Category Archives: Leadership

  • 0

Episode 009: Jennifer Kahnweiler–Introvert Champions

Category:introversion,Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadership,Podcast

Episode 009: Jennifer Kahnweiler–Introvert Champions Show Notes

Introduction

Jennifer Kahnweiler and Ben Woelk chat about introvert champions, the 2nd edition of The Introverted Leader, diversity and introverts in the workplace, and the four Ps of introverted leadership–Prepare, Present, Push, and Practice.

Key concepts

  • An extrovert championing introverts
  • The four Ps of introverted leadership
  • The rise of the introverts

Quotable

Trends-on a positive note, extroverts are realizing it is a spectrum and that we all have introversion within us.

Once I started speaking about introverts and introverted leadership, I just had so many people start talking to me about how important it was for them to hear the message that they could be leaders.–Ben

We want them to understand that both groups [extroverts and introverts] have things to offer in the workplace and it’s important to tap into that group that’s usually quiet.

If [extroverts] are not hearing from 40 to 60 percent of their team and really engaging those individuals [introverts], then they are missing out.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Welcome to Hope for the Introvert. Our special guest today is Jennifer Kahnweiler. Jennifer is a well known author about introverts and introverted leadership. She’s a certified speaking professional and a global speaker, and she’s been hailed as a Champion for Introverts. Her best bestselling books are The Introverted Leader, Quiet Influence, and The Genius of Opposites. They’ve been translated into 16 languages. Jennifer helps organizations harness the power of introverts. She’s been a learning and development professional and speaker at leading organizations like General Electric, Freddie Mac, NASA, Turner Broadcasting, the US Centers for Disease Control, and the American Management Association. I had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer at the October NYSERNet conference in Syracuse, New York, where she was the keynote speaker and spoke about The Genius of Opposites.

Ben: Hi Jennifer. Thanks for joining us today.

Jennifer: Hey Ben. It’s great to be on your podcast. Congratulations on this.

Ben: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. So I know we’re going to talk about your book today, but I wanted to ask you some questions as well. It’s really interesting because I think many of us assume that someone who’s interested in working on introverted leadership and writing about introverts would be an introvert themselves, but you’re actually an extrovert. Could you talk a little bit about your background and what drew your interest to the subject?

Jennifer: Yes, you’re absolutely right that most people do assume that I’m introverted and they reach out to me with that thought in mind. And I consider myself to be champion of introverts. I was working in the companies that you mentioned in the intro for a number of years and also had my own consulting and coaching practices through that cycle, and I kept coming up with the same theme and working with individuals who were trying to advance their careers or navigate the organization. And that was that they were frustrated as introverts. I had identified them that way because I was aware of the different personality types from my trainings as a counselor and as a coach and an OG consultant. I had that awareness that many more people have today. But back then it wasn’t so common when I started out my career. And so I kept coming up with the same–hearing about the same challenges and observing that introverts were hitting a wall oftentimes with promotions, with opportunities to be on cool projects with not being heard in meetings. And it really concerned me and I was coaching people individually and doing a lot of training in leadership classes, when it occurred to me that I needed to provide more resources. I looked for a book on the topic and had a very difficult time finding anything. And like a lot of authors will say they write the book that they want to read. So that’s really how it happened for me professionally.

I observed that introverts were hitting a wall oftentimes with promotions, with opportunities to be on cool projects with not being heard in meetings.--@jennkahnweiler Click To Tweet

Ben: So one thing that you mentioned at the conference, your husband is an introvert, right?

Jennifer: Oh yes. No doubt about that. If you met him, you would have no doubt, Bill is definitely an introvert. I say that, but he presents, you know, he’s got social skills and that’s one thing that we should probably implode that myth that introverts don’t, like you have, have great social interaction skills. But my first insight as I was sharing at the conference when I’m early on in our relationship and after we got married even, I was perplexed because we would be with people then and you could probably relate to this, right? That then afterwards in the car on the ride home, there was total silence. Crickets as they say, you know, and I couldn’t get him to talk about the evening because as I knew as an extrovert experiences make sense for extroverts as they verbalize them. And so there was a disconnect there because he, all he wanted to do was be silent and go within himself so he could decompress from the evening. So, uh, yeah, absolutely. He’s been my– I laugh about the day. We both laugh about him being the case study for a lot of my work. I’ll check with him all the time. And sometimes he even says, “Jennifer, you need to read the book to remind yourself” because as an extrovert, we forget sometimes to respect the silence of the quiet.

Jennifer: Didn’t you also say you have an extrovert in your family as well?

Ben: I’m actually the only introvert in my nuclear family. My wife is an ENFJ, which I believe when we were talking that’s what you are also. And she’s done a lot of communicating, writing, training-type things. Both my kids were extroverts and they all process externally. So as an introvert in the household, I’m quite happy to be quiet and engrossed in whatever I’m watching or reading, and they’re bored and they want to go out and do something because that external stimulation is so important to them. I found it absolutely fascinating that you were writing about this from an extrovert’s point of view. And I think that’s really important, because I know that some of the conversations I have with extroverts, there’s the, well, why? What’s all this focus on introverts? Why do you need to write about introverts? Extroverts are important people too.

Jennifer: Exactly, And I just will go back on something you said. I tried to represent the view of an introvert in all of my writing. I’ve written four books actually with the second edition of The Introverted Leader just coming out. And what I really try to do, Ben, is to put a journalist hat on and I do my research. It’s all qualitative research and I look back on my trainings and I gather notes from all my interviews that I do in my questionnaires, but it really comes down to me trying to tell the story, not so much from the extrovert wearing the extrovert hat, but of course that’s lens is always going to be there, so I try to check myself by surrounding myself with editors and my team who are mostly introverted, and as I mentioned, my spouse and I try to run everything by them, but I’ll say that extroverts really never are going to know, just like introverts don’t really know. what it’s like to sit in the shoes of a real introvert and vice versa. I think it’s difficult to imagine because for extroverts, it’s just not, as you say, sitting alone for any extended period of time can really be deflating rather than energizing, which it is for the introvert. So I think I tried to tell the story but always know that, I’m never going to know exactly what it’s like.

For extroverts, sitting alone for any extended period of time can really be deflating rather than energizing @JennKahnweiler Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. Somewhere I came across the phrase that extroverts are bored by themselves in both senses of the word. So it was pretty funny.

Jennifer: That statement, bored by themselves. Yeah. No, no, no. I think one thing that I’ll say Ben, is we’ve been talking about introverts now for 10 years. It started the rebel–as I call it, the rise of the introverts. There’s been so much more written about it. As you say, people are talking about it, and I think one of the positives in addition to more awareness, which to me is absolutely critical, especially when you think about children who grew up years ago feeling different and becoming more what we might call shy, because there wasn’t an acceptance in our extroverted-type society for introverts to really own who they were. But we’re seeing more of that. And the other trend that we’re seeing now–on a positive note–is that extroverts, Ben, I think are realizing it is a spectrum and that we all have introversion within us. And so I think we’re seeing such a growth in the meditation movement and Yoga and Quiet, just people wanting quiet as a reaction to, against the digital overload. Um, so I am seeing extroverts say to me, “Oh, you know, I did take some time and it, and it was really great for me to plan and to just get focused.” I don’t know if you’ve observed that as well.

