Social media snooping

The new year is a classic time to start thinking about new ventures, including switching to your dream job. But now a fresh breed of technology could be snooping your activities and alert your boss to your intentions. A number of companies are now developing software to track when you use social media like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to look at new opportunities. By using ‘big data’ analysis, companies like Joberate gives you a score based on these and other factors. When this score changes from your normal baseline activity, your boss – or even a headhunting company – will be pinged to let them know that you might be searching for pastures new.

While this trend may have a tinge of creepy big brother about it, it could also be win-win for staff and their employers. Companies often fail to show appreciation for their top staff until those employees are ready to walk out the door, by which time it is usually too late to retain them as they’ve moved so far down the path of pursuing new opportunities. This technology could help them to intervene at the right point, saving companies money and giving employees a chance to negotiate more of what they want.

Changing tack

I recently read an article in Psychologies magazine about a lawyer who had decided to throw herself into pursuing a dream of becoming a magazine and big screen writer at the age of 36. She had an itch to write that simply wouldn’t go away so decided to give it a scratch. This struck a chord with me as last year I walked away from my corporate job in marketing to follow a lingering desire to go back into psychology, which I studied as an undergrad.

It was scary to step off the safe and familiar path that I’d been following since I graduated but it felt like it was now or never.  One of my strongest motivations was to make sure that I didn’t look back and regret not doing something because I was afraid of the consequences. I’ve also always liked the idea of a career shift to try my hand at something different rather than commit a working lifetime to just one area. I was surprised at how many people were genuinely excited when I told them about my decision and said they’d love to either go back to studying or try something new. I feel lucky to be able to do it.

So now, here I am about to embark on my second terms of a masters in occupational psychology.  It was definitely hard adjusting back into life as a student and relearning the ways of the academic world but it’s immensely satisfying to be doing what I want rather than just talking (and talking and talking) about it.  The course is mostly fascinating – bar the intense statistics that I never thought I’d have to set eyes on again after my degree – and it’s a great experience to be truly stretching my brain again. My goal now is to make sure my mind follows my actions and I start thinking of myself as a business psychologist in the making.


Confidence vs Competence – What’s Really Holding Women Back?

Interesting article from the Harvard Business Review blog on how businesses could be misinterpreting confidence for competence. Is this why men may be seen as better leaders than women?

Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic,
August 22nd 2013

There are three popular explanations for the clear under-representation of women in management, namely: (1) they are not capable; (2) they are not interested; (3) they are both interested and capable but unable to break the glass-ceiling: an invisible career barrier, based on prejudiced stereotypes, that prevents women from accessing the ranks of power. Conservatives and chauvinists tend to endorse the first; liberals and feminists prefer the third; and those somewhere in the middle are usually drawn to the second. But what if they all missed the big picture?

In my view, the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.

Read more at:

Being Defensive – How Psychotherapy Sees You

I love this infographic on defence mechanisms (and the site generally – amazingly creative way of communicating data).  We use defences all the time to protect ourselves and hide our vulnerabilities – both in a healthy and sometimes in a detrimental way. It’s helpful to be aware of these so we can understand what’s driving our behaviour.  You may also recognise these defences, including in the workplace.

Being Defensive – How Psychotherapy Sees You

Switch it on

I found this book called Switch – How to Change Things when Change is Hard when I was meandering around a store in Boston in need of some inspiration and have been preaching its merits ever since.  I bought a copy for my father-in-law when he was heading the Singapore factory operations of a large multinational. He’s read loads of these management-style books so didn’t seem overly enthralled with his Christmas present, but then went on to buy copies for all  his senior management team.  Praise indeed.

Its written by the Heath brothers who also wrote the top-selling Made to Stick, and brings together research in psychology, sociology and other fields to shed light on how to make transformative change, whether its at work, home or even to yourself (my husband was nervous about being the unwitting subject of my discoveries).  The whole idea is based around the fact that the brain has two independent systems at work at all the times – the rational ‘rider’ side, which deliberates, analyses and looks into the future, and the emotional ‘elephant’ side, which is instinctive and feels pain and pleasure. 

To make change you have to reach both by doing three key things:

Direct the rider: discover what is working already that supports the change, however big or small, and clone it.  Script out the critical moves to make it happen and point to the destination – in other words, provide a vision.

Motivate the elephant: Find the feeling – just knowing something isn’t enough to cause change, you need to make people feel something in order to act.  Shrink the change – break it down until it no longer spooks the emotional elephant – and grow your people.  Cultivate a sense of identity and instil the growth mindset.

Shape the path: Tweak the environment – when the situation changes, the behaviour changes, so change the situation; build habits to cultivate the change (making it less taxing for the overly analytical rider). Finally, rally the heard – behaviour is contagious, so help spread it. 

Simple.Not quite, but it’s a great practical guide with advice that you can start implementing from the get-go. Some of the anecdotes are arguably overly simplistic and contrived to make the point, but help give colour to the theory.  The pieces on cloning what’s already working and breaking down the change particularly resonated with me.