Author Archives: Ben

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Roxy Greninger

Episode 016: Roxy Greninger–Culture Consultant and Brightest Part

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

Episode 016 Show Notes: Roxy Greninger

Introduction

Roxy Greninger

Roxy Greninger and Ben Woelk discuss Roxy’s role as a culture consultant and being the brightest part of someone’s day.

Key concepts

  • Changing a business culture
  • Re-engineering content
  • StrengthsFinder
  • Being intentional
  • Being the brightest spot of someone’s day

Quotable

You need to be intentional as an organization to drive your culture. Our purpose of our culture team is to help attract and retain the best and the brightest talent.

“We pass these things on.” And I said, that’s exactly what happens in–in culture, in general. We pass these rules or these norms on to each other because we teach each other. And that’s exactly what happens in an organization.

Our company has laid out values and behaviors that aren’t just words on a wall. They’re not–it’s not a poster in the break room, right? These are things that we live and breathe every day

My “why,” my vision and all that makes me happy–is being the brightest part of someone’s day. And I know that sounds corny, but like–and it’s not a difficult goal to reach–but at the end of the day, if I can look backwards and say I made someone smile today, or I brought some relief to someone, or I helped someone, or, you know “fill in the blank,” that I help influence or positively impact that person in some small way, then I’ve fulfilled my day.

I feel like it’s very important for us to recognize those strengths and leverage them, whether it be for your work or your fulfillment. If you’re missing one of them, you’ll notice it. You’ll not feel that you have that connection or that purpose.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Roxy Greninger. Roxy Works for Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield as a Culture Program Consultant. Roxy describes herself as Texas-born, Oregon-raised, and New York-refined.

Ben: Hi Roxy. I’m so excited you’re joining us today. We’ve had some fascinating and far ranging conversations and I look forward to seeing where we go today.

Ben: So you are a culture program consultant, which sounds like a totally exotic and intriguing role to have in a company. I suspect it’s not quite as exotic as it sounds. Could you tell us a little bit about the cultural program?

Roxy: Sure. There’s a few of us and what’s unique about the three of us with that title is that we are all tasked with varying things–varying projects and various work–which is just great, right? And anytime you have multiple people doing the same role, you should always look to leverage their strengths. And that’s just what our leader has done, but the culture program consultant by design–I think more organizations are finding themselves with some sort of a culture team or culture leader, someone who’s focus is on the culture, and it’s because you need to be intentional as an organization to drive your culture. Our purpose of our culture team is to help attract and retain the best and the brightest talent.

You need to be intentional as an organization to drive your culture. Our purpose of our culture team is to help attract and retain the best and the brightest talent. Roxy Click To Tweet

Roxy: And it’s not just about attracting the talent, because once you get them in the door, they need to stay there. So that’s the retain part, right? So we see a lot of flashy companies, really big companies writing books and kind of paving the industry and they do fun things and you see Ping Pong tournaments, and water slides, and all these really wacky things. And so people think that it’s just a lot of fun and it’s a lot of frivolity–I guess if that’s even a word–frivolousness, and that’s not what it is. It’s really about helping develop people and know themselves and reach the fullest potential. Developing the strategy for the organization, working with the leaders, right, to make sure that they’re setting the example for the rest of the organization and demonstrating the values and behaviors that the organization desires. Right? So for our company, we have a mission, we have a vision just like every other company and we have a strategy to achieve that mission.

Roxy: And one of our strategies is to motivate the workforce. And that’s–that’s my job all day, right, is what needs to be done to motivate the workforce. There’s part of it is a little dance around psychology. It’s important that people feel that they have some control, that they have decision making, and that they’re heard. So our company has laid out values and behaviors that aren’t just words on a wall. They’re not–it’s not a poster in the break room, right? These are things that we live and breathe every day and our culture has changed a lot in the 13 years I’ve been with the organization. It’s really evolved in a positive way. Thirteen years ago I probably honestly only stuck around because the benefits were good, right? Then as the focus, the intention on culture has come full circle, we’ve heard more improvements. People are happier. They’re showing up to work with better ideas. They can be more innovative.

On culture--Company values and behaviors that aren't just words on a wall. They're not a poster in the break room, right? These are things that we live and breathe every day. Roxy Click To Tweet

Roxy: We have a huge focus now on diversity. That’s another department. We work closely with them. But that’s another major piece of it, is every voice needs to be heard–diversity of thought, diversity of your experiences. We all have unique experiences and we have to recognize that. So there’s a whole team that is focused on diversity of our employees and the diversity of thought, so that we can innovate. And yeah, it is–I think of it–it is kind of an exotic title, but it’s very much project management and learning and development, I think that I bring to the team, I do a lot of readings. I love to re-engineer content. Of course, I credit and cite the source, but I like to re-engineer it in a way that the average person can receive it, and they don’t have to spend as much time reading all the books or watching all the videos, which is something that I enjoy doing. So it’s a happy balance.

I love to re-engineer content. Of course, I credit and cite the source, but I like to re-engineer it in a way that the average person can receive it, Roxy Click To Tweet

Ben: And I, and I may or may not be right about this at all, but is the pace of change? You said it had changed a lot in the 13 years. And I’d also mentioned that sounds like an exotic position, but it sounds like–it takes a lot of time for change, usually. Correct?

Roxy: Oh, absolutely! It’s not something you can be impatient about and… I just did a workshop for our college interns over the summer and the way that I explained it is–culture is contagious, so you don’t just wake up one day and decide you’re going to change your culture. And the story that I told them or the, the, the challenge that I asked them during the workshop was I, I had a lab coat on and I, you know, had some colored waters in some beakers and made it look more like a science room. But I asked them, does anyone know why? First of all I did like a poll–Does everyone know that you don’t wear white after Labor Day? And they all at least had heard of it. So that was good. And then I said, does anyone know why you don’t wear white after Labor Day?

Roxy: And nobody knew. And that was kind of surprising because, you know, with the different videos and things that pop up on Facebook, we all kind of know these, these fun little trivia these days. So fortunately for me, no one knew the answer, so I said, “Well, it actually started after the Civil War, when there was all these self-made millionaires popping up everywhere, and the high society ladies of old money decided that they wanted a way to identify the new money so that they could shun them.” And so the story goes that they came up with these fashion rules so that they could spot the new money and shun them. So basically one of the rules was you don’t wear white after Labor Day and they came up with that rule because it’s just normal to wear white in the summer.

Roxy: It’s a lighter color, but they made it a rule. So if you wore a white gown to a Christmas ball or gala, they would snub you. They would shun you. And so I said, “That was almost a 100 or over 100 years ago. How is it that something that was so malicious in nature that was created back then, still a thing now that we embrace and teach our children? And the hands started going up and you know, people were like, oh, because I said, “Who told you?” And they said, my grandmother and my mother, my whoever. And I said, “We pass these things on.” And I said, that’s exactly what happens in–in culture, in general. We pass these rules or these norms on to each other because we teach each other. And that’s exactly what happens in an organization.

We pass these things on. That's exactly what happens in culture, We pass these rules or these norms on to each other because we teach each other. And that's exactly what happens in an organization. Roxy Click To Tweet

Roxy: So when you think you’re helping someone by saying, “Oh, you have to wear–Ladies, you have to wear nylons in our organization.” Well, no! There’s actually no corporate policy that says you have to wear nylons. But this is one of those things that in some areas, the employees here were under the impression that they had to wear nylons with a skirt. And it’s just funny because you have these little pockets where people believe, well, that’s what you have to do. Well, who gets to decide what you have to do? Is it a corporate policy or is it a “that’s what we’ve kind of been doing for awhile?” So yeah, we really just asked the question, “Who gets to decide? Fill in the blank and challenge those norms. So, it could be as little as meeting culture, Do you put an agenda on your meeting invite? It could be different depending on which team you work in and what leader you have or what coworkers you have. So these things don’t change easily. I can’t just wake up one day and say, “Hey organization.  We’re all gonna do this.” Sometimes we can. Sometimes things are mandated and we have to do them. But the way that we behave and treat each other and some of these things that we’ve accepted into our norms, are much more difficult to challenge.