Over the last ten years, we're seeing the rise of the introverts. @JennKahnweiler Click To Tweet

Trends-on a positive note, extroverts are realizing it is a spectrum and that we all have introversion within us. @JennKahnweiler Click To Tweet

Ben: I’ve seen some of it. I feel like I am far from an activist personality, but it feels like that once I started speaking about introverts and introverted leadership, I just had so many people start talking to me about how important it was for them to hear the message that they could be leaders. And I think most of the extroverts that I know, they know me pretty well at this point in time and they know in some ways I’m a strong advocate for introverts. It’s interesting because one of the things I wanted to ask you about was what the reception has been by extroverts. The extroverts I know that–there are a few who have teasingly asked me why am I just talking about introverts and because a lot of the leadership things go for everyone, but one thing I was really curious about, and you spoke at the NYSERNET conference was The Genius of Opposites, where you’re essentially trying to get probably both sides–if we want to call it sides–so it’s really a spectrum. We want them to understand that both groups have things to offer in the workplace and it’s important to tap into that group that’s usually quiet. I was curious what the reception has been, especially by extroverts or by introverts–whether that’s really too generalized?

We want them to understand that both groups (extroverts and introverts) have things to offer in the workplace and it's important to tap into that group that's usually quiet. Click To Tweet

How important it is for introverts to hear the message that they could be leaders. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Jennifer: That’s interesting you’re asking that question. I only have very anecdotal data on this, but I still think we have a long way to go for extroverts, Ben, to think that there is a problem. Like just as you were referring to people say–kind of giving you–making fun of it sort of in a in a kind, but in a joking way. (I’m not sure that’s all kind!” I think people make change in my opinion and my experience when there is pain, when there is a discomfort, and on the positive side, I guess I’m–you can call me a Pollyanna. I do see things from–try to look at the glass more half full, and I’ll give both sides of it. I think on the glass half-full side, I’m seeing more and more leaders and managers who are extroverts recognize that introversion is a part of a diversity issue.

Jennifer: And so if they are not hearing from 40 to 60 percent of their team and really engaging those individuals, then they are missing out. Not just as a nice to have, but it’s a must have. They need those ideas. They need that innovation. It affects the bottom line. Let’s face it, from a gets–and their results are less. So I think the ones that are starting to see that and pull back the curtain and say, yeah, we need to look at how do we deal with introverts. I’m seeing more of that, and that’s why I’m busy speaking, and that’s why we’re doing more work in companies, but on the other side of it, there are still many extroverts who think that introverts should just get it together and just act like they are, and they oftentimes will say to an introverted leader, and I wonder if you’ve heard this, “Well, no, no, you’re really not an introvert. I mean, no, you’re definitely not. I mean, you’re not showing any of those characteristics.”? Have you ever heard that from people yourself?

If extroverts are not hearing from 40 to 60 percent of their team and really engaging those individuals (introverts), then they are missing out. @JennKahnweiler Click To Tweet

Ben: When I’m in a conference framework? No one would ever guess that I’m an introvert.

Jennifer: There you go!

Ben: I’ve done interviews with people and we’ve talked about introverted leadership, and then when they’ve met me at a conference, they’re telling me, “You’re crazy! You’re not an introvert!”, but I draw back to the “how do I recharge?” and I can be very “on.” I can be very social. I still don’t like introducing myself to people and just going up and talking to people. I find that to be a challenge, but there’s some situations where I know I need to be doing that, so I do it. I play whatever role, but I feel like–paying the price might be a bit strong, but I definitely will need several days of recharge time after going to a conference where I’m on all the time.

Ben: It’s a spectrum. If it was not a spectrum, none of this would make any sense, but I feel like yes, I am very extroverted for an introvert at this point in my life. But I also know that looking back many years ago when we first got married, my wife was concerned whether I’d ever get up and talk to anyone and ever be social at all. And of course with her being an extrovert, the social was very, very important for her. So I have changed or grown a lot over the years and I think I’ve learned to accept that I need to guard my energy. So I’m saying that, but I don’t guard my energy at these conferences at all, and what I find is that I need to recoup the energy afterwards, but I’m also recognizing that I think part of it is I feel like it’s always on becoming a bit of a spokesperson for the introverts in my professions and I think that makes a difference as well.

Jennifer: And I applaud you for that. We need more people like you who are advocates throughout every industry in every part of the world. And I really liked what you said about how you’ve evolved and developed, and I think you think of it like a muscle and you strengthen those skills. But back to people discounting the fact that you’re an introvert, I think people need to push back and say, “No, I’m really introverted. I’m using those skills,” and the unwritten texts that I would hope extroverts pick up is the same for them. You guys need to be quiet and you’re more effective when extroverts, when we listen, when we pause, when we take time to prepare; all of those strengths and skills that introverts bring to the table and that I encourage the introverts to amplify.

We need more introverts who are advocates throughout every industry in every part of the world. @JennKahnweiler Click To Tweet

Jennifer: So take your example of the social networking–that I think I may have mentioned in this talk that I gave–that it’s probably one of the biggest challenges that introverts talk about in addition to public speaking and being in meetings, socializing and networking. And so, as an example of that, you take preparation, which is your sweet spot or one of them, reflecting and thinking about the conference you’re going to, to use your example. Think, “Okay, let me look at the schedule. First of all, let me guard my time. When can I take breaks? Okay. I planned it out.” Things might change. Like I think at the conference we were at they changed the room or they changed the time. Just be aware that things could change, but that you plan for that. You plan for those and you protect those times because otherwise as you said, you will, you really will deflate.

Jennifer: And then the other thing related to the networking is you planned how, what–maybe some icebreakers–things that you’re going to say, like, “What’s been keeping you busy lately?” And figure out how you’re going to follow up with people so that you make those conferences worth it to you and you build connections and relationships. I just went to one and I’m trying to think about how do I stay connected with these people in this group that I met? It was so dynamic. So how do we take that forward? While an introvert would reflect on that, right? And they would think about, okay, what’s the strategy, rather than moving to the next conference or the next stimuli, right before doing that. So I have to tap into my introverted side, and so the thing I came up with this morning is, “Okay. Let me propose to the group that we put together like a WhatsApp texting group so that we can stay connected.” So I think both styles have so many strengths that we bring to the table and we just need to get in touch with those, own them, and then leverage them.

