Sing for Success:

Published in Success Now, Issue 14 Oct/Nov/Dec 1999

Senior managers may happily present to employees, clients and shareholders but ask them to sing in front of their colleagues and only the tiniest minority would show the same self-confidence! It is therefore remarkable that Yoana Browning and Paul Ogden of Black Coffee Sound Productions in Oxford persuade managers and their teams to sing together to facilitate organisational and personal development.

When Yoana's husband died in 1993 a counsellor suggested that she learn to sing as a means of discovering new personal depths and gaining self-confidence. Singing proved to be a cathartic process for understanding and releasing her emotions as well as for enhancing expression in communication. It also became an extremely effective aid for relaxation. As Yoana explains "In singing I have found a creative tool for personal development which is realistic, practical, beneficial and, above all else, fun". Aware of the potential benefits that singing offered to others, she established Black Coffee Sound Productions with her voice coach and now partner, Paul Ogden.

Yoana and Paul are conscious that their work may sail close to new age 'erapies' but two factors maintain their credibility in the business world. The first of these is their own extensive experience. Yoana worked as an export manager in Africa and Asia and as a healthcare manager in the UK. Paul worked for 10 years as a business consultant in both the City and public sector. Secondly, they focus on delivering tangible benefits, both for companies and individuals, and are keen to formally research the physiological and psychological effects of singing.

Personal clients report that Black Coffee workshops offer a supportive but challenging environment for exploring issues of self-esteem and confidence as well as promoting creative thinking. In business, the benefits of asking a team of senior managers to sing may not be immediately obvious. However, the glowing testimonials from organisations such as BT speak for themselves. Paul and Yoana have recently returned running a personal exploration programme on emotional competencies at the Chateau Bel Enault in France. The feedback they received from their audience of high level trainers and business executives was impressive.

Reconciling business experience with a love for music has culminated in the development of a challenging development programme for senior executives which combines executive coaching with voice coaching to improve areas such as resonance, communication and stress management. For those with unrealised musical ambitions, the programme even presents the opportunity to cut a CD!

Paul and Yoana's passion for the power of voice provides them with balance, focus and direction in their lives. Paul laughs 'I expect I would have suffered executive burn-out by now in consultancy. Instead we've found something which meets our personal needs and that we can use to help others find their own contentment in both life and work'.

Black Coffee can be contacted on +44 (0)1865 762811 or by emailing Check out their website at