice leader? How to grow as a leader and develop your ‘inner Jim’

A little while ago, someone sent me an article from the Havard Business Review about the dangers of hiring a nice CEO. I found I had quite a strong reaction just to the title. I know a number of nice, decent, successful CEOs, MDs and other leaders in senior positions and was primed to leap to their defence. Were they suggesting hiring ...

October 27th, 2016|

The age of female leadership? – Why female leaders are perceived differently

Well isn't this interesting - women are taking over the world. We have a female Prime Minister, the most powerful politician in Europe is a woman and I can't be the only one fervently hoping that the next US president is a woman because the alternative is too ghastly to contemplate. But will things be any different? Do women bring different ...

July 29th, 2016|

Conquering your anxieties. Tiny steps of astonishing bravery

How do you make progress with those day-to-day anxieties that hold you back in life and at work? I’m thinking of those fears that seem irrational when you try to explain them to others but which can exert a great hold over you. Most of us have some niggling worries, but some people have more than their fair share to ...

March 31st, 2016|

Three management fads to be wary of in 2016

So we’re well into the New Year, your feet are back under the desk, Christmas is a distant memory and maybe you’re thinking about things you might do differently at work in 2016. There’ll be no shortage of people to advise you on exciting new approaches you might want to try but how do you know what works? Well here ...

January 27th, 2016|

VUCA: What can the American military teach us about business?

Don’t worry, this isn’t another one of those articles suggesting that you need the camaraderie and grit of the marines as you lead your team through another gruelling week servicing the nation’s photocopiers or whatever it is you do for a living. This military lesson isn’t really about people at all. It’s about a way of thinking about situations. Developed ...

October 31st, 2015|

Finding your own natural authority – Can you handle power?

How do you feel about power? Is it something you crave or something which makes you feel uncomfortable? And how powerful do you actually feel as a person? I’ve been thinking a lot about power recently while working with some senior leaders. In particular, I’m interested in the match – or mismatch – between the power people get from their roles ...

September 30th, 2015|

What have I got myself into? 7 tips for handling a ‘poisoned chalice’ career opportunity

Have you ever been given a fabulous career opportunity that didn't turn out to be quite such an unalloyed joy after all? In the last month or so, I've worked with five different people - some in medium-sized businesses, some in multi-national corporations - whose exciting new jobs turned out to be something of a poisoned chalice. It seemed worth ...

August 31st, 2015|

Need a NED? How to avoid the pitfalls when engaging a Non-Executive Director

A good non-exec director can do wonders for an SME, bringing experience and a different perspective, acting as a sounding board and challenging the exec team to ensure they focus on the right stuff: the important not the urgent, the long-term strategy, good corporate governance and so on. And yet companies don’t always seem to get non-exec appointments right. I want ...

June 30th, 2015|

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. How much experience do you need to dabble in someone else’s job?

How much do you need to know about someone else’s job to have a say in it? Do you have to have done the job yourself to know whether they’re doing it properly? Common sense would suggest not – you don’t have to be a trained chef to recognise a badly cooked meal, for example. Yet a lot of people, ...

May 31st, 2015|

Experience or brains – Which matters more in a senior role?

Which matters more when you're hiring someone for a senior job - intelligence or experience? You may be thinking, 'it's obvious, go for the experience'. On the other hand, you may be thinking, 'it's obvious, go for the brains'. Which one you favour tends to reflect your own biases rather than any universal truth. Ideally, of course, you'd want both, ...

April 30th, 2015|

Targets or deadlines – What’s your key driver?

Which motivates you more – targets or deadlines? That may sound like an odd question. They’re both about meeting some kind of goal in a certain time frame, after all. Well yes, but in my experience people tend to focus on one or the other and this has a profound impact on the way they work. People who focus on ...

October 31st, 2014|

Too much of a good thing – The hidden dangers of being too modest

No one likes a show off, right? We can all think of people who constantly bang on about how brilliant they are and what they’ve achieved this month. People who make sure you know what their house is worth or tell you the detailed spec of their high end car and so on and so on. It grates and, frankly, ...