Ben: So how would you go about measuring success? How do you? I mean, we’re talking about–some things are overnight things because they’re mandated, but many of these things seem to take a good amount of time. And what do you do trying to determine if your efforts are successful?

Roxy: Yeah! The organization has a survey. We use a vendor that helps us measure, using a survey assessment–measure the feedback from the employees. And we asked the same questions year after year and we gauged the responses. So for that, it’s a numbers answer. Personally, I like to read between the lines and really understand the feedback that’s going along with those numbers, because it’s not about the numbers. It’s about the people, right? So we have the number that’s helpful. But for me it’s–it’s how do I feel? Right? And it’s really hard to get a measure on how do I feel. There could be something going on. If I come to work and I’m working through a frustration with a particular work group, depending on who I come in contact with. It varies from person to person and rightly so. It should.

Roxy: So, yes, the organization does use the assessment, but for me personally in my role, I like to observe and I like to listen and I like to just pay attention, which again, I think is one of those things where introverts just excel at because I can be the one in the room leading the conversation and jumping in and giving feedback, but I can also very easily be the person in the room who’s sitting back and watching the body language and reading between the lines and listening to somebody give an idea and then shut down because maybe their idea was rejected and they didn’t feel that they wanted to really press that idea or share the backup context that would help others see their idea. So, I’m kind of more of the observer and I’m weaving in the development pieces that go along with that.

Ben: Well, that’s awesome. So you mentioned that your strength of being able to listen and I think observe–I mean that is one of the strengths of introverts in general are supposed to be, and clearly, talking about how you’re leveraging that in terms of the culture change work. What else do you believe to be your biggest strengths? So how are you leveraging the StrengthsFinders?

Roxy: I think when I first found out what they were, it was a kind of disbelief. I didn’t quite understand what they were. And then over time, as somebody gave me a little plaque and they were sitting on my shelf, I’m at my desk and over time, as I would see them on a daily basis, and I would look back to what the definitions were, I started to realize that I had tendencies that explained why those were my strengths. So the F and I think by order, the first strength is Strategic. For me, when I come up with ideas or when I give answers to solve problems, it’s not always a fix for today. It’s a longer term fix or it’s something where I’m thinking I’m trying to pull in all the information that I have to make the smartest decision or the decision that’s gonna enter you no longer test of time.

Roxy: For me, the strategic definitely shows up, and sometimes I have to warn people, “Just FYI, I’m strategic. Sorry, if I’m jumping ahead.” And then also Learner and Input are two of my strengths. I’m so Learner. You’ve probably heard me talking about how I love to read. I average a book a week, and I just can’t get enough, right? I love learning new things. I find myself putting myself in awkward, uncomfortable, new positions in order to learn new things. And the Input, I just want to gather as much input as I can about something. And that’s part of the Strategic, a strength, the need there to fill all the input in order to make those decisions, But it’s also part of the Maximizer. So that’s another strength, once I learn all this content and I pull in all this input, I want to be able to maximize it.

I love learning new things. I find myself putting myself in awkward, uncomfortable, new positions in order to learn new things. Roxy Click To Tweet

Roxy: I want to be able to tell everyone about it and help them connect with it. And I just gave away the fifth strength which is Connectedness. And so I do–I see connection in everything and value in everything. And when I have that connection and that value in everything, it’s inspiring, it’s motivating, it’s uplifting. So I try to see the connection or value in every interaction and something–I actually just started this week. A few weeks ago I had recommended to someone I was talking to, to start a gratitude journal, and that’s a popular thing. A lot of people are doing it. I tried it myself and it just–the well kept running dry, right? And it sounds horrible, but it was more of a, at the end of the day make sure you do your gratitude. And I was like, “Oh, I’m thankful for my family.” It was kind of growing repetitive, but this person had a specific need and she was feeling really down, and I said, “Hey, have you tried this?”

Roxy: And so I was thinking about it and I was thinking back to me, back to my “why,” my vision and all that makes me happy–is being the brightest part of someone’s day. And I know that sounds corny, but like–and it’s not a difficult goal to reach–but at the end of the day, if I can look backwards and say I made someone smile today, or I brought some relief to someone, or I helped someone, or, you know “fill in the blank,” that I help influence or positively impact that person in some small way, then I’ve fulfilled my day. Like that’s it, right? So I shifted the journal from Gratitude to “That’s my Purpose.” And if I–and any goal–this is my recommendation to anyone. If you have a goal or something you’re trying to accomplish, if you can dedicate that much time every day towards that goal, you will reach that goal.

My vision and all that makes me happy--is being the brightest part of someone's day. Roxy Click To Tweet

At the end of the day, if I can look backwards and say I made someone smile today, or I brought some relief to someone, that I help influence or positively impact that person in some small way, then I've fulfilled my day. Roxy Click To Tweet

Roxy: And so for me it was, it was just a happy reminder of if you look backwards on your day. You’re going to see that you’re naturally helping. You’re naturally doing these things, bringing some sort of positive light into–anyone, whether it’s personal, family, work, anything–it could be the cashier at the register for all I know, if I just smile and say, Have a good day.” And they perk up. That’s–that’s awesome for me. As I started doing that journal and I found while journaling, the strengths were shining through in those examples again, and I was like, “Whoa! There it is again–those, those strengths.” That connection, finding myself at a place for a reason.

Roxy: Maybe I went to the estate sale and didn’t buy anything. And someone might look at that and say, “Oh, what a waste of time. You went there, you spent the money on the gas, and you didn’t buy anything.” Well, I like to look at the actual connection I had. Someone there was moving a table and nobody was helping her. So I offered to help and she said, “I’m 75 years old. I don’t know what I was thinking by trying to carry this table.” And that was it. That was that little interaction. We put the table in her car and she left, and I heard her telling someone on her way out that, “Oh, that nice young lady. They’re at the end of the line, helped me with the table.” Of course, I don’t know why no one else helped her, but that was it. Like I was meant to be there for that purpose and that was the brightest part of my day. But, I feel like it’s very important for us to recognize those strengths and leverage them, whether it be for your work or your fulfillment. If you’re missing one of them, you’ll notice it. You’ll not feel that you have that connection or that purpose.

It's very important for us to recognize your strengths and leverage them, be it for your work or your fulfillment. If you're missing one of them, you'll notice. You'll not feel that you have that connection or that purpose. Roxy Click To Tweet

Ben: What’s interesting is that you talked about “at the end of the day.” My thoughts immediately leapt to the song in Les Miserables, which talks about “At the end of the day, you’re another day older,” but it’s  almost all negative. It’s like there’s nothing. It’s just kinda the end of the day. It talks about “one day less to be living.” It’s not a positive song. But to hear you talking about this, it’s such a different and refreshing way to approach life in terms of you go to an event, you go to something that says an estate sale. You didn’t see anything you wanted to buy, but you found a way to have an impact on someone’s life. And I think that you have a gift there that many of us–it just doesn’t necessarily even occur to us. And “Oh, I went to the sale, I didn’t find anything and somebody was struggling with a table, and I should have helped them with the table” sort of thing, instead of jumping up there and making a difference for someone.