Ben: Yeah. I think one other thing about the conferences, I tend to go to the same ones year after year and I know people now, so I think that gives me a comfort level because part of it is coming together and seeing our large dysfunctional family [Jennifer laughing]. But at least for all–most of us are friends, and you get that sense of belonging and I’m comfortable. I know these people. I know they’re not judging me. It’s harder when I go to something I’ve never been to before and I don’t know anyone there, but something else that you mentioned that I didn’t start doing until a couple of years ago was how do you really continue that conference experience in the sense of how do you continue those relationships? How do you build on the relationships? And the first time I spoke by myself on introverted leadership a couple of years ago, one of the things I did coming out of it after I had numerous introverts come talk to me after my presentation, which was the opening presentation the first day of the conference, or one of the opening presentations that day, I set up an online community using Slack as a tool. And we have since built that community into–there are over 200 people signed up on it.

How do you really continue that conference experience in the sense of how do you continue those relationships? @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Jennifer: Wow.

Ben: Not all introverts. We do let some extroverts in–on good behavior.

Jennifer: Well maybe you’ll vouch for me and put me in and recommend me to it. I’d love to be involved. [Laughing]

Ben: Oh absolutely. But it’s been great. It’s not like everybody’s chatty all the time, but it gives us an opportunity to discuss issues that concern some of us. And often we’ll find a book that we’re all interested in and start kind of working through that together and discussing it. So it’s been great in terms of actually continuing the relationships.

Jennifer: Wonderful. Wonderful. And you’re bringing up another strength–or two of them–of introverted leaders, and that is writing and also a thoughtful use of technology, and so I love that you’re doing that. So I’d love to have that link and kind of weigh in there and listen and learn from your community. I really applaud you for that.

Ben: Well, thank you. That would be awesome. So I did want to go back to your second edition of your book that’s just come out and your reasons for writing it, what you’re hoping readers will take away from it, and then maybe what are the key factors in it that you see for introverts who want to be leaders or who are already in leadership.

Jennifer: Okay. Wonderful. Well I thank you for asking about that. It is called The Introverted Leader: Building On Your Quiet Strength, and I’m very fortunate to feel grateful that it seems to be doing quite well and I’m just trying to get it into the hands of a lot of people so that we can have a–it’s basically based–it comes from the lessons that I’ve learned from my work with introverted leaders and from all different functions and industries, people, everybody have endorsed it from Arianna Huffington, to Adam Grant, Dan Pink, (all introverts), Beverly Tatum. And they all reinforce the lessons that were shared there.

Jennifer: And I built on the model that I came up with over 10 years ago, that we’ve now had a chance to really get into the hands of thousands of people. And that’s the Four Ps, which consists of what introverted leaders do. And they Prepare. They are Present. They Push, and they Practice, and they do that in very intentional ways. The way you were describing with your group and that you’ve got after the conference. And I have a lot of tools and techniques, you know, I’m all about application. I’ve always been. There’s not a whole lot of theory in there, but it’s how do you deliver a powerful presentation? How do you enter that networking event so you’re effective? And again, it’s not lessons that I’m necessarily sharing. Of course, I’m taking from my experience in this field for so many years, but it really does come–and all the examples come from–introverts who have been using these approaches and techniques.

Jennifer: I think it’s pretty easy to go through. It is based on–you can take a quiz that’s on my website at JenniferKahnweiler.com. It’s also in the book, and it tells you what area perhaps you need to work on a little bit more that’s going to be useful to you and your current and future role. And then it also says what you’re doing well and how you want to build on that. I think you have a copy of the book. It’s very practical and I’m very proud of it from just having worked–when you write a book, you’re not sure how it’s going to land and you just want to get people to read it and use it and find it useful.

Ben: I think that’s really great. I understand the uncertainty of how things are going to be received. I had the same issue with the whole doing-a-podcast thing.

Jennifer: And I applaud you for that. [Laughing] You went in there. You’re not expecting to be perfect. You’re learning as you go and I think that’s fantastic.

Ben: Yeah. And it’s funny because I had no idea if there’d be any listeners or not, and I had ideas of what I was going to do to host the content and all of that sort of thing. And then I launched, and, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got listeners!”, and had to make some changes right away to make sure the content would always be accessible to them. But it’s funny. So you mentioned the four Ps as kind of the crux of the book in a lot of ways, in terms of introverts recognizing that those are their strengths, and that’s one of the things I found also, is reminding introverts that they have strengths, and that not everything is a weakness or shortcoming as they may have perceived it to be, seems to be an absolutely key piece of this. One thing I’ve mentioned in some of my other writings and talking is just this whole–sometimes, at least for me, I kind of want the external validation that yes, I can do these things.

Ben: I don’t know that that’s typical for an introvert, though I suspect some of it is, because we think and dwell and dwell and maybe overthink things some. But for me, little things which just seem funny on the face of it. I’ve been doing technical communication and then information security work for decades now. But I didn’t have a degree in anything like that, and I was actually a History doctoral student of all things and that wasn’t practical enough for me. So I appreciate your emphasis on the practical, but I found that I ended up seeking external certifications just so I can say,  “Hey, I’ve got this degree in this now. I’m a Certified Information Systems Security Professional.” But for me, it was more proving–I think in ways it was proving to myself that I could do these things.

Ben: So I do think that building confidence in introverts and helping them understand their strengths and the areas that they can really leverage and focus on, I think is a huge contribution, because at least from what I’ve found, that seems to be the key. You talk to people and, “I can’t be a leader.” “I have no leadership qualities.” “I’m not this charismatic leader who stands in front of everyone and tells everyone what to do.” “I don’t like being the public face of something!” To actually be able to come to that group of people and explain that these are your strengths. Being an introvert is not a handicap. I really see it as a strength in a lot of ways. (Although our business schools aren’t there at this point in time.) But I think this whole giving them the confidence they need and helping them understand that they have the innate skills, and giving them the tools to leverage those, is a really key contribution.

Building confidence in introverts and helping them understand their strengths and the areas that they can really leverage and focus on, I think is a huge contribution. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Jennifer: Yes, Ben. I agree with that. And two reactions to what you just shared: the confidence factor you mentioned, giving them the confidence. I think it really does come from within and I think that we can be the spark. People who are sharing this message and I guess we’re the champions, the advocates, can really create awareness so that people do increase their confidence. And just one quick image I’d like to share. When I started doing my talks, I would ask people in the audience, and they’re primarily introverted audiences. I’d say what are the characteristics and strengths of introverts? And there’d be a little silence and that’s okay. I’ve learned to live with silence and then slowly but surely, there’d be like a trickle, “listeners,” “we observe,” “we prepare”, “we’re analytical.” It goes on and on.

Jennifer: And as those words would come out into the room, they would be voiced in the room. I’d look around (no matter how large the group) and I would literally see people change their body language. They would sit up a little straighter in their chairs. I even saw some quizzical looks with smiles, and it was very reinforcing to me, because the body and the face don’t lie, right? They say what people are feeling, and that has been replicated hundreds, if not thousands of times in the last 10 years. So I think I try to keep that in mind and if we could do that around the world, we’d have people sitting up straighter in their chairs and owning this, that definitely in my belief is related to an increase in confidence and then performance.

