Category Archives: Introverted Leadership

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Tara Hughes head shot

Episode 023: Tara Hughes–Impostor Syndrome

Category:EDUCAUSE,introversion,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Podcast

Episode 023 Show Notes: Tara Hughes

Introduction

Tara Hughes head shot

Tara Hughes and Ben Woelk talk about impostor syndrome. and her presentation at the 2019 EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference.

Key concepts

  • A presentation can be a self improvement project
  • Being vulnerable as a presenter can help the audience connect with you
  • Even experts can struggle with impostor syndrome
  • When there’s not a model and you’re doing research and going with your gut, you may be prone to Impostor Syndrome
  • Mentors can help assure you that you’re not an impostor.

Quotable

That willingness to be authentic and vulnerable is such a key part of having people walk along the journey with you and being willing to talk, being willing to hear about your journey. @benwoelk

Impostor Syndrome-for those of us who are so committed and care so deeply about the work that we do, that has I think an extra level of importance to be seen as legitimate. @TinyTara

If you suffer from impostor syndrome, you’re likely not going to be talking about it because you’re afraid that people will find out that you’re an impostor. @TinyTara

We think an expert has no gap in knowledge or experience. And there’s no way that you could know possibly know all of the things there are to know in information security because it’s rapidly changing. @TinyTara

Even if we don’t think we’re an expert, we may be the best person to in a sense stand in that gap and fill that role for a while. @benwoelk

Reframing your thoughts and your perspective is crucial to recognizing Impostor Syndrome. @TnyTara

Having diverse teams and diverse skills should help us feel like we belong and not feel like an impostor. @TinyTara

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben:  Joining us today is Tara Hughes. Tara is interim manager of administrative services at California State University Channel Islands. I met Tara at the 2019 EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference in Chicago where Tara spoke on, “You’re All a Bunch of Phonies: Impostor Syndrome and Information Security. “The presentation was standing room only, and the attendees described it as very impactful. Given the struggles with self confidence many of us have as introverts, I thought it would be helpful to chat about impostor syndrome on the Hope for the Introvert podcast. You can contact Tara via email tara.hughes@CSCU.edu or through Linkedin, Tara Hughes and Twitter @TinyTara. I encourage our listeners to visit HopefortheIntrovert.com where you’ll find complete show notes including a transcript of today’s conversation.

Ben: Hi Tara. Welcome back. It’s great to have you back on the podcast.

Tara:  I’m looking forward to chatting about the EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference. I was very excited about the presentation, because I was really interested to see what the population would be in the room and what the reaction would be, so let’s talk about that a little bit. And it was very funny, because I could tell you did not come across as nervous as presenting, but you did mention that how you had hoped it would not be a large turnout, and the room was packed and standing room only. So let’s talk a little bit about what led you to the conference, why you chose that topic. I have my audience view of what I saw going on with it, but it’s always interesting because your view as a presenter is very different in many ways. So let’s talk a little bit about this whole Impostor Syndrome issue.

Tara:  Yeah. So the same mentor who encouraged me to apply to LCI, encouraged me to apply to present at Security Professionals and the deadline had come and gone. And for other extenuating circumstances, I just didn’t get around to submitting anything. And he circled back with me and said, “Why didn’t you submit something?” And so I said, “It’s too late. It’s okay. Maybe next year we’ll submit.” He contacted Valerie [Vogel] and Valerie said, “No, she can submit still. I’ll give her a week.” And so I said, “What am I going to present on? I don’t work in information security. I’m more tangentially related because I run our IT Help Desk, but I’m not an information security expert by any means.” And he said, “You should talk about that. Talk about how you’re not sure that you fit in here and why should you present.” Because I said, “Who would want to come listen to me talk at a security conference? I don’t work in security.” So he had said, “You know, you should really look into impostor syndrome and you should talk about that. I think that that would be great and we would love to have some more diverse topics that aren’t just technically focused.”

Tara: And so the more that I looked into it, and I know my husband kind of got involved and he was like, “This is perfect. This is absolutely something that you can speak to.” And sure enough, I think the more that I looked into it, the more it felt like a personal improvement project just as much as a presentation. And again, when my presentation was accepted, because I had talked myself into thinking that I will submit it, because it won’t get accepted. And so it’s not a big risk. And then I got accepted and I thought, “Oh shoot! Now I’ve got to–now I’ve actually got to do it.” But it really did become a personal improvement project, just as much for my own well-being as it was for other people.

Tara: The big thing that I kept in mind throughout was that really going back to that relationship building and that desire to connect with people and to help them–that counselor component of who I am– really helped me focus what I wanted to talk about and how I wanted to talk about it because I wanted to be–it didn’t feel right to try to come across as some sort of expert on the issue. I really wanted to be authentic and relatable and look for a way that if I can share my experience, and if that’s helpful to one person in the room, then it’s worth it.

Ben:  it’s interesting on so many levels because for many years I did presentations, and I was more irritated if it didn’t get accepted rather than any concern if it did get accepted. But that’s kind of a–just probably an INTJ thing actually for me, because of course I think I’m the expert! But what I found was that it was very easy to talk about subjects, different subjects. But what I learned once I started talking about introverted leadership, was that I had to be vulnerable and talk about myself. And that was terrifying in many ways. But I found it made such a bridge between me and the audience, that it was just incredible the connection and the conversations that I had afterwards. I felt like I wasted many years of not knowing that. But that willingness to be authentic and vulnerable is such a key part of having people walk along the journey with you and being willing to talk, being willing to hear about your journey.

That willingness to be authentic and vulnerable is such a key part of having people walk along the journey with you and being willing to hear about your journey. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Ben: Now, one thing that was very clever that you did at this presentation, was that Tara opened the presentation with a series of quiz questions, and used one of the apps that works on the phone so that you can indicate your answers to things. She had all of these really technical questions around security-related subjects and would post a question and a bunch of people would answer. And many of the answers were clustered in certain areas. And so we have four of those questions. But why don’t you talk a little bit about those questions and what you told us after everyone had jumped in and says, “I think this is the answer?”

Tara: Yeah. So I was trying to think of how to effectively get the point across about Impostor Syndrome because not everyone struggles with feeling like an impostor necessarily. But I really wanted to draw people into understanding how it might feel, because I then felt like the rest of the presentation would be more meaningful and we could have a better conversation. So the questions were very technically focused on cybersecurity, and I didn’t want to have too many because I didn’t want to frustrate people, but I wanted enough to try to get the point across. And we used Poll Everywhere, but Poll Everywhere is dynamic and live. And so that was a little tricky to work with. But I wanted to create a sense within which people had a false sense of what the rest of the room was thinking. And so it was a really challenging technical question. And then I just picked one of the answers and gave fake results for each question and didn’t tell anyone that they were fake. So I made it look like the results were the live results. And I actually heard one guy on one of the questions say, “Oh, I know the answer, it’s ‘B.’” And I actually was mortified internally, because the answer that I had selected was “C,” and he’s going to totally know that something’s up.

Ben: So I have to ask you because this is the first I’ve realized this part of it, because I really thought that was live polling And I wasn’t sure why some of the answers were clustering the way they were. And it’s like, “What? That doesn’t sound right, but everybody else must think it’s right.” So, so I didn’t realize that until right now! So go ahead.

Tara: Yeah. So I just picked an answer and made it look like 75% chose “C.” And then at the end of the question, and I really wanted people to think in fact, it was even better if I chose the wrong answer, but made everyone else think that that was clearly what the whole group chose. It created this sense of internal questioning as to, “Well, maybe I don’t actually know the answer to that question or maybe I’m not as smart as I think I am in this particular area,” or even questioning the group and whether or not you belong or felt like you belonged. And so after all of those questions, then I said that, “You know, the poll results were not true,” and that I had faked them and I went to great lengths to make it look as though the poll results looked live. But I wanted to create that feeling of questioning whether or not you belonged in that room and whether or not the way to really do what you thought you knew presentation.

Ben: And I’m really wondering now how many people still don’t really realize that the poll was fake and not necessarily the answers. And no, I thought it was brilliant, and I think it was a very good way of kind of rocking everybody just a little bit, and taking them off center a little bit to say that, “Well maybe I’m not sure of what I think I’m sure of.” So yeah that part was great. So talk a little bit more about what you told us about impostor syndrome and what I’m–one thing I thought was really interesting with some of the questions that came up at the end and some of the reactions–but tell us a little bit more about this whole impostor syndrome thing. Because you have a lot of–and I know this is a group that’s normally happens to, too. You have a lot of, for the most part, highly educated people who are–many of them are really experts in these subject matters. Or some of them think they’re experts, whichever way we want to go with that, [Tara laughing] but who are really experts in these subject matters. And even so, they still struggle with this whole idea of do I really belong here? Do I really know what I’m doing? Is someone going a see through me and know I’m a fake at some point.

Tara: Yeah. Yeah. So impostor syndrome is that feeling of not belonging and thinking that you are fooling everyone into believing that you belong, and then eventually they will discover that you’ve been faking your way through and you’ll be unmasked as a fraud. And the fear of being discovered is I think just as bad as feeling like you don’t belong, because I think it’s both very much–and then what the consequences might be once everyone discovers that it, you know, it could be the loss of reputation or loss of respect or losing your actual job. And I think for those of us who are so committed and care so deeply about the work that we do, that has I think an extra level of importance to be seen as legitimate. And again, I keep–I would keep bring preferring back to authenticity. And I think again, as an INFJ and that’s a really big, big part of, of who you are is you care about authenticity.

Impostor Syndrome-for those of us who are so committed and care so deeply about the work that we do, that has I think an extra level of importance to be seen as legitimate. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Tara: And so if you are approaching something new, and this is even ties back to my area where I’m developing this program, then there’s not really a model to base it off of. And so you’re doing research, but then you’re also just going off of gut and intuition and a variety of things and it can feel like you’re just making it up as you go and someone’s going to figure out that you’re a fraud. I think that’s true in any kind of industry, but especially in fields where there’s a lot of change. And a lot of new things coming at you, because like with information security, it’s really hard to keep up. The threats change constantly and it’s hard to ever feel like an expert. How could you possibly be an expert? Because I think in our minds, when we think of an expert, an expert has no gap in knowledge or experience. And there’s no way that you could know possibly know all of the things there are to know in a field like information security because it’s just rapidly changing.

