L. Vaughan Spencer is the Tom Peters for the Britney Spears generation. He is awesome!
Chuck Schneider, motivational speaker, author and business tycoon.

L. Vaughan Spencer rocks! He says more than he thinks. He is the Eminem of Personal Self-Enhancement.
Cindy Jippers, Chief Soul-Kindler, The Jippers Center, Colorado.


August 15, 2002
Premier Executive

A new guru takes centre stage

People and profit by Stuart Crainer

Managers are a cynical lot. After all, the biggest-selling business book of all time is not a weighty tome on strategy or marketing, but that sceptical peon to office life, Dilbert. More seriously, the recent wave of corporate scandals confirms that cynicism is endemic and can easily lead to blatant corruption.

Management gurus are perhaps the most successful living (and legal) incarnations of this cynical breed. They travel the world peddling the same ideas year after year. They re-package old ideas, coat them with a varnish of jargon, pronounce them revolutionary and then charge managers a fortune.

"Our ideas are much the same, indeed they are the same, but we use different words. The trick is to have your own catch phrase," a strategy guru recently said. Nice work if you can get it.

To this world of cynical, world-weary salesmanship and snake-oil, it is something of a relief to welcome L Vaughan Spencer. Fashionably pony-tailed, Mr Spencer is the first of a new breed: the honest guru, someone who unashamedly tells it as it is. His world is that of personal enlightenment and self-development. We can be what we want to be. Helpfully, he also promises financial success.

A fellow motivational speaker, author and business tycoon, Chuck Schneider, has described Mr Spencer as "the Tom Peters for the Britney generation. He is awesome." If management really is the new rock'n'roll, then L Vaughan Spencer is Bill Hailey. One convert labelled him "the Eminem of personal self-enhancement". A more useful comparison may be with the smooth-talking Sergeant Bilko.

Mr Spencer's reputation has developed gradually, a slow burner in a world of empty comets. He is a prolific author. His books include The Tao of Shaving, Chicken Nuggets for the Soul, The Seven Hobbies of Highly Effective People and The Little Book of Big Things. The books are celebrations of human potential as much as dynamic calls to action.

"Business is a dog-eat-dog world and if you don't scratch my back then your cat won't get the cream," advises Mr Spencer, with his customary evangelical zeal and sincerity. As well as the veritable library of books, L Vaughan Spencer has also acted as personal coach for Jean-Pierre Dupont, the man behind the internationally acclaimed Cirque du Merde, which features circus artists from the greater Montreal area.

Where L Vaughan Spencer really comes alive is on stage. Most gurus rely on a tried and tested PowerPoint presentation. They go through the slides with all the enthusiasm of a hamster running on a familiar exercise wheel. Mr Spencer stalks the stage like a wild animal and casts out metaphors with something approaching abandon. The audiences lap it up.

His "Don't be needy, be succeedy workshops" have the irresistible air of revivalist meetings. They are "gigs" rather than seminars. Middle managers are taken to places they never before imagined existed. Indeed, I interviewed Mr Spencer prior to a pre-Edinburgh Festival appearance in Maidenhead.

To prove that he really is rock'n'roll in a world of chamber music, one of Mr Spencer's favoured metaphors is that of drumming. This is not a metaphor favoured by some of his more straight-laced competitors in the guru world.

"I use drumming as an allegory for teamwork and immersed myself in Eastern philosophy by spending a fortnight studying with the monks of Phuntursee Island," Mr Spencer explained, when I interviewed him while he was lying on the floor of his cramped dressing room with a towel over his face. Mr Spencer has even had the good fortune to play as a guest with the Koko Drummers of Unagi. Drumming, it seems, is a powerful means of encouraging careworn managers to lose their inhibitions.

Mr Spencer also advocates the "Succeeder Dance", which involves rotating your pelvis and thumbs at the same time. The intention, should you be so fortunate, is to propel yourself into what he labels the "Confidence Zone", where everything seems possible and self-expression far easier. The ogrish head of marketing is less intimidating with both your pelvis and thumbs in motion.

Some may scoff at Spencer's inspirations and his excitable delivery. Cynicism reigns. After all, his academic grounding owes more to Penge Comprehensive than Harvard Business School. However, in a world of cynics, he strikes a mysteriously resonant chord. Stephen Covey beware.


