Category Archives: introverts

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Megan Mack Headshot

Episode 28: Megan Mack–Introverts and Improvisation

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

Episode 028 Show Notes: Megan Mack

Introduction

Megan Mack and Ben Woelk discuss the importance of improvisation exercises for introverts and building communication skills.

Megan Mack Improvisation facilitator

Key concepts

  • Improvisation skills help introverts
  • Improv is about listening and reacting
  • Introverts can be amazing improv facilitators
  • Ben’s Introverts and Leadership class includes an improvisation workshop
  • Mirroring helps communicate with people in a way that’s more effective
  • Improv helps you be more accepting of others’ ideas
  • Work hard, try to be as confident as you can, and trust your instincts.

Quotable

The beautiful thing about improv, especially for introverts, is that it’s all about listening and reacting.

Introverts are such good listeners and they’re good followers. They build upon ideas. I think a lot of the time they have empathy; they have emotional intelligence.

Mirroring helps communicate with people in a way that’s more effective both for them and for myself.

Improv really forces you to think, Yes, I like your idea and here’s how we can try to make it work.

We get stuck in our heads, we stop listening and we think our ideas can be the only ideas or the best ones or the right ones.

‘Yes, and’ has been very important for me to understand, especially in leadership positions and you want to have a persona that is supportive of people and not setting an atmosphere where they’re afraid to advance their ideas.

 

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Megan Mack. Megan Mack is an improviser, sketch comedy writer, and television and radio producer based in Rochester. She is a graduate of the Conservatory and Writing programs at The Second City Training Centre in Toronto, and has studied with Jimmy Carrane, Armando Diaz, Susan Messing, and T.J. Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. Megan performs with the sketch comedy and improvisation troupe, “Thank You Kiss,” and coaches improv and sketch comedy at the Rochester Brainery, Writers & Books, the Focus Theatre, and more. When she’s not on stage, Megan produces “Connections with Evan Dawson,” the daily afternoon radio talk show at Rochester’s NPR station, WXXI. She has also produced television segments for WHEC-TV, NBC Olympics, NBC Entertainment, and Seeten TV in Florence, Italy. I first met Megan at one of her improvisation classes at the Rochester Brainery. Since then, she’s conducted improvisation workshops for me for the STC Rochester Spectrum Conference and my Introverts and Leadership class at RIT. You can contact Megan at mac.megan01@gmail.com.

Ben: Welcome back, Megan. I’m glad you’re joining us again on the program. Today we’re going to talk about improvisation and communication and introverts doing improv, which almost sounds counter-intuitive in some ways. We had started the last time we spoke about how you had gotten started in improv and my first contact with you was attending one of your improv workshops at the Rochester Brainery. And one thing I probably have not told you about that is I refused to let my wife come with me because it was my first time doing improv, and I was afraid I was going to be an absolute idiot and I’ll do it the first time and I’ll just get through it. But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it also and I’ve always enjoyed watching it and being part of the audience, but it in some ways it’s such a freeing type of activity, I guess once you get past your own head with it. Let’s talk a little bit more about what it’s like to be an introvert, yet you teach improv.

Megan: It’s as you mentioned in our previous segment, it can be hard for you to be up in front of a class sometimes and it’s very hard. The most difficult part of improv classes for me is starting the class, talking a little bit about myself and just talking about the basics of improv. Not that I’m uncomfortable talking about improv, but I don’t want to be me. Once we get into character work, I’m fine and I have a great time, but it can be intimidating, especially as an introvert to be up in front of a group of people and be leading the class .

Ben: Well and they’re all looking to you.

Megan: Right! Everybody’s looking at you.

Ben: Completely, especially at the beginning because–and one thing that you’ve done, is you just helped me with my Introverts and Leadership class I’m doing at RIT, and we’re going to get to do that again in the fall, which will be great fun. But some of the students shared that in all honesty, they almost didn’t sign up for the class because there was an improvisation workshop part of it, and at least one or two of them were really uncomfortable with being there. And eventually they relaxed. But you could certainly tell up front.