Ben: And I think this idea of being the brightest part of someone’s day is–it’s pretty amazing and it’s pretty humbling when you’re able to do that as well. So I think it’s a very, very cool thing. I’m always struck when I talk with you about how intentional you are in the way you approach these various things. We were talking briefly last week even in terms of ensuring that you’re exposing yourself to musical genres that you don’t really prefer, but you want to understand why other–why they’re popular and why certain songs that people appreciate them and I just find it really interesting because you have this intentionality that I don’t honestly believe that most of us do. I think many of us kind of go through our day and we look back on our day and well, it was another day, but the idea of really not–it’s not–you’re not talking about being the bright spot of one person’s day. You’re talking about being the bright spot of each person that you encounter during the day and it’s such a different credo in a sense of a way to live. Then I think it’s a very positive, obviously a positive example for us.

Extras

Organizational culture is a big deal and can have a direct impact on innovation. I read Daniel Coyle, The Culture Code: the Secrets of Highly Successful Groups earlier this year as part of the Next Big Idea Book Club (10% off subscription). I highly recommend both! Ben


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Roxy Greninger

Episode 015: Roxy Greninger–Growing Your Circle

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

Episode 015 Show Notes: Roxy Greninger

Introduction

Roxy Greninger

Roxy Greninger and Ben Woelk discuss Roxy’s work with Growing Your Circle and her experience at Spectrum 2018 of finding her tribe.  

Key concepts

  • Grow Your Circle
  • Outgoing introverts
  • Unexpected benefits of attending a conference

Quotable

I think that people don’t always have a clear definition of what an introvert is. So if you ask just a random person, what would they picture? They picture someone who’s quiet, maybe shy, definitely afraid of public speaking, and that’s not the case for me.

“What are you doing on this planet? What do you want to leave behind or how do you want to be remembered?” And you kind of start to ask yourself more thought-provoking questions around that. What are your strengths? And then you build upon that circle. So you are at the center of your circle, and then the people that surround you are the various layers of that circle, and the influence that they have on you.

So many people came up and talked to me afterwards and really talked to me during the course of the conference, that I started to get an understanding how important it was for introverts to understand that they were okay. There was nothing wrong with them for being introverts, but also to understand that there were more of them, that there was a sense of tribal group, or a circle in some ways as well.–Ben

Think about different people and the influence that they have on your circle, it could come and go. You could see them once a year, you could see them once in your lifetime, but they leave that resonating impact on that ring of your circle.

By all accounts, we want to be different, we want to be unique, but it’s wired into us to find similarities and develop our tribe. It’s a safety mechanism. It’s just natural that you want to feel similar to others, and not be the outsider.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben:  Joining us today is Roxy Greninger. Roxy Works for Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield as a Culture Program Consultant. Roxy describes herself as Texas-born, Oregon-raised, and New York-refined. I met Roxy at the STC Rochester Spectrum Conference where she presented on Growing Your Circle. Roxy has since joined the Society for Technical Communication and is co-Vice President and 2019 Spectrum Conference co-chair. Roxy was also the catalyst for starting the Hope for the Introvert podcast, but we’ll talk about that a bit later. Roxy blogs at www.RoxyLorraine.Com. You can contact Roxy on Linkedin or at RoxyLorraine@Gmail.com.

Ben: Hi Roxy. I’m so excited you’re joining us today. We’ve had some fascinating and far ranging conversations and I look forward to seeing where we go today.

Roxy: Hey Ben. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be on Hope for the Introvert.

Ben: Absolutely! So Roxy, you’ve mentioned to me that people are often surprised that you’re an introvert. Why is that?

Roxy: I think that people don’t always have a clear definition of what an introvert is. So if you ask just a random person, what would they picture? They picture someone who’s quiet, maybe shy, definitely afraid of public speaking, and that’s not the case for me. So I call myself an outgoing introvert. So for me it’s more–I love being around people, I love talking to people, but it doesn’t give me a charge. It actually drains me. So at the end of the day I need to be kind to myself and have some quiet time for reflection or artwork. Just recharging really. I’d call it recharge my batteries.

People don't always have a clear definition of what an introvert is. What would a random person picture? They picture someone who's quiet, maybe shy, definitely afraid of public speaking, and that's not the case for me.--Roxy Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah. And that’s pretty typical for an introvert. Needing that time to recharge. It seems to be THE thing that makes a difference between extroverts and introverts. So when did you actually discover or decide that you were an introvert and how did that make you feel? What has the journey been like?

Roxy: It was about eight years ago during an Art of Leadership workshop here at Excellus, and during that time we took a number of assessments to learn about ourselves, which I found to be the most beneficial activity I’ve ever done. You would think, after 30 some odd years, you know yourself, but you really don’t. And having done that assessment, we learned if we were an introvert or an extrovert, our communication styles, which was also very helpful. And our strengths, right? So we use the five Strengths–StrengthsFinders 2.0 to learn about ourselves and how we work with others. So for me it was very affirming to know that I was an introvert, and that I wasn’t weird or that there was something wrong with me, if you will, that I felt so tired or a little withdrawn after extensive periods of time with people. And also to realize that there were other people like me was very affirming.

Ben: Well, that’s awesome.

Roxy:The affirmation that being–finding out that you’re an introvert–has on you, and anytime that I’m sure you, having led presentations on introversion, you’ll probably find or recognize that people come up to you afterwards and say, “Wow! That really meant something to me.” And being in a room full of other people who are similar is so important. Some of my favorite readings are just based on human behavior and why we have that need to feel the same. We by all accounts, we want to be different, we want to be unique, but it’s wired into us to find similarities and develop our tribe. It’s a safety mechanism. It’s just natural that you want to feel similar to others, and not be the outsider.

By all accounts, we want to be different, we want to be unique, but it's wired into us to find similarities and develop our tribe.--Roxy Greninger Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. And it’s interesting because I first presented on introversion–I first presented several years ago with a friend of mine–but I presented on it back in the spring of 2016 and I had that same experience that you’re talking about. So many people came up and talked to me afterwards and really talked to me during the course of the conference, that I started to get an understanding how important it was for introverts to understand that they were okay. There was nothing wrong with them for being introverts, but also to understand that there were more of them, that there was a sense of tribal group, or a circle in some ways as well.

So many people came up and talked to me afterwards and really talked to me during the course of the conference, that I started to get an understanding how important it was for introverts to understand that they were okay. Click To Tweet

Ben: Now, when you spoke at Spectrum, you actually spoke during our leadership program and you spoke on Grow Your Circle, which is something that you’ve been working on. Can you talk a little bit about that? It was very well received by the attendees at the conference and I think it would be exciting for them to know what you’re working on.

Roxy: Yeah. I’m fascinated again, by development of people. I’m starting with myself back in 2010. So this idea came to me when we talk about developing your–growing your tribe. (Building your tribe is, I think, one saying in the community.) Networking is another term that people use. And so what I started to find out about wellness and well being,  when you boil everything down, it really needs to start with you. You need to know yourself and you need to know what drives you, in order to know what motivates you, in order to succeed and feel fulfillment and purpose in this life. So when I spoke, the grow your circle is just that you start with you and you ask yourself, it sounds like an easy question, but it’s a really hard question to answer…

Roxy: “What are you doing on this planet? What do you want to leave behind or how do you want to be remembered?” And you kind of start to ask yourself more thought-provoking questions around that. What are your strengths? And then you build upon that circle. So you are at the center of your circle, and then the people that surround you are the various layers of that circle, and the influence that they have on you. So you’ve got another ring of of emotional and physical, which is met by–you have doctors and specialists that are helping with your physical well being. Maybe you have a fitness coach, you’ve got emotional support from your parents, from your siblings, your family, and others. And then there’s another layer of the ring which is career and financial stability, which aren’t necessarily the same, but they certainly can go hand in hand whether you’re self employed or employed by someone else. And whether you’re wealthy or not wealthy, it’s your comfort level with your financial situation, your financial wellness.

