Monday, October 15, 2007

TV channel triple threat

October is televisually a busy month for me, with me appearing on three channels:

  1. Pete's PA started on the Living channel last Monday 8th October and runs for ten weeks. On that show, I'm helping celebrity Pete Burns to find a new personal assistant to run his life. And my role as one of his panel is to separate the rubbish wannabes who only want to be his PA to get famous from the decent candidates who I think could do the job.
  2. The Restaurant: You're Fried is coming to a close on BBC3. Over the past few months, we've seen various couples compete for the chance to set up their own business in partnership with Michelin-starred restaurateur Raymond Blanc. And, in analysing the dynamics of the various competitors, I have to say I've learned a lot about the restaurant trade - at least I'm 100% sure I don't want to run a restaurant!
  3. And in a couple of weeks I'm going to be on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two, the BBC2 show that analyses the off-screen action as the contestants gear up for the live BBC1 shows every Saturday. I'm going to ask the contestants to complete psychometric tests so that I can delve further into their personalities...

Oh, and my new website is up and running too - to lure those TV producers and conference producers in... - so if you know a TV producer who is looking for a psychologist, you know where to send them...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Should I sleep with the boss?

It's a rhetorical question of course, as I'm not suggesting that anyone should try to sleep with their boss in order to get ahead.
But I do get asked lots of questions all the time that amount to the same thing: 'What do I need to do in order to get ahead at work?'

So here are my three top tips:

  1. Realise the success at work fundamentally comes down to relationships. If people don't like you and want to work with you, it doesn't matter how technically gifted you are at the work - you won't get ahead.
  2. Make a career plan. Don't assume that you'll get promoted. Too many people drift in their careers. If you want to achieve anything in your career, set yourself a goal for the next 12 to 18 months and then break that goal down into sub-goals to achieve on a month-by-month basis. Top managers and entrepreneurs know what they want and make plans to achieve them - are you doing the same?
  3. Spend 5 minutes at the end of every day thinking and planning your activity for the next day. Don't get too bogged down in your day-to-day tasks. At the end of each day, ask yourself: 'What must I do tomorrow that will make a difference to my boss, the team, and my career?' Keeping your eye on the bigger picture and your longer-term career goals will help you to avoid getting bogged down in your daily grind of your work.

Incidentally, the cover is a work in progress. My publisher is currently finalising the book jacket for publication in Oct/Nov - so the final cover may change yet again before it hits the shelves!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dr Rob on TV (again)

BBC2 is preparing to launch a new TV series called The Restaurant, which will run for eight weeks from Wednesday 29th August 2007. In the new show, which will run twice a week on Wednesdays and Thursdays, Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc puts nine couples through their paces to choose one couple who will win the opportunity to open a restaurant with his personal backing and £100,000 of investment. One couple will get eliminated each week.

On Thursday evenings after the show, BBC3 will be running a show tentatively called 'The Restaurant: You're Fried' (a pun on 'Fired', I think) featuring the eliminated couple. And I'll be the providing some psychological insight into their personalities - so look out for me then.

Oh, by the way, I've been working with a web designer to launch a new website with some background information about me. There are only two pages there - and I plan to use it to help TV producers understand a bit about me when they're thinking about casting a TV psychologist (i.e. someone like me!). I'm not aiming it at people looking for career and business advice (which is what I try to do through this blog), but the site is up and running at - have a look and let me know what you think!

The pain of having to network at work

Not everyone likes to network. But that doesn't mean that it is not darned important.
Someone recently asked me for advice on their situation:

I've never been the world's most social person but I've just joined a new company in a line manager role where social networking seems almost as important as the job itself. I feel really uncomfortable in this environment. Golf has never interested, so that already puts me at a handicap, while hanging out at the local pub for a pint just isn't my idea of fun either. I'd much rather get back to the wife and kids and it's a long drive home. However, I guess that I'm going to need some level of social involvement and to play the game or I won't be seen a team player. Any advice appreciated.

To cut a long story short (and at the risk of sounding simplistic), I advised him that he has three broad choices:
  1. Get involved in networking if you want to succeed. Realise that many important workplace decisions are made as much on the basis of how much other people like you as how much they rate you.
  2. Quit and find a company that is more in tune with your personal values. If you hate having to socialise with people at work, then make it your medium-term goal to find an organisation where you don't have to force yourself to socialise with people you don't want to socialise with.
  3. Avoid the social networking and let your career stagnate. But that's not much of a third choice really, is it?

To read my full response, click through to the Management Issues website.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The voice of reason

My publisher Cyan/Marshall Cavendish asked me to record a podcast a few weeks ago, which has just been put onto itunes.

The podcast is a 20-minute discussion in which the interviewer asks me to provide various tips on the topics of office politics, job hunting, entrepreneurship, and networking. So if any of those topics interest you then you might like to download the podcast.

Now I'm not a terribly computer savvy person, but I believe you just tap in the words 'cyan marshall cavendish' into the search box of itunes and it should come up with the podcast's location. Even if you don't have itunes, you can download it for free. There's also a bunch of other podcasts by other authors in the Cyan/Marshall Cavendish stable too - so you can learn about other topics ranging from cold calling customers to giving great presentations.

I hope you get a chance to download my podcast - it'll be a chance for you to hear my thoughts rather than read about them for a change!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dealing with difficult people

We often hear people talking about their "difficult colleagues" or "difficult customers". However, here's a tip for learning to deal with difficult people.

For starters, stop referring to them as difficult people - because that makes it sound like a personality fault of theirs. Refer instead to the precise behaviours that make them difficult.

For example, rather than saying "she's too talkative" (an adjective which implies something about her personality) say instead: "she is talking too much" (which describes a behaviour that you can therefore tackle). Or if someone is not telling you the whole truth, avoid saying "he's a liar" - instead say: "he is not telling me the whole truth".

To sum up, use behaviour words rather than personality words. Then when you decide to ask the advice of other colleagues or even decide to speak to the person who is causing you difficulty, you can tackle their behaviour (which can be changed) rather than their personality (which can't be changed).

