William’s interest in learning theories and applications began when he was commissioned in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy, where after front line service he became involved in aircrew training. After training as an organisational psychologist and completing an MBA, William joined a boutique strategy firm specialising in aligning strategy, structure and behaviours. In 1990, William joined PDN, a firm set up with the specific remit to equip IBM with the consulting skills necessary for its move into services. William became MD of PDN in 1997 and led PDN to its position as one of the leading professional services advisory firms.
In July 2014 William established Psychological Skills for Professional Services (PSfPS) – a global training firm focused on translating psychological concepts into effective behavioural and cognitive professional development programmes. Clients now include some of the world’s leading consulting and professional services firms and also global organisations (including telecoms, FMCG, technology and pharmaceutical companies) looking to adopt the best practices and behaviours from the world of professional services.
William is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, with an MA in Psychology from The Queen’s College Oxford, an MBA from Warwick Business School, and he is a graduate of Harvard’s ‘Leading Professional Service Firms’ programme.
Working with Senior Leadership Teams
William is particularly interested in the unique leadership role that Partners, CXOs and Managers should play in professional services firms. William believes there are critical areas of leadership behaviour that successful Partners exhibit. These ‘Partner-type behaviours’ enable leaders to exemplify the brand, embody the culture and set the foundations for an enduring legacy.
Fundamentally, when working with leadership groups, William aims to challenge the way they think and encourage behaviour change that is eventually modelled and shared firm-wide. As a Partner from a ‘Big Four’ consulting practice based in Spain recently said:
“He is very good at challenging our Partners. He makes us think differently and provides very, very good advice. We employ very demanding people and yet we continue to use William regularly.”
William is often asked to speak and lead sessions for associations and networks of organisational leaders, including recently: Managing Partners Forum Global (MPF Global), the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) and the Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF).
Business Development Behaviours
Based on extensive research into both the buying behaviour of clients and the winning skills and behaviours of the most successful business developers, William coaches and trains leaders of firms to better understand the buying process from the perspective of their clients/prospects and the explicit implications for their own behaviour as representatives of the whole organisation – not just themselves.
William’s approach is to combine experiential learning and best practice with the most recent psychological and consultancy research and because programmes are highly practical and rooted in real live situations, behaviour change and new ways of thinking are sustained well beyond the learning event. By way of illustration, a Senior Partner from a global management consulting firm recently said of a Business Development programme for firm-wide leaders:
“We wanted to engage an organisation to help us move to focusing on relationships and the right behaviours, both internally and with clients. The key was to work with someone who could help us change the ‘attitude’ of our organisation. Our Senior VP was referred by a mutual contact to speak to William Johnson.
There have been three main impacts of working with William: Firstly, there was a realisation and awareness that “Wow” there is another way to go. We realised that we can build trust, have higher levels of engagement with our clients and become thought leaders. We were not doing this as well before. Secondly, we were able to close more business opportunities and finally, by putting Partners and Senior Managers through the programmes, we have been able to kick off our cultural and behavioural transformation programme internally. Change is a continuous long-term process and William and his colleagues at PSfPS have helped us to start this journey.”
To balance his business life William enjoys squash, sailing, snowboarding, and playing the saxophone with enthusiasm but little technique.