We think an expert has no gap in knowledge or experience. And there's no way that you could know possibly know all of the things there are to know in information security because it’s rapidly changing. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah, and I think also it’s the situation where to the general public or people outside the field, “Oh, you’re absolutely the expert. You’re doing information security work,” and for those of us in the field or close enough to the field to understand it, we have a good sense of how much we just don’t know. And I think that happens– again, it happens in many fields as people become more expert in fields.

To the general public, “Oh, you're absolutely the expert. You're doing information security work” For those of us in the field, we have a good sense of how much we just don't know. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Tara: Yeah.

Ben: At least for my experience in talking to people, we have so much more a sense of how big that gap, it just becomes bigger and bigger… what that means in terms of the people we relate to and what their expectations are. But that doesn’t–just because we know there’s a gap–it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a certain level of expertise or probably more importantly, we may still be the best person to be doing that. We may be the best person to in a sense stand in that gap and fill that role for a while. And I know for me it’s always felt, and I don’t–I mean the idea of calling myself an expert or calling myself a thought leader–and it’s like there’s all this stuff about thought leaders and people self identifying as thought leaders, and it’s like, well you don’t really want to do that. Maybe other people will identify you as that, but it’s a very weird thing, and I think that falls into the introversion piece, too, as you just don’t self identify that way. How could I possibly self identify that way? But I think this understanding the gap, and then realizing that there’s, “Do I belong?” They’re going to understand–they’re going to realize I don’t know everything, that I’m not going to have the right answer. That the threats are always changing. That people aren’t always going to make the right decisions. In some ways it’s so easy. If people can do the right things, they’ll be relatively secure and will reduce risk, but there’s always something that’s going to come in that we’re not prepared for.

Even if we don't think we're an expert, we may be the best person to an a sense stand in that gap and fill that role for a while. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Ben: So I think it was a great topic for the conference and obviously it was packed. The room was absolutely packed and just seeing all of these people who are probably seen as experts at their universities. They don’t feel like it. They feel like, “I’m just faking it.” And I think information security in some ways, or cybersecurity, makes a little bit harder because it’s a relatively new field and many of us, there was no preparation for this kind of job at all. It’s all–we’ve learned it, we’ve brought other skill sets into it. Maybe we work towards getting a certification at some point in time, which I did, but I know in my mind that I did that certification for me as much as anything. So that I would feel more secure in what I was doing and I don’t really think it changed anyone else’s opinion of what they thought I could do or couldn’t do either way. Helps on the job market for sure. Because a lot of things are, “Nope, you need that certification”. And so there’s value in that sense in having it. But for me it’s always been very much feeling like I need something that shows me that I can do what everyone else knows that I can do.

Tara: Yeah. I think what’s interesting, and you know, maybe this is partly of being that introvert is you want to somehow just fit in and, and I so much care about–I like rules. I like structure and you give me rules, I will follow them. Um, I, I’m not going to be the creative type that can just create my rules as I go. Um, and so whether it was having an untraditional path towards my bachelor’s degree or having kids at an earlier age than I thought or getting into it, even though that wasn’t what I had initially planned. Um, and having not an IT background and not being technical, but being a relational person and trying to figure out what space can I occupy authentically with the skillset that I bring, I think every step of those ways you feel like an impostor because this isn’t what it normally looks like to be in these spaces and do these things, right? I’m looking for some sort of gauge to compare myself against and I think with information security, that gauge doesn’t really exist. I mean, I think it’s being created, but so much of the impostor syndrome is that comparison piece. And if, if I can fit in or if I do these things where I look like this, then maybe I can convince myself and convince other people that I’m the real deal and I’m not just faking it.

Ben: Yes, and there was in a sense palpable discomfort with some of the people who had come in and done security awareness-type presentations, because that’s typically–there are technical people who come into that field, but that’s not normally their interest and it’s not normally something they’re necessarily good at. But you bring people in who are relational or maybe they’ve got a graphics background or they understand communications in general and they understand audience type or personas and things like that. They can still very much struggle over, “Well how can I fit in around all these super bright technical people who are speaking a language that frankly I do not understand.” And it’s so jargon laced, and the jargon that’s used means different things sometimes depending on the context you’re in, or in another field it means something totally different, that it can get very, very unsettling.

Ben: So I guess one of the questions I have for you is that you talked about it, what do we do about it? How do we handle this impostor syndrome? What do we look for that makes us feel–maybe we know that we’re not the expert? What gives us that comfort level or centering in a sense on how we can still perform well and maybe not feel like we know everything, but also not feeling like we’re a total fraud.

Tara: Yeah. Right? So there are a couple of things. I think first just the fact that we’re talking about it is key because impostor syndrome and all the research that I did, which is not nearly as exhaustive as many other experts, but a lot of the research suggests that if you suffer from impostor syndrome, you’re likely not going to be talking about it because you’re afraid that people will find out that you’re an impostor. Right. And so it’s this kind of self-fulfilling, horrible cycle. So until you’re really willing to put yourself out there and be vulnerable to talk about it, you’re more likely to continue suffering in silence. So I think having that conversation is critical. I think it helps if someone can be the first to admit it, right? Because even at the presentation that really, it was a domino effect. Once one person says, “Hey, I struggle with this,” then other people feel more comfortable to chime in and say, “Hey, I struggle with this too.”

If you suffer from impostor syndrome, you're likely not going to be talking about it because you're afraid that people will find out that you're an impostor. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Tara: The other thing, there’s so many, I think different things that that can be employed to combat it. But I think reframing your thoughts and your perspective is crucial. And it’s not like there’s this list of  special, crazy things that you have to do. It’s really holding yourself accountable to some degree, and having real internal dialogue about, “Well, why shouldn’t I be presenting at this conference? Who’s to say that I don’t have something valuable to say?” I think even the way that we approach situations. So when we’re thinking about reframing our thoughts, I think part of that is holding yourself to the standard of pushing back and questioning when those doubts come through, of just asking yourself, “Why, why not?” But then also being able to look at things from more than just your particular vantage point.

Reframing your thoughts and your perspective is crucial to recognizing Impostor Syndrome. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Tara: I think, for instance, in working in IT, “Why aren’t I a good fit? Why can’t I bring the soft skills?” And maybe that’s exactly what we need. Why  is it not acceptable in my mind to bring in something a little bit unique, especially as we’re starting to talk about having diverse teams with diverse skills. If anything that should make us, I think, feel a little bit more comfortable and more empowered to not necessarily have to look like the person to your left and the person to your right. But it’s really acknowledging it’s okay that you don’t look like guy to your left and the gal to your right, but you have to have those honest conversations I think.

Having diverse teams and diverse skills should help us feel like we belong and not feel like an impostor. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Ben: So you mentioned one thing in that you have the internal conversation you have to manage. I think you started to go there. But part of this, and you mentioned it when you talked about prepping for this presentation to start with, was the encouragement from your husband that this was something you’d be absolutely great at doing, and with the job also. I think the role of a mentor, whether it’s internal to an organization, but also probably better, external to the organization because you have the feeling they’ll be more objective and your job isn’t at stake when you’re talking to them. I think there’s a real role around the mentoring piece on this also because you get that sanity check in a way.

Ben: And I know for me, I do a bit of mentoring–and usually introverts who are interested in leadership, but most of them are struggling with how maybe to handle specific workplace-type things, but also in that whole, “How do I feel comfortable in my own skin” in a sense. “How do I feel like I’m not an impostor?” That I can talk to them and reflect and we can study different things and talk through different scenarios, and it’s really valuable because I’m not in their workplace, they’re not losing their job by talking to me or putting something at risk. So I think the mentoring piece is really critical.

Ben: What’s interesting for me is I don’t have many people that I–there are a few–that I would consider to be mentors that I talk to or that I looked at, “Oh, that that’s a mentor up from me.” I have several people who are more peer mentors, and being able to talk through the stuff that we deal with in the workplace and things like that. Or even too–in some ways I feel like it’s a sanity check–is really important, to be able to get that other perspective. And sometimes it’s like, “You’re right, this isn’t the way it should be,” but at least having someone else be able to talk to you about that I think is really important as well.

Tara: Yeah. Yeah. And I think so. You keyed in on something that I touched on in the presentation and I think the mentorship both ways, right? Being mentored by someone who can keep you in check and help you make sure that you’re keeping your thoughts and your perspective  in check, but then also that you’re paying it forward and mentoring someone else. I think both are really important because they help you see things outside of yourself, and they help you see how others might see you. Because we’re so hard on ourselves, right? The mentorship and coaching that you can provide other people– the students that I work with–I’m a first generation college student. And so to be able–our school has a really high percentage of first gen college students. And so I care about that and I can speak to it.

Tara: And it might not look like I can, but I can. When I’m talking with students about how to manage their time or how confusing it might be to fill out a financial aid form, I get it on a very real and personal level. And I think that’s important because they see that things are still possible for them. That even though things might not make sense with what they’re struggling through now, that there is someone else who struggled through those things just as much as did, and they’ve come out the other end and they’re in a career that they love and they’re doing meaningful work. And so to be that representative is really, really important. And I think it does kind of help you get the focus off of whether or not you’re legit, right? Because you’re  giving back to someone else and hopefully helping them avoid, maybe not entirely, but to some degree helping them avoid those doubts that creep in should you not have taken the opportunity to be real and to coach them with that.

Ben: For many people, from the outside it often looks like it’s the mentee who is the beneficiary of everything. I’ve found that it’s amazing being the mentor also, because you learned so much from the people that you are–actually becomes friends obviously, because you’re spending that time and you’re building that relationship and how important that is. One of the really exciting things for me.–most of the mentoring I do is virtual. It’s very seldom somebody who’s actually local. I was at the Society for Technical Communication Summit Conference the week before the EDUCAUSE conference. I had four people that I was mentoring and they all did their first conference presentations, and it was just so exciting to see them. So there’s definitely a huge piece in terms of what this means for both participants in the conversation.