What are you doing on this planet? What do you want to leave behind or how do you want to be remembered? Click To Tweet

Roxy: The final ring is social and community. And that’s the biggest ring. That’s where your friends are. That’s where your neighbors are. So when you think about different people and the influence that they have on your circle, it could come and go. You could see them once a year, you could see them once in your lifetime, but they leave that resonating impact on that ring of your circle. It’s also important to think about if you’re trying to hang on to people in your circle because you feel like you’re required to or obligated to. Are they really helping or having a positive influence on you, or are you able to just say they’ve brought me joy and, and maybe your paths–it’s time to part ways, right?

Think about different people and the influence that they have on your circle, it could come and go. You could see them once a year, you could see them once in your lifetime, but they leave that resonating impact on that ring of your… Click To Tweet

Roxy:  So that’s really helpful when you have that circle fully developed. You’re able to maximize your potential. And other people struggle with adding more folks to their circle. Right? So what I spoke about at the conference was there are other ways to grow your circle. You can follow a favorite author or celebrity and they influence you, right? So if you watch TV or if you read books,  or if you follow a celebrity on social media, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, they buy a product and you find yourself buying a product, you better bet you’re being influenced by them. It’s things like that to think about who’s influencing you and is it a positive influence, is it an influence towards your purpose and what you’re trying to accomplish in this life and it’s going to fluctuate.

Ben: You know, I love the idea of the resonating impact. It could be for good or for bad as well.

Roxy: Absolutely!

Ben: But it’s really interesting thinking about just that ongoing sound. Essentially you are having an impact in your life because they’ve–hard to find the words around this, and I think of it more of a pebble. Throwing the pebble in the water and the ripples spreading out. But this is more of the sense of they’ve struck the bell and the peal just kind of continues for awhile.

Roxy: Absolutely!

Ben: So I think it’s a pretty cool analogy and an interesting way to look at it.

Roxy: It’s very helpful to realize that this is not limited to the work life or the personal life, right? This is you. This is your circle. This is 24/7. I think a lot of development programs focus on you within the walls of your workplace or they focus on, you know, self help you outside the workplace. And that’s where they fall short, that you’re not looking at your overall self. And a lot of people are in an unhealthy situation, whether it’s mentally unhealthy or physically unhealthy. They’re working themselves so hard that they’re finding that they have heart disease or stress or anxiety, and all these things, you know catch up to you. And I think in the presentation I referenced, just like when you’re on the airplane and the flight attendant tells you that you have to put your mask on yourself first. If you want to help anybody else, you really do.

Roxy:That rings true with grow your circle. Like you need to look at yourself first and not think about, you know, what decisions you’ve made that have been influenced by, let’s say your parents, right? That’s sometimes the hardest one because they’re your parents, or other influencers like your boss–are you doing work that you love doing or are the assignments that you’re doing, you’re doing them because that’s what you’re being told to do? Or do you feel that you are bringing a passion and meaning to purpose? To the world? So that’s where people get hung up in they find a little depression or demotivation with particular jobs. And that for me overlaps with my work at Excellus, which is why I love thinking about these things outside of the workplace as well as inside the workplace.

Ben: I felt like it was a very well received presentation and it’s funny because I connected with you at the conference and we did a follow-up conversation later. There just seems to be so much of interest to discuss together. But, you’ve also stepped into a leadership role in an organization that you had not had any real familiarity with prior to that. And I’m curious about why you agreed to do that.

Roxy: Yeah. I was–I was shocked. I didn’t know that STC was a thing [laughing]. So I was–I was delighted. I was asked by one of the other co-chairs if I had some content that I’d be willing to present, and I was kind of excited to try and be given the opportunity to try something new, try some content that I hadn’t presented before and this was that opportunity. And after the presentation, I admittedly was kind of surprised there weren’t a lot of questions in the room, but I should have guessed that it was probably primarily a room full of introverts. Each one of those guests came up to me afterwards to say in which ways the presentation connected with them and/or resonated with them. And I was blown away and I’m just shocked that I didn’t know that the Society for Technical Communication existed.

Roxy: And as I had the opportunity to sit through the different presenters, they were speaking my language, they’re reading the same books that I read and they’re talking about technologies that I’m interested in. Sometimes I find myself in a situation at work where my colleagues–they appreciate that I read as much as I do or that I have information about new technology coming out. But you know, that that’s me. They look to me and say, “That’s great. That’s Roxy.” But here’s a whole bunch of Roxy’s, right? I mean, it was–it was unique. We’re all different, you know, it was, it was fulfilling and it was energizing to be with people that had another layer of similarities and wanted to connect with me.

Roxy, I think I had like 20 LinkedIn requests the first day and it’s such a diverse group of people that I just walked away feeling tired, yes, from being around people, but also very energized by, you know, the amount of input and I’m learning that those are a few of my strengths out of the five strengths. So for me that fulfilled a piece of my strengths, that I look for. And so when it was brought to my attention that there was an opportunity to be a leader in the role, I–I hesitated at first because I don’t want to just jump in and have too many things that I’m juggling, but I really thought that I might be able to bring a different perspective and diversify the chapter thinking a little bit, because I do have a marketing background. I’m not a traditional technical writer. I’ve written documentation for our company– training documentation. I do have an IT degree but I’m not in an IT role now. So I thought that that would bring a different perspective to the chapter and the way we do things and maybe just help lead some positive change.

Ben: Yeah, I think there’s some great opportunities there and it’s funny you talk about how you were energized being around the people and still very tired at the end of the day from doing that. But that’s kind of been my experience with this organization and another organization I’m involved with, that as I’ve established relationships, the opportunity to essentially hang out with that group of people is just great and I find that I don’t want to give that up, and I end up being totally, totally exhausted by the time I finally do. But it’s one of those things, It’s probably not the right analogy, but a candle can only burn brightly for so long and then you need to–really terrible analogy, and that it needs to rest for awhile–which again, terrible analogy. So we’re replacing the wick, whatever you want to call it, needs both. Obviously. a flashlight needs to recharge the batteries and that’s the introvert analogy that usually works with that!

Extras

Grow Your Circle Presentation

Grow Your Circle diagram


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Episode 014: Ben Woelk–Lessons Learned on an Introvert’s Journey to Leadership

Category:EDUCAUSE,introversion,Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadership,Lessons Learned,personality,Podcast

Episode 014 Show Notes: Ben Woelk

Introduction

Ben Woelk discusses lessons learned on his introvert’s journey to leadership. This post is based on an article previously published on October 17, 2016 in the EDUCAUSE Review: The Professional Commons Blog and on benwoelk.com.

Key concepts

  • Self understanding is the key for being a good leader
  • Identify and harness your introvert strengths
  • Growing in leadership comes from practicing leadership
  • In networking, depth is more important than breadth

Quotable

My introversion informs my approach to leadership, and I’ve found that self-understanding has helped me learn how to harness my strengths as an introvert to become an influential leader and to achieve great results.

My willingness to accept volunteer tasks has enabled me to share ideas and develop my leadership abilities.