Monday, July 30, 2007

Office politics: Just do it

Office politics gets a bad rep. But I consider it one of my missions in life to convince people two things:

  1. That you will make it harder for yourself to thrive within your organisation without playing the political game.
  2. That politicking isn't necessarily 'bad'. You can be political and ethical too.
I was recently asked to contribute as part of a panel of experts to an article in a business magazine on the topic. Click here if you want to download the pdf file and read it (it's short and to the point!)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dr Rob and the (ex) popstar/celebrity - part 3

I'm in the middle of filming Pete's PA, this series with Pete Burns, ex-Dead or Alive lead singer. And I have to say I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Pete Burns is actually such a lovely guy. He comes across on television as such a mean, critical, bitchy person. But that's only his on-screen persona. In real life, he can be smutty and picky. But he can be genuine, friendly, and vulnerable too - oh, and great fun too.

I won't say too much, because that would feel like a betrayal of how honest and unguarded he has been with him. But it was quite unexpected to discover that the real Pete is nothing like the on-screen Pete. But to me it does illustrate that you should never believe what you see on television. Even reality television is not always a true reflection of reality! Bear that in mind the next time you watch a reality show!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Should I tell the truth on my CV?

One of my next books is called Should I Tell the Truth?

So I was interested this morning to read about a top executive at InterContinental Hotels being fired for having lied about the qualifications on his CV.

Patrick Imbardelli had worked for 25 years in the hotel industy. He had claimed to have three qualifications - a bachelor of business degree from the University of Victoria in Australia, and a BSc and a masters of business administration, both from Cornell University in the US.

In fact, he had only attended classes at both universities in the 1980s - but he never received any qualifications!

To me, this says two things. Firstly, of course it's bad to be caught lying on your CV. Secondly though, it illustrates how easy it is to get away with lying. He had managed to lie about his qualifications for 25 years and risen to nearly the very top of his industry! It was only because he was about to rise to the main board of InterContinental Hotels that he got caught out - if he'd had a more ordinary career, he would probably have got away with it for life.

So if there's a lesson here - it's either not to lie or not to get caught anyway!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Dr Rob and the (ex) popstar/celebrity - part 2

The 10 contestants for the job of Pete's PA moved into a house together in north London yesterday.

The contestants were terrrrribly excited and there was lots of squealing as the girls all picked the bedrooms they wanted. It was interesting to watch as some of the smarter girls are already picking their 'best friends' - i.e. other contestants that they think are strong competition and so they want to keep them close. You know what they say: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer!

It's too early for me to have any favourites yet. But there are immediately already a few who are trying to hard and starting to get on my nerves!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Networking: A favourable review

I just came across this review today. Here's what a reviewer wrote about one of my books from last year, The Rules of Networking:

Networking, one of the most essential skills that is most highly sought after by all professionals hoping to progress in their chosen career path, or as stepping stones to land themselves in a new career. Hence, this book can be seen as a solution and answers to all the questions that you have on effective networking.

Unlike traditional, long-winded management tomes, this book is a short, step-by-step alternative which is designed to steer you safely through the unprdictable battlefield of modern working life, and more importantly to help you to attain what you want!

In this book, management guru, Dr Rob Yeung, expertly explains exactly how to network your way to the top. This easy-to-follow guide is packed not only with hints and tips, as well as advice on how to hecome the center of attention, how to ensure your fellow networkers pocket, rather than bin your business card, and how to build relationships in which people will be falling over themselves to help you achieve your goals. Rob Yeung will show you the methods on how to be a step closer to your dream goals.


Like what the sypnosis has described, the information is cut into bite size and hence, instead of being overwhelmed by the flood of information in those chunky manuals, readers will find this book easy to digest and the techniques simple to apply.

Knowing how to networking effeciently is a very crucial way to be ahead of others in today's society, which is awashed with information and knowledge. If you are unable to stand out among your peers, and make lasting impressions on others, you will find that very soon, in time to come, you will just be part of the backdrop of the society, unnoticable.

So go on, read the book!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Rules of Entrepreneurship hits the shelves - June 2007!

I just received confirmation from my publisher that my latest book, The Rules of Entrepreneurship, hits the shelves this month!

It's packed with advice for anyone who wants to set up their own business. And one of the co-founders of The Mind Gym, Sebastian Bailey read it and said that: 'This book captures the true essence of what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur.'

I'm proud of the book and I hope you find it informative and inspiring too!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dr Rob and the (ex) pop star/celebrity

Well, I'm going to be back on television. After doing Jade's PA last year, I've been invited back by Living TV to do a new series: Pete's PA.

The 'Pete' in question is Pete Burns, ex-frontman for 80s pop band Dead or Alive, and now fully-fledged celebrity. The media love to loathe him, but I think he's a bit of a sweetie.

I was a bit apprehensive about doing the series because Pete has a bit of a reputation for being foul-mouthed and unpleasant. But you never can trust what you read in the papers, so I thought I'd at least go meet him.

To cut a long story short, he's actually quite likeable. (Sorry if I'm shattering any media-created delusions about him). So I've signed up for a few months of PA madness. Basically, he currently uses his live-in partner as a PA. But they're getting married soon so Pete wants a proper PA to take over the duties.

Anyway, I'm filming the new series over the summer, so will report back occasionally...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The human animal

There's been a lot of coverage over the resignation of Lord Browne, one of the most highly rated business people in Britain over his lies to cover up his private life. I was asked by The Observer newspaper to comment on what drives successful people to have such lapses.

How brilliant men can be undone by power

Lord Browne resigned because he lied to a court about a trivial thing: the manner of his meeting Jeff Chevalier - a terrible error of judgment for a man in whom 97,000 employees and 1.2 million shareholders placed their trust. Why did he do it?

Psychologists point to several possible reasons: the isolation experienced by leaders at the top of big organisations; the pressure they are placed under; the effect of holding power in one's hands and the lack of restraining influences.