Ben: Yeah. I think it’s the key. It’s providing inspiration and that is such a cool story that you’re actually saying that you’re seeing the change of body language. You don’t get to do that when you’re presenting over the web or speaking through a podcast.

Jennifer: Well, let me–I’ll push back a little. I do a lot of online classes and I actually, a lot of my introverted clients will say that is their preferred method of learning, or one of the key… And you may invalidate that or not, but when people get on the phone, when you do let them put their voice in the room, you hear it in their voice, Ben,  you hear it in their voice, and as you know with your Slack community, there is a lot of engagement on the chats. So you get a lot of activity–rather than in some online classes you’ve probably been involved in, too, where it’s like nothing. You just have the instructor teaching. There’s a lot of engagement. So, yeah, I think that all those platforms are our ways to also tap into the enthusiasm.

Ben: I think that’s really great. Jennifer. This has been a great conversation. I know you mentioned that you had been working on another book and I’m curious about the research that you’re doing and where that’s going.

Jennifer: Yes. Ben, thank you for asking about my new research, which I’m so excited about. We are going to be working now in moving into a new direction with the whole introvert conversation, and that is taking a look at how do we shift the culture–the workplace culture, where it’s already happening, some, but we want to understand what companies are doing to create an environment that embraces and supports introverts. And by the way, when you do that, in my belief, you’re also supporting the entire community. At this point I’m going to just put this out to your audience, too, “What sort of best practices have you seen in terms of your workplace design in terms of some of the management practices and leadership practices that you feel are supportive of introverts? How about with meetings or how about with hiring?”, all of the parts that make that make up the whole of working in an organization. We are seeing best practices emerge and bubble up, but I want to highlight those, and I want to help people to replicate that as change agents in their own cultures.

Jennifer: So I’m very excited and I can’t wait to do another podcast with you to share with you some of the results I’m getting. We’re doing a survey coming up in the next few weeks and I’ll be sure to share that with you and could with your listeners as well.

Ben: Thank you. I really appreciate that and I actually really appreciate your support of the podcast. Like I said, it’s been a bit of an experiment and a bit of a new journey for me and it’s been exciting, but there’s obviously some concerns in trepidation to start with with it.

Jennifer: Well, you’re a risk taker. You took, you took a risk and I would push back and say it’s not an experiment and you’ve got a podcast now, Ben. It’s needed and let’s get the word out for sure. I’d love to hear from listeners. People can reach me through my website at JenniferKahnweiler.com. Just Google me and you’ll find me, and I’d love to connect on social media. I’m active on Linkedin and instagram and would love to just, include people in the conversation and expand this movement. So thank you so much for the work you’re doing.

Ben: Thank you Jennifer for joining us today. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation. I do look forward to having you back on in hearing about this research. It’s going to be really interesting.

Extras

Ben and Jennifer

Ben and Jennifer at the NYSERNet Conference 2018.

 








  • 0
Kirk St Amant headshot

Episode 007: Kirk St Amant–The Introvert in the Classroom

Category:Higher Education,Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadership,Podcast,Uncategorized

Episode 007: Kirk St Amant–The Introvert in the Classroom Show Notes

Introduction

Prof. Kirk St. Amant and Ben Woelk discuss what it’s like to be an introvert in the classroom, how we engage students, and the role of popular culture in teaching. We also discuss how we adapt to the absence of in-person feedback mechanisms in webinars and online courses.

Key concepts

  • Adapting to your classroom
  • Playing the role of an extrovert as needed
  • Using cultural differences as learning opportunities
  • Getting comfortable with delayed or no feedback

Quotable

In many ways, it kind of becomes like acting. You create the persona of who you are as the instructor and figure out how to deliver information in that persona so that students feel engaged and there’s a connection and they want to interact with the material and they feel comfortable interacting with you. And that persona is never the same. With each class you’ve got different populations that you’re working with and you adapt that persona to those populations.

There are these periods where as an introvert you have got to be on and in many ways play the role of the extrovert, but it’s the kind of extrovert the audience needs at that point in time to process and engage with the information you’re sharing with them.

These cultural differences, these age-based differences are valuable tools to use to engage students because first of all, it demystifies you as the instructor. You’re not this great all knowing sage who’s going to be up there and explain the wisdom of the universe to them.

(Doing webinars) I think that the key is getting comfortable being able to orate without that kind of feedback you’re accustomed to in many situations, and just assuming that, okay, I think I’ve done a good job.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Take Action!

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Kirk St. Amant. Kirk is a professor in the Eunice C. Williamson Endowed Chair in Technical Communication at Louisiana Tech University and he is also an adjunct professor of International Health and Medical Communication with the University of Limerick in Ireland. He researches international communication and information design for global audiences. His specific research focus is on the globalization of online education and health and medical communication for international audiences. He’s taught online and hybrid courses for universities in Belize, China, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Qatar, and Ukraine, and the United States. You can contact Kirk at Kirk.StAmant@gmail.com. Kirk and I have worked together to launch a new Society for Technical Communication Special Interest Group: Technical Communication in Health and Medicine. Kirk is our first academic on the Hope for the Introvert podcast.

Ben: I’m really excited today to get your perspective on what it’s like to work in academia as an introvert. Kirk, how long have you been in academia?

Kirk: I’m going on my 16th year now in Higher Ed and enjoying every minute of it.

Ben: Did you work in industry as well or has it been solely as a professor?

Kirk: I did prior to being in academia. I worked for awhile in books of all things. I managed a small independently-owned bookstore at first and then I worked in the printing and publishing area of book production for awhile after that. It’s actually at that point that I became interested in technical communication, just trying to navigate sort of the differences between the engineering work that goes on in the printing industry and then client expectations from the sales and publishing side. So that’s where the interest came from.

Ben:  Yeah, that is really interesting. I didn’t know that about your background. So, I am in academia, but I don’t really consider myself to be an academic because I work as a staff person in the information security office, although I do teach adjunct. Is there a typical day or week for you in your job and what would it be like?

Kirk: Great question! I think whether you’re in industry or academia–I think we’re in the same situation where a lot of it is you wake up in the morning and go into work and think I’ve got this organized plan of how things are going to work, and four minutes and two emails into it everything changes, and so a lot of it is kind of how to adapt as you move forward through the course of the day. Again, I think like many folks in industry, for many academics, there are the standard things you can expect. This is the slotting of courses I’m going to teach for today and you know, those are standard, but then around those courses and between them are all sorts of different activities that you need to focus on–everything from doing different kinds of research activities to sort of committee kinds of meetings to service kinds of meanings where you plan how the organization operates. So very much they’re the same. They’re the standard expected things that we all know were going to happen. And then, the unscripted stuff that we kind of get into it. It’s really enjoyable. So I think, I think Ben, this is a good example of how you can work across both domains is there’s that flexibility on both sides, and I think the personality for most of us who were in technical communication lends itself well to that mix of scripted expectation versus sort of on-the-fly working with things.

Ben: Okay. So you’re an introvert in academia. You’re certainly not alone. There are plenty of introverts in academia, but do you feel like your introversion affects your teaching style at all, and if so, how?