I had to see something on paper stating that I could be a leader before I could accept that ability. I needed the affirmation.

Teams often follow leaders who express their ideas confidently and quickly, neither of which are guarantors that the ideas are actually good.

You won’t grow in leadership if you don’t take advantage of opportunities to practice leadership.

Don’t avoid networking events. You don’t have to meet and engage in small talk with everyone. Find one or two people with whom to have an in-depth conversation, and follow up later. Depth is more important than breadth.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Many of us might agree that Western society lauds extroverted leaders and their accomplishments. However, introverts make great contributions and can be effective leaders too. As IT professionals, many of you are introverts, and you certainly work with a lot of introverts. Those of us who are introverts may not believe or recognize that we have strong leadership skills, and we certainly don’t seem like the extroverted leaders that are the norm in Western society.

I’m an introverted leader, despite outward appearances. I’ve presented at conferences numerous times, and overall, I’m able to mix well in business settings. Many people who see me in that very public context are surprised that I’m an introvert. My introversion informs my approach to leadership, and I’ve found that self-understanding has helped me learn how to harness my strengths as an introvert to become an influential leader and to achieve great results.

My introversion informs my approach to leadership, and I’ve found that self-understanding has helped me learn how to harness my strengths as an introvert to become an influential leader and to achieve great results. Click To Tweet

I thought it might be helpful to share a bit of my journey to leadership, to talk about what’s worked for me, and to provide strategies for both discovering your introvert strengths and maximizing them in your workplaces.

First Things First: What’s an Introvert?

Please regard this section as a generalization constructed from a number of sources. Introversion and extroversion lie along a spectrum. Individuals may be more or less extroverted or introverted. It’s also important to note that social anxiety or fear of public speaking does not necessarily mean that someone is introverted. (Many articles and discussions state that public speaking is the number-one fear for most people.)

For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll characterize extroverts and introverts as follows:

  • Extroverts focus on the outer world of people and things. They tend to be active and have a wide breadth of interests. They understand things through experience. They may be reward seekers and desire fame. They are energized by contact and activities undertaken with others.
  • Introverts have a rich inward-looking life of ideas. They tend to have a depth of interest, preferring specialization to a breadth of knowledge. They may mull over thoughts and concepts, but not express those thoughts verbally or externally. Introverts recharge themselves by withdrawing from the hubbub to places of quiet and solitude.

Reading these descriptions, can you see where you might fit on the spectrum?

Applying Introverted Strengths to Leadership

There are many approaches to leadership, and we often hear about highly extroverted, “take charge” leaders who have very public presences. However, as Susan Cain and others have pointed out, there’s no correlation between success in leadership and extroversion. Examples of introverted leaders include Albert Einstein, Steve Wozniak, and Abraham Lincoln. What made them good leaders? In what ways were they influential?

  • Einstein was known for his depth and clarity of thought (and his genius). He had the ability to look at all angles to a problem and develop innovative (and often unexpected) solutions.
  • Wozniak was responsible for many of Apple’s innovations, even though Steve Jobs was the best-known leader and public spokesperson for Apple. Working outside the limelight, Wozniak was able to engineer technological breakthroughs. Together, Jobs and Wozniak arguably revolutionized the end-user computing experience.
  • Lincoln was not gregarious and certainly not known as a compelling public speaker. Yet he was a deep strategic thinker and provided leadership during what may have been the most trying times for the United States.

All were introverted leaders, and all were very effective.

My Background

I’ve had a career that spans many disciplines, including a stint as a doctoral student in early modern European history, a technical communicator, and an information security practitioner. (I took a rather circuitous route to my current position as program manager in the Information Security Office at the Rochester Institute of Technology.)

As a doctoral student, I tended to be very reticent in classes, not wanting to contribute to discussions in which I was sure everyone else was much more knowledgeable.

In my work as a technical communicator, I documented ISO 9000 processes, created hardware and software documentation, and eventually moved into a consulting position where I had responsibility for end-user communications for an IT organization in a local Fortune 500 company.

As a security awareness professional, I communicate to my campus community about information security issues and threats, develop training courses in digital self-defense, and contribute to the greater information security community through my Introverted Leadership Blog and the EDUCAUSE HEISC Awareness and Training Working Group(HEISC is the Higher Education Information Security Council).

I didn’t seek leadership positions and preferred to remain in the background. The last place I wanted to be was the center of attention with colleagues looking to me for direction. Happily, my willingness to accept volunteer tasks has enabled me to share ideas and develop my leadership abilities.

My willingness to accept volunteer tasks has enabled me to share ideas and develop my leadership abilities. Click To Tweet

My Transformation into a Leader

Although there are many formative steps I could look back on, the steps below have probably helped me the most.

Gaining a Better Understanding of Introversion

I read Cain’s book Quiet shortly after it came out. I found her research and discussion around various facets of introversion in American culture to be compelling. Leveraging her work and other sources, I co-presented on the subject of introverted leadership at a few conferences. The topic was popular, and we had standing-room-only crowds. At that point, I realized that this subject was of great interest to my professional colleagues, both in technical communication and in information security. I was intrigued and did further research into what it meant to be an introvert who was also a leader.

Understanding My Personality/Temperament Type

There are various tools for determining your personality/temperament type and many resources discussing the leadership styles most appropriate to those types. Around the time I stepped into a leadership role, I became acquainted with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the work of David Keirsey on temperament. I’m not going to give an in-depth description of MBTI or temperament here. In short, the MBTI and similar tests provide a series of questions; your responses group you into specific personality or temperament types: Introvert/Extravert; iNtuitive/Sensing; Thinking/Feeling; Judging/Perceiving. The types, which are identified through the four pairs, are not distributed evenly throughout the population. The results fall along a continuum, so not every INTJ will be the same. (Obviously, we’re more complex than a four-letter descriptor can convey.)

I’m an INTJ (Introverted-iNtuitive-Thinking-Judging). Keirsey describes the INTJ as a Mastermind. (Others assign the term Scientist to this combination of traits.) Finding out I was an INTJ was important to me because the description affirmed my ability to lead (albeit reluctantly), discussed my strengths and weaknesses, and provided strategies for success as a leader. I had to see something on paper stating that I could be a leader before I could accept that ability. I needed the affirmation. There are times I feel like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, needing a diploma (or confirmation in print) to prove to myself that I have a brain.

I had to see something on paper stating that I could be a leader before I could accept that ability. I needed the affirmation. Click To Tweet

Understanding How I Communicate and Work Best

By and large, introverts are not comfortable being asked to give an immediate response to suggestions, nor do they enjoy engaging in small talk. Click To Tweet

By and large, introverts are not comfortable being asked to give an immediate response to suggestions, nor do they enjoy engaging in small talk. I’m not at my best when asked to provide an on-the-spot answer to how I might handle a specific problem or an idea for the best way to move forward. However, when given time, I can respond with a well-thought-out and nuanced response. I’ve also found that I communicate best in writing, although my oral communication skills have become stronger over time and I’m now a seasoned presenter.

I prefer to work individually, and my work is not necessarily done at a steady pace. I enjoy “collisions” with other thinkers, but I prefer not to work in teams. Teams often follow leaders who express their ideas confidently and quickly, neither of which are guarantors that the ideas are actually good. Individual conversations, on the other hand, can often lead to breakthroughs and innovations.