Browne was known as the 'Sun King' of the oil industry, a reference to Louis XIV of France, an absolute monarch who surrounded himself with fawning courtiers at the palace he built at Versailles. Like Louis, Browne was known at the highest levels in the capitals of Europe. Browne was also well received in the US and the UK, where he was on terms with the Prime Minister close enough to allow BP to be dubbed 'Blair Petroleum'.

But he was reputed, also like Louis, to be a man to whom it was unpleasant to take bad news.

Rob Yeung, a director at Talentspace, a leadership consultancy, says: 'The type of judgment you are asked to make changes as you move up an organisation. Low down an organisation, you are given much more discrete, less ambiguous problems to deal with. As you move up, there are fewer right and wrong answers.'

So what causes someone capable of dealing with these complicated decisions to make such an obvious error of judgment? Emma Farnsworth, an occupational psychologist from Blue Edge Consulting says: 'There is huge pressure if you are in the role of leader. The more successful you are, the more you expect from yourself - and the more others expect from you.'

There were few who seemed outwardly able to cope with this better than Browne in his heyday. But Yeung says: 'However much we delude ourselves to the contrary, the truth is that human beings are animals. We have quite ancient parts of our brains that control instincts like fight or flight. When things are going well, you make rational decisions, but the moment you are under pressure your dark side can come out.

' Lord Browne was a very private individual. His private life was very sensitive and it caused him to think irrationally rather than rationally.'

You can read the rest of the (fairly lengthy) piece here.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Finding your passion at work

I contribute to a website on management issues. The editor asked me to answer a question posed by one of their readers:

My wife is pressurizing me to earn a higher salary by finding another job but I want to do just the opposite. After 15 years in middle management I'm constantly tired and have long lost the zest I used to have for work. Can you offer any support/advice?

My response started:
If your wife wants a bigger salary, suggest that she goes and finds a higher paying job!

Click here to read the rest!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Busy, busy, busy

I haven't blogged in a while as I'm simply being crushed by weight of work recently. It's 12.40am on a Sunday night and I've spent most of the weekend working - coaching on Saturday morning and writing various books yesterday and all day and evening today.

Not that I'm complaining - I'm just explaining why I haven't blogged in a while. I like being busy - and by the end of May I'll have finished two more books so my workload will become a bit lighter. On the other hand, I'm in the final stages of negotiation with a different publisher, Kogan Page, to write a book for them over the summer. I am a bit of a glutton for punishment at times!

And I had a second meeting with a TV production company to get involved in a new cable television project over the summer - more details to follow...!

Deciphering officespeak

I was flicking through a magazine the other day and came across an amusing piece on what bosses say and what they really mean. For example:

  • 'With all due respect' translated into plain English becomes 'With no respect at all.'
  • 'It's a chance to gain greater depth of experience' means 'It's not a promotion.'
  • 'Jeremy here is the office comedian' translated into plain English means 'Jeremy here is the office joke.'
  • 'I'd like you to take ownership of this project' generally means 'My problem is now your problem.'
Does your boss speak in officespeak or in plain English? Hopefully the former - but I'll bet probably the latter...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Office politics: The argument for getting political

Office politics has a bad reputation.

But here's the reality: politicking happens whether you like it or not. Yes, some people try to be noble and refuse to play the political game; they focus on their jobs and work hard in the hopes of being noticed and rewarded for their efforts. But sadly there are limited opportunities in the world of work and, more often than not, these sorts of people end up being overlooked or ignored – either by colleagues or important customers or both. Do you want to be overlooked or ignored?

Of course not.

Many purists refuse to play the political game, believing it to require underhand tactics and a malicious intent. But politics are not automatically bad. Politicking merely describes the act of scrutinising business relationships and learning how to influence others more effectively.

It usually involves going through informal channels rather than officially sanctioned ones, but that doesn't make it bad in and of itself.

Nor does politicking have to be selfish. You can use your understanding of politics to influence people and achieve goals that are good for the organisation as well as yourself. Even in the most friendly and supportive of organisations, people don't always agree – so having an understanding of politics and how to exert influence can help you to pull people together and achieve outcomes that are in the organisation's best interests too.

Anyway, if you want to read more on the topic, bits of this article are taken from a lengthier one that I wrote a few months ago for - happy reading!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Take control: A tale of two presidents

One of the central themes in one of my next books, Should I Sleep with the Boss? is around the idea of taking control. That you can't necessarily control what happens to you, but you can of course control how you respond to it in shaping your career and life.

So even if you are made redundant or don't get given a promotion or suffer some more truly terrible life event, you can choose whether to let it get you down or whether to pick yourself up and get on with finding a better job or developing your skills or whatever you need to do to get on and succeed.

In my research, I came across the tale of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Of course, many Americans will already know of their childhoods, but as a Brit, I have to admit that I was somewhat under-informed about them.

So we all know that George W. Bush grew up in a wealthy family in Texas as the son of a former president. So he had all of the right education and background to enable him to succeed.

Bill Clinton's childhood was a rather different story. His father died when his mother was still pregnant with him. And he grew up in poverty with an alcoholic and abusive step-father. So fate had stacked the deck against him. Yet Bill still managed to claw his way out of poverty and to become a president of the most powerful country in the world.

I'm not trying to make a political point. What I do think this shows is the power of self-determination. That people who experience bad stuff in life don't have to let themselves be knocked down by it.

Psychologists have a fancy name for it. People who feel in control have an internal locus of control (i.e. they feel that the power to respond to their circumstances lies within them, inside of them). People who give up and feel helpless have an external locus of control. And there is plenty of research to support that people who have an internal locus of control are happier and more successful.

So whether you are trying to set up your own business, striving for a promotion, trying to reduce the number of hours you work - or whatever else your career goals may be - I would urge you to take control. While you may not be able to control what happens to you, you can decide how you respond.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Amazing what a lick of paint can do...