Ben: As we’re wrapping up our conversation, what are the key takeaways do you think in terms of dealing with impostor syndrome or as an introvert in the workplace or whether you’re an introvert or not?

Tara: Yeah, I was looking up something recently to see, are introverts more likely to struggle with impostor syndrome? And I think–I just don’t think there’s enough research to really give a Yea or Nay on that. But it does seem like, especially if you’re an intuitive person on the scale, you are much more likely to, because you have that self reflection going on already. I think that if you know that about yourself, that helps you already, right? Because then you can better understand how to either mitigate, or take care of yourself, or like I said, mitigate issues that might crop up.

Tara: I have bounced around in a lot of different physical locations where I’ve been in kind of an open area where lots of people would come by and come chat. And then I’ve been in an office that was really dark and people didn’t come by, and it least had a door and barely a window. I’m in a current office that’s bright and sunny and really right next to the main entrance, but I don’t have a door. And in each of those physical locations, I’ve had to pay attention to how can I be productive in this space because it’s requiring something different of me then if I just had everything set up perfectly the way that I wanted. Right? So I think again, as an introvert trying to adapt and figure out how can I do well, even though I can’t always dictate the space that I find myself in. And I think that relates to feeling like an impostor because you know, the more that you do something– I’m sure you’ve heard it. There’s that “Fake it til You Make It,” right? And I think that can get us in a lot of trouble, because I’ve faked it till I’ve made it and I still feel like a faker.

Tara: So that didn’t help, right? That just kind of reinforces that feeling of being an impostor, because there’s this illusion that if you achieve that title, where you achieve that promotion, that that will make you feel legitimate. And it doesn’t. I saw someone recently posted on Twitter, and I loved it. They said, “Instead of fake it till you make it, own it while you hone it.” And I love that because you’re owning what you’re doing. You’re not saying that you’re perfect or that you’re the expert, but you’re still honing your craft and you’re still on that journey. I don’t know that we ever reach a place where you can wash your hands and say, “I’m done. I’ve arrived”. Right? So you’re constantly going to be crafting whatever it is that you’re doing and learning.

Tara: Again, I think in the presentation I talked about how it’s a lifelong journey. So everyday should be viewed as an opportunity to learn something new. And you know, we work at higher education institutions, a place of learning. We encourage and foster that vulnerability to say, “I don’t quite know something,” and hopefully I come out of this class knowing something I didn’t know. And yet  as professionals, we don’t have that same enthusiasm or curiosity. We feel like we’re expected to just know everything every day at 8:00 AM. And I think if we can approach work regardless of the space that we work in or the field that we’re in, to have that enthusiasm and curiosity to say, “What am I going to learn about today,” and be excited about that. I think that makes a really big difference in how you approach things, whether you know them or not, because you don’t take it as an indictment against your capability. I think that, at least for me, I have found that that has been a big difference-maker, even as of late, to continue to just be willing to be curious and vulnerable in that space. You don’t have to know everything, but that doesn’t mean I’m not the right person to speak to this issue or represent.

Ben: Awesome. Well, it has been an absolute pleasure having this conversation today. Looking forward to sharing it with our listeners. And I’d like to thank you again for being on the program.

Tara: Thank you so much. And I have to just say real quick, a shout out to my kids, Emma, Felicity and Sophia. They were so excited that I was invited to be on a podcast. So thank you for giving me a rare opportunity to look cool to them. There are two teenagers in that bunch, so I’ll take every opportunity I can to look cool.

Ben: Oh, absolutely. That’s a rare opportunity with teens in general.

 


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Tara Hughes head shot

Episode 22: Tara Hughes–Unexpected Career Paths

Category:EDUCAUSE,Higher Education,Information Security,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Podcast

Episode 022 Show Notes: Tara Hughes

Introduction

Tara Hughes head shot

Tara Hughes and Ben Woelk talk about their unexpected career paths as introverts with non-technical backgrounds working in Information Technology.

Key concepts

  • Emergency hires that become permanent positions
  • INFJ and managing students
  • Physical exercise and processing the day
  • Imposter Syndrome and panic attacks

Quotable

My path to my career is a little unusual–or at least it’s not the path that I would have envisioned.

I’m not one for more superficial relationships. That’s not where I shine. With counseling, I really wanted to have meaning to whatever I chose to do.

Exercise has probably been the number one thing that has helped me be able to process the day,…physical exertion helps me decompress from the mental exercise of always having to engage with people.

As an introvert, especially as an INFJ, I’m constantly assessing and reassessing. When I come out of a situation, I’m evaluating how did I do, could I have done better? And then that totally informs the next time.

I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how did they let me in and why….that was really intimidating and where the Imposter Syndrome was definitely rearing its ugly head. And I really struggled to understand how in the world I got included in this group.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Tara Hughes. Tara is Interim Manager of Administrative Services at California State University-Channel Islands. I met Tara at the 2019 EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference in Chicago where Tara spoke on, “You’re All a Bunch of Phonies: Impostor Syndrome and Information Security.” The presentation was standing room only, and the attendees described it as very impactful. Given the struggles with self confidence many of us have as introverts, I thought it would be helpful to chat about impostor syndrome on the Hope for the Introvert podcast. You can contact Tara via email tara.hughes@CSCU.edu or through Linkedin, Tara Hughes and Twitter @TinyTara. I encourage our listeners to visit HopefortheIntrovert.com where you’ll find complete show notes including a transcript of today’s conversation.

Ben: Hi Tara.

Tara: Hello. Thanks for having me.

Ben: I’m excited that you’re going to be on the podcast. It was great connecting with you in Chicago and I’m really looking forward to our conversation. Before we get into our discussion about Impostor Syndrome, let’s talk a little bit about your career and your background. Can you tell us about what you do? What is your workplace like? Channel Islands sounds like an intriguing place to work because it sounds like it’s on an island. I have no idea if it is or not, but tell us about what you do and how you got there.

Tara: Sure. So,I guess the most important question straightaway is “No, we are not on an island, so I don’t need to take a boat to work. “But we are more representative of the surrounding area. It used to be a California state mental hospital and it was closed–I want to say in the 80s by Reagan, although I’m not 100% sure on that. And then California State University was able to acquire the land. They opened up California State University and they named it Channel Islands because the Channel Islands are just off the coast from where the school is located. And they wanted it to be representative of the surrounding counties since it is more of a commuter school. So my path to my career is a little unusual–or at least it’s not the path that I would have envisioned.

My path to my career is a little unusual--or at least it's not the path that I would have envisioned. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Tara: I am currently the Interim Manager of Administrative Services. I’ve been at Cal State Channel Islands for–it’ll be five years in August. And what I currently do is kind of built off of what I was initially hired to do. So when I was hired back in 2014, our president’s office–their main telephone number to contact them had accidentally been put on all of our marketing materials and our website as the main campus telephone number. And so, after a couple of years of the president’s office fielding calls and kind of just not loving that experience, the president at the time had requested our CIO at the time, Michael Berman, to come up with some sort of way to address that issue, because it was causing things to come straight to the president’s office and not giving other departments the opportunity to address issues before it got escalated all the way to the top.

Tara: So he had kind of this brainchild of having a one-stop shop called the Solutions Center. And so they hired seven student assistants to be campus operators for what was the main line. And then they created a new extension for the president’s office, and then they needed someone to manage these students because no one wanted to do it. And so at the time, my husband has worked here since, Gosh, I don’t even, it’s been probably 13 or 14 years. At the time we had just moved back to Camarillo. He had been commuting for the previous four or five years. I was looking for a job and he said, “My wife would be great.” So they hired me as an emergency temp hire and that turned into a permanent role. Six months after that, they gave me the Commencement hotline because no one wanted to answer that extension.

Tara: Then six months after that, they gave me the IT Help Desk because they were having some trouble with managing the students and felt like they were having trouble multitasking. We took the help desk extension and routed it into the call center. The students that work at the help desk only had to help in person and kind of separating those duties and simplifying them a little bit. Last summer, Business and Finance had acquired it as a sub-unit. So when we were brought over, they had asked that I lead their shared services in a more official capacity and turn the Solutions Center into an official shared services and take over the HR main line. So our students now answered the Human Resources main line as well. And the goal is really to be able to triage all basic Tier One kinds of questions that typically are answered on the website or found somewhere, but that people might have trouble locating, or just feel better to have another human being confirm that information to them. I manage that and I manage the help desk still. So I have about at any given time about 18 student assistants that I employee and we train and they have to know a lot about a lot.

Ben: This is coming in as an emergency hire you said, which is interesting because that’s basically how I got into RIT. I also was brought in because there was a worm at that point in time that was wreaking havoc. I had worked with the Information Security Officer at a previous consulting engagement. He found out I was available and wanted me to come in and help manage the emergency communications around what was happening with the worm. Now that lasted maybe two hours and then it was, “Well, you’re not going to be doing that.” But I was able to move into creating a whole lot of really interesting process stuff and build a security awareness program and all sorts of things like that. But none of that was envisioned when I actually took the position, and it was supposed to be temporary and it has been–a month ago–it’s been 15 years since I’ve been at RIT. So it’s funny how these paths go.

Ben: The other thing I wanted to ask you, because my background has nothing whatsoever to do with what I’m doing for a job now at all. What was your background coming into that position? Your husband said, “Oh, my wife would be great at this” and they agreed with it. What was your background coming in?

Tara: I guess I should start off, my husband and I met my freshman year of college, got married a year after. We got married when I was really young. I was 18. We’ll be celebrating 17 years in September. And so it’s super cool, but not necessarily traditional. We had a family much sooner than we were anticipating. I took a lot of time off from school, and didn’t go back to get my Bachelor’s degree until my youngest went into kindergarten. And my goal was really to get my Bachelor’s before I turned 30. I got my Bachelor’s degree in counseling at a small private liberal arts school. That’s where we had met and his dad and mom both worked there and I graduated my counseling degree at 29. So I made my goal, which was very great.