Kirk: Yeah, I think for the most part,–I mean you teach also and I think for many individuals they guest lecture or teach in classes Whether they’re in industry or in academia, you stand up in front of a classroom. I mean, the biggest thing is education is about drawing attention to yourself for the most part, particularly in face-to-face classes and so, in many instances you’re standing up in the front of the room and you want to call everyone’s attention to you for a sustained period of time, and if you’re an introvert, that is antithetical to how you try to often interact with individuals. And so the challenge for me at least, and I think for many other introverts in academia becomes, “How do you do that?” In many ways, “How do you sort of override your natural tendency to not want to be the center of attention all the time?” Or, to have long, prolonged periods of time of quiet to sort of think through things.

Kirk:  And so at least for myself–I’m guessing for other introverts in academia–in many ways it kind of becomes like acting. You create the persona of who you are as the instructor and figure out how to deliver information in that persona so that students feel engaged and there’s a connection and they want to interact with the material and they feel comfortable interacting with you. And that persona is never the same. With each class you’ve got different populations that you’re working with and you adapt that persona to those populations. And the catch is–we mentioned adjusting on the fly–it’s that kind of a thing. In the moment you adapt your communication style to how the audience reacts and responds. So I think for me that’s the greatest challenge. There are these periods where as an introvert you have got to be on and in many ways play the role of the extrovert, but it’s the kind of extrovert the audience needs at that point in time to process and engage with the information you’re sharing with them, if that makes sense. And my guess is you’ve had that experience also as an introvert who teaches, as I’m guessing are lots of other folks in the same situation.

There are these periods where as an introvert you have got to be on and in many ways play the role of the extrovert, but it's the kind of extrovert the audience needs at that point in time to process and engage with the information… Click To Tweet

In many ways it kind of becomes like acting. You create the persona of who you are as the instructor and figure out how to deliver information in that persona so that students feel engaged and there's a connection and they want to… Click To Tweet

Ben: You’ve mentioned my teaching. I know for me, I really try to stay away from lectures. I really try to do much more of a discussion-based teaching format, where I’m throwing questions out there and we’re discussing them before I’ll move on to the next subject. I don’t know whether that’s an introvert or an extrovert thing. What do you do stylistically?

Kirk: We’re back to the audience and it’s a mixed bag. Sometimes it is the lecture part of the front, but I mean, let’s be honest, that gets boring very quickly. So it’s a matter of trying to figure out, you’ve got a two hour block class, let’s say, of instructional time. How do you parse that into the say 10 to 15 minutes of lecture if you will;, the 20 to 30 minutes of guided discussion; the 10 to 15 minutes of small group interaction where you move back and forth among the groups and work with them. And again, it’s kind of like you adapt what is needed based upon the information that you’re presenting and how the audience seems to be reacting to and responding to it. And I think a lot of it–I’m willing to bet you do the same thing–is you begin to get into paces and rhythms of how to do things.

Kirk: Okay, now the best way to approach this topic is I’m going to lecture this or I’m going to do the small group discussion. But, the key for me at least to success is you don’t go in with that as a set regimen of how you’re going to approach the material. You kind of go in knowing this is the subject matter I’ve got to teach and I’ve got to be ready to adapt this in different ways over the course of my presentation. And again, I think lots of folks–introverts or extroverts–when it’s an educational environment, you do wind up in this adaptive model where you shift how you approach things depending upon what’s working with the audience. You mentioned earlier like introvert versus extrovert in the classroom. I think in many ways, this is where being introverted may be an advantage in the sense that you tend to be very keenly attuned to the audience in ways that maybe extroverts might not be–and I’m speaking completely out of turn here–but, I think it’s a matter of you’re more used to knowing the quiet students to look for, if you will, because you were one of them at one point in time. And so it’s knowing how to sort of engage them and monitor how they’re reacting as well as the more extroverted students in the class to try to get them interacting. So that’s part of the joy of it. The ability to create as you’re moving forward.

Ben: So one of the things that I adjusted as I became aware of my introversion or understood more about it, and understanding that, especially in computing security, I’ve got a ton of introverts in there. It’s really changed my philosophy around group work and group projects. And I always used to assign some. And it was always obviously a challenge because you get four or five students and you’d get the one who’s making sure everything gets done and you have somebody else who is contributing, and then you have a couple who are kind of lingering on and not doing too much. But as I studied introversion, what I started realizing was they’re–in a sense–they’re meeting together on these group projects and so much of introvert meeting behavior is not advancing ideas until you’ve had time to think through them. So I’ve really modified what I’ve done around that and I don’t really assign much of it.

Ben: Now, what I do do is make them post a blog post and I have them come in front of the class and talk about that blog post for about five minutes and insist that I get three questions answered before I’ll let them sit down. Which is entertaining sometimes, but it’s a little hard on them because this class especially, is almost (all) first year students. And they’ve never had to stand up in front of anybody and talk. And given that they’re cyber security students, they may never end up doing that in their careers either. So it’s always a little interesting because you do have some students who absolutely panic at the thought of having to stand in front of people and talk, but we try to make it conversational, engaging and give them the prop of having the blog post up there so they’re not feeling like they have to wing it, and I don’t let them do a PowerPoint or anything like that either.

Ben: But it is interesting because, and like you said, it’s adapting to what you’re seeing in the classroom and what they are responsive to. And for me in that instance it was, these are people like me out in this classroom. I never liked group work–mixed results! I mean the only thing that would be worse is if I have a class that is a mix of professionals and on campus students, and pairing them together is always a disaster because the professionals get their work done, and the on-campus students have that luxury of waiting until the last minute. But it’s really interesting what you’re talking about in terms of adapting your classroom style, even though it is the same content.

Ben: So one challenge I’ve found myself in teaching is ensuring that the cultural references that I make are known and realizing what decade people were born in is always a surprise at this point. I had mentioned in a previous podcast, that I’d worked on a slide of a ROUS, a Rodent Of Unusual Size from The Princess Bride [Kirk laughing] into a presentation, and only one student knew what that was. So stubbornly, I left the slide in. I showed it last week and this time I had three students out of 30 who recognized the ROUS. But interestingly, The Princess Bride doesn’t really appear to be part of their culture now. So it’s–and they’re lots of things like that, and that’s just one example. What have you done to make sure that your illustrations or your allusions are culturally relevant to them?

Kirk: Awesome question. As corny as it sounds, I don’t. I think those things are wonderful teaching and learning prompts that we can use to draw individuals into a conversation. And so I kind of overemphasize that when I teach, you know, walking up, I’m a child of the seventies and eighties, so you need to kind of walk in there and go, “Okay, does anybody here know what the Soviet Union is or was?” Oh boy! “Can someone look that up for me right quick?” and automatically you’re parsing out activities based upon, “Can you help me learn something because I’m so–I’m a little bit dated on this?” Someone will fire it up, and, “Okay, so you found it. Where did you find it, Wikipedia? Can someone here tell me, is Wikipedia the best source to look for this? Okay, why not? Can someone else…? Help me out here!” “What are some mechanisms we could use online to do this? What’s the Wiki thing? I don’t get this. Help me out.”