I was reading in a magazine the other day about the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), which has been trying for years to improve the quality of its bus service. As you can imagine, people in California love their cars and dislike riding on buses unless they absolutely can't avoid it.

But the MTA decided to start with a rebranding campaign. They painted the buses new colours (with names such as 'California Poppy' and 'Rapid Red') and slapped some new decals on them. Immediately, 83% of people the MTA surveyed thought that the service had improved - even though they were exactly the same buses on exactly the same routes and the same old timetables! The only thing that had changed was how the buses looked.

Kind of makes you wonder what might happen if you were to refresh your personal brand by investing in your wardrobe, buying a smarter laptop bag, or getting a new haircut for the office, doesn't it?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Gravitas redux

I only wrote yesterday about gravitas. But here's a simple exercise you can try in your own workplace.

Ask a colleague to monitor your speech during a meeting together. Get him or her to listen out for any annoying habits such as 'ums' or 'ers' and to write down how many times you use them. I remember years ago one colleague pointing out that I used the phrase 'you know' about a dozen times in a one-hour meeting. I was mortified! But I was also glad that she told me so I could clean my act up.

Look out also for using words such as 'probably', 'hopefully', and maybe' - as these words make you seem like you lack conviction.

Another technique for stamping out irritating phrases or other bad speech habits is to get a colleague to make some subtle signal every time you use one - such as tapping their pencil on the table or touching a finger to the side of their face. It can be quite vicious, but it works! So ask a colleague tomorrow to monitor you to identify what your speech bad habit is - and get them to point it out until you have eliminated it.

Projecting gravitas

I just received the page proofs back from the publisher for the next book of mine - The Rules of Entrepreneurship. The book is coming out over the summer, so that's only a few months away.

Anyway, I was editing the editors' suggested changes and I was reading the section on how to persuade investors to give you their money. I'm making the argument that it's not just what you put into your business plan but whether people trust you to deliver on it. So I'm talking about stuff like presence and gravitas. Which I think applies to everyone - whether you are looking to get funding from an investor, a job from an interviewer, or a promotion from your boss. And I came across an interesting quote that I thought made a point quite nicely.

British actor and Hollywood star Sir Michael Caine once observed rather brilliantly in an interview:

The basic rule of human nature is that powerful people speak slowly and subservient people quickly – because if they don’t speak fast nobody will listen to them.

Might be interesting for you the next time you're in a meeting to spot who speaks quickly and who speaks slowly.

More importantly, are you a fast speaker or a slow speaker? And which do you think you should be?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Meetings, meetings, everywhere

I've written about meetings before. But I just read a survey in which 91 percent of employees confessed to having daydreamed in meetings. I think that's quite funny, but I can hardly say that I’m surprised - and I can personally confess to having taken other work into meetings as well as having fallen asleep in them too!

Here are some tips for handling meetings effectively:

  • Work out an agenda. Whether you were asked to lead the meeting or not, remember that meetings are an opportunity for you to show others how good you are. If someone else is leading the meeting and loses their way, you can speak up and get the meeting back on track.
  • Use the clock to keep people on track. Refer to the time as a way of hurrying people through the meeting if they dawdle unnecessarily. Once you have asked when people need to leave the meeting, you can make comments such as: “I’m conscious that we’ve only got another 15 minutes before Alex and Chris need to get away. Can I suggest we move on to discussing…”
  • Build on previous comments. Keep your contributions brief and try to add to build on the points of people who have already spoken. Don’t speak simply for the sake of speaking, but do speak up if you have a relevant point that has not already been raised.
  • Ask questions instead of being negative. Passing judgement on whether you think an idea is good or not is poor meeting etiquette. Saying “that won’t work” effectively implies that you know better than anyone else in the room. Instead of pointing out a problem, acknowledge the possibility and ask a question that invites others to seek a solution. For example, rather than pointing out that the team does not have the budget to do a project, ask: “That’s a great idea. How could we get the funding together for that?”
Enjoy your next meeting!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Positive strokes

One of the books I'm writing (Should I Sleep with the Boss?) is on the topic of enhancing your career. And a big theme running through it is how to influence others more effectively.

Did you know that most criticism falls on deaf ears? If you tell someone about a mistake they made in their work, perhaps an errand they could have done better, or something they didn't do at home, they may pretend to listen, but much of the time they are busily justifying it to themselves.

Instead, focus on giving positive feedback instead. Rather than criticising bad behaviour, try to focus on what people did right. If you're trying to get someone to behave differently at work or home, praise what they do right. Compliment them on it sincerely and show your appreciation for their efforts - do it genuinely and you will find they do more of the right behaviour. Eventually the good behaviours will replace the bad behaviours.

It's a small but potent difference. Try it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dr Rob and the telly box

Well I've had two meetings with different TV production companies this week.

It's funny how these things go.

The meeting I had yesterday went really well. The producer seemed really interested in my ideas and asked lots of the right questions. In turn, I thought he had done his research really well. We talked for an hour without it feeling like a long time at all and the producer emailed me back straight afterwards to say that he liked a particular idea of mine and that we should speak again soon.

The meeting I had today felt really strange. We chatted for a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting but I didn't sense much chemistry. It was as if the producer had decided that he either didn't like my ideas or didn't like me. And the entire meeting only last about 20 minutes! Oh well, you can't win them all!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

CVs: Education or experience - which comes first?

Hurrah - I've finally started writing my new job hunting book, 'Should I Tell the Truth?

One of the questions a job seeker once asked me was about the layout of her CV. She wanted to know what was current advice - to put your education first or your work experience first?

Education or work experience – I'd say that the answer very much depends. One of the absolute delights of writing a CV as opposed to filling out a standard application form is that you can design your CV to highlight whatever you like. However, the key rule in deciding what should go first is to think: What would most impress the employer?

