'Therapy' aims to aid worker, workplace

To gain a competitive edge in business, it might pay to use a little psychology. In her new book, Leadership Therapy: Inside the Mind of Microsoft, psychologist Anna Rowley describes STCT (Short Term Corporate Therapy), the program she has developed to help people navigate speed bumps in careers and aid dysfunctional work teams.

The book details her experiences working with Microsoft msft executives for more than a decade, and how her insights can benefit current or aspiring leaders in any kind of organization.

Don't worry if you never took Psychology 101. Rowley does a nice job explaining critical terminology. She writes in a clear, no-nonsense style, making this a brisk, invigorating read.

She says leaders must take responsibility for their own predicaments. One way is to recognize psychological traps. Example: the impostor syndrome, in which you secretly feel that people will find out you really don't deserve your job or promotion. It results in needing to be the best to gain the approval of others, and becoming a "neurotic perfectionist" driven by a fear of failure.

There are five components to STCT:

•Belief. In this sense, not about religion or spirituality, but what you believe about yourself and your work. Beliefs are the core of your being, and must be communicated to those on your team. Remember that you are not two people in one body: "Who you are at work," she writes, "is who you are outside of work."

•Confidence. Don't get stuck on internal criticism. Know who you really are, and for whom you are living your life. She has worked with clients who "find themselves living out a parent's fantasy and need to come to terms with their own aspirations and ideals."

•Self-awareness. "By fully understanding ourselves — our motivations, beliefs, our relationship with success, our blind spots — we become less self-absorbed. We don't feel the need to focus all our attention internally on our needs, our feelings and our personal agenda."

•Trust. She describes this as a "spoken or unspoken contract between people that permits them to articulate their expectations. It means they feel safe confiding in, being vulnerable with, giving feedback to, or disagreeing with each other."

•Power and ambition. Ambition "is the cornerstone on which power rests." Positive ambitions help leaders achieve goals through desire and tenacity. These leaders do not make life hell for their team. They "focus not only on results but on the journey, and ensure it is as fulfilling and rewarding as possible to all those involved."

Rowley knows that most workplaces are not going to invest in a psychologist and that most people probably won't start seeing one of their own accord. Her final chapter, "Be Your Own Therapist," walks readers through developing their own plan, with exercises to do on your own, such as "shadowing" yourself for a day and writing a third-person narrative of your observations.

Another exercise, creating your own 50-minute hour (the time you'd spend each week with a therapist), can be devoted to personal reflection or doing an activity outside work that is personally rewarding and leads to inner growth.

Leadership Therapy: Inside the Mind of Microsoft neatly fits among the psychology-based books that have become popular in the business world, such as Daniel Goleman's Working with Emotional Intelligence, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz's The Power of Full Engagement and Malcolm Gladwell's Blink.

Creating better-functioning workplaces is a laudable goal for 2008. But working on the kind of personal issues Rowley describes can be a tall order. Perhaps the first step is the willingness of open-minded leaders who commit to a regimen of self-therapy.