Tara: But really, I was so drawn to people and relationship building and feeling like there were so many things that I cared about–connecting with people on a really authentic level. I’m not one for more superficial relationships. That’s not where I shine. With counseling, I really wanted to have meaning to whatever I chose to do. And we talked a lot about as our three girls were growing up, that at some point because we got married young and had kids young, that there was going to be this whole life after family to some degree. And what would I do to utilize that time? So working was always going to be in the scope in some way, shape, or form. We just didn’t know what it would look like.

I'm not one for more superficial relationships. That's not where I shine. With counseling, I really wanted to have meaning to whatever I chose to do. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Tara: After I graduated, I worked at an insurance company. My boss was fantastic, but I didn’t love the work because it didn’t feel meaningful ,and it wasn’t that relationship building that I craved. And then right after that we moved back to Camarillo, and it was like, “Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do for work.” And so my husband–just my biggest cheerleader–thought you’re going to manage student assistants, you could totally do this. And what’s been incredible is that so much of the mentorship and coaching very much aligned with my counseling background. So that has been just a wonderful surprise,but not something that I could have pinpointed until I fell into it, if that makes sense.

Ben: I think it makes perfect sense. We were talking before the podcast started about temperament types and we’ll talk about that a little bit more. And what you identified on the temperament type was INFJ, which is counselor, the way that that’s normally interpreted. So that all fits together very well. And I would think in terms of working with students with the stress–I mean what I’m seeing at RIT, the amount of stress that they’re under now–to be able to have someone who is managing them but who is also attuned to the fact that they are people and not just students who are filling a position to get things done. I think it’s probably very, very good for them. I think like you said, you were interested in relationship building and well you have at least 18 students to to have some type of relationships with as well.

Ben: But it’s interesting, I–my background–I went to a large state school in Florida. Ended up being an Anthropology graduate because I honestly couldn’t figure out what I was doing and I had done terribly my first year, and all my initial plans of what I was going to do just didn’t work out. Went to work for my dad for a couple of years. He installed floor covering. I did not want to do that for the rest of my life. Got accepted to a university north of Chicago, and so we moved from Florida to Chicago with a 15-month old not knowing where we were going to be living when we left, knowing that they might have an apartment that was opening up, putting everything into a 14-foot UHaul and caravaning three days up to Chicago. No clear sense of where we were going to stay, but a very clear sense that that’s what we were supposed to be doing.

Ben: And everything kind of worked out and fell into place and different things. But I ended up initially doing what I thought was going to actually be a position in Christian Education. And that ended up changing over to doing a Masters in Church History, which I’m not sure what exactly I thought I was going to be able to do with it when I came out. So I applied very–it’s interesting because you come across people and one of the professors was just so passionate and so engaging that I was really excited about it. I ended up entering a doctoral program at the University of Rochester, which is what brought us to Rochester, thinking we’d be here for four years and that was in 1987 and we’re still here. Did not finish the doctorate but through a series of circumstances and different opportunities, now I’m doing cyber security.

Ben: So definitely not a straight career path at all. And it will be interesting because when we start talking about this Imposter Syndrome piece–been there, absolutely been there–coming in with a liberal arts background, and I’m trying to work in a technical field with technical people and they’re all going to see through me sort of thing. So it’s just really interesting because–I don’t know, maybe for some people it works where it’s a very clear career path. For me, it’s really been what has opened up and do you take the steps forward in it or not. So it’s really interesting to me hearing about your path to get there. We also did the getting married before my wife finished college piece of things, but she was able to finish before our son was born. But still, it was after we were married and it was a bit of a struggle–the finances and where are we going to live, and all of those pieces, and still persevered and got through it.

Ben: But it’s intriguing. So, like we mentioned, you had talked about the INFJ piece and how sometimes it’s closer–well, one of the three times you took it, it came out to ENFJ–and I know how this works for me because I play with the questions just a little bit and see, “Ah, so that changed that. And coming with a counseling background, I’m sure it was even more, “How do I look at this and how can–maybe not how can I manipulate it, but what are the little bits of changes I can do with this?” [Tara laughing] So basically typing as an introvert, but very interested in relationship building, which is not–I don’t think–it’s not a disconnect at all.

Ben: But what has it been like for you in terms of being an introvert? Do you notice a different in terms of how you deal with people? It’s very tough because it’s a spectrum, and I think I’ve become more and more extroverted, and it’s not always very clear for me. It really comes down to how do I recharge and what do I need to do that. But on a given day, if I’m at a conference, nobody is going to think I’m an introvert because I just don’t tend to present that way. So how has that been for you in terms of personality type? You did a counseling degree, so obviously you’ve thought about some of this stuff at some point, but how has that worked in terms of your strategy for how you approach work? What you do in the workplace and in life in general?

Tara: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think growing up everyone would have said I was an extrovert and I always considered myself an extrovert, being a stay-at-home mom for the number of years that I was. I thought that confirmed that I was an extrovert because I would get really lonely being at home all day, and just was so excited when my husband would come home, because now I could have that human interaction with an adult. Not that the kids aren’t humans, but it’s different! And so I really was surprised when I came to work full time to find that I was exhausted at the end of the day. And it wasn’t just physical exhaustion. There was a mental exhaustion of having to be on all the time. I think entering into IT was another compelling part of that because I wasn’t coming into it as an IT expert.

Tara: And so I had to work really hard to be able to speak the language as my colleagues sometimes. And then take that language and put it into a language that your average user could understand, and talking at their level and not at a more technical level. And so that relationship building started to take really different forms. Which was great, but I was so depleted at the end of the day and found myself thinking of myself more as an introverted extrovert, where I still really wanted to be around people, but then really need to find the opportunities to have quiet time and be alone and recharge, whether that was just zoning out watching TV or reading a book or going running.

Tara: I would say exercise has probably been the number one thing that has helped me be able to process the day, and not have to be on, in terms of building those relationships. But just that physical exertion helps me decompress from the mental exercise of always having to engage with people. Conferences I would say is similar. The other thing though is that when I came into working full time at Channel Islands, I was really struggling with panic attacks. I’d never struggled with that before. And there was something about being busy and having to think about other people that really almost eliminated it entirely. Because I didn’t have time to think about myself or what I was worried about, and that was great. But it eventually started to crop up in moments where I had to present at one point. That was very scary for me. And there’s a lot of internal dialogue that goes on if I have to go into a situation where I’m just not sure of myself.

Exercise has probably been the number one thing that has helped me be able to process the day,...physical exertion helps me decompress from the mental exercise of always having to engage with people. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Tara: And I think as an introvert, especially as an INFJ, I’m just constantly assessing and reassessing. So if I go into a situation, when I come out of that, I’m evaluating how did I do, could I have done better? And then that totally informs the next time that I’m going into a situation. And I’ve kind of set up all of these different obstacles in my mind to some degree that I need to clear, even though those were former obstacles in the previous situation that might not necessarily present in this next one, and so you’re just in your head a lot. So that’s where I do like being in a field where I’m forced outside of my head. But then have to constantly bring myself back to a place where I can recharge and be by myself or get some exercise in so that I can get back to it. And so whether that’s work or a conference, I have to kind of coach myself into getting excited to put myself out there. I never regret doing it, but it does take something out of me that I have to eventually find a way to recharge.

As an introvert, especially as an INFJ, I'm constantly assessing and reassessing. When I come out of a situation, I'm evaluating how did I do, could I have done better? And then that totally informs the next time. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Ben: It was interesting, because as I said, we did meet at this EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference and you’re coming in from a different perspective, different background. Many people, especially when they’re on the awareness side or coming in from non-technical backgrounds, there’s always this question for them of whether they belong there or not. And I had some really interesting conversations with a couple of people who said, “I don’t feel like I’m a cyber security professional.” “Well, you just presented at a Security Professionals Conference, so I think you can kind of claim that now,” and realize that yes, we haven’t arrived–we absolutely haven’t arrived–but that’s something you can point to that’s kind of a bit of credibility for yourself or credential in a sense.

Ben: One of the things that you had told me earlier also is that you are part of a leadership program within EDUCAUSE. And I meant to ask you about it before we got started, but could you talk a little bit about that, and you’ve just spent the last week at this Leadership Institute, and I’m really interested in what attracted you to the program, whether you felt ready for the program or not, and what it’s been like for you and what you’ve taken away from it. .

Tara: Okay. Yeah. So I went to the Leading Change Institute, which is affiliated with EDUCAUSE and CLIR. It was an application process and I had to submit a resume and get a letter of recommendation, and absolutely was, I want to say encouraged, but even more than that, kind of hounded by a mentor of mine, to give it a shot. And I thought, no, I don’t, I don’t think I’m at a place where they’ll accept me. So I really talked myself into thinking, well, I’ll apply, but I know I won’t get it, so it’s not much of a risk. And then I got in and thought, “Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?” I think our cohort was about 30 people from different institutions across the nation. We actually had someone from Dublin, Ireland and someone from Australia, and I think they both worked in the libraries at their institutions, but it’s a mix of IT professionals and librarians.

Tara: I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how did they let me in and why. A lot of these folks are CEOs and AVPs. And they’re just at a slightly higher level, in title and just place in their career than I am. They have much more experience. And so that was really intimidating and again, you know, as we can talk it about later. But that was where the Imposter Syndrome was definitely rearing its ugly head. And I really struggled to understand how in the world I got included in this group. And so I went into it thinking–well actually when I went to the Security Professionals Conference, I thought, well, I’ll just try my best with my presentation and I’ll try my best at LCI. The worst thing that can happen is that I’ll learn from it if I make a mistake.

I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how did they let me in and why....that was really intimidating and where the Imposter Syndrome was definitely rearing its ugly head. And I really struggled to understand how in the world I… Click To Tweet

Tara: For I would say both instances, I was shocked to discover that I did well and that I had a place there. That wasn’t what I expected going into it. And it was a really lovely surprise coming out of both of those experiences. And really, the Leading Change Institute expects that you understand certain management fundamentals. Really what they’re getting at is more of the finesse of not just managing, but really being a leader and how do you implement change with things that are very difficult to grapple with, especially if you have even things on a national level. How to keep that broad perspective, but still be effective in very specific ways. It was fantastic. DC was wonderful. I hadn’t been to DC since I was in high school, so it was really wonderful to go back with new eyes of appreciation and see things with more experience in my life to be able to really enjoy the history and the remembrance of what so many of those memorials call for us to do.