September 30th, 2014|

So you’re a leader – What do you actually do?

Much has been written about leadership and leaders. Are they born or made? Can you teach leadership? What are the characteristics of a great leader? And so on and so on. What is frequently omitted, however, is the question ‘What does a leader actually do?’. What is the job of leadership? It’s as though we think the answer is obvious, ...

March 31st, 2014|

The importance of managerial judgement

In my last blog post, I looked at how you can tell whether someone has the intellectual firepower to cope with a senior job. This is incredibly important but it's just the start. In situations where there is no 'right answer', people need to exercise judgement and a surprising number of people find this difficult. Good judgement pre-supposes that you've ...

July 11th, 2013|

Who do you think you are?

I'm not issuing that as a challenge, more an invitation for some gentle introspection. The way we think about our identity - the way we describe ourselves to ourselves and to others - has an impact on the way we operate in the world. This is particularly true in our working lives and sometimes that impact is not helpful. So ...

April 20th, 2021|

Seven psychological tips for making change that lasts

Last month, you may recall, I wrote about how to feel better about yourself if you hadn't achieved all you wanted to as we approached the end of the year. This month, as we contemplate a new decade and you might want to do things differently, I'm looking at what psychology tells us about making changes that stick. 1. ...

December 31st, 2019|

And so this is Christmas – and what have you done?

Another year over, a new one just begun. I've been living with this song for weeks as the choir I sing with rehearses for Christmas. I don't know about you but the line 'another year over' tends to leave me with a slight feeling of existential dread. It's worse this year, as another decade is over and what have I ...

November 30th, 2019|

Back to work with a bang – Working out what you want to achieve

So here we are in the last days of summer before we revert to 'back to school' normality next week. I've written here before about the idea that for many of us September feels much more like New Year than January does. This is the time when we start afresh. You may come back to work with renewed determination to ...

August 30th, 2017|

Targets or deadlines – What’s your key driver?

Which motivates you more – targets or deadlines? That may sound like an odd question. They’re both about meeting some kind of goal in a certain time frame, after all. Well yes, but in my experience people tend to focus on one or the other and this has a profound impact on the way they work. People who focus on ...

October 31st, 2014|

Happy New Year – Working towards the future you envision

I don’t know about you but I always associate autumn with new beginnings. All those years of back-to-school shoe shopping, shiny new pencil cases and adjusting to a new form teacher ingrained the idea that September is when the new year begins. Even as an adult, September is the time you’re most likely to start learning French, sign up for a ...

August 26th, 2014|

How do you focus on the stuff that matters?

Think back a month. A new year was about to start, you’d probably had at least a week away from work and maybe that had given you a sense of perspective. Perhaps you didn’t think about work at all, as you spent time on other things that matter in your life. Or maybe you got a different angle on some ...

January 31st, 2014|

The riskiest behaviour I’ve engaged in – and I bet you have too

I don't think of myself as much of a risk taker. I'm generally fairly cautious - no high risk investments, Vegas holidays or adventure sports for me. But recently I've noticed just how risky some of my behaviour can be. I guarantee some of yours is too. To illustrate, let me tell you about my garden. When we moved into ...

May 31st, 2022|

How should we address climate change at work? Part 2 – let’s talk about it

In November I wrote the first of a two-part series looking at the climate crisis in a work context. It explored the psychological barriers that stop us even thinking about the subject and ended with a promise that next time I'd explore what we should actually do. It's taken me four months to reach the conclusion that I don't know. ...

March 29th, 2022|

How should we address climate change at work? Part 1 – thinking about it.

This is the first of a two part series on the key topic of our age, the climate crisis. Specifically, looking at it in the context of work.  Your immediate reaction might be "Really, do I have to? It's bad enough when it's on the news and I have got quite a lot on right now". I get it. I ...

November 23rd, 2021|

What do we mean by resilience? A conversation with a CEO

Resilience. There's a topic that's had loads of airtime over the last year. How resilient are you? How do you improve your resilience? I wrote about it myself just a few months ago. But what do we really mean by resilience – and might some definitions actually be unhelpful? This month's blog was inspired by a conversation with an experienced ...