Teams often follow leaders who express their ideas confidently and quickly, neither of which are guarantors that the ideas are actually good. Click To Tweet

Building on Small Successes

I’ve had many opportunities to grow in leadership, but they’ve occurred primarily outside of my professional work environment and often in nonprofit organizations, which are always looking for competent and dedicated volunteers. For me, that leadership path has been through two organizations: the Society for Technical Communication (STC), an international organization devoted to furthering technical communication and educating its members; and the EDUCAUSE HEISC. As I volunteered in STC, I was asked to serve in a variety of positions with increasing responsibilities. I was eventually elected president of the Rochester Chapter and later served on the board of directors at the international level. For HEISC, I served as co-chair of the Awareness and Training Working Group. In that role, I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate a group of talented information security professionals.

I didn’t seek leadership positions in these organizations, but for almost every opportunity presented to me, I’ve said “yes.” Click To Tweet

I didn’t seek leadership positions in these organizations, but for almost every opportunity presented to me, I’ve said “yes.” I’ve also asked myself: “How can I make a difference in the organization?” (Say “yes” when given an opportunity to serve. You won’t grow in leadership if you don’t take advantage of opportunities to practice leadership.)

You won’t grow in leadership if you don’t take advantage of opportunities to practice leadership. Click To Tweet

Making It Personal: Examining My Strengths and Growth Opportunities

From my discussion above, it’s clear that self-discovery has been an important component in how I’ve learned to harness my introvert strengths and become a leader. From my readings about personality/temperament and my experience as a leader, I’ve discovered that my strengths include my ability to identify gaps, my desire to make a difference, my commitment to practicing a servant leadership model, and my drive to pursue excellence. I’m also competitive. (That competitiveness can be both a strength and a weakness. I can push myself and others toward goals. However, I also have an innate desire to win at whatever I’m engaged in.)

Self-discovery also means you uncover your weaknesses, or growth opportunities. For me, those growth opportunities include overcoming my desire to avoid conflict, pushing past my reticence to contribute in discussions, not overanalyzing opportunities or situations before moving forward, and harnessing my competitiveness.

Where Do You Go from Here?

I recommend the following activities to help you uncover and actualize your introvert strengths and become an influencer.

  • Get to know yourself. Take one of the personality or temperament assessments offered at Keirsey.com, HumanMetrics, or 16 Personalities. Read Quiet and some of the other introversion resources listed below.
  • Control your environment. If you’re in an open-plan office, find ways to define your personal space to increase your ability to stay focused. (See Morgan, 5 Ways, for some great ideas.)
  • Communicate your value. Keep a record of your accomplishments and make sure your management understands how you communicate and work best and how you can add the most value. Take advantage of the unhurried nature of social media to leverage the playing field by using the opportunity to clearly articulate your thoughts.
  • Leverage your introversion. You have tremendous abilities to provide superior solutions because, given sufficient time, you can often see all facets of a problem and devise a comprehensive solution.
  • Don’t avoid networking events. You don’t have to meet and engage in small talk with everyone. Find one or two people with whom to have an in-depth conversation, and follow up later. Depth is more important than breadth.
  • Recharge (in solitude) as needed!

Don’t avoid networking events. You don’t have to meet and engage in small talk with everyone. Find one or two people with whom to have an in-depth conversation, and follow up later. Depth is more important than breadth. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

By no means do I consider myself to have “arrived,” but I am surprised by how far I’ve been willing to journey in the last ten years as I’ve leveraged my introversion to lead in a way that’s natural for me. I hope the thoughts above can help stimulate your thinking about how you can leverage your introversion — and also leverage the strengths of the introverts you manage (and make them happier members of the workforce).

You’ve read a bit of my story. If you’re an introvert, what has been your experience in the workplace? If you’re an extrovert, how have you worked successfully with introverts both as their colleague and as their manager? What strategies have worked for you? Please join the conversation. I’d love to hear your stories!

Resources

Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. New York: Crown Publishers, 2012.

Kahnweiler, Jennifer B. The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018.

Keirsey, David. Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. Delmar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 1998.

Laney, Marti Olsen. The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. New York: Workman Publishing Company, 2002.

Morgan, Elan. “5 Ways to Love Your Open-Plan Office.” Quiet Revolution.

Myers, Isabel Briggs, and Peter B. Myers. Gifts Differing. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1980.

Petrilli, Lisa. The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership. Chicago: C-Level Strategies, 2011.

Extras

Ben recently keynoted the fall 2018 TCUK Conference in Daventry, England with this topic. You can find audio-visual recordings of Lessons Learned on an Introvert’s Journey to Leadership at https://benwoelk.com/audio-and-video/ and presentations at https://www.slideshare.net/bwoelk.


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Episode 013: Helen Harbord–Acting, Presenting, and Improv

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

Episode 013 Show Notes: Helen Harbord

Introduction

Helen Harbord and Ben Woelk discuss the differences between doing presentations, acting, and the value of improv training.  

Key concepts

  • Acting is not the same as presenting
  • The value of improv training
  • The value of professional organizations
  • Being yourself
  • Talking to two or three is easier than talking to one

Quotable

I think the thing with acting–the big big thing that I think there’s a misconception about, is that when you’re acting, you’re not being yourself really. If you’re acting a part, you’re being a character.

Whether I’m comfortable or not, and I will play that role, and at a conference, I’ll look like an extrovert very often to people, but when I have the option and have a choice, I just would not get out. I would be reticent. I would be sitting back, I would be observing–Ben

Being a good actor is so much about being good at observing and just seeing how people behave, what they do and then obviously being able to mimic it, but if you don’t have that observation part at the beginning, you’re not really going to get anywhere. And I think that is something that comes much more naturally to introvert people.

I think improv is just brilliant. I’ve done bits of it, but I love it. It’s kind of terrifying and just exhilarating all at the same time. Ah, yeah, like you say, and I think it’s really useful. It’s taught me… Well, what’s it taught me? It’s taught me all sorts of stuff which is useful as you say, with communication. I think it teaches you not to overthink things, which introverts are slightly prone to. It teaches you just to get on with it. Say what you’re thinking. It teaches you to really commit. So if you decide, you know, you’ve made your choice in improv, you stood up and you’ve made yourself a tree or whatever it is you’re going to do, and then you have to really go with it. You can’t change your mind or waiver. You have to be strong. So I think that’s a really useful thing to and it also encourages you to see things from different angles, not just the obvious angle.

I think the most important thing is to work out who you are and just really be yourself. I think you have to be true to yourself and you have to bring the bits of you that are positive to the job, onto the role, and not let yourself be defined by the thought that you may be an introvert

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Welcome back, Helen. We’re chatting today about some of the challenges you face in the workplace and one of the things that we’ve been discussing offline a little bit, is whether or not you do presentations. Many of the previous guests who identify very strongly as introverts do present, but they also find they have a good deal of discomfort with it. But they had some ideas around it and I’m curious because you’re clearly very well spoken. You’ve provided in your bio that you do voice-over work and acting and things like that, which are obviously very public and you’re speaking in front of people, but from what you’ve told me that you aren’t really doing very much in terms of presentations. I’d like to explore that a little bit. How come you’re not doing presentations?

Helen: [Laughing] Well, it’s a very good question. I suppose for one thing, I don’t need to do them at work, so the need doesn’t come up. It’s not like a thing though, I’ve said, “Oh, well I’m not doing that.” It just literally hasn’t really really come up. I mean, I’ll do mini-presentations. I’ll do presentations to my team, but they’re kind of like friends, so that doesn’t really feel like a scary thing particularly. But yeah, I think the thing with acting–the big big thing that I think there’s a misconception about–is that when you’re acting, you’re not being yourself really. If you’re acting a part, you’re being a character. And not only that, you are basically doing what you’ve been told to do by the director. You’ve been told, well you may not have been told how to do it, but you–you’ve done something, and the director said, “Oh, a bit more like this, a bit more like that.” So it’s not really–It’s not you. It might be your skill and your ability, but it’s not you presenting. And I think that that just makes all the difference. In a performance, you’re expected to speak because you’re acting a part. Everybody’s expecting you to say something. Whereas if you’re at work, not in a presentation world, but just at work, you’re not necessarily expected to speak. So, people don’t–I don’t know–I mean people sort of don’t–there’s no pressure on you to say stuff. Whereas when you’re acting, yeah it’s just not you. I’m not explaining that very well, but you know what I mean.