You should always choose to order the sections on your CV depending entirely on whatever you think is most likely to get you the job
. For example, if you are a recent graduate with little work experience but a first class honours degree from a top university, you might want to lead with your education first. If you have better work experience to showcase, then lead with a section entitled Employment, Career History, or Work Experience – it doesn’t really matter what you call it.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Entrepreneurs: Have a business plan

it's 11.43pm on a Friday night. While the rest of you are out having fun, I'm poring over my notes and trying to write these books!

I got an email the other day from someone that I worked with. She's setting up her own business and, very sweetly, was asking when my book, The Rules of Entrepreneurship is out. She was telling me that she is writing her business plan - a task that is more complex than one might assume. But, most amazingly, a lot of would-be entrepreneurs skip this step.

I think that's foolish.

A business plan helps you to crystallise your ideas, clarify your goals, and prepare to explain it to other people. It encourages you to focus on exactly what you need to do and pushes you to think about the practicalities of founding your venture.

Writing a business plan is as much about clarifying your goals for yourself as it is to communicate your goals and persuade others. If you can’t write a plan that makes sense to yourself, how will you explain it to investors, suppliers, and customers?

But I just came across an interesting quote by a famous American humanitarian, Dr. Effie Jones:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

I just wish I'd found her quote six months ago when I was writing my book on entrepreneurship!

Talking of books, it's 11.52pm and I need to do at least another half-hour's writing before I go to bed...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mumbles and mutterings on somethin' at work

It's nearly 11 o'clock at night and I've just spent the last couple of hours working on the two new books I'm writing. Books take time to write and, on top of the day job as a coach and business psychologist, that means evenings and weekends until the end of May!

But I just found a slip of paper from when I was coaching someone who wanted to improve his impact during meetings, presentations, and even conversations. Much of the time these days, how you come across is determined as much by how you speak as what you say.

This particular person, my coachee, tended to mumble his words. He barely opened his lips and the sounds came out all... smushed.

Of course these things were not as apparent to him as they were to everyone around him.

So we used a vocal exercise to help him warm up his mouth and tongue. Very simply, it required that he repeat a set of syllables a couple of times each, pronouncing them very clearly:

  • "Puh buh" - warms up the front of the mouth and your lips;
  • "Kuh guh" - warms up the back of the mouth and the bit of your tongue nearer the throat;
  • "Tuh duh" - warms up the middle bit in between the other two, so the middle and front part of your tongue.
So if you ever want to do some vocal warm-ups before an important interview, a meeting, a presentation, try it. Simply repeat each of the phrases a handful of times each. You'll relax the muscles and your voice should come out much more clearly and confidently.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Should I Sleep with the Boss?

I just signed a deal a few weeks ago to write a book called Should I Tell the Truth? And 99 Other Questions about Job Hunting

Anyway, I liked the title of the book so much that Cyan Books and I have just inked a deal to write yet another book, which brings my total up to 16! And this one will be called Should I Sleep With the Boss? And 99 Other Questions about Managing your Career.

Of course only one of the questions will tackle the title of the book; the other 99 questions will tackle topics such as how you can inject more fun into your work, dealing with office politics, chasing promotions, tactics for pursuing your work and life goals, deciding when you should quit a job, and so on.

So that's TWO books I have to write between now and mid-May now. I better get a move on!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Being a psychologist and Freud

I'm a business psychologist. The 'business' bit being as important as the 'psychologist' bit. But any time I tell people what I do, at least half the time, the only bit they hear is the word 'psychologist'.

Ask anyone to tell you what they think a psychologist looks like and they'll probably describe an older man with a white beard. Ask what a psychologist does and they'll probably say that we get people to lie on couches and tell us about their innermost thoughts.

At parties I'm constantly getting asked if I can analyse people's dreams or read their body language or tell them what I'm thinking. But as a business psychologist, I don't do any of that! (Actually, no psychologist can tell what a person is thinking - those people are called telepaths and only exist in the world of science fiction!)

It's all Sigmund Freud's fault of course.

The general public has been hugely influenced by Freud's theories. So we've heard of terms like the Oedipus complex or the notion of penis envy (allegedly something women experience) or castration anxiety (allegedly what motivates men to behave the way they do). But, in recent years, many psychologists have been coming to the conclusion that Freud was talking a load of old rubbish.

Basically, he wasn't a scientist. He didn't collect data from lots of patients before coming up with his theories. He used to interview just a small handful of patients and then come up with a label to apply to everyone. There are plenty of books on the subject, but a new one has just been reviewed and summarised quite nicely by a writer in the New York Sun.

I could go on about the flaws in his methods for ages, but I won't.

Anyway, the lesson is this. The next time you meet a psychologist, please don't ask him or her to analyse your dreams or read your body language. And don't ask if we ask people to lie on couches!

Writing: Celebrating 10+ years

Now here's a blast from the past. I found a link to an old article I wrote for New Scientist magazine back in 1996. I think it was the first time I ever got paid to write an article

I was researching my PhD at the time. And I had a particular interest in sports and the effects of exercise on psychological well-being. There are theories that exercise kicks your endorphins into high gear, which makes you feel good. There's even good research indicating that exercise can be as effective as drugs when it comes to treating moderate clinical depression.

Anyway, I wrote to the editor who commissioned me to write the piece. A few weeks later, I delivered the article, which was a couple of thousand words long. I was pretty proud of it.

And the editor hated it. Said it was awful and academic and unreadable!

But the editor spent a while coaching me and explaining how to write properly and in a non-academic style. So I'd been taught at university to use phrases such as: 'Research indicates that exercise is good for you'. But the editor explained that I didn't need to say 'research indicates that' when it comes to writing for the general public as opposed to crusy academics. Just say 'Exercise is good for you'.

It sounds so obvious now. But it wasn't obvious at all to me when I'd only written essays as part of my studies.

The editor helped me to to rewrite my article and eventually it was good enough for publication. But, more importantly, I learned from the editor how to write. And from that start, I learned enough to write for newspapers such as the Financial Times and Guardian. And then I started writing books. So the fact that I'm now writing my 14th book is basically down to the coaching I received from that editor. I wish I could remember the editor's name so I could write to say thank you!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Job interviews: 'Why are you looking to leave your current job?'

