I love being a work psychologist
I became a work psychologist because I love learning about organizations and what people do. What makes a business tick?
It’s only Monday and here are five picks of whom I have encountered this week (and it is only Tuesday!)
Geographer who locates supermarkets (location, location, location)
Valuer of cars in Russia (great when it freezes and plenty of work until the insurance market matures)
Broker of Nepalese art (deep relationships with artists = supply chain management)
Furniture retailer in Sudan (steady as she goes – continuity and cost leadership)
Retail banker in Sri Lanka (get that customer served – be reliable and dependable)
What I do (my core competence, if you like)
HR always seems so obvious to people in the business. If it works well, it becomes part of the “taken for granted” set of value assumptions in the underwater part of the cultural iceberg.
Non-formally trained business people take for granted what they do, twice over. What they seems natural, it also seems childish not to know.
The fun of being a work psychologist is drawing out the assumptions business people have held for so long that they haven’t mentioned them or talked about them to anyone for a long time.
What is it like to have a conversation with a work psychologist?
I am having fun. What do business people gain from talking to me?
- My interest is a mirror where they can see how their business runs. They enjoy the experience and are reassured and steadied as they work in other areas that may be shaky.
- Talking aloud to an appreciative listener allows them to put into words what they have been acting on, but not thinking or saying. Often we don’t realize what we think until we say it aloud in the presence of someone else.
- The principles of what they are doing are now out in the open where they can inspect them, consider them, and consider how relevant they will be in the future. The valuer in Russia, for example, has trained valuers in distant city so he can take advantage of the current boom in valuing assets. He also knows the boom will peak in a few years. He is perfectly aware of both facts but may allow the situation to drift if he does not say what he knows aloud in front of someone else.
Why a psychologist and not someone else?
A business person talks to many people – their banker or their associates at the pub. Why and how are we different?
- We draw out the assumptions about HR.
- We are trained to challenge gently, and reveal those long taken for granted assumptions that operate like the underwater part of an iceberg – essential to the visible business but deadly if forgotten. A friend or banker is concentrating on what they need to hear, not on what the business person needs to hear themselves say.
- We deliberately restate assumptions clearly so they are on the table for discussion and sharing with other people – new employees, bankers, and people we are talking to during times of change. A business person talking to a psychologist in any setting, say a conference, a training room, an interview, should come away feeling invigorated. They should feel clearer about what is important to them and confident that the important things are being attended to.
And it is only Tuesday! This is a great job. People are endlessly fascinating when they are talking about a job they love and do well.