The Myth and Power of Control

CareerCast - Life-long Career Development

Caroline Webb How much do you believe that your career is the result of your own actions—or do things beyond your control determine your success? Caroline Webb, chief executive of Sevenshift, former partner at McKinsey & Company, and author of How to Have a Good Day, considers control something that you can leverage to your advantage. In this CareerCast, Webb shares her knowledge, experience, and in-depth insights from behavioral science on how to enhance your professional achievements and life.

Aired February 19, 2016

Caroline Webb is chief executive of Sevenshift, an advisory firm that shows clients how to use insights from behavioral science to improve their professional lives. Previously a partner at McKinsey & Company, she remains an external senior adviser to McKinsey on leadership.

The common thread through Webb’s career has been her strong interest in what it takes for people to achieve extraordinary things. She first worked as an economist in the public sector in the 1990s, where her work ranged from economic forecasting to institution-building in post-communist Europe. She then shifted her focus from national policy-making to the more intimate questions of what makes organizations and individuals effective in their work–and joined McKinsey & Company in 2000 with those questions in mind. In her 12 years there, Caroline co-founded their leadership practice, with a mission to develop the human side of McKinsey’s support to its most senior clients. She established the firm's approach to improving the dynamics and effectiveness of senior teams, developed McKinsey’s ‘Centered Leadership’ client work in the field of personal leadership effectiveness, and founded McKinsey’s program for improving the confidence and capability of senior female clients. She ran a number of networks to enable C-suite leaders to learn from each other, and has designed major leadership development programm to support the change goals of dozens of organizations. And in 2012, Caroline took the leap to set up her own coaching firm, Sevenshift.

Webb brings to her coaching work a breadth of experience that helps her put herself in her clients’ shoes, whatever their background. She’s been a leader in a complex global organization, but she also knows what it’s like to run a small start-up. Her work has spanned the private, public and social sectors, and she’s had clients on every continent (except the very cold ones). And her wide-ranging consulting and economics background helps her quickly understand the technicalities of clients' businesses.

In all her work with individuals and teams, Webb draws heavily on evidence from the behavioral and cognitive sciences: behavioral economics, psychology, and neuroscience. She is the author of a book that gives readers practical advice on how to apply scientific insights to help them thrive in modern challenging workplaces. 'How To Have A Good Day.

Webb is a founding fellow of the Harvard-affiliated Institute of Coaching, has coaching qualifications from the School of Coaching and Meyler Campbell, and degrees in economics from Cambridge and Oxford Universities. She blogs for Harvard Business Review and Huffington Post, and is frequently invited to speak at conferences and corporate events. Her work has been widely featured in the media, including the Financial Times, BBC Radio 4, The Economist, The Times, Forbes, Management Today, and Lifehacker. She regularly tweets interesting nuggets of practical cognitive science (@caroline_webb_), and you can also find her advice on how to have a better day at work on her public Facebook page (

How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life Hardcover, Caroline Webb (2016)

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance Hardcover, Angela Duckworth (2016)

Choice or Chance: Understanding Your Locus of Control and Why It Matters, Stephen Nowicki (2016)

Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval (2015)

Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most, Hendrie Weisinger and J. P. Pawliw-Fry (2015)

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success, Amy Morin (2014)

Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society, Jim Manzi (2012)

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action Paperback, Simon Sinek (2011)

Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization, Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey (2009)

Back in Control: How to Stay Sane, Productive, and Inspired in Your Career Transition, Diane G. Wilson (2004)

How to Have a Good Day By Caroline Webb

Read an excerpt of How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life Hardcover by Caroline Webb.

Read the Excerpt