Tara: I just loved that it was–it was really neat and it was great again to network with people, but again, I had to really coach myself into making the most of that opportunity and putting myself out there. And the worst that could happen is that it doesn’t go the way I want. And then it’s only for a week. And then you’re like, okay.

Ben: It sounds like a really cool thing to be involved in. And honestly, I would have probably some of the same concerns that you do because I’m not an AVP and I’m not an Information Security Officer or a CIO. There were times where I aspired to that, but now I’m don’t know that I want to. ‘m overall enjoying what I’m doing, but I’m also enjoying exploring mentoring and podcasting and things like that. So I’m finding that that’s providing a great deal of satisfaction. I think it’s really cool that you’re involved in that group and I think it’s a great opportunity.

Ben: Tara, thanks for a great conversation. I look forward to our next episode where we will talk more about the EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference and why you spoke about Imposter Syndrome, your experience in speaking, and one thing I noticed, the reception for the conversations and the conversations that opened was really great.


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Marcy Phelps headshot

Episode 021: Marcy Phelps–Introvert Strengths

Category:introversion,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Podcast

Episode 021 Show Notes: Marcy Phelps

Introduction

Marcy Phelps headshot

Marcy Phelps and Ben Woelk talk about how knowing introvert strengths empowers introverted leaders.

Key concepts

  • Serving on a non-profit board
  • Mentoring is a great form of leadership
  • Mentoring benefits the mentor and the mentee
  • Start your leadership journey by starting small

Quotable

Mentoring is a great leadership role for introverts, because we are so good at one-on-one and listening and hearing what people need.

Mentoring goes both ways. Both the mentor and mentee benefit from the experience.

I thought introversion was something I had to overcome and there was something wrong with me, until I read that book Quiet by Susan Cain.

How different introverts feel, like a weight is lifted off of them, and they understand that they have strengths which are every bit equal or sometimes better than some other leadership characteristics.

I didn’t realize is how dramatic a change it can make for introverts when they realize that what they’ve believed has been a handicap can actually be turned into a strength.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Marcy Phelps. As the founder and president of Denver-based Marcy Phelps and Associates, Inc. (formerly Phelps Researching), Marcy helps clients manage risk and prevent fraud. She started her firm in 2000 after earning a Master’s degree in Library and Information Services from the University of Denver, and is a Colorado-licensed private investigator and a Certified Fraud Examiner. Marcy blogs about investigative research at www.marcyphelps.com/blog. You can contact Marcy through the blog or on LinkedIn as Marcy Phelps. I encourage our listeners to visit Hope for the Introvert.com where you’ll find complete show notes including a transcript of today’s conversation.

Ben: You mentioned AIIP, the Association of Independent Information Professionals. What you didn’t mention at the time when you mentioned it earlier in the conversation, was that you were actually a past president and currently a director for the organization?

Marcy: No, I was a director and then I became the president a few years after that.

Ben: What led you into doing that? Professional organizations have a little bit different cultures depending on the organization. Was this something–you had an opponent? Did you have to actively campaign, or is it quieter than that? I know when I ran for Vice President of the Society for Technical Communication, I probably made a lot more noise in terms of campaigning than most other people have. which I’ve had mixed feelings about since. But I’m curious what you found that experience like from one, deciding that you wanted to become a candidate for either the board or the presidency, and what it was like going through that whole campaign, in a sense?

Marcy: Well, I was pretty lucky. It’s very low key in AIIP. Before I ran for president, the role was uncontested. The board selected the president–the candidate–and then the membership votes, Yea or Nay. The year I was asked by the board to run, they changed the policies and procedures and they allowed nominations from the floor, including self nominations. so I was the first president to run in a contested election. So it’s funny you should mention that. And I immediately felt awkward about it. But then I realized it wasn’t a real campaign. I needed to put out a few messages myself and my plans for the presidency if I was elected. Even that felt a little odd, I have to say. But it was very low key. So I was lucky. And, I wound up being elected so I didn’t really have to do too much. It was awkward though. Excuse me. It was awkward because it was the first time it had ever happened in the association, so nobody knew quite what to do.

Ben: That’s funny. What happens with STC, on the local level with chapters, it’s very rare that there are contested elections. It’s difficult enough to get people who are willing to serve. But at the Society level, they’re always–well for some of the positions there are always multiple candidates, especially for the vice president-president, immediate past president sequence. But for some of the other positions, they will often or sometimes decide just to have the one candidate and than it’s a Yea or Nay. But it is interesting how these organizations are different. So one of the things I’ve found and I’ve found now that I’m on the board, and this is my second term on the board with STC, is that does give me a different role. It does give me a different role when I go to a conference, and I’m not able to not be engaged with people there. So I kind of have to make a point of making sure that I am stepping outside my comfort zone and engaging people there. I want them to feel welcome. Yeah, it is different when you go with a specific role.

Marcy: Well, and I have to say, AIIP is a very unique association. We’re smaller and we don’t have chapters, so our annual conference is a big deal. It’s like going to hang out with family. It really is. It’s a smaller group. We spend the first hour of the conference–everybody comes up and gives their thirty second introduction. It’s very easy for an introvert to mix and mingle at an AIIP Conference. It’s very intimate and like family.

Ben: Great! One of the questions that I have–and for our listeners–one of the things that we do with these podcasts is provide our guests with a structure of the things that we’re going to talk about., so it’s not very, very awkward! We started touching on this already, but besides being the past president and a past director for AIP, in what other ways do you feel like you’ve been an influencer or leader, outside of that organization or inside of it, either way?

Marcy: Well, in AIP, I am also a mentor. We have a mentoring program and I’m currently mentoring another private investigator. Not everybody in AIIP is a private investigator, but we were connected because of that. So that is one type of leadership role. And I think it’s a great one for introverts, because we are so good at one-on-one and listening and hearing what people need. So that’s been very rewarding. Especially with this mentee, he’s very, very sharp and I think I’m learning more than he might be, but that’s a really great way to get into leadership a leadership role.

Mentoring is a great leadership role for introverts, because we are so good at one-on-one and listening and hearing what people need. Click To Tweet

Marcy: Also, as a solopreneur, I bring in subcontractors to work with me. I have one subcontractor on a regular basis, and then others that I bring in when I need help on a specific topic–verifying a degree from a very small Swedish university where no one speaks English–that kind of thing. Managing, recruiting, managing and managing the quality, that’s another leadership role I think outside of association work. I used to play golf and there wereonly day leagues for women, and I was frustrated because there were several of us who worked. So I put together a league in the evening for people who worked in the daytime–those kinds of things.

Ben: Great! It’s interesting what you’re saying about your current mentee and learning from him. I have found the same thing through every mentoring experience that I’ve been part of. The assumption from the outside, I think, is always that they’re one way, but I’ve never found it to be that way. I found them to be–well, not only the rewarding fact of feeling like you’re helping somebody along in their career, but also the fact that I benefit from those conversations as well.

Mentoring goes both ways. Both the mentor and mentee benefit from the experience. Click To Tweet

Marcy: Absolutely, Ben. I learn something new from every mentee. Even the ones that don’t work out really well, they kind of confirm what I need to know about running a business, so I learned from the smart people who are doing really well and then I learned from even the not so great experiences,

Ben: Another question for you–and the podcast essentially is–part of our whole reason for doing this is to help people who are leaders and introverts. What recommendations do you have for introverts who want to become influencers or leaders?

Marcy: Well, I recommend probably starting small. Just get involved in an organization that you feel comfortable with, and start volunteering on a smaller committee with them, and getting involved and meeting people that way. Volunteering is a fabulous way to get to know people and work your way up maybe to chairing a committee or something like that, or serving on the board of a smaller association. I think mentoring, again, something face to face or small group like that. Probably just start small and work up and you’d be surprised!  Leadership I don’t think requires that you have to be an extrovert. I think leadership–introverts are good at leadership and we shouldn’t be scared by it.

Ben: That takes us to another focus on this. A lot of –I don’t know if it’s press or things that are out there–and I know I had a friend share an article with me today–there seems to be a perception that being introverted is a handicap or weakness and not a strength. What is your perspective on that?

Marcy: That one really annoys me. I thought it was too. I thought it was something I had to overcome and there was something wrong with me, until I read that book Quiet by Susan Cain, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I love that book and I highly recommend it because I kind of found it empowering because she emphasizes that theme that this is not a defect or a handicap that you need to overcome. You have to adapt. You have to make it work for you. But it’s not something I need to apologize for anymore. I found that book very empowering in that way.

I thought introversion was something I had to overcome and there was something wrong with me, until I read that book Quiet by Susan Cain, Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah. And I would say that I did too. I read it I think the year it came out, and It was just–I describe it as transformative, because it–and I’m not sure how I felt about being introverted either way before that, but I have talked to so many people the first time they go through that book or the first time they’re exposed to any of the current writing around introverts and leadership or anything like that. How different they feel. Just that it’s like a weight is lifted off of them, and they understand that they have strengths which are every bit equal–or sometimes better–than some other leadership characteristics that are out there. And I think they find it empowering. I think it’s a great word for it. It’s been a great–it’s kind of been the introvert manifesto over the last decade.

How different introverts feel, like a weight is lifted off of them, and they understand that they have strengths which are every bit equal or sometimes better than some other leadership characteristics. Click To Tweet

Marcy: I think it’s a big relief. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this to you earlier, but I used to have a blog called Power Networking for Introverts, because my friends encouraged me to do that because they thought I was so great at networking even though I’m an–I was an introvert, and I wrote about that concept in one of my posts, and the response was incredible. People saying, “Thank you, this was a huge relief. I thought there was something wrong with me.” That was really–that was striking. That was striking,

Ben: Is that post still available?

Marcy: No, I took that all down. That was a very, very long time ago. But you’ve given me an idea of something to write about,

Ben: So when you get that posted, or whatever you’re going to end up doing, let me know and I will provide a link to it. Because like you’ve said, for me, the most amazing part of this whole journey and starting to work on leadership and introversion, has really been seeing what a huge difference it can make in people’s lives. And that in many ways was unexpected. Even though I knew it had made a big difference for me in terms of how I understood how I could be a leader and things like that. What I didn’t realize is how dramatic a change it can make for people when they realize that what they’ve believed has been a handicap can actually be turned into a strength.