Saturday August 3, 2002
On the ladder

Time to get in touch with your
'inner succeeder'

Barbara Oaff has a dozen questions for career coach - L Vaughan Spencer

Looking for career guidance? Want to know how to get your boss's job and, more importantly, her salary? Then listen to some good advice. But take it all with a pinch of salt until you've heard the legendary, the life-changing and high-charging L Vaughan Spencer, career coach to the stars and the author of several bestsellers including Chicken Nuggets for the Soul, The Road Less Tarmac'd, Further Along the Road Less Tarmac'd and Blokes Who Run With Wolves.

This month sees him lecturing at the Edinburgh Fringe on "Don't Be Needy, Be Succeedy" but Rise managed to secure an exclusive pre-festival interview. Read on and get ready for your rapid climb up the greasy career pole.

1. I've just graduated and I still don't know what sort of career to choose. How can I find out what I want to do in life?

You must get in touch with your Inner Succeeder. Find a tree and sit near it. Ask it what it recommends.

2. I'm a bit of a basket case in interviews. I either clam up or ramble on. How can I calm my nerves and speak intelligently?

Prepare yourself mentally, physically and logistically. Warriors of old used to prepare for battle with a war dance. Use the Succeeder Dance - rotate your pelvis and your thumbs at the same time. Do it in the toilet or the lift on the way to the interview. It will help you to get in the Confidence Zone and once you're there you'll be able to express yourself well.

3. I loathe my boss. She is a complete nightmare to work with. How can I improve our relationship?

What's wrong with her? Is she pretty? If so, send me her photo and phone number and I'll try and see what I can do.

4. I'm always being lumbered with menial office chores. How can I win more responsibility?

"Lumbered"... "Menial"... "chores"... these are all value-laden words with very negative connotations. What's wrong with emptying the waste-paper baskets? Empower yourself and rejoice in your efforts coping with soggy tea bags. And remember that menial is an anagram of alien-m , and that chores becomes sore-ch and office is really ice-off. Do you see the metaphorical and metaphysical significance? If not, then phone my Advice Line - charged at 763 Euros a minute - right now.

5. I've been looking for a job for about four months now and I'm just about sick of it. I can't stand the thought of facing another selection panel or filling out one more application form. How can I regain some focus and determination?

Apply for jobs for which you are clearly unsuitable. For example, chief executive of a global corporation, UN ambassador, or Big Brother host. There might be a mix-up and you might get the job. Then you can get fired with a big "fat cat" pay-off and never have to work again. Alternatively, write down all the things that are good about yourself. You'll probably only need a post-it note. Then go into the living room, strip off, stand on one leg and shout "I am focused and determined" 473 times. Feels good doesn't it?

6. I don't think I can take one more rejection. All my confidence has been shattered. How can I sell myself in an interview when I don't feel like I've got that much to offer any more?

Have you thought about giving up? I would suggest that it's time you got the message. Nobody likes you.

7. I'm feeling overloaded at work. It's like there is just too much to do and not enough time to do it in. What should I do?


8. I've just missed out on my dream job. I feel so devastated. How can I get over this lost opportunity?

Forget about your dream job? Stop trying to live a dream and wake up to reality! It's time to get over yourself. Slap yourself in the face. Then go and have a cold bath.

Now that's cleared your mind, it's time to work on your body. When was the last time you had some beetroot? Go and eat some now!

9. I'm really bored in my job. It's not turning out like I expected. Should I stay and hope it will get better or should I move on?

Do you have access to the stationery cupboard? If so, stay as long as possible and take what you can. Some people call this petty theft. I call it Benefits In Kind, or Investing For the Future. If you don't have five staplers and 76 post-it note pads, how can you be expected to start a business? And why shouldn't you be able to relieve your employers of 78,853 pencils? They knew what they were risking when they employed you!

Business is a "dog eat dog" world, and if you don't scratch my back then your cat won't get the cream. Capitalism is all about chance and demand and supply and that includes rulers that just may happen to walk out in your backpack. So, stick with the job until you get can't nick any more.

10. I'm too reserved in the office. I rarely speak up in meetings, I shy away from team efforts and as for after-work drinks... How can I become more assertive?

Come on my Assertiveness Weekend Workshop. It will change your life. Just spend 376 and I will get trained Shouters to shout at you until you shout back and I will call that Breakthrough. You won't ask for your money back because you're too shy.

11. Any parting advice for all the graduates out there?

Get a work/life balance. Take up a hobby. For example, running or standing near things. I spend hours standing near Starbucks and I love it. It's where I do my best work.

12. Where can I find out more?

See the WORKSHOPS section of his website.

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