Here's some advice if you're asked this question at a job interview.

The way to answer this question is to talk about why you want to join the interviewers' company rather than talking about why you want to leave your current job.

So side-step the question and talk up the positive qualities that attract you to this specific opportunity at with this particular company. You want to come across as a positive person.

Imagine how negative you could sound if you answer this question as it is asked by whining about what you didn't like about your current employer.

NEVER talk about why you want to leave your current job. ALWAYS talk instead about why you want to join this specific company.

Monday, February 12, 2007

How do you get a team to work?

As a columnist for various magazines, it can sometimes feel like a struggle to come up with enough new topics to discuss. However, I was recently asked to write on the topic of effective teamworking, which is a topic that (speaking as a business psychologist) should never go away. Because the truth of the matter is that most supposed 'teams' don't work terribly effectively together.

But if you want to read more, here's more of my thoughts on the matter. You'll need to click on the jpeg images below to enlarge them enough so you can read them:

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Job interviews: 'How would your colleagues describe you?'

In response to this frequently-asked interview question, you might be tempted to present a rounded picture of how your colleagues might see you. However, you should instead answer this as if you had been asked: 'What would your colleagues see as your strengths?'

Remember that an interview is ultimately a selling process. So don't do yourself down unnecessarily. There is no benefit in mentioning your own weaknesses unless the interviewer specifically asks for them.

But, it can appear quite big-headed if you simply list lots of positive qualities! So, try to back up your claims with any objective evidence you have - for example if your boss gave you certain positive comments in your last appraisal or if you've received comments from a 360-degree feedback process.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Actions speak louder than words

They say that actions speak louder than words and I've blogged about the importance of body language in communicating qualities ranging from humility to charisma before.

In fact, a psychologist with the suitablly professorial name of Albert Mehrabian established that the gestures, movements, and expressions that make up our body language actually account for 55 perent of our communication effectiveness. Another 38 percent comes from the tone and quality of our voice. And only a mere 7 percent comes from the actual words that we use!

Think about it. Imagine two people giving the same presentation. One person gives the presentation but stands stiffly still while reading from his or her notes in a flat voice while avoiding eye contact with the audience. The other person points to interesting points on the screen, smiles, pauses, occasionally drops their voice to a conspiratorial whisper to underline key points, and makes great eye contact with the audience. Which would you find more compelling to observe?

Same goes for job interviews. If one candidate shifts uncomfortably from one butt cheek to the other, and speaks while fidgeting with his or her watch or a ring, it almost wouldn't matter what he or she's saying. Whereas another candidate could say the same thing, but look the interview in the eye, sitting up straight and perhaps counting key points off with his or her fingers. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to show that the second candidate is going to make the better impression.

All of that sounds obvious. But my point here is that research actually shows that your body language makes up over half of the impact you have on other people. So whether you are preparing to give a big presentation, impress colleagues in a client meeting, or wow an interviewer for a job - make sure you focus on the unspoken message that your body is communicating.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Should I Tell the Truth?

After a couple of months of discussion with one of my publishers (Cyan Books), I've managed to land another book deal, which brings my total up to 15, I think.

The original discussion the publisher and I had was to write a book entitled FAQs on Job Hunting. They already have a series of books called 'FAQs on...'

I like the idea of writing a book in a question and answer format as I think the style will be more like a conversation between the reader asking questions and me answering them.

But then Martin Liu, the publisher and all-around smart guy, suggested that we retitle the book Should I Tell the Truth? with a subtitle And 99 Other Questions about Job Hunting.

Which I think is a cracking title.

Anyway, we've just inked the deal and my deadline is mid-May 2007.

But I'm going to be gathering questions over the next month or two so I can start writing the book. So if anyone has any burning questions they would like answered about anything to do with the job hunting process, let me know and it may make it into the book!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Job interviews: 'What are you most proud of?'

Interviewers often ask this question of job candidates. The trap here for unwary candidates is to gush about their family or accomplishments outside of work.

I've interviewed candidates who have talked about how proud they were to have given up smoking or lost weight or brought up a child successfully. But while those are notable achievements, talking about those kinds of non-work achievements is losing an opportunity to really impress the interviewers.

Remember that interviewers are most interested about your suitability for the job. So make sure that, if you are asked this question, you talk about a work achievement that you are most proud of.

The best kinds of achievements focus on benefits that you achieved for other people such as:

  • Increased customer or client satisfaction;
  • Greater revenues or profit;
  • Cost reduction;
  • Reducing the workload for a colleague;
  • Improving a process.
Another favourite question of interviewers is often: 'What are your three biggest achievements?' So make sure in your interview preparation that you rack your brains to come up with at least 3 or 4 different achievements so that you don't get stuck on the spot with nothing to say.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Dr Rob, business psychologist

I used to work for a big firm called The Boston Consulting Group. And occasionally they write features about alumni who used to work there and have since moved on to other things.

So a few months ago they did an interview with me, which has just come out. Of course it's been written by the journalist to make me (and therefore, by association, the consulting firm I used to work for) sound pretty glowing. There are a few minor errors in the piece, but nothing substantively incorrect. Anyway, if you can be bothered with that kind of thing, here's the full text of what they wrote about me!

Bringing Psychology to Businesses

Rob Yeung Finds Success in the Corporate World, Books, and TV

Rob Yeung, a trained psychologist, usually has a pretty interesting day at work. One day he might be assessing executive candidates for a corporate client. The next day, he might be writing an article on the role psychological analysis can play in selecting job candidates. Or he might be working on his latest book, which will be his fourteenth.

Oh, and he’s also a budding television personality in his native England. Rob gained national exposure hosting the BBC program How to Get Your Dream Job/Who Would Hire You?, on which he helped seemingly hapless job seekers hone their interview skills. He recently began work on a new show, which he described as being similar to Donald Trump’s The Apprentice. On the new program, he will help a well-known business figure avoid pitfalls as she attempts to make an important hire.