On presentations--I think the thing with acting--the big big thing that I think there's a misconception about, is that when you're acting, you're not being yourself really. If you're acting a part, you're being a character. Click To Tweet

Ben: I think I get what you’re saying is that you’re playing a role when you’re acting, and you’re not…In some ways playing that part, you’re not–you’re not vulnerable when you’re up there speaking because you’re actually doing these specific–maybe specific lines or maybe just a certain way that you do things. What I’ve found interesting for myself, when I speak at a conference, I don’t know how much–I’ve done it enough times now, so I’m not totally freaked out by it, though I still get very nervous beforehand and I really want to go hide right afterwards, if I have an opportunity just to settle down and recoup some energy. But I found at least in terms of my involvement in professional organizations, if I’m at a meeting, the last thing I really want to do is go up and introduce myself to people or try to have conversations which may feel like small talk or something like that–just minor topics. But I’ve found that when I go into an event and I’m there as a representative–say I’m going in as vice president of such and such, I know full well that there’s a role I need to play, whether I’m comfortable or not, and I will play that role, and at a conference, I’ll look like an extrovert very often to people, but when I have the option and have a choice, I just would not get out. I would be reticent. I would be sitting back, I would be observing, I would not be up introducing myself to people I don’t know at all. So there is very much a discomfort level, but I think it’s the same thing as, I know I have this role to play. And that part’s been interesting. Do you ever present at conferences or anything?

Whether I'm comfortable or not, I will play that role, and at a conference, I'll look like an extrovert very often to people, but when I have the option, I just would not get out. I would be reticent. I would be sitting back, I would… Click To Tweet

Helen: No, I never have done. But I must admit the thought does fill me with terror. But I would. I think again it’s like you’re saying, you’re passionate about a subject and you genuinely think that you have information to impart to somebody that would be useful for them, then I think it would be fine. I think if you focus on that thing and not on yourself, then I think it’s fine too, and as you say, you have a role. You have a reason to be there. You’ve got a subject immediately there to talk about. I think it would be good, but no, I don’t. I mean–one of the things–one of the–it does backfire sometimes this acting thing, because I think people do assume that you will be brilliant at presenting and that you will love to do it. I definitely don’t have a particular desire to do it.

Helen: I do have the instinct to run away. When you say that, I do just think, “Ah. No. No. No.” And I think even with acting, I much prefer camera work. I’m very, very happy to act to a camera, but to act to an audience, it does actually terrify me, and I don’t think I’m alone. I think a lot of professional actors have the same thing. You hear the Judi Dench thing. She’s that good at saying her favorite part of getting a role is the moment she knows she’s got it, and then ever after that it’s terrifying until it’s all over. So, I think it’s a common thing, and I also think a lot of actors, a lot of very successful actors are introverts themselves, which surprises people. But I think it’s again, it’s that thing, you know, you’re being a good actor is so much about being good at observing and just seeing how people behave, what they do and then obviously being able to mimic it, but if you don’t have that observation part at the beginning, you’re not really going to get anywhere. And I think that is something that comes much more naturally to introvert people.

Being a good actor is so much about being good at observing and just seeing how people behave, what they do, and then obviously being able to mimic it, but if you don't have that observation part at the beginning, you're not really… Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah, I think that’s a very good point. I think one of the, one of the things that introverts are very good at is–maybe not all–but is reading emotions and really trying to see what–how people are reacting to things rather than just delivering–I’m going to say delivering their lines or delivering their presentation or something like that.

Helen: Yeah, empathy

Ben: Yeah, the empathy thing. Absolutely. I know in my–I hesitate to call it a career–in my speaking experience, which has really only been, I don’t know, it’s probably been more than 10 years, it seems like less to me, that I had still much prefer to be up there with someone else if I’m co-presenting. And in general, I run through the same issues in terms of anxiety before I present as well. I’m usually okay once I get going now, but there’s certainly been times in the past that somebody saw that that person’s really, really nervous. I mean, I think part of it, I think there is a role you play as the presenter as well, and I absolutely want to be engaged with my audience. So for me, I think I look at it as an opportunity to have engagement and also try to have conversation and try to have some dialogue during a presentation.

Ben: But it’s an interesting thing, and I do classroom teaching also. And even the first day of a classroom teaching, I am nervous. I don’t know. I’m in front of people I don’t know. They’re students, they must all know more than I do, which has absolutely not been the case, but it feels like that going into it. So it’s an interesting thing and one of the things that talking to Alisa Bonsignore previously about this whole thing about presenting. I think part of it is understanding that you have something important to say. As an introvert, it’s also being really, really well prepared, because it’s very easy for us to talk about a subject that we know in depth. I found it very difficult to talk about myself, because I don’t like that vulnerability. I much prefer–I can talk about this, I might be wrong about something, but I can talk about this, but I don’t, I don’t really enjoy the criticism or I’m afraid of the criticism.

Ben: I don’t know. It’s interesting. I’ve had to speak in front of as many as 3500 students and I think that took care of a lot of the stagefright part of it. And I’ve also done lightning talks where the slides advance themselves every 15 seconds. So it takes some control away, and you’re hanging on trying to get through the presentation. But the other thing that I started exploring over the last year or so is improv. And looking at work that Alan Alda had done around improv and how helpful that is for very technical people, whether in science or in medical fields, it helping them in terms of their communication by teaching them how they can be an empath with the audience, understand how their message is being received, rather than just kind of going into lecture mode or whatever the rote thing is that they normally say. So, I’ve actually found that to be quite interesting, and quite surprisingly enjoyable to be doing the improv. And I think part of it is it’s just that you know you’re going to play a character. You don’t know where it’s going to go. And I think there’s some excitement to that and some fun with it also. But I agree that I think a lot of really good presenters as well are very introverted and certainly the case with musicians and things like that. Also, the performance aspect doesn’t really seem to have a lot to do with being an introvert or an extrovert. I think–you hear about it, many many people have stage fright.

Helen: I absolutely agree with what you say about improv. I think improv is just brilliant. I’ve done–not matters of it. I’ve done bits of it, but I love it. It’s kind of terrifying and just exhilarating all at the same time. Ah, yeah, like you say, and I think it’s really useful. It’s taught me… Well, what’s it taught me? It’s taught me all sorts of stuff which is useful as you say, with communication. I think it teaches you not to overthink things, which introverts are slightly prone to. It teaches you just to get on with it. Say what you’re thinking. It teaches you to really commit. So if you decide, you’ve made your choice in improv, you stood up and you’ve made yourself a tree or whatever it is you’re going to do, and then you have to really go with it. You can’t change your mind or waiver. You have to be strong. So I think that’s a really useful thing, too, and it also encourages you to see things from different angles, not just the obvious angle.

