Company leaders are turning to psychologists for professional guidance
This isn’t the kind of occupational therapy you’re used to.
When Jonathan Pellegrin, the former chairman and CEO of publishing company Johnson Hill Press and author of The Art of Selling the Family Business, saw trouble brewing at his company, he knew just where to turn: a therapist specializing in workplace issues. With a history of seeking advice from mental health professionals for both personal and work-related issues, Pellegrin knew the benefits of having a psychiatrist and psychologist at his fingertips. “Our company had serious communication problems that were impairing our ability to succeed. I had to reach out for help before our growing company imploded.”
The protocol Pellegrin followed for 10 years prior to selling his company involved meetings with top management, followed by meetings with next level management responsible for execution and then meetings with affected departments, or the entire company. After the process would commence, Pellegrin’s psychologist would determine who needed to attend each meeting. “Our business psychologist and my psychiatrist contributed immeasurably to our company’s success and to helping me make personal choices that enhanced my peace and tranquility,” says Pellegrin.
Experts say more and more CEOs and leaders are turning to workplace therapists — who specialize in industrial and organizational psychology — to help them succeed.“The biggest challenge for patients who are in a leadership role is to understand their own personality structure and its impact on their personal and professional relationships,” says psychoanalyst and board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Ashok Bedi tells Moneyish. He says it’s also key for his patients to trace the roots of their personalities and career aspirations and look at how both their life and organization are currently functioning and how they want them to function going forward.
As demand grows for these kinds of services, a number of companies are now focusing on providing psychological expertise to CEOs, board directors and senior executives for companies like MasterCard, AIG and Walmart. RHR International is one of them, and Dr. Michael Bleadorn, a partner with the firm, tells Moneyish, “Our training is in psychology and human behavior and our work is to help our client companies build better leaders, more effective teams and cultures where people can thrive.”
Of course, workplace therapists can only do so much. With a limited focus on human resources, administration, management, sales and marketing problems, Industrial-Organizational psychologists work with policy planning, employee testing and selection, training and development and organizational development and analysis.
But for their fans, workplace shrinks can be the difference between business success and failure. Indeed, Pellegrin credits his improved personal relationships, human understanding and companywide accomplishments to his workplace psychologist. “We terminated a president who was running the company into the ground and we reorganized the company to better capitalize on individual strengths,” says Pellegin.
Bedi says, “The personality structure of the organization leader is a very significant variable predictive of the success of the company.”
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