Megan: I hear that a lot, especially when I work with companies that ask me to come in and do team building exercises. But the beautiful thing about improv, especially for introverts, is that it’s all about listening and reacting. So the basic rule of improv is, you know, is say “Yes, and.” You want to agree to someone else’s ideas and build on them. But you can’t do that unless you’re actively listening. So I’m going to work off whatever you give me, and I know that you’re giving me something. We call it a gift or an offer in improv. You don’t have to put any pressure on yourself to come up with something because your team is there to support you, to have your back. So I was terrified in my first ever improv class. But once I realized we’re all here together, we’re all going to help each other and we all need to listen to each other and it got so much easier.

The beautiful thing about improv, especially for introverts, is that it's all about listening and reacting. @mmackmedia Click To Tweet

Megan: And I’m sure there are exercises that are more difficult than others. I can think of some that I still am not a huge fan of to this day and I’ve been doing this for more than a decade. But you can find the confidence within yourself because you know you’ve got a team around you and because introverts are such good listeners and they’re good followers. They build upon ideas. I think a lot of the time they have empathy; they have emotional intelligence. It can be a natural thing to be in an improv scene. It’s not about performing. It’s about reacting.

Introverts are such good listeners and they're good followers. They build upon ideas. I think a lot of the time they have empathy; they have emotional intelligence. @mmackmedia Click To Tweet

Ben: And I think that’s a really good point. And when we’ve, well one thing that we did, we kind of put together a syllabus for the class and with the exercises that we were going to be using, and there was no way I was going to share it with the class ahead of time because they would try to prepare for it. And the question came up, even with a team building that you’re going to be doing with us of, “Well, what exercises? What are we going to do?” I’m not going to tell you what we’re going to do because you’ll try to practice and be ready for it and it just does not work that way,

Megan: Right? It goes back to getting in your head. So if you’re trying to come up with scene ideas, or character ideas, or something to say when you’re standing on the back line watching a scene, you’re not actively listening. It’s better to go out there. I always tell students, go out there when you’re the most scared, when you have the most anxiety because you’re thinking the least. You’re so nervous that you’ll go out there and you’ll take whatever you’re given and you’ll build on it. It’s better than thinking, well, I haven’t been out there yet and I haven’t been really funny, but I have this old lady character that I know is going to work, so I’m going to go out there and play this old lady. This scene could be about a couple on a honeymoon. On a beach was this woman there. Now it makes no sense. I mean you could make it work, I’m sure, but the point is you’re not actively listening.

Ben: No, it’s not. It’s not a natural thing to make that work necessarily either. [Megan, “Right”] Yeah, it was really entertaining. The first session that I did with you, and I think I’ve done a couple with you there and we’ve done the other ones and I’ve even stepped into co-facilitating some improv at a conference, which was an interesting experience, too, because the guy I was partnered with was a hundred percent extrovert. I mean as extroverted as you could possibly be, and then I’m not, and just the mix in terms of how we worked with people, it was just–it was kind of crazy.

Megan: How did that go?

Ben: I think overall it worked. I had a lot of people who signed up for it because they trusted me and I felt very validated by it, but also felt like, “Oh, I need to make sure that my very extroverted friend doesn’t go totally over the top with things which he could do.” But overall it was a fun experience. It was tiring. It was two, two-hour sessions in two days as part of the conference activities along with everything else that was going on with it of course. And I really enjoyed it.

Ben: And part of what really got me excited about improv was Alan Alda’s book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating, where he has spent this time with Stonybrook-Long Island and set up this Institute for helping science and medical professionals communicate, and just talking about how valuable that improv work is for them because they learn to be active listeners and they learn to empathize. And I kind of took that and looked at it and said, well how will that work for introverts? Because I feel like–well RIT, honestly, yes, we have that same type of personality types as scientists or medical professionals anyway, but in general, how would these same techniques work for improv?

Ben: And it was really exciting this last spring when we did our morning, yes, Saturday morning early improv session, which was a challenge for everyone there. But it was really exciting because you saw–I mean there were some struggles, definitely some struggles at times typically when they weren’t being physical enough in a scene. But in general, the follow-up survey I did, it’s like everyone nailed it. They all really loved you, but they all understood what they were getting out of it in terms of communication skills and that part was really, really rewarding. Honestly, it was a five week class. It was an online class. I had them read books, I had them write reflection papers, we did an improv workshop. I didn’t feel like I was working at all, because it was so much fun and I’m looking forward to being able to offer that again this fall as well.