Improv is just brilliant. It's kind of terrifying and just exhilarating all at the same time. I think it's really useful. It teaches you not to overthink things. It teaches you just to get on with it. It teaches you to really commit.… Click To Tweet

Helen: So I think it helps you think around problems a bit more as well. And then the whole thing about always saying. “Yes.” In an improv, if someone comes up to you says, “Stop pointing that gun at me,” you don’t go, “Oh, it’s not a gun.” [laughing] You have to sort of, you say, “Yes. I will if you give me those diamonds,” or whatever it is, and you just advance the scene. And I think again that in a meeting situation where somebody has asked you something that you know you can’t do, or isn’t the right thing to do, rather than just saying, “No, that’s not going to work.” It helps you to be more accepting of it. So, so “Yes! I was thinking about this too! Brilliant idea! Let’s have a think about it. And I think that will work, but this might do,” it just smooths the whole process and I think you can get an awful lot out of improv.

Ben: Yeah, I think that’s very much the case. And I was surprised. I’d always loved watching improv, and we would get–I think Whose Line? Is probably based on a British Whose Line?. It was a quite popular show over here and getting an opportunity to see some of–see how they work. It’s just fun, because you just don’t know where it’s going to go and it is interesting because normally I really like to know where things are going to go, and have some idea and where. I know where I want to end up and I want to figure out how to get there.

Ben: So let’s talk a little bit more about ways that you feel like you’re an influencer, whether it’s at work or in your professional organization. Whether you feel like you’re a leader, and if so, what ways you do that.

Helen: Well, I think certainly at work. Because I’m the only person that deals with user assistance, that kind of thing. And then developing materials to help our users. So I’m the only one that does that. I’m the only one that can really advise on it and discuss it. In that way, I think I’m definitely an influencer, and perhaps a leader, because I can come up with ideas for things that other people just wouldn’t have thought about because they’re spending time thinking about other stuff. So I think certainly in a software development house you’ve got the stuff that I do in writing online help, that kind of thing, goes very much hand in hand with support, customer support, and so I can certainly have a lot of influence over the way that we design our products really. Yeah.

Ben: And what about in terms of involvement with ISTC? I see you’re a Fellow for that. I know that works differently than the Fellows do for the Society for Technical Communication. So how did you become a Fellow, and do you play any leadership roles in that organization at all?

Helen: I don’t play any leadership roles as such. I do help in terms of some of the behind the scenes stuff with the conference, the one that we met at. And I did get involved with that a little bit and I became a Fellow, really, because I wanted to have recognition I think in my field. I think it carries quite a lot of weight with it, and it’s a good way of showing the outside world that you can’t just become a Fellow overnight. You have to do the work, put in the hours. You have to sort of prove that you can do the job and you can do the job well. So that was really my motivation, I think. But I do very much like being part of the ISTC. I think it’s a fantastic organization. I imagine it’s very similar to the STC. Yeah, really a good community.

Ben: Yeah. And for me it’s–we use the phrase tribes over here, which is certainly not–is way overused now, but it’s very much of a case when I’m around that group of people, you know they understand you. We’ve built relationships over the years because when you go to a conference year after year you start meeting the people and start having conversations and such with it.

Ben: So Helen, I think this has been an interesting conversation. It’s really nice to get your perspective on things. One of the questions I’ve had for my guests is recommendations they might have for other people who want to really become an influencer, maybe become a leader, whether it’s a positional type leadership or whether it’s just somebody who has an impact on other people. What recommendations would you have?

Helen: I think the most important thing is to work out who you are and just really be yourself. And I think especially in a corporate environment, you can end up with an awful lot of corporate clothes, if you know what I mean, and I think I’m definitely not a corporate animal. I’m very happy to work in a corporate team and do all that stuff and I love my job and I take it very seriously, but I think you have to be true to yourself and you have to bring the bits of you that are positive to the job, onto the role, and I think not letting yourself be defined by the thought that you may be introvert, because I think as I said earlier, often introversion I think can be seen from the inside as a handicap or a negative thing, which it just isn’t at all. If you look at some of the extrovert qualities, you think, “God, It would be a nightmare to be like that, you’d never get it done!” There’s all sorts of things.

I think the most important thing is to work out who you are and just really be yourself. I think you have to be true to yourself and you have to bring the bits of you that are positive to the job, onto the role, and not let yourself… Click To Tweet

Helen: So I think just focusing on the talents and abilities that you do have, because there is only one of you and just really really being yourself, and then learning to manage your energy. Definitely. I know we’ve talked about the thing about introverts needing time to sort of hibernate afterwards or whatever. I don’t have that particular thing, but I do get very depleted of energy at a big event. So for example, something like a networking event, I will get really tired during–even though I may enjoy the conversations that I’m having. It is quite tiring. So I think understanding the type of energy that you have is a really useful thing. Many years ago, I was ill for several years. There was a thyroid issue which wasn’t diagnosed. And so I learned an awful lot about energy and how it gets used up. I think when you’re ill, everything’s distilled and you can really, really see what’s going on.

Helen: And something I discovered, which was a bit of a revelation, was I think as introverts, we tend to think that it’s easier to talk one to one, just to talk to one other person that it’s less scary than with a group, but something I discovered is that that it is absolutely exhausting and draining because you’re having to be constantly engaged with that person. So for example, at a networking thing, although it seems easier to walk up to one person standing on their own and have a conversation with them. If you can get into a group, it’s much less intense, because at any point the other two people could be having a chat together and you can kind of step back a little bit and breathe and maybe look around the room, and without being rude and it’s much, much easier to get through an evening if you have–if you are getting exhausted by it. That’s just something that I’ve learnt. And it was a big surprise.

Ben: I think that’s a really good point, because it’s much easier to be in a conversation with a couple of people. And actually if the conversation’s not going well, it does potentially give you an opportunity to excuse yourself, without feeling like you’re being rude with it.

Helen: Yeah. Definitely.

Ben: Yeah, networking events. Yeah. those for me, those can be grueling as well.

Ben: Thanks Helen, for a fun interview!

Extras

Helen appeared in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as a Ministry of Magic worker.


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Ben Woelk Speaking Schedule–Spring 2019

Category:EDUCAUSE,Information Security,Internet Safety,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Lessons Learned,Schedule,Uncategorized

Spring 2019 Speaking Schedule

Here’s my virtual and in-person schedule. I hope to see many of you.

Don’t forget to listen to the Hope for the Introvert podcast!

 

Schedule

Date Event Topic Format More information
30 January Southwestern Ontario Webinar The Introvert in the Workplace: Becoming an Influencer and Leader Webinar
31 January Content Wrangler A Tale of Two Podcasts Webinar With Allie Proff. Register today!
6 February STC NYC Metro Lessons Learned on an Introvert’s Journey to Leadership Webinar
23-24 March CPTC Training Class at RIT CPTC Training Training Class Rochester Institute of Technology
25 March STC Rochester Spectrum Conference Leadership Opportunities May be Closer Than They Appear Presentation Rochester. With Sara Feldman
25 March STC Rochester Spectrum Conference Closing Keynote: Building the Next Gen Technical Communicator Presentation Rochester. Spectrum website
9 April TNConX webinar series TBD Presentation Webinar
5 May STC Summit Conference Leadership Opportunities May be Closer Than They Appear Presentation Denver. With Sara Feldman
7 May STC Summit Conference A Tale of Two Podcasts Presentation Denver. With Allie Proff
13 May EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference Know Which Way the Wind Blows: Security Awareness that Soars Preconference Seminar Chicago. With Tara Schaufler
15 May EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference Considerations for Security Awareness and Inclusive Design Presentation Chicago. With Tara Schaufler
22 May Genesee Valley Chapter SHRM monthly meeting Cybersecurity and HR Presentation Rochester

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