“Writing is a job”
At the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature, we encountered the dashing Adrian Furnham at a session titled ‘The Business Of Thriving In Business’ and he had us hooked in minutes. Furnham is an organisational and applied psychologist, management expert and Professor of Psychology at University College London.
Second-most published in Psychology with 82 books including Dim Sum Management, 50 Psychology Ideas you really need to know, and The Resilient Manager, with contributions to Financial Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Sunday Times, and magazines such as The Spectator, New Scientist, and Spotlight, we decided we want to pick his brain and get some useful advice about writing, marketing and getting hired!
Read his insightful answers to our hand-picked questions below:
Q. To writers/bloggers starting out, how do they go about getting more views/increasing their audiences (assuming they have no advertising budgets)?
First decide on what the basis theme and style of your blog will be. Find your voice. Are you going to be funny or profound, quirky or conventional? Write three to practice. Then decide who to target. Who will be interested in the sort of things you write. Find someone who you like reading
Q. How do you find a balance between giving your audience what they want and retaining your editorial direction?
Difficult to know what they want. Better to keep true to yourself. There will be people who really like both what you say and how you say it. But it takes time and effort. Get a few friends to give you brutally honest feedback on your first attempts. Don’t give up> Keep at it. Like everything else it is a skill.
Q. You write for a variety of different publications with different audiences. Can you tell us how you maintain the distinction in your tone of voice for each?
I don’t change my tone on the topic. So I send more business oriented pieces to business sites and more psychological pieces to sites that suit them. My voice is sceptical, and I hope often funny. Find your voice that is true to what you believe in.
Q. Today, what are the key factors in increasing one’s employ-ability?
Three things count in this order: Motivation/hunger and a capacity for hard work. Be known for pitching in and pitching up. Two use your abilities to acquire skills that are in demand. And third, don’t complain.
As quickly as possible become, or at least appear to be, indispensable.
Having any skill set that others need yet do not possess is a wonderful asset. In the land of the blind and all that, being the only person to speak Mandarin or understand Structural Equation Modelling, or nurture a temperamental machine, or person, bestows special status. Explore your particular talents and hone those that the organisation both wants and are in short supply. Equally, seek out organisations that value your particular skillset. The emotionally intelligent might thrive in organisations of autistic-spectrum techies; the numerate among creative air-heads.
Always (appear to) be a committed, open, enthusiastic team-player.
Learn to co-operate, to include others, to be supportive. Management is a contact sport. Develop a reputation for being committed to the team, group and organisation. Stress the ‘we’ over the ‘I’. Attend social events – better still, organise them. Bring people together. Share your ideas and assets. In giving you receive.
Work out the real power structure, establish useful alliances and find soul-mates.
Get connected and embedded throughout the organisation. Get out of your silo and do your own matrix organisation. Understand, through relationships, how the whole organisation works. Never believe the organisational chart. Informal leaders are very influential. Find them. Charm them. Befriend them. Get savvy as to where the power lies.
Be positive, don’t whine and never get caught gossiping.
It is the alienated, passed over and angry who spend their life sniping. They are not fun to be around and they sap team morale. Positive people, by contrast, are life-enhancing, fun to be around and at the heart of a good team. Do “can” and not “can’t” and see the upside first, long before the downside. Never put down colleagues in public. You can evaluate ideas, but never attack the proposer. Treat setbacks as learning opportunities and move on.
Know when to attract and when to avoid the limelight.
Make sure you get noticed by the right people at the right time. There is little worse than an egocentric, attention-seeking, narcissistic young person whose self-obsession is very offputting. Less is always more. It is better to give a few brilliant presentations than many good ones. Pick your opportunities, prepare to the point that everything looks natural and easy, and praise others openly when they have done well.
Manage Up and Across as well as Down.
We know from multi-source feedback that, of all the people who come into contact with you, your boss knows you least well. Your staff know about your management style, your colleagues about your abilities and your boss about the consequences of your work. You have to beat your colleagues to get your boss’s job, so make sure he/she is kept well briefed on all you want him/her to know. Keep on good terms with colleagues and reports. Never forget the “little people” in support roles, who often have disproportionate amounts of power.
Keep your options open, your CV updated and your skill set sharp.
The career is not dead. But ‘snakes and ladders’ behaviour may be required to do well in many jobs. You may have to leave the organisation and rejoin to overcome some obstacles ahead. So welcome head-hunters, read the appointments pages, know your market value. And where necessary update your skills and knowledge. Technology changes everything. In short, cultivate and guard your reputation. Be proactive and aware of what is going on. Be adaptable and flexible. And – which is more – you’ll be a Man(ager), my son!