Business Psychology: What's that then?

Rupert Cornford made the switch from journalism to psychology in March 2016 and, prompted by his dad, is in reflective mood about the journey so far

“What does a business psychologist actually do”, asked my dad, as we sat down for dinner in London recently. He’d always been supportive of my career move; in fact, throughout my life, he’s just let me get on with it – with occasional guidance thrown in.

But what’s obvious to me, might not be to him, and even though the job title might sound intriguing, it will mean different things to different people. That's what I have found during my first six months at Carter Corson.

When I decided to leave the media in 2015, I’d spent many hours talking to business leaders about the importance of people; how they can make or break businesses; and how investors will back management teams first.

I heard stories of cultures slashed to bits by ego, and businesses moving up the rankings of 'best places to work'. Put this together with a generational shift of what work means, increasing stress levels, 24/7 expectations and the breaking down of hierarchies, and you have the perfect people storm.

That’s why I took a psychology degree, jumped across, and joined a business invested in helping people to understand themselves at work. On our meeting room wall, and website, is written: ‘we might not change the world, but we can change the minds that might’. It’s our mission to improve people’s self awareness, their relationships at work, and their ability to be the best version of themselves.

We create leadership development programmes which are anchored in the context of the organisations we work for; we give people enough psychology to make it mean something, and the space to reflect on how they could behave and interact differently, or take an alternative perspective. We get them to work on stuff they can directly apply.

We support people through coaching, Board facilitation and post-deal transitions, and give them a safe space to talk. We help them reflect on what is working well and what is blocking them. Sometimes we help people get out of their own way. In a world where people say they are ‘busy’ as the stock answer – time out to reflect is few and far between; being heard even less so.

We help companies profile candidates, using validated psychometrics, which remain the strongest objective measure of human behaviour we have. We give feedback, encourage challenge and then use them as a basis for future development. People have behavioural preferences, but we are all different.

And that’s what we love. That everyone is different, everyone has a context and back story unique to themselves; and within a framework of human behaviour, we help leaders and managers understand and deal better with difference; and how to cater for, nurture and manage different human beings.

What does a business psychologist do? We listen, inform, shape, challenge and encourage; we facilitate, enable and provide space for the conversations that aren’t being had. And where it’s necessary, we’ll tell you a bit about the science behind it all, and make you laugh.

I hope you have a clearer idea now, dad.

You can follow Rupert Cornford on Twitter @rupertcornford