Kirk: So in many ways, using these cultural differences as prompts to do a couple of things–to make the students engage with the material, but then to get them to do things and explain things, in many cases highly technical things in ways that an audience who’s completely unfamiliar with them can understand it, is a way to begin to teach them how to do things like write technical instructions or generate technical summaries or you began to–for them it’s kind of a humorous thing. And for many of them they’ve had to do it with other family members. My big joke is, and you’ve heard me talk about this before, I’ll take out my iPhone, which I’ve had for like a year now. and ask people, “Can someone tell me how to turn this on?” and it gets them going, but then they’ll begin to talk through it. “Okay. Slow down. Can you write me up a set of instructions for this?” But it’s an opportunity to engage. And I think when you demystify, for lack of a better word, your role isn’t as an instructor that I’m not this incredible font of knowledge who knows everything. I’m really flawed and I need your help. Let’s do this together. I think that does foster engagement. It really helps in terms of–especially technologies. It keeps me as the old guy in the classroom more up to date with what’s going on by having them explain things, but I also think it helps them feel more invested and because they’ve got an investment and want to help, it’s much different than me sort of assigning an artificial task in terms of let’s write an instruction set on how to log onto Facebook.

Kirk: These cultural differences, these age-based differences are valuable tools to use to engage students because first of all, it demystifies you as the instructor. You’re not this great all knowing sage who’s going to be up there and explain the wisdom of the universe to them. It’s you’re a human being like every user they’re ever going to work with, and so it’s a matter of knowing how to engage that human being based upon their limitations and design information that that human being can use based upon their background. You’re doing an audience analysis, user testing, basic research skills all around this kind of what’s seen as a detriment but really isn’t. So these cultural differences are valuable ways of engaging students and I think that’s kind of nice. You learn from them because the students provide you with their version of things, the most current version of this particular demographic group and they learn about your group, but they feel a sincere sense of connection versus providing them with an artificial example like, “Let’s all write instructions about how to log into YouTube now.” I hope that made sense.

These cultural differences are valuable tools to use to engage students because first of all, it demystifies you as the instructor. You're not this great all knowing sage who's going to be up there and explain the wisdom of the… Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah, and one thing–one thing that I’ve done–for both of my classes, I make my students blog and I have a WordPress.com blog that’s set up so I don’t have to worry about security settings on it. I had drafted a set of instructions on how they sign up for it and how they log into it. Now, WordPress has changed how you do things so many times over the years. I’ve just left the instructions in there as is and one of their first assignments really is, “I know these instructions are not what they should be. How would you improve them?” So it’s pretty much the same thing. It’s getting them immersed immediately in what is the work of a technical communicator? And I use this exercise when I do a technical writing and editing online class in the spring.

Ben: So online classes are interesting. I mean as an introvert or an extrovert, they’re going to be interesting. But what have you found especially challenging about online teaching and what have you done to address that?

Kirk: Well, excellent question. To be quite honest with you, I never realized how dependent I was on audience feedback as a teacher, and even as someone who’s been an introvert their entire life, never realizing how much you monitored the feedback of the people with whom you’re interacting–even if it’s in silence to sort of gauge how you’re about to do something. And then when you get to this online teaching experience where everything is reduced to text and realizing I don’t have the kinds of feedback sources I’ve used over the course of my life to gauge this audience, to interact with them, to understand them. And that’s an interesting situation to be in, how to do this. And so that I think was the biggest surprise for me is finding these ways of what are other ways of gleaning the kinds of feedback I’ve become so accustomed to using in face-to-face situations to adapt them to online teaching. I’m curious, maybe you’ve seen the same thing as an introvert also. This notion of, wow, I’m a lot more dependent on feedback than I realized and it’s missing here.

Ben: Yeah, and I’ve dealt with that with the students as well because they’re–and honestly, especially depending on how busy I am that semester and it’s an online class and a challenge for us is remembering we have that online class because we’re not showing up in front of it to lead it every day, but…so one of the challenges has been to make sure that I’m engaged with the class and they know that I’m engaged with the class. What I started doing last semester is I added a Slack workspace to go with the class and I didn’t do it–they’re not doing–they’re doing assignments in it, but I told them this is by far the fastest way to get a hold of me and we’ve had some informal assignments so they can post things and I have them post their introductions there and things like that. And there a couple of reasons: One, it is the fastest way to get a hold of me, but two, it allows me to do online office hours with them and this is an online class so I can do a video call with them, and the other part of it is I am introducing them to a tool they are going to use in the workplace or they will be using some other similar collaborative tools. So I love getting them immersed in doing that now.

Kirk: Nice. That’s a really clever approach. I like that. I’m stealing it from you just so you know!

Ben: Absolutely! Please do!

Ben: One other thing I want to touch base on in terms of the distance learning and the online presentations: We had talked I think briefly a couple of months ago where I think you had maybe done your first webinar-type presentation, and Sara Feldman and I had quite the discussion about how that was speaking into the void because you get no feedback whatsoever. What have you found with that and if you found anything that’s well–is that your experience with it and have you found anything that’s helpful?

Kirk: That’s a great, great question and observation. Yes. In fact, ironically before we spoke today, I just did a webinar for STC, and I’ve done a number of them now, and there still is that phenomenon of speaking into the void. I think it’s just something that you begin to adapt yourself to and learn to work with, and you begin to apply that to online teaching as well. So now, for example, when I do teach online, I feel more comfortable creating audio recordings to go with classes, because when you’re sitting at your computer or writing and recording at the same time, in many ways, it mirrors that webinar experience. So it–it kind of cross pollinates how it works. I’m still trying to figure out how to adapt to that sort of environment, and it’s–for all of us–it’s a learning process.

Kirk: I think I’m getting more comfortable speaking out loud or talking to myself out loud. I don’t know if it’s wise to say that in a public forum [Ben laughing], but, you know, I’m not comfortable having conversations with myself. But, I think that’s the key is getting comfortable being able to orate without that kind of feedback you’re accustomed to in many situations, and just assuming that, okay, I think I’ve done a good job. I’m now going to go onto the next point. One thing I’ve learned–and maybe you and others have experienced it also–is there’s a tendency when you’re in instruction mode to stop every so often and asked for confirmation of comprehension. “Did that make sense? Okay. Before I go on, are there any questions?” and it’s learning in that Webinar format where you would naturally do that and maybe giving a little bit more space or pause to allow individuals to maybe process that information before moving on. I’m still kind of learning how to come to terms with the notion of the time-delayed question, where you orate for the Webinar, then you get the text questions typed into a chat box after and respond to those. So it’s a learning process.