I didn't realize is how dramatic a change it can make for introverts when they realize that what they've believed has been a handicap can actually be turned into a strength. Click To Tweet

Marcy: Yes. Yes. And isn’t it amazing the power of the content you put out there sometimes. Sometimes, you never realize the effect it’s going to have on someone.

Ben: So I have a question not on the questionnaire. Marcy, what is one thing about you that people would be surprised to learn? And you can take a minute and think about it.

Marcy: Oh boy. I have a black belt in taekwondo. I haven’t practiced taekwondo in a long time, but I did obtain my first degree black belt some time ago.

Ben: That’s awesome. I certainly had no idea of that!

Marcy: That was hard. I had a hard time with the sparring part, having the intent of striking somebody. I had trouble with that, and that’s not necessarily the intent. The intent is to defend yourself, but you have to sometimes strike others to do that. And I had a hard time with that. I was raised, you know, you’re not supposed to hit people, and um [laughing], but I loved it. I loved the discipline and it was something to do with my young sons. It’s not a lot of things mothers can do with their sons, that’s–you know–sportswise. So, so that’s one thing. I don’t know. I’m pretty open. [laughing]There’s not much that people don’t know about me because I write, and I’m pretty much a what you see is what you get kind of person.

Ben: Ok, great! So, any other parting thoughts?

Marcy:  Parting thoughts. Just again, focus on your strengths as an introvert because we have so many and very valuable strengths. Like Susan Cain says, it’s kind of a noisy world and our quiet can be very powerful. And also remember that there are workarounds. It’s just like in technology, when something doesn’t work, we find a workaround. Our introversion–we just find a workaround. I know in my business I have to get out there and be with people and interact. So, I just make it happen by figuring out my workarounds.

Ben: Sounds great! Thank you, Marcy for a great interview.


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Melanie Seibert headshot

Episode 019: Melanie Seibert: Applying Insights from Personality Inventories

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

Episode 019 Show Notes: Melanie Seibert

Introduction

Melanie Seibert headshot

Melanie Seibert and Ben Woelk chat about being surprised at the insights from StrengthsFinder and other inventories, and applying these insights in the workplace.

Key concepts

  • StrengthsFinder and other inventories
  • You don’t always get what you want to
  • The lingering impact of limiting statements

Quotable

You don’t have to be a certain personality type to be a leader. You can be an introvert. You can be creative. You can be analytical, whatever. @melanie_seibert

I knew in my mind the qualities that I wanted to have and it was an adjustment to accept the strengths that I actually do have and see how I can use those, instead of trying to be someone I’m not. @melanie_seibert

Statements made about you early in your life (such as you won’t be creative) can have a big impact on what you believe about yourself. Depending on how you take them, can probably limit yourself quite a bit. @benwoelk

How important it is to have a team where people are complementary, so that those strengths are there, but also where there are weaknesses those are bolstered and really shored up by having the right people on the team. @benwoelk

As an INFJ, I’m just really fascinated with people’s stories, and how people work on the inside. @melanie_seibert

Personality inventories give us permission to do things that we thought we weren’t suited for, and I feel like that sense of having permission is helpful to some people. I just want to encourage people to not doubt that they can be leaders. @melanie_seibert

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

  • Prose Kiln
  • StrengthsFinder
  • Keirsey Temperament Sorter
  • DISC

Links

Transcript

Ben: So welcome back Melanie. I’m looking forward to more conversation. It’s been fascinating so far.

Ben:  What do you think your biggest strengths are? And we started to talk a little bit about the StrengthsFinder, and I have actually not taken that one yet. I’ve done the Enneagram (which I can’t remember any of the detail on) and DISC, which I’m really not super fond of. And of course the Myers-Briggs/Keirsey type things. I have not yet done the StrengthsFinder thing. Tell me a little bit about that test. I guess what would be really interesting, I think, would be if you have any idea what you felt like your strengths were before you took the test, and whether you learned something from that test that surprised you.

Melanie: Yeah. So the StrengthsFinder is really interesting because the way–I learned about it when I went to work at Rackspace, and they as an organization have every person who’s hired take the StrengthsFinder before you start, and then when you start you get your results. And there are sort of orientation meetings to talk about what it means and how to work with different people. So they told us that when the researchers who created StrengthsFinder ultimately first set out, they wanted to find, was what are the traits of leaders. What are all the common personality traits that leaders have, and they expected to find when they interviewed executives and managers and those type of people–they expected to find common traits across everyone. And what they actually found was these 34 different strengths that were in different combinations for every leader. So it was surprising to them.

Melanie: But, the takeaway from that is that you don’t have to be a certain personality type to be a leader. You can be an introvert. You can be creative. You can be analytical, whatever. And so it’s funny that you say what was I expecting, because I was in this mode where I was like–I’m going to be a content strategist now. I’m going from being a writer, which is sort of a more creative role, to being strategic and analytical and thinking more big picture. And so I was really hoping to get a–there’s a strength called strategic. There’s a strength called communication. And there’s–there are a few others that look–there’s one called self assurance that I really wanted, but I just knew that wasn’t gonna happen. So, when I finally got my results, communication, strategic, self-assurance were way down towards the bottom, and at the top I had connectedness, input, positivity, relater. I can’t remember all of them right offhand, but I had adaptability, and I was just like, “Oh man!” All these–they sounded very sort of unappealing and wishy-washy to me at the time. But over time, I’ve really learned to value and I’ll see myself doing things and if I do a certain thing, well I’m like, “That’s because I have connectedness.” Like I’m always connecting people with resources, or I just find that super satisfying to–I don’t know–help people learn about something, and I’ll tell them, “Oh, there’s this great book that I read or whatever.”

You don't have to be a certain personality type to be a leader. You can be an introvert. You can be creative. You can be analytical, whatever. @melanie_seibert Click To Tweet

Melanie: And there’s value to that. So, I think positivity is probably the only strength that I have that is actually–at the time they counted it as a leadership type of strength. It lets you influence people and it lets you influence people’s behavior. There are others that I definitely don’t have as much of. One is command, which is where you’re just like totally comfortable being the boss, and one is woo, which they say it stands for winning others over, which means you’re kind of like the salesman. You’re like everyone’s best friend. You meet a person and you’re like their best friend within two minutes, and you’re all buddy buddy with them, and then when you meet someone else you’re sort of their best friend. So it’s like, I don’t know, it’s very charming. Sounds like an extrovert thing. I don’t know, I can talk about it all day.

Ben: It sounds like a courtship-type thing. When you said the wooing part, I mean that’s the context, but it sounds appropriate for what you’re talking about as well. It’s funny to me that when you took the inventory that you were hoping to have strengths in certain areas.

Melanie: Yeah, I mean I don’t think I knew the words for them, or what the outputs would be, but I knew in my mind the qualities that I wanted to have, like how I wanted to see myself, and it was an adjustment to accepting the strengths that I actually do have and seeing how I can actually use those, instead of trying to be someone I’m not. Basically, like I’m never going to be–the boss had self assurance and I was so jealous because I want to be able to just walk into a meeting and lead the meeting and feel totally comfortable doing that, and just assume that people are going to accept my ideas, ’cause I have the best ideas, and that type of thing. I’m just never going to be comfortable doing that. I’m always going to be a little bit more reserved, a little bit more like tentative. Like I think this is the best course of action, but I’m always open to feedback, or if other people have other ideas, let’s hear ’em. That type of thing. So it was definitely a process.

I knew in my mind the qualities that I wanted to have and it was an adjustment to accept the strengths that I actually do have and see how I can use those, instead of trying to be someone I'm not. @melanie_seibert Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah. It sounds like it was a very–very much a self discovery thing. With some of it too, and some of it just does seem to be putting the words around what those strengths were. It’s funny because when I took the Keirsey.com Temperament Inventory, I was really surprised at some of the results of it, and I talked to my wife about it and then said, “Well, this is funny. Did you know that it says I’m really, really willfully independent?” And so that, “Yes!” [Melanie laughing] So it’s like the things that were not a surprise to people who knew me, but they were certainly a surprise to me. And what I found most helpful with the inventory I took, and I think this is true for many of them, is that it does help you identify your strengths.

Ben: And for me it was even to the point of, “Oh, Keirsey says I’m an INTJ.” Keirsey says, “Oh, they can be good leaders. I must be able to be a good leader.” And that was actually my reaction to it, because I grew up with that Western ideal of what leaders must be like, and knowing I was not this charismatic individual who was going to stand in front of everyone, or be commanding or anything else. It was just really wild to me to discover that, I could actually be a good leader. I learned things, like I’m innovative–creative and that should be an obvious thing, but I still go back to conversations in elementary school that I remember my parents having with my teachers, where they basically said, “Well, he’ll be able to learn anything at all, but he’s–he’s not going to be creative.” And that kind of thing–as surface as it seems like it should be–that really stuck with me. And I was really surprised that “Oh my goodness, I can be creative. I can be innovative.” And I embrace that now. But I did–It was like I didn’t even know it was a possibility. So it’s kind of funny, because for me it’s kind of how these, not really random comments, but how these statements early on in your life can have a big impact on what you believe about yourself. And probably, depending on how you take them can probably limit yourself quite a bit.