Megan: I read the book that you mentioned after you told me about it. I zipped through it in two days. I learned so much from that book and one of the greatest things I learned was about mirroring. I’ve done the mirroring exercises before in my classes, but I thought I need to apply this more to my professional life and I have and it has just been so eye-opening for me, whether it’s noticing body language or vocal choices or just how someone is feeling. It’s really, really been beneficial.

Ben: Yeah, and found–I’ve been in another workshop and they did the mirroring and they did it for like 60 seconds and that was so hard, because you realize I really should not have had quite as intense an emotion I was trying to portray. To do that for 60 seconds–How much can you yell and shout? And it’s like, Oh my gosh, we still have 40 seconds left. But it was, it was interesting. So what did you find most helpful with the mirroring?

Megan: I think I’m pretty in tune with body language and how people are feeling a lot of the time. But there was a section of the book where they were talking about mirroring in a negative sense, and I think it was for salespeople. I’m not sure if you remember this and I can’t, I can’t quite remember what it was about. Fill me in if you do. But it felt kind of sneaky and dirty and wrong and just kind of trickster-type stuff, and I thought about it in terms of journalism and you know, you don’t want to bait and switch people, which–and we don’t do, but sometimes we get pitches from PR people that are not quite there and they try to sell you a bill of goods. And I think I’ve been able to communicate with people in a way that’s more effective both for them and for myself when it comes to knowing we have a shared goal to have someone on the show, but we want very different things out of it.

Mirroring helps communicate with people in a way that's more effective both for them and for myself. @mmackmedia Click To Tweet

Megan: So to try to help see that side a little better. I’m not implying that PR people are tricksters, but you know, I’m working from my own frame of reference, which they don’t have and they’re working from their own. So I think it’s helped me open my mind a little bit. But the way that this–I think it was a company that Alan Alda was talking about that was employing these techniques for negative purposes, like try to trick people by mirroring their body language or adopting their emotion so they can feel like they’re being listened to, they’re being heard, or they can relate to you better. And then try to sneak your way in, because I don’t like that at all. But the positive thing I took away from that was try to understand where someone’s coming from and meet them halfway.

Ben: Yeah. No, I would agree. And I do remember that part that you were talking about and it’s interesting because I do some workshops on temperament and what that means in terms of how you interact with people in the workplace. But as part of that, you also learn triggers, which can be very negative for people. And it’s almost like you have to have this, please promise, you’re just going to use this for good because you know now what this certain temperament type, what’s really going to impact them in a negative way. So giving you this information, but we’re trusting you to not be cruel with it in a sense. And there’s a Cialdini book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasuion, which gets into a lot of this too. And it’s really kind of frightening because it really does talk about how we can be influenced towards certain things and just not have any sense at all.

Ben: And like so when you get into the mirroring and that could be used for that because, “Oh, I’ve had the connection with you now and now I’m listening and buy the brushes or whatever.”

Megan: You’re explaining it much better than I did, but yeah! [Laughing].

Ben: So what else do you find in terms of improv and how that’s, I mean have you thought about it more in the introvert context and around communication? Because you’ve been teaching these classes for a while and I kind of brought this, “Well what if we look at it like this and how that applies?” What do you find now? Are you more aware of how it works towards communication skills?

Megan: Yes, I think I am. I think I’ve learned that as a whole, people have a tendency to go to the know or to ask a question, and maybe you’re working on a project with your colleague, and they have an idea and you’re like, “Well that won’t work because X,” and improv really forces you to think, “Yes, I like your idea and here’s how we can try to make it work.” That’s been really the most beneficial thing for me.

Improv really forces you to think, Yes, I like your idea and here's how we can try to make it work. @mmackmedia Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah. I’m very good at, “Oh, I know why that won’t work .” and learning…

Megan:  You’re a problem solver, right?

Ben: Yeah. And it’s like, well, I wouldn’t even consider that, but then it’s like, no, I need to step back and that “Yes, and” part’s really important. Well, one for creating that open environment where people trust you and it’s safe for them to express ideas, but also because well I might actually be wrong and I need to hear these ideas out and wow, that was a great idea.