On webinars--I think that's the key is getting comfortable being able to orate without that kind of feedback you're accustomed to in many situations, and just assuming that, okay, I think I've done a good job. Click To Tweet

Ben: It definitely changes the pacing a bit. I think it’s probably good because I think the other problem that we tend to run into if we’re not getting cues back is that we probably tend to go a little bit too fast, so I think having that break worked in where people can raise questions is really good. The other thing that Sarah and I found that was helpful and it’s not always an opportunity, but when you’re co-presenting, we’ve been on video with each other at the same time, whether we’ve done it through a different type of channel (such) as Slack or it’s actually part of the Zoom recording or something else. That’s helped immensely because we can see each other and we can get cues off of each other and it takes away that–“Hey, I’m talking to a friend piece of it”–so I know that I’m not talking out into the void. So that’s really the only thing I’ve found so far besides the “allowing time,” but I’ll get to the end of a presentation and I will not have the slightest idea how it’s been received. I haven’t been able to alter anything. I’m kind of, well, what did you all think? Are you awake? sort of thing sometimes, you know, but it is interesting.

Kirk: Well one of the cool experiences you bring up that I’ve had is, once in the past I do a lot of guest lecturing and other classes of colleagues by Skype and that’s an interactive medium. You see the class, you interact. But one time we did it with a colleague, and they could not communicate with me. They could hear me and they could see me but I could not see or hear them. And so the teacher on the other side of the exchange was typing into the comment box what I should be seeing. Like “Ooh–lots of nodding–people understanding; confused looks–maybe clarify”, and that to be honest with you as the best talking into the void experience I’ve ever had, because you got that kind of instantaneous feedback from another educator who knew what to look for and what to tell you to prompt you to behave. And it’s like, man, if every webinar could be orchestrated in that way, that would be so awesome.

Ben: Yeah, I think that’s great. I really like that idea too.

Ben: Thanks Kurt for an insightful interview.

Extras

The iPhone lecture

The iPhone lecture


  • 0
Alisa Bonsignore headshot

Episode 006: Alisa Bonsignore–Growing as a Leader

Category:introversion,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,personality,Podcast,STC

Episode 006: Alisa Bonsignore–Growing as a Leader Show Notes

Alisa Bonsignore headshotIntroduction

Alisa Bonsignore is the principal of Clarifying Complex Ideas, a strategic communications consultancy in the Bay Area with clients around the world. We discuss thought leadership, volunteering, the leadership journey, and career growth.

  • Twitter: @ClearWriter
  • Email: hello@clarifyingcomplexideas.com

Key concepts

  • Thought leadership
  • Volunteering
  • Mentoring
  • Career growth
  • No single path to Leadership

Quotable

Thought leadership can take a lot of different forms. You could be a blogger. You could podcast…. It could be about personal topics that are of interest to you, that help you to just make a connection with the reader somewhere. Maybe you’re a technical communicator by day, but maybe you also have a certification as a wine expert that you write about, and that could be something that a potential client or a potential employer reads about you own is like, “Wow, this person has a level of depth that I didn’t know about!”

I think it’s easy to look at someone that you see as a leader and you think they have always been a leader.

But none of that (career growth) would have happened if I had just sat back and been the quiet one. I had to look for new approaches to my career, where I had to find those alternative leadership opportunities, where I could influence laterally instead of just being placed in a leadership role.

How are you going to prove your worth if you come in the first day doing X, and you leave five years later, still doing exactly the same thing? You need to grow and develop and learn things as you go….  And I think it just takes a little bit of time and a little bit of patience, because you can’t expect (that) you’re going to take a slightly new role or take on a project and it’s going to change your life radically overnight. It’s a gradual process that builds over time as you are exposed to more and more.

Whatever your path is and whatever you might be thinking and whatever you’re stressing about, there is no right or wrong way. There is no one path. You just have to find the thing that works for you.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: We’re continuing our conversation with Alisa Bonsignore. Today we’re going to talk about her role as an influencer or as a leader. Alisa, can you talk to us a little bit about in what roles you’re an influencer or a leader and what that’s like for you?

Alisa: Sure. We’ve already talked previously about speaking, which obviously is a leadership thing in its own right, but I think for a lot of people, speaking ties in very closely with teaching. Some people will do it in a classroom. Some people will do it more in terms of conferences or annual speaking engagements, which is really a form of thought leadership. I’d like to think that people were coming to hear me talk because they liked my ideas, and that there is something useful that I have to say.

Alisa: And thought leadership can take a lot of different forms. You could be a blogger. You could podcast. Here’s an example! You could write a book, you could contribute are articles to Intercom. (We’re always looking for articles in Intercom, but it doesn’t even have to be limited to professional topics. ) It could be about personal topics that are of interest to you, that help you to just make a connection with the reader somewhere. Maybe you’re a technical communicator by day, but maybe you also have a certification as a wine expert that you write about, and that could be something that a potential client or a potential employer reads about you and is like, “Wow, this person has a level of depth that I didn’t know about. This is very interesting. I want to know more about them.”

Thought leadership can take a lot of different forms. You could be a blogger. You could podcast.... It could be about personal topics that are of interest to you, that help you to just make a connection with the reader somewhere.… Click To Tweet

Alisa: Mentoring is a great opportunity for guiding others. I’ve tried to mentor some people throughout the course of my career. I’ve been mentored by some wonderful people. I think that’s a really great way to influence and give back, but volunteering–as we’re both on the board of directors for STC.–volunteering is a large role in my life. But, you don’t have to be again, in a professional capacity. It doesn’t have to be for a professional society. You could be a volunteer at your local community park. You could be a volunteer for the soup kitchen. I mean, whatever it may be, something that helps you to be seen as a leader in a way that you might not be seen in your day-to-day professional work.

Ben: Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting point and an important point, because in my professional capacity working in higher education, there isn’t really a career path in the area that I’m in. I’m a program manager in the information security office. I’m responsible for awareness and training. I manage a lot of the initiatives we do, but my step up is to be an information security officer, and that’s a far different role, and that role has a lot to do with incident handling which can come in at any hour of the day or night. So there’s some real–maybe some pluses–but there’s some minuses with it as well.

Ben: So I think that whole idea of finding leadership opportunities outside of your immediate workplace is really, really important. If I had only pursued what I could pursue within RIT, I wouldn’t be doing this podcast. I wouldn’t have run for president of an STC local chapter. I wouldn’t have run for the Board. I would probably not have been able to get engaged in mentoring relationships. My other leadership opportunities again, are through Educause, which is another nonprofit organization, where I’ve led one of their working groups, and I present regularly at their conferences, and I’ve–they’ve even thought some of what I’ve said has been thought-worthy–I’ve been asked to participate in podcasts about things that we’re doing here at RIT. But again, there are things that I was able to start, so I think understanding that your leadership path and your influence path is both within and outside your workplace is really important.

Alisa: Yeah, and especially as an independent. I don’t have a career path per se. I mean?what am I going– I’m the only one in my company–What am I going to be? I’m going to be the president. Oh, I am the president. Okay. Well, I’m also the writer. I’m also the administrator. I’m also the ITperson. I’m also–There’s no growth path here. I can change my clients. I can change the focus of my work, but it’s not like you’re going to see a progression in title or anything like that, so my leadership approaches have to be different. They have to come from a different place than in your standard “rising through the ranks” type of leadership.

