Inside the Mind of a Doctor in Industrial Psychology

Can you introduce yourself and what you have been doing for the past 20 years?

I am Fayruz Abrahams. I am an industrial psychologist. Recently, I achieved my Ph.D. in consulting psychologist. So, some would call me a consulting psychologist. And the intention with that degree was that it could operate across the 3 spectrums. Namely, individual, group, and organisation. So by occupation, I operate in industrial psychology and have been practicing in leadership development and change management for the past 20 years.  And as a consult or coach. With industrial psychology, I work predominantly in larger corporate organisations. Industrial Psychology ranges over many different spectrums. Namely, training, coaching, psychometrics, and more. My niche is leadership work and change management work.

What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful?

Service. And dedication. I always think about what it is the other person needs. And then I commit myself to do that. Having a background in Industrial Psychology, I have it engrained to listen to the needs of others. Sometimes what people say they need and what they actually need is different. Some people don’t even know what they need. I think I have a good sense of empathy. So, I connect and I understand and I will serve. I don’t even know if that means success.

Maybe I should start with what I define as success. For me, it has been the ability to remain of service and relevance for the past 20 years in doing what I am doing. I have access to people at the highest levels and the lowest levels. and when I do work, people feel that that has been value-adding. So if the people or person I am serving, feel I have added value, then I think that is my definition of success.

What are your success habits?

I pay attention to the client. I give my focus and my energy to fulfilling the brief assigned. This is what I routinely do. I seek to be available to the client. At any time of the day. and as much as my calendar needs to be filled, I also try to make spaces to be available for clients. Another success habit is that I prepare. And I think through the how and I plan that out. Sometimes only in my head, and sometimes I document it.

Another habit is getting to know the person. Also getting to know the environment in which they operate; their company. And becoming very familiar with that. Sometimes I try to merge with the team and be at the same level as the team. Which means it would make them feel that I am part of the team. Lastly, I try to continuously learn. This entails keeping my mind sharp and cutting edge.

So what are some of the things you’ve learned working with so many different people?

I have learned more and more about my field; the field of leadership. including change management. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work. I have also learned that the best access to information is those on the ground floor. those in the trench. And that if I ever actually want to understand, I need to understand and connect at that level. But every single time I work, I learn something.

So, it is important to be open to continuous learning and knowing that it is not a one-way stream. If I am with an organisation, they may learn something from me, but I always open m mind to learning something from them. And sometimes it’s something profound, and sometimes it’s personal. I have also learned that people are always open to sharing because everybody likes to be heard. So, if I establish rapport and I am humble and down to earth, and I show interest, people always open up.

Another thing I have discovered is that behind me there is a wealth of knowledge. I have had access to different functions like engineering, IE, and accounting. It’s not only in the personal mastery space. Therefore, I find I can absorb and be intrigued by all of the knowledge that people share with me.

I have also learned that you can never make up your mind about somebody. You have to leave room for them to surprise you. because people have always surprised me. Just at how creative or determined courageous they can be in different situations.

Can you give us an example?

I met this woman who was walking around the factory with a crown on. So, I asked her why does she have a crown on? She said “My team on this production line, elected me as the sparkling lady! Because I give them all inspiration and energy and they say I am like the cheerleader on the floor.” And after that, I spoke to her for longer and asked her about herself and where she grew up. I discovered, that her husband, that she thought had abandoned her and she had to raise her kids on her own. Later, months after he had abandoned her, she discovered that he had died on a train. And he was buried as a “John Doe” with no name.

It inspired me so much. This woman kind of lost her husband twice. And both would have been terribly painful for her. Yet she raised her kids and she is still the cheerleader for other operators. In addition, working in an industry that doesn’t even pay well. I felt I was sitting with a giant.

What mistakes have you made along the way?

I guess so many. I remember one time I did a workshop and the workshop went terribly wrong. like, the more I spoke, the worse it got. And now if I think about it, I did the workshop because someone had called me in. And I hadn’t taken the time to understand the client and what it was they needed. So, because I didn’t understand, I was speaking about Mars and they were wanting to know more about Venus.

There are multiple small things, where I slip up and I put my foot in my mouth. Sometimes I say more than I should. But it’s hard now to think of them as mistakes because I learned something. So it was like a blessing in the end. Another mistake was that I used to think that I was helping an organisation. When in fact, I was helping one person at a time. And those people add up, and they change or save the organisation. Not me.

What was the hardest decision you ever had to make?

I can’t think of anything. Things that come to mind are personal ones with regards to my children. But, other things don’t feel very hard for me. They just feel necessary. I usually figure out a contingency plan, and I do it.

What is the best advice you can give?

Be yourself. Be authentic. And be of service. And what that service is, is only apparent in the situation you are faced with. So, as an example, there was a project I was given to do for the VW community trust. Which was set up the save the children’s forum. And in doing that, I met a whole lot of NGOs and social development organisations. And I ended up doing a lot of work for them, for free. So, sometimes, what’s in front of you is something you are getting paid for, and sometimes not. But figure out what that is and then do that. It’s a sign that you are trusting life. And the process of life.

Another piece of advice is to know your craft. For example, if it is Industrial Psychology, then make sure you know what you are talking about. It is very disrespectful to the other party if you just ‘wing it’. Your words should be informed and substantive. Which links into the value of respect. And honouring the other person. If you always make the other person more important than you make yourself, then life will support you and surround you with blessings.

If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?

I would spend more time with my kids. If I pressed reset completely, then maybe I would have gone and studied medicine. But that was not my path. The field I’m in, Industrial Psychology, Leadership, and Change Management was where I was meant to be.

Therefore, we can deduce that success is about giving every situation what it is due. And be sure to commit to serving the next person. This will come back to you tenfold if your intention is pure. If the service you do is conditional, and you expect something in return, it may not be service. It will be an investment. Because you want something in return. Make sure to do something, purely to serve another!

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