“I’m basically trying to cut through the nonsense and show that there are certain skills you need to be looking for in a candidate,” Rob said. “It’s good fun. There’s definitely a lot of variety in my work.”

Before entering the business and entertainment worlds, Rob worked for six years as a sports and exercise psychologist. He wanted to set up his own business but had no formal business training and wanted to understand how to operate a successful organization. That’s when he joined BCG, working out of the London office.

“I figured there was no better way to learn about business than by working for a strategic management-consulting firm,” Rob said.

Rob said his time at BCG gave him real insight into how executives make decisions. He also realized that the human aspect of running a business is often not given the attention it deserves. Although an organization may say that its people are its most important asset, there is still an undeniable pattern of jobs being outsourced and staff being reduced.

He also saw that there is more to change than just devising new structures and processes.

“Sometimes people won’t do something, even if it’s the right thing to do, because they just don’t want to,” Rob said. “I really thought I could tackle some of the more human sides of change as well.”

That’s the approach Rob takes at his agency Talentspace, which helps companies take job interviews to the next level and also works with businesses to maximize the performance of current executives. Whereas a traditional job interview focuses on professional qualifications and past experiences, Talentspace tries to look beyond the resumé and find out how someone will really perform in the position being filled.

“These companies typically pay an executive search firm to bring in four candidates. Generally they’re all qualified, and they’ve all been running similar businesses,” Rob said. “But all a track record proves is that they were successful in their past role, in that particular organization with its own structure, rules, and culture. Once you take them out of that environment, they might fail because they can’t grasp how things are done in the new organization.

“I try to get businesses to separate track record and qualifications from personality, behavior, and temperament. I want to discover what psychologists call the dark side’ of people’s behavior.”

Rob said research has shown that one of the best predictors of how someone will behave is personality type—that is, whether someone has characteristics such as introversion, extroversion, curiosity, or risk-aversion. By looking at these traits, Talentspace is able to delve beneath the person’s “bright side,” which is the façade he or she generally puts up during a job interview.

“You can actually look for some of these qualities and measure them through psychometric testing,” Rob said. “Businesses usually interview and offer a job to the bright side,’ but the person who actually shows up for the job is the dark side’ of the personality. That’s what happens when you become more familiar with people and can’t fake it anymore.

“When you meet someone for the first time and ask what kind of a leader he or she is, that person is usually telling you what you want to hear. When I spend a day assessing someone, I get a clearer picture of how that person will really act on the job.”

Talentspace will even go so far as to set up customized assessment centers for clients. For example, if a retail bank is looking for a country manager, Talentspace will build a module that simulates the specific, complex demands of that position and put candidates through it over the course of one to three days.

The firm will typically present candidates with balance sheets and other data and look for business recommendations. And often, when a candidate is in the middle of creating a business plan, Talentspace will change the priorities by interrupting the process with a meeting or a customer issue that takes precedence. The goal is to put the candidate in situations he or she might face in a normal day as a country manager.

“We use actors and assessors to simulate very specific challenges,” Rob said. “We make it very complex, and we might give them a computer and bombard them with information. Rather than just asking someone about these scenarios in an interview, we’re trying to see how the person would actually behave in these situations.”

Creating these types of simulations—complete with financial forecasts and balance sheets—is another area in which Rob’s BCG experience has helped him.

“These simulations require business skills that I never would have picked up if I hadn’t worked at BCG,” he said.

Rob’s experience in both psychology and business gained him some opportunities to conduct educational seminars, which in turn led to his writing books on subjects such as teamwork, interviewing, coaching, and networking.

That exposure made him a prime candidate to appear on television as an expert when the BBC decided to create a program about helping people find jobs. Rob said it was particularly fun to help people understand what an employer is looking for, especially since it’s not always about technical skills, but rather softer skills such as relationship building.

And just about everyone can relate to the pressure that comes with a job interview, so the show caught people’s interest.

“Everyone realizes that things can go terribly wrong in a job interview,” Rob said. “After some interviews, you know they’ve been fantastic. But with others, you come out of there regretting something you said or wishing you had said something else. Interviewing for jobs brings out people’s biggest fears, too, and the biggest challenge is to help people when they’re resistant to your methods. If they don’t buy into your methods, you won’t get very far with them at all.”

But as his successful business, prolific publishing record, and television fame prove, Rob has gotten plenty of people to trust his methods.

“A lot of psychologists come from a clinical background, and they don’t have that business acumen and don’t understand the pressures that a business might be facing,” Rob said. “In business, it’s not about making people feel happy. It’s about total shareholder return—the bottom line. I recognize that, and I think that’s what distinguishes me from other psychologists.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ace competency-based interviews

Competency-based interviewing is a particular style of interviewing based on real examples of work behaviour.

Increasingly, all sorts of organisations in both the private and public sectors are moving towards competency-based interviewing, which is basically a style of interrogation that requires candidates to talk about actual situations they have experienced as opposed to hypothetical situations they have yet to encounter. There’s good business school and employer research showing that past behaviour is one of the best predictors of career success. So an interviewer might ask: “Can you tell me about a time when you had to…?” rather than “Can you tell me how you would…?”

I've blogged in the past about competency-based interviewing - but I wrote about it from the perspective of the employer. But recently a careers website approached me to write about it from the candidate's perspective - giving candidates advice on how to ace competency-based interviews.

Essentially, you need to bear in mind the STAR acronym, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Start by explaining only briefly the situation – perhaps the problem or opportunity you were faced with – and then move on to the task at hand.

But interviewers don’t give brownie points for setting the scene – it’s the actions you took that they are interested in. To finish, you should ideally have at your finger tips the quantifiable result that you achieved – a 3.4% increase in market share, a 17.5% ROI, a reduction in delivery times of 5 days.

