Dr Lynda Shaw is a business psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist, change specialist and as of April 2021, National President of the Professional Speaking Association. Given her unusual skills and experience, we caught up with Dr Shaw to find out what a day in her life looks like.
Why did you want to become a business psychologist and neuroscientist?
“I have worked in a number of sectors including airline cabin crew, a gym owner, a personal trainer and orthopaedic exercise teacher, but a bit later in life, after my father died, I decided to do a degree in Psychology and Social Anthropology. I then went on to complete a masters in psychology and a doctorate in cognitive neuroscience researching unconscious processing of emotion. The combination of these degrees and my time working in assorted businesses gave me the experience and incentive to become a business psychologist and neuroscientist. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my very supportive family because I was a mature student, and my children were young at the time, so it was a real juggling act.”
How can businesses use neuroscience and psychology to be successful?
“Neuroscience and psychology look at how the brain forms habits, makes decisions, deals with problems, communicates and leverages emotions effectively. Understanding this allows us to be far stronger and establish good working relationships which in turn will be benefit business. For example, when one has a greater awareness of how customers and employees think and behave this in turn facilitates customer loyalty and a more collaborative work force.”
What are the best and hardest things about your job?
“I thoroughly enjoy working with people and see them flourish and succeed. Understanding the power of our mindset allows us to change our destiny which is truly amazing. I also like making business and work fun again for my clients and teaching them that although our work is serious, we don’t have to take ourselves seriously. The hardest part of my job is having to stay ahead of research; it comes from all over the world so it can be tricky to keep on top of. It is essential that I am up to date and condense this information and relate it to business so it can be used to help my clients.”
What has been your proudest moment in your career to date?
“I have just been elected national president of The Professional Speaking Association (PSA). The PSA has 13 regions and more than 600 members throughout the UK and Ireland and is part of the Global Speakers Federation so it will be incredibly demanding but exciting opportunity.”
What skills are vital to your job?
“Obviously I need a lot of technical knowledge to understand complicated research and translate it into practical bitesize pieces of information for clients, but I need to be able to communicate well. I also need to understand as best I can my client’s area of expertise, so being a good collaborator is important.”
What does your average day look like?
“I usually go straight to the gym in the morning at around 7am, now that they are thankfully open again! I aim to be back at my desk at 0930 and finish my working day by 1800, but this is all relative to my weekly schedule and there are some days where I could be working until 2030, if for example I’m delivering a late workshop. I focus on three stages throughout my day: research, writing and delivery. Any phone calls are usually taken outside whilst I’m walking – as long as the weather permits! Pre the pandemic I was often talking at events around the country and internationally, but these have mostly moved online for now.”
You do many things such as are a speaker, host online programmes, offer consultancy services etc. What do you most enjoy doing and why?
“Honestly, I love it all, especially the variety! Anything to do with communicating with people makes me happy. I like working with an audience and changing my delivery depending on their reaction. This can be translated online as well so I don’t mind the transition to online platforms because of the pandemic.”
What is in your five year plan?
“I don’t have one. Ask anyone who knows me! I have lots of events coming up and host a number of professional development programmes and work as a consultant to many organisations. Being national president of The Professional Speaking Association (PSA) for 18 months will keep me even more busy! I plan to keep growing and just keep enjoying my personal and professional relationships.
How do you maintain a work-life balance?
“The boundaries between work and personal life are increasingly vague which is why people so often struggle to strike that right balance. It is important to set some boundaries and to respect them but I’m lucky in that I love what I do, although I always make space for my personal life as well. I am a real adventurer and can’t wait to travel again. As a compulsive traveler I have enjoyed kayaking around the icebergs in Antarctica and have trekked in the mountains in six of seven of our continents. Having a healthy lifestyle is very important to me.”
How has COVID-19 affected your job?
“2020 was actually financially the best year I’ve ever had. A lot of existing and new clients wanted to become better employers because of the pandemic and to know how to support their staff during such unprecedented circumstances.”
What do you think is the future of the events industry in the next year or so?
“It is uncertain. There is a clear feeling of nervousness about everything going back to normal and the majority of online events have actually worked really well. It is fair to say that we will see a combination of online and in person events to cater to everyone’s preferences for the foreseeable future.”
Congratulations on the huge success of your campaign on burnout. With lockdown easing, do you feel burnout is still something we should be worried about?
“Burnout is a very big problem. We have been in a hugely stressful situation for over a year and many of us have felt grief, anxiety, depression, isolation and had to juggle things more than ever. Coming out of lockdown could equally add to these feelings and we need time to adjust and avoid clashes between different people who now want different things. It will be another huge learning curve, a volatile and uncertain time, but I remain optimistic.