March 12th, 2021|

Do we need more blitz spirit?

Blitz spirit. There's a topic I doubt people expected me to write about. But it's been gnawing at me, ever since Maureen from Barnsley was hailed as the Voice of the Nation for saying that we needed to show more blitz spirit during the pandemic. As a concept, I find it both psychologically fascinating and rather irritating. My guess is ...

October 30th, 2020|

Should work be fun?

I nearly made this the last of my workplace myths series but couldn't decide which was the more prevailing myth. On the one hand, the prevalence of ping pong tables in office foyers suggests a contemporary expectation that work should be fun. On the other hand, I've met many a manager (often in finance, interestingly) who believes that, unless people ...

June 30th, 2019|

Myth #6: EQ is more important than IQ

In the latest in my series on workplace myths, I'm turning my attention to emotional intelligence. There are numerous articles out there claiming that, not only is emotional intelligence important, but that, for career success, it's more important than intelligence. But is it? Let's go back to basics: What is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence is the ability to: a) recognise ...

April 30th, 2019|

Myth #5: Perfectionism is an allowable weakness

In the fifth of my series on workplace myths, I'm turning my attention to perfectionism. I'm sure you're all familiar with this hackneyed exchange: Interviewer: "What are your weaknesses?" Candidate: "Well sometimes I can get a bit perfectionist about my work". Job done. The candidate smiles inwardly knowing that a) what they really meant was "sometimes I'm just too damn ...

March 31st, 2019|

Myth #4: Female leaders are more nurturing

This is the fourth in a series on workplace myths, those pervasive beliefs that hold a grain of truth but might not be as widely applicable as we think. This one feels very 21st century to me. We've got used to seeing more women in leadership roles (until you get to the very top) and there's a feeling that they ...

February 27th, 2019|

Myth #3: Experienced professionals don’t need managing

This is the third in my series on workplace myths - those pervasive beliefs that contain a grain of truth but may not be as applicable as you think. Some of you may be wondering why I'm considering this one as a myth at all. If you've suffered the horrors of a control freak micro-manager, you may long to be ...

January 24th, 2019|

Myth #2: Geeks have no social skills

This is the second in a short series exploring workplace myths. Having started my career as a computer programmer, this one is close to my heart and I use the term geek affectionately. IT departments are, of course, Geek HQ, but similar stereotypes apply to other specialists. For example, how can you spot an outgoing auditor? They look at your ...

November 29th, 2018|

Myth #1: Technical specialists make lousy managers

This is the first in a series on workplace myths, many of which are based on stereotypes - soft female leaders, socially awkward geeks, psychologists obsessed with feelings. Like most stereotypes, there's generally a grain of truth in them. There's a reason we talk about German efficiency and Italian style, not the other way round. But stereotypes don't apply in ...

October 31st, 2018|

Three reasons why stress is a meaningless concept

Is your job stressful? Do you feel stressed right now? Or are some of your colleagues going through a stressful time? If so, you and your organisation would be fairly typical of the modern workplace. So given that I'm a psychologist, you're probably anticipating some tips on how to deal with workplace stress. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I actually ...

February 28th, 2018|

The great taboos. The legal and psychological ramifications of discussing politics and religion at work

“Never discuss religion or politics”. This sage advice has been around for at least a century. But in these days of Brexit and Trump, politics seems harder and harder to avoid and religion has got wrapped up in it in a way it hasn’t been – or at least not in the UK – for decades. So what happens when ...

February 28th, 2017|

Can you be a nice leader? How to grow as a leader and develop your ‘inner Jim’

A little while ago, someone sent me an article from the Havard Business Review about the dangers of hiring a nice CEO. I found I had quite a strong reaction just to the title. I know a number of nice, decent, successful CEOs, MDs and other leaders in senior positions and was primed to leap to their defence. Were they suggesting hiring ...

October 27th, 2016|