Anyway, if you'd like to read more about how to deal with this style of interviewing, you can read about it on the site (or just click the icon right here).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The show must go on

I had an email from a contact who said that the TV programme I was a panel member on (Jade's PA) may get resurrected in the coming year - although with a new celebrity. Of course it would have to be a celebrity who is known to UK audiences, but any seriously A List celebrities aren't going to want to get involved with a programme for a relatively minor cable channel like Living TV here in the UK. Unfortunately, the producers are looking to run the show somewhere more glamorous like Los Angeles. And so I probably won't get to get involved!

And while I'm on the topic of poor Jade, she seems to be having a terrible time of things at the moment. Apparently, as a result of some of her actions and what she's been saying in the current series of Celebrity Big Brother, she has been dropped as a spokesperson for the anti-bullying charity she used to represent! Poor girl.

I don't think she is an intentional bully. When I worked with her, the impression I got was that she's just a headstrong girl who speaks her mind. She doesn't intend to cause distress (but can, and does). And I guess that one of the problems with bullying is that many (or perhaps even most) bullies do not bully intentionally - they simply lack self-awareness about how hurtful their comments and actions can be. Perhaps there's a small lesson there for dear Jade?

Monday, January 15, 2007

How to find a good coach

Both life coaching and work-based coaching are growing fields. More and more people are turning to coaches and, unsurprisingly, more and more people are turning into coaches to make money out of this trend.
There are some bad coaches out there. But there are also some good ones - like me, of course.

No, but seriously, this isn't a hard sell. I thought I'd list some of the questions you should ask yourself if you are looking for a coach to help you, whatever your issues, and wherever you are in the world:

  • Do you feel comfortable with the person? You can't engage fully in coaching if you feel intimidated or nervous around your coach. You should feel relaxed enough to talk about your vulnerabilities, perhaps mistakes you have made, and difficult decisions you need to make.
  • Are you confident in his or her abilities and skill level? Ask them to tell you briefly about other people they have coached in similar circumstances. Get an idea of their qualifications (and then go look those qualifications up - there are all sorts of diplomas and certificates in coaching that practically anyone can get by a short correspondence course!)
  • Do you trust that this person has your best interests at heart? An unscrupulous coach may try to string the coaching process out to make more money from you. A good coach should try to empower you and help you become self-sufficient as quickly as possible.
  • Do you feel both challenged and supported by this person? A coach is not there merely to offer sympathy. They might occasionally need to ask you tough questions that make you think about your motivations and issues. But, at the same time, they should push you only so far as you want to be pushed. You must ultimately drive the pace of coaching rather than your coach.
Even as little as five years ago, coaching was seen more as a luxury afforded only by senior managers. Increasingly, people across the board are seeking professional coaching for all manner of issues. Make sure you find a coach who is just right for you.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Urgent or important?

Everyone seems so 'busy' these days. People rush around from task to task to task to task without stopping.

Everyone is so pulled by the telephone, email, a Blackberry, a mobile, a pager. We are accessible by our colleagues and clients pretty much 24/7 if we choose to be. But therein lies the problem. Accessibility means that we get diverted by a cult of false urgency. We get pulled into tackling problems and situations that are urgent rather than important.

I wrote this advice up in my next book, The Rules of Entrepreneurship, but I think it's advice that can apply to all of us - whatever we are doing in our lives, both inside and outside of work.

Since you don’t want to be one of those people who rushes around being busy but achieving no results, consider the difference between hard work and smart work, between activity and productivity.

Long hours are wasteful if you are not doing the right work. So focus on the appropriate priorities all of the time, every week, every minute. No matter how many hours you are willing to work, time is still finite. Make comprehensive lists of everything you need to do. Then choose the tasks that simply have to be done. At the start of a week, ask yourself: “What is the most valuable work I should be doing?” At the start of every day, ask yourself the same question: “What is the most valuable work I must do today?”

It's that vital difference between urgency and importance. Say a potential customer and a potential supplier both send you emails to say that they must speak to you urgently. Both seem urgent. But which one is important? Responding to which one will make the bigger difference to your business? I’d probably go for the customer.

Stop yourself to think every time any new task interrupts what you are doing. Ask yourself whether it is truly important or merely urgent. Importance should trump urgency every time. Don’t allow yourself to be pushed in the wrong directions by tasks that are urgent but not important.

It sounds easy in theory but is darned difficult in practice. I don't always practise what I preach. Plus, it's easy to procrastinate because you don't want to do those important tasks - so you let yourself be dragged off course by the merely urgent ones. But, if you can manage to separate urgency from importance, I guarantee you that you will make your life a helluva lot easier.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

More goals

As a rejoinder to yesterday's post on the topic of setting goals (and writing them down), a reader emailed me and told me what he does.

He types his goals in the form of an email and sends them to himself. He finds that simply confirming his goals in a form that can then sit in his inbox is a great way to make his commitments to himself feel more real and significant.

I liked that idea so I thought I'd share it. I know of other people who have actually written letters, put a stamp on an envelope, and posted them to themselves too.

Oh, and on the topic of communication, there is an email address you can use to reach me on - it's towards the bottom right hand of this blog - just in case you want to ask a question, make a suggestion, or pass on your thoughts but without leaving them on the blog for all to see.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year, new you?

Do you have a new year's resolution? Lots of people do.

Maybe you have goals at work - to work harder or find a new job or get that promotion or sort out someone who's causing you difficulties. Maybe you have personal goals - to lose weight or give up smoking or exercise more or drink less.

I'm a big fan of setting goals. Unfortunately, the vast majority of of people who set themselves resolutions or goals won't see them through.

There's good research to show that writing your goals down helps to crystallise them - to turn something that is otherwise merely just a dream or wish into something a little more concrete. I write my own goals down - so I practise what I preach.

So, whatever your goals, I hope you achieve them. But do yourself a favour and help yourself to succeed. Write your goals down. You don't need to share them with anyone - perhaps write them in your personal journal or on a piece of paper in your bedside cabinet or desk drawer. Put them somewhere where you can be reminded of them occasionally. And you will be more likely to achieve them.

Oh, and Happy New Year!