Statements made about you early in your life (such as you won't be creative) can have a big impact on what you believe about yourself. Depending on how you take them, can probably limit yourself quite a bit. @benwoelk @introvert_leadr Click To Tweet

Melanie: Yeah. Isn’t that funny? It’s almost like it’s liberating because someone’s giving you permission, you know, saying, “Yes, it’s okay. You can be creative.” You know, it’s–it’s really amazing how we internalize those impressions. I think I had a similar impression of myself. I don’t remember anyone ever telling me you can’t be creative, but I definitely–I–oh man, this is embarrassing! I walked into a job interview for a copywriting job when I was in my early twenties and the hiring manager said, “Well, are you creative?” And I said, “No,” [laughing] because I really don’t think of myself as creative. But later I was just like, well, first of all that was really dumb thing to say in a job interview. You don’t ever say that. But secondly, it’s not true because I’ve seen where I can be creative in ways that maybe I didn’t realize. So yeah, I definitely had a similar experience

Ben: It’s funny, and I imagine talking to a lot of people, we’d find out that there were little things that people said, and they took them to heart, or that these things have had an impact on them. So I think it’s great. I think all of these inventories are really useful. Some of them I personally like more than others, but in general I think they’re useful because I think that whole self discovery piece is really important. It’s so–I mean for me–I mean I haven’t, like I said, I have not done StrengthFinder yet, but it’s going to come back with strategic. Everything else that I’ve looked at talks about being strategic, and that helps me in terms of understanding what I’m good at and what I’m not good at. I’m in the process of planning a party (and this will release after this party occurs), but it’s a surprise party, and their are logistics, and I am going crazy because I don’t like dealing with the logistics. That level of detail as opposed to the overall strategy thing, I’m just finding to be a really, really big challenge. So it also, I think, points to how important it is to have a team where people are complementary, so that those strengths are there, but also where there are weaknesses (and we all have them), where those are bolstered and really shored up by having the right people on the team.

How important it is to have a team where people are complementary, so that those strengths are there, but also where there are weaknesses those are bolstered and really shored up by having the right people on the team. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Melanie: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that was one reason why Rackspace really invested in that methodology, and also understanding your own strengths and understanding that someone else is not going to see the problem the same way you are, and there is a place for both people on the team. We really need each other. And in fact, their whole philosophy was, “If you’re not good at something, then let somebody who is naturally good at it do it, and you develop your strengths, not your weaknesses,” which is kind of a whole other kind of interesting take. But their point was you’re going to go farther building on your strengths, then you will be than you will trying to mitigate your weaknesses. So, work together. And so, it’s really interesting.

If you're not good at something, then let somebody who is naturally good at it do it, and you develop your strengths, not your weaknesses. @melanie_seibert Click To Tweet

Ben: I think that makes sense. I can see the downside of that. I mean, I think if it’s a case where your weaknesses are, I’m going to say, non-strengths, your weaknesses are impeding your ability to do something, then you obviously need to work on them. But in theory it makes perfect sense, because if you want to basically get the best part of each person and their best viewpoints involved, it seems like the product would naturally be stronger because you are leveraging everyone’s strengths. I can see the wisdom in that. It’s an interesting discussion.

Ben: You had mentioned that in a previous job that the leadership thing didn’t really pan out, because they were looking for a specific type of leader, more of a command-and-control type situation. And I know when–I don’t like being on either side of that. I cannot stand being micromanaged, and I probably, if anything, don’t necessarily provide as much management input with people who are doing things for me as I need to, because I’m very much, “Well I’m happy with whatever way you do it and I expect you to use your strengths, whatever you’re doing.” But I can see how that’s been a bit of a bit of a challenge at times as well.

Ben: We started to talk a little bit about what it’s like being an introvert in the workplace, and maybe not in a–well you are in a senior content strategist role. So it is a leader role in a way, or very much a leader role. How about in general in life, do you find that being an introvert impacts how you act in other situations or social situations?

Melanie: Yeah. So it’s really interesting that you sent me the link to the Keirsey Personality Inventory. I’m not sure if I’m calling it the right thing, but my profile there is the Counselor. So I’m the person who, it doesn’t matter if it’s at work or at church or at home, people are always coming to me with their problems. I had someone–a relative–texting me last night with what was a parenting question, and I think, I’m not sure why that is, but it has something to do with I’m really comfortable listening to people, and I’m very nosy, so I want to know everyone’s business, and I want to know all about their problems, and I really want to know what they’re really thinking, like what is really going on with this person under the surface. And for some reason, I’m just fascinated. So it’s not an altruistic thing necessarily. It’s kind of a selfish thing. I’m just really fascinated with people’s stories, and how people work on the inside. So yeah, that definitely does come out in my sort of daily life. Like, people will open up and tell me things, and it turns out that if you listen to people, you’ll be surprised at the things that they will tell you. I’m always sort of asking for information and expecting people to say, “Well, no, I don’t want to talk about that.” Or, “That’s too personal,” and it is really unusual for a person to say that. People will tell you a lot. I think a lot of people just really want to be listened to. I do find that.

As an INFJ, I'm just really fascinated with people's stories, and how people work on the inside. @melanie_seibert Click To Tweet

Ben: Especially if they think they can trust you. And that you will give them good input, but–and obviously not take the information and use it for whatever purposes. It’s funny because I look at our initial guest list on the podcast, and you are the fourth or fifth INFJ that I’ve had on the podcast, and in some ways it makes sense, but if you look at the Keirsey Temperament Sorter or the Myers Briggs, and the statistics around it, INFJ is the most rare temperament type.

Melanie: Really!

Ben: So I just find it really intriguing that I have so many friends who are INFJs.

Melanie: I’m curious to know which temperament types are the most common, so I’m going to have to do some Googling after this.

Ben: I don’t have the numbers handy, but one of the big differences that Keirsey talks about is that you have your Ns who are the intuitives and you have your Ss who are more concrete. There are far more concrete thinkers in our world than there are people who are intuitive, like INTJ or INFJ or anything like that. And I think from what I’ve been able to tell, the Ss are more much more practically focused, which is probably a good thing, because I know I can be very abstract and thinking about possibilities and things like that. So I think the Ss are pretty much holding us together. While some of us are very speculative and want to come up and try all these new ideas and things. And the INFJ as a guest doesn’t totally surprise me, because we’re all very interested in this whole temperament thing now and how it impacts things. And I think we tend to be naturally more introspective, not even just as introverts, but especially with being intuitive instead.

Melanie: That makes a lot of sense. And also if you’re talking to people in sort of technology-related fields, I feel like that N orientation where you’re thinking about possibilities and trying to innovate, that is definitely encouraged more in tech and in the type of world where we work, so that also might have something to do with it. That is really interesting.

Ben: I’d like to talk a little bit about recommendations you might have for introverts who want to become influencers or leaders. What recommendations would you have?

Melanie: Yeah, I guess my main recommendation is to, as we discussed earlier, we talked about how the personality inventories gave us permission to do things that we sort of thought we weren’t suited for, and I feel like that sense of having permission is helpful to some people, and so I just want to encourage people to not doubt that they can be leaders. I’m reading a book right now. It’s about systems thinking, and it’s very much about learning and leading, and the author is very against this idea that only executives are leaders or only managers are leaders. And I definitely had thought of it that way. You know, I think of the organization, you have your org chart and there are the people at the top of the org chart and those are the leaders.

Personality inventories give us permission to do things that we thought we weren't suited for, and I feel like that sense of having permission is helpful to some people. I just want to encourage people to not doubt that they can be… Click To Tweet

Melanie: But in reality a lot of the change in organizations comes from the individual contributors or the people who have a lot of credibility amongst their coworkers, and they become leaders that way, even if they don’t have formal or structural power to command people to do things a different way, it’s much more effective. Change is much more effective when it comes from sort of that level, that individual level. And so in that sense we’re all leaders, if we’re engaged and we’re motivated at work, we can be leaders at work. And there are a lot of different ways to be a leader. So if you’re working in a setting where your leadership style really isn’t valued, that doesn’t mean that you’re not a leader or that you can’t be a leader. You might just not be in the right place, that you might not be in a place that really values the contributions that you have to give. Because that’s where I found myself, and I had to find a place where I could contribute something that the organization would value. So I guess that’s my main recommendation. It’s not very sort of technical, but I feel like it is important to some people.

A lot of the change in organizations comes from the individual contributors who have credibility amongst their coworkers. They become leaders that way, even if they don't have formal or structural power. @melanie_seibert Click To Tweet

If you're working in a setting where your leadership style really isn't valued, that doesn't mean that you're not a leader or that you can't be a leader. You might just not be in the right place. @melanie_seibert Click To Tweet

Ben: I appreciate your time and thanks for a great interview!

Melanie: Thanks, Ben! It’s been great chatting with you.


  • 1
Melanie Seibert headshot

Episode 018: Melanie Seibert–Collaboration as an Introvert

Category:introversion,Introverted Leadership,Podcast,techcomm

Episode 018 Show Notes: Melanie Seibert

Introduction

Melanie Seibert headshot

Melanie Seibert and Ben Woelk chat about what it means to be a content strategist and collaboration as an introvert.

Key concepts

  • Content strategy
  • Collaborative workspaces
  • Creativity exercises

Quotable

So for an introvert, it’s really interesting to be expected to be in office during core business hours every day and working and collaborating closely with people. So it’s interesting to have the opportunity to do that and to find a balance between wanting to sort of get away and do my thinking alone, and then having collaboration time with other people.

Being an introvert to me and my personality means that I sort of shy–I tend to shy away from conflict. I don’t feel super comfortable in a situation where I’m expected to sort of take the lead and command people to do things. That makes me pretty uncomfortable. So my style is more–I like to collaborate with people. I like to support the people on the team and we all together sort of create a great experience for the client.

I’ve learned over time that collaboration, while it’s not sort of my natural mode, is definitely more than worth the sort of effort that it takes me to kind of get out of my comfort zone, because the outputs–the products that we make–are so much better when I’m collaborating with other people.

When you get in a room with more than one person and you’re all focused on the same thing, you can get perspectives that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

I’ve been in settings before where being an introvert was difficult because the organization didn’t understand or value introverts as leaders as much. They definitely had a view of leadership as a command-and-control type of leadership. And so in that type of environment, an introvert could be seen as ineffective.

It’s kind of fascinating how you need the time and the quiet and the space, or the books even, to recharge. But you’re still able to go out and be very very social. So you’ve definitely built on that skill.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Melanie Seibert. Melanie is a senior content strategist at Willow Tree, Inc.. She’s taught content strategy at General Assembly and helped create digital experiences for Razorfish, RackSpace, and C-Panel. Melanie opines about content strategy on her blog, Prose Kiln at ProseKiln.com. I met Melanie last spring at the STC Summit Conference in Orlando, Florida. You can contact Melanie on Twitter at @Melanie_Seibert, I encourage our listeners to visit HopefortheIntrovert.com, where you’ll find complete show notes including a transcript of today’s conversation.

