Sue Firth is a business psychologist, stress expert, behaviour analyst and author and helps CEOs and senior executives manage stress, from an individual and group perspective. She is an international speaker and holds a Bachelor of Science and a Masters degree. Sue is a member of The British Psychological Society, the International Stress Management Association (ISMA) and The Academy for Chief Executives (ACE). Sue regularly appears in the media and has been a guest/expert on programmes like This Morning and Panorama.
Sue tries to change the way people think and teach them how to moderate their habits and attitudes in order to reduce any difficulties they have, whilst still maintaining their effectiveness.
As a psychologist, Sue observes and analyses behavioural patterns and enables people to increase self-esteem and confidence by removing negative thoughts and changing long-held and damaging traits of self-belief. A down-to-earth motivator, Sue helps individuals and businesses become more productive and profitable. She has practices in Surrey and central London.
Sue, you are a business psychologist, a stress expert, behavioural analyst and author. Would it be fair to call you a life coach?
No, not quite; I’ve just got a good publicist who wrote all that. I’m just an expert in a subject that I enjoy writing and speaking about, so any medium is good for me.
Are you American by any chance?
No, I’m very English, but I’m quite dark so people often mistake me for an Italian.
You seem to do a lot; what is your average day like?
I have an early start, about 6.30am and at my computer by 8.00, but I also travel a lot and have two kids, so I can be on a train or in the car by 9.00am. I can get very busy, but I’m a believer in frequent breaks and down time, which I think are very important.
Has work-related stress got worse since the recession?
I hear about it more and the issues are familiar; over-worked, under-resourced and experiencing fear of failure.
You have appeared on This Morning; how was it? What would be your top tips to conquer the common fear of speaking in public or to the media?
I enjoy live television, although it can be very scary. Fern Britton and Philip Schofield were on the programme together and I was there to comment on a number of issues. I find speaking to the media is a very specific skill, as journalists always want you to speak in sound bites, short sentences where you get to the point quickly.
As far as speaking in public is concerned, it can be very nerve-racking, but it helps if you are passionate about your subject. Using small cards with brief pertinent points to remind you is useful too and to manage your nerves, I learned a breathing technique which slows me down and stops me racing through it. This technique is on my website and in my book.
What form do your workshops take and who would benefit from them?
I speak for anything from an hour to full day workshops, often along with my colleague Adele, who is a nutritional therapist. We teach people how to understand stress and handle it better. I often find people experience trouble sleeping and problems with their digestion, so Adele helps fix their physical symptoms faster than my cognitive approach can do alone.
We also run weight-loss programmes, where our approach as a team works well, because people regularly have an emotional connection with food and we can help shift that, so they stop using food as an emotional crutch.
What form does your corporate work take? What are the signs a company is stressed out? Is stress contagious and, if so, how do you stop it?
Corporates ask for help to guide their top teams in managing stress better for themselves and learning how to recognize it in their direct reports. A company is stressed out when two things happen; either departments experience too much change and the staff go off sick, indicating the company may not have handled the initiative well, or individuals may be poorly managed and overworked, which results in sickness absence too.
Stress is contagious in the sense that someone in a very tense mood, or with a permanently negative attitude to life can have an effect and alter other people’s moods, because it is difficult to remain positive around unhappy people. Companies who make consistent errors when managing situations or offer poor support, can leave many employees cynical and this spreads further unhappiness and de-motivates staff.
Isn’t business really too trivial to really worry about? Isn’t it really firemen and surgeons who need your help?
Business is vital to the economy and affects the profit and loss of the country. Firemen are at least trained for what they do, which helps them focus even when stressed, whereas very few business people understand how stress can affect performance, so they each need support, but in different ways.
Where is your business based?
I have the use of a suite of rooms at Number One Harley Street, which helps because it is a central London venue and I have a Surrey practice at home, where I meet clients who don’t necessarily want to travel into the City.
What do you do to relax?
Pilates mostly – it helps ease the tension that cortisol (a hormone released into the blood system, like adrenaline) leaves in the muscles and it keeps my back strong, as I’ve had problems with it for years. I also love listening to music and being with my kids, who are 10 and 12, but who bicker a lot. I guess this is stressful too, but the important thing is that we spend a lot of time together and laugh a lot, even if I do wish they’d get on better
All enquiries to Sue Firth, tel: 0844 800 4292 mob: 07721 502322 e-mail: email@example.com