Ben: So another thing about leadership that we’ve talked about, and we can pick it up in a couple of things, but one thing that you’ve mentioned to me in conversations in the past is that leadership is a journey. When we see leaders around, it can be, “How did they get to that point?” or, “They’ve always been that kind of person.” I know for me personally, my leadership path probably started many years ago, that I’m not really aware of, but it didn’t really start actively until about eight years ago. What have you found in terms of what you observe with others around leadership paths? What has yours been like and what recommendations would you have for introverts especially who want to become influencers or leaders?

Alisa: Well, I think it’s easy to look at someone that you see as a leader and you think they have always been a leader, right? You–you assume that these were the people who were the class president in high school. They think they’ve just always been in that leadership role and I was never that person. That wasn’t my personality. That wasn’t who I was. I didn’t really meet you. Look back on my career, I–it’s worked out beautifully and people say, well how did you put all this together? How did you have this plan? And I’m like, “Yeah, I had a plan. Right. Okay.” Because I had started out in healthcare years ago, like 20 plus years ago, and then when we moved to California it was during the first dotcom boom and there was no healthcare work to be had. It was all tech. I didn’t know anything about tech. I’d never done anything in tech in my life, but it didn’t matter, because there was such a shortage of available personnel that I got hired at a dotcom, because I had a pulse, basically. [laughing]

I think it's easy to look at someone that you see as a leader and you think they have always been a leader. @clearwriter Click To Tweet

Alisa: I mean that was the only job requirement, so I ended up going from doing taxonomy and content at a startup which were a couple of network security companies. And broadening my horizons there on topics that I knew nothing about a few years earlier; and then ultimately getting back into healthcare, which is where I wanted to be in the first place, but, having the opportunity to get back into healthcare. But then that’s all dovetailed over the years to be Healthcare IT–all of the security, all of the security concerns surrounding HIPAA, surrounding personal health information, and people go, “Wow, it’s so amazing that you’ve planned your career this way, so that you find yourself in this healthcare IT arena.” And I’m like, “I planned that. Absolutely,!” [laughing]

Ben: And it’s interesting because 20 years ago some of these things didn’t even exist.

Alisa: Well, exactly. And it all seems like a series of seemingly random choices at the time. Right? When I was first graduating from college, I wouldn’t have imagined that some day I’d have my own business and be serving on a board of directors. I mean, who would’ve thought that? I-I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d have multiple international clients in Europe, or that I would have speaking engagements a few times a year, both domestically and internationally. But none of that would have happened if I’d just sat back and been the quiet one. I had to look for new approaches to my career, where I had to find those alternative leadership opportunities, where I could influence sort of laterally instead of just being placed in a leadership role. But it was more of the types of things like project management where I was influencing across groups and building consensus, and all things that work with my personality, but not necessarily things that I would have known about or would have sought in my natural tendencies.

But none of that (career growth) would have happened if I had just sat back and been the quiet one. I had to look for new approaches to my career, where I had to find those alternative leadership opportunities, where I could… Click To Tweet

Ben: Let’s say I’m a new practitioner. I’ve been a technical writer for a couple of years, or I’ve been a security person, or I’ve been in any kind of industry. It’s not really just confined to these industries. What advice would you have for me in terms of becoming an influencer? Becoming a leader? Is it important for me to become an influencer? Is it important for me to become a leader. How would I go about that?

Alisa: Well, I think it is important in terms of wanting to get some more visibility for yourself. I mean how, how are you going to, for, for lack of better explanation, sell yourself within the company? How are you going to prove your worth if you come in the first day doing X, and you leave five years later, still doing exactly the same thing? You need to grow and develop and learn things as you go, and in the process, you get exposed to a lot of different things. And so I think the part of the thing that you need to do when you’re young and that I did without realizing it, was taking on opportunities that were a little uncomfortable. That didn’t feel like they might’ve been a natural fit for me, because I only saw sort of what they were on the surface. But that really worked well with my personality type, because, as I said, project management–it may not be the thing that I want to do all day every day.

How are you going to prove your worth if you come in the first day doing X, and you leave five years later, still doing exactly the same thing? You need to grow and develop and learn things as you go....@clearwriter Click To Tweet

Alisa: But the skills that I learned in some of the more project management type roles that I did, have had a tremendous impact on what I do as an independent, and how I manage my projects, and how I manage clients, and how I balance work, and how I understand how the flow goes, and building consensus across groups and across language barriers, even. There’s a huge difference there from where I was 20 years ago to where I am now. And I think it just takes a little bit of time and a little bit of patience, because you can’t expect these things are going to–you’re going to take a slightly new role or take on a project and it’s going to change your life radically overnight. It’s a gradual process that builds over time as you are exposed to more and more.

Ben: I found that was the case for me as well. There are times I’d say, “Well, why couldn’t I have been doing this 10 years ago?” Or, “why didn’t I think…

Alisa: Right, because you weren’t in this place at the time.

Ben: I could not have done that because it’s that sum total of everything that has come up to this point in time that’s enabled me to actually do these things, and also even has provided the interest. Twenty years ago I didn’t think about personality types or temperaments or introverts or extroverts or even leadership at all. As I mentioned, the leadership progression for me is fairly new, but I found that I’ve become really passionate about it and passionate about helping other people become leaders, especially introverts, who often feel like there’s no place for them. So it’s really interesting the way–as you’ve put it–it’s all of these things that have come together to enable us to take these next steps. The other thing I thought that you said that was really important, was being willing to take steps that are outside of our comfort zone.

Alisa: Yeah, and it’s–I mean it’s so easy to say, “Well, I was this at my last company and I’ll continue to be–I’ll look for the same role in my next company,” or under the new management re-org or whatever it may be, but stretch a little. It’s good for you! Even if you decide that’s not the thing for me, I want to go back to what I was doing. You’re still taking the skills that you learned and bringing them back and it’ll make you better at what you were.

Ben: Anything else that you would like to pass on to our listeners?

Alisa: I think you just need to know that whatever your path is and whatever you might be thinking and whatever you’re stressing about, there is no right or wrong way. There is no one path. You just have to find the thing that works for you.

Whatever your path is and whatever you might be thinking and whatever you're stressing about, there is no right or wrong way. There is no one path. You just have to find the thing that works for you. @clearwriter Click To Tweet

Ben: Great, so I think that’s wisdom and I thank you so much for sharing it with us. Thanks Alisa for sharing your thoughts today. We look forward to having you join us for another podcast in the future.

Alisa: Thanks, Ben. It’s been good to be here.

Extras

Alisa has a Twitter bot that is sometimes hysterical. https://twitter.com/alisa_ebooks

 

Become a Patron!


Site Search

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,762 other subscribers

Categories

Support Introverted Leadership on Patreon

Blubrry affiliate banner