Ben: Hi Melanie. I’m really excited you’re joining us today. I’m looking forward to chatting with you.

Melanie: Hey Ben. Yeah, it’s really great to be chatting with you again.

Ben: Great! So I want to find out a little bit more about Content Strategy, because I’m not sure how much our listeners will know about this, and honestly, I didn’t know much about it myself until a couple of years ago when I ended up on that Content Strategists list and figured I’d better look this up, and then discovered, “Oh yes, I do do content strategy.” I just wasn’t aware of it. [Melanie laughing] So what can you tell us about your job? What does it mean to be a content strategist? And what is your workplace like?

Melanie: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, I got into content strategy. I was a technical writer at a software company and I found that I was documenting UIs [user interfaces] where I had feedback for the Ui itself. So, I would say something like, “Oh, I think that we maybe don’t need to document this, if we change the interface a certain way.” And started really looking into and getting interested in Usability and User Experience from that, and learned that there’s this thing called content strategy. And at the time, Christina Halvorson had just published the first edition of the book Content Strategy for the Web, which was the first book–really popular book about content strategy that I knew about and that I read. And as soon as I learned about it, I was kind of hooked. I had been working as a writer for a really long time and started asking a lot of questions about why are we writing certain things or how should we write them. And the idea of content strategy is really to set up writers and content creators for success. So doing the planning, and the research, and the scheduling, and answering the questions of why, so that when it comes time to create content, writers have that information, and are supported in their role.

Melanie: And that was just super appealing to me, so I’ve been a content strategist ever since then. Today, I work at Willow Tree, which is an agency that makes mobile apps, websites, things like chatbots. But we got our start–the agency got its start–as an app agency. So it’s really a different type of environment for me. I’ve been here for two years. I had never really worked with mobile apps before I came to Willow Tree, but I’ve learned a ton about content strategy and how content works in mobile apps. So it’s been super fun. The company is really amazing, too. The culture’s great. The people are super competent and driven and I learn a ton from them. One thing that’s really interesting about my workplace, is that the company has a really strong point of view on co-location. So for an introvert, it’s really interesting to be expected to be in office during core business hours every day and working and collaborating closely with people. So it’s interesting to have the opportunity to do that and to find a balance between wanting to sort of get away and do my thinking alone, and then having collaboration time with other people.

It's interesting to collaborate with people and find a balance between wanting to get away and do my thinking alone, and then having collaboration time with other people. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

Ben: So it sounds like an interesting challenge for you being in that kind of workplace in general as a content strategist and maybe work in life in general. Melanie, you said you’re an introvert in the workplace, which obviously was one of the main reasons you’re a guest on the program today. How do you find that being an introvert affects how you approach your work and maybe how does that translate to how you approach life in general? And if so, how?

Melanie: Yeah, so it definitely does. Being an introvert to me and my personality means that I sort of shy–I tend to shy away from conflict. I don’t feel super comfortable in a situation where I’m expected to sort of take the lead and command people to do things. That makes me pretty uncomfortable. So my style is more–I like to collaborate with people. I like to support the people on the team and we all together sort of create a great experience for the client.

Being an introvert to me and my personality means that I tend to shy away from conflict. I don't feel super comfortable in a situation where I'm expected to sort of take the lead and command people to do things. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

On style--I like to collaborate with people. I like to support the people on the team and we all together sort of create a great experience for the client. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

Ben: Let’s talk a little bit more about what it’s like being an introvert in your workplace, what you’re finding as challenges and in terms of what do you think of strengths that you have in doing that?

Melanie: Yeah, so as I mentioned, we’re collaborating a lot in my workplace, and sort of my natural bent is to want to sort of go into a hole, and think and do my work alone. I kind of learned that early on in school projects where you realize that you have more control over the output if you just work on it yourself. You don’t have to sort of rely on anyone else, but that obviously doesn’t work when you’re working on a team and you’re working across disciplines to try to create something. So I’ve learned over time that collaboration, while it’s not sort of my natural mode, is definitely more than worth the sort of effort that it takes me to kind of get out of my comfort zone, because the outputs–the products that we make–are so much better when I’m collaborating with other people. People just bring perspectives–that it doesn’t matter really how long you spent thinking about something yourself. When you get in a room with more than one person and you’re all focused on the same thing, you can get perspectives that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. So it’s–it’s really been actually helpful for me to grow and kind of learn the value of collaboration.

We're collaborating a lot in my workplace, and sort of my natural bent as an introvert is to want to sort of go into a hole, and think and do my work alone. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

I've learned over time that collaboration, while it's not sort of my natural mode, is definitely more than worth the sort of effort that it takes me to get out of my comfort zone, because the outputs are so much better. Melanie… Click To Tweet

When you get in a room with more than one person and you're all focused on the same thing, you can get perspectives that you wouldn't have access to otherwise. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

Melanie:  I’ve also had issues in previous–I’ve been in settings before where being an introvert was difficult because the organization didn’t understand or value introverts as leaders as much. They definitely had a view of leadership as a command-and-control type of leadership. And so in that type of environment, an introvert could be seen as ineffective. And so in that past job, I really didn’t have an opportunity to grow because I wasn’t considered to be sort of leader material. So it took a while over time to sort of learn that I have strengths in other areas than commanding. I have strengths in collaboration. Sort of positivity is a strength that I usually bring to the team. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Gallup Strengths Finder, but it’s another type of personality inventory where they sort of list–there are 34 strengths and you have a top ten and a top five. And so the idea is that everyone sort of has their own unique mix of strengths and it’s not that there’s one combination that a leader must have. You can be any combination of strengths and be a leader or be a valuable team member. So it’s taken me some time to figure that out, but I’ve definitely learned that over the years.

I've been in settings before where being an introvert was difficult because the organization didn't understand or value introverts as leaders as much. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

They had a view of leadership as a command-and-control type of leadership. In that environment, an introvert could be seen as ineffective. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

Ben: You talked about how in your workplace–that you’re in an environment where you’re expected to collaborate with everyone. In some of my discussions with other guests, one of the big challenges for them has been being in meetings–I guess or collaborative sessions, where as introverts we are so used to processing internally and in many ways finishing our processing and coming up with a well-rounded or well-defined response. How does that work for you? And when you say that you’re–is everybody around a table? Is everybody in a room? How does this actually work?

Melanie: Yeah, there are different types of workshops or activities that we do together, but I will say that typically people are around the table. We have whiteboards, and I think what helps is giving people space and time within the meeting to sort of think. We’ve done activities where there’s a prompt and you’re given two minutes–or five minutes–to think and write something down and then everyone comes back and shares their ideas. Those types of things for me are really great because I don’t feel like I have to sort of jump in, and if everybody’s writing something down then you kind of go around the room and give everyone a chance. So it’s not just the most outspoken people who are contributing. Everybody’s expected to contribute and it just kind of sets up that dynamic so that you don’t–it helps to mitigate that, because I don’t think–I think that’s a common problem. I definitely have that problem. I don’t like to interrupt people. I don’t like to sort of speak up and raise my hand if there’s a momentum to the conversation. So I always assumed that there are other people in the room like me. I think that having an activity that’s crafted with that in mind is pretty helpful. Another thing that I like is to sort of think about it ahead of time. So if you can provide people with the material or whatever it is you’re going to be discussing prior to the meeting, I always like to take that away and look at it ahead of the meeting because I’m the same way. I take time to process and think about things. I’m not as good on my sheet. So that really helps.

Ben: It’s interesting timing wise, because the podcast, I’m currently working on editing with Helen Harbord, I met at TCUK in England early this last fall, and the discussion we were having around meeting behavior got into there are really two types of indiv–I’m sure there are more than two types.–that we talked about two types of people in meetings. You have people like us who are very much waiting for an opportunity to speak, waiting for the other person to stop. But then you have other people who will speak until they’re actually interrupted. So, and don’t assume–and they don’t necessarily assume that anyone else has anything to say unless they actually jump in and interrupt. So we were kind of laughing about that dynamic and how difficult that could be in any kind of workplace setting where you’ve..So you have the A types who do this and the B types who do that. So it’s just funny because some of the themes that we have are recurring. They’re just very common challenges for us as introverts.

Ben: So you had mentioned–we do a pre-podcast questionnaire that we–that I send to our guests so that we’ve got a little bit of a framework about what we’re going to talk about. One of the things that you mentioned on there is that you have, I believe it’s online courses that you’ve developed. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Melanie: Yeah. I got into developing online classes after I learned about General Assembly. And I was working in Austin, Texas at the time and General Assembly was new. If you don’t know what General Assembly is, it’s a company that offers classes to help people. I would say mainly career switching type of folks who want to get into tech or UX or design. It offers classes and I was interested to see whether they had anything on content strategy, because I just think content strategy is like so fascinating and I just wanted to share it with people. And I also feel like it’s a really great career option for people who are in marketing or copywriting or tech writing who sort of find themselves asking a lot of the questions about why we’re doing what we’re doing. So I contacted them and they let me do sort of a two hour Intro to Content Strategy, and I posted about this on my social media and my friends from other cities kept emailing me and saying this is really cool. Is it online anywhere? And at the time they didn’t have online courses and I said, “Well no, but I’m sure if you go online and Google you can probably find something similar.” But when I went online I really had a hard time–at the time this was probably two years ago–finding online courses on content strategy. So I just took that course and took that feedback and made it an online course. So today I have two courses. One’s free and if you go to my website you can sign up for it. It’s just a series of seven emails that come to your inbox and it’s seven discrete lessons and things that you can start doing right away to sort of dip your toe into content strategy and see what it’s like, and if that’s the kind of thing that interests you. And then I also have for people who want to keep going and learn more. I do have a paid course and they’re both listed there on my website.

Ben: I will take a look at that. Like I had mentioned I found out I was a content strategist because the term was relatively new in the industry, and I’m interested in seeing what I can find out from the course, but I do recommend it to our listeners.

Ben: Well, Melanie has been great having our conversation today. I appreciate your time!

Melanie: Yeah, thank you!

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