Megan: Absolutely. I’ve noticed how wrong I am in so many ways, [Both Laughing] thanks to improv, but we get in our own heads. We get stuck in our heads, we stop listening and we think our ideas can be the only ideas or the best ones or the right ones. And when you’re in a scene with someone and you have no idea what’s coming your way, you have to trust your scene partner and know that they’re trying to make you look good. That’s one of the biggest lessons I learned at Second City. Make your partner look good. It’s not about you. So if I go into a scene with you, Ben, and my goal is to help you shine and you have the same goal for me, then we’re going to do a great scene because we’re not being judgmental, we’re not being narcissistic, we’re there to support each other.

We get stuck in our heads, we stop listening and we think our ideas can be the only ideas or the best ones or the right ones. @mmackmedia Click To Tweet

Megan: So I think you can translate a lot of that into a workplace or in social settings. You know, maybe you’re at a coffee shop with your friends, and you notice as an introvert probably would that one person’s not saying too much, or maybe they don’t feel included and you’ll try to create a situation in which you can draw them in, or you know, the next time they say something you “Yes, and’ it in your own non-technical improv way, but you bring them into the conversation. And I think that’s been really helpful for me.

Ben: I think that’s really cool. What suggestions would you have for people who might–for introverts who might want to become leaders or influencers? And I don’t want to cut off the improv conversation if we have more to talk about there, but I’m not sure what the next question would be. So any thoughts?

Megan: I’m kind of curious about your experience with improv and how it’s helped you, because you came to a Brainery class as you said by yourself, didn’t bring Marilyn and you came back and you brought her and now you’re teaching it on your own. So there’s something that must have been really triggering in a positive way for you. Some kind of light bulb moment where you thought, this is really helping me. This is really something that I can latch onto.

Ben: You know, it’s a really interesting question because I don’t know that I’ve stepped back from it enough to really think about why it is I think it’s important. Obviously I do, because I’ve included it in this Introverts and Leadership class and understand the techniques I think to some degree, but it’s why am I gravitating towards it besides watching Whose Line is it Anyway for however many years and that sort of thing and just thoroughly enjoying it. I think I’ve always–even though my temperament type, I think I’m supposed to be more of a planner, but I’m also able to change plans on the fly, and I think the improv is kind of like that also because you don’t know what’s coming next. But I think for me it’s a really tough question. I just don’t feel like I’ve thought it through completely, but I think the “Yes, and” part has been very important for me to understand, especially in leadership positions and you want to have a persona that is supportive of people and not setting an atmosphere where they’re afraid to advance their ideas.

'Yes, and' has been very important for me to understand, especially in leadership positions and you want to have a persona that is supportive of people and not setting an atmosphere where they're afraid to advance their ideas.… Click To Tweet

Ben: And that part’s very important to me. There was another book by Daniel Coyle called The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups and it was about high performing organizations and the cultures they built, and I’ve been part of governance bodies or boards in various organizations where that atmosphere was not there. They kind of hit all of the five dysfunctions of a board or however many of it is very well, and there was a lot of attempt to control around things, and I think I’ve become very sensitized towards that now and understanding that, especially in leadership positions, that I need to make sure that I’m giving everyone an opportunity to speak, to contribute, to feel–to belong really, I think is a large part of it. Now exactly how that translates back to going to improv. I found it–I just thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoy the scenes. I enjoy some of the Goon River, you know, some of the other ones that we’ve talked about where you’re talking about this is the day you died.

Megan: You create a character and all of these characters live in the same town together and they all have happened to have died on the same day and all their deaths are interrelated.

Ben: And those were just so funny. In the session I did the one–second Brainery session I did with you where, I don’t remember what the name of the town was, but where the person next to me actually played–decided I’ll be the horse. It was really eye opening to me. It’s kind of like, “Oh wow, we don’t have to be people characters.” And so I remember when we did the one with the class, I was a flying squirrel.

Megan: I remember that. {laughing].

Ben: Named Rocky, of course, had to be. A flying squirrel, but just how much fun it was thinking about how that interwove with the other stories. You know, is was a kind of dark story, if I remember right, the way that one went.

Megan: I think so [laughing].

Ben: But in general, it’s just a lot of fun. I think I’ve, I like a sense, yes you are making it up as you go along, but you are working with people and you absolutely don’t know where things are going to go. And there’s a lot of freedom to that, because you’re not trying to reach a certain goal. And I think that actually is a big difference for me, because I have so many things that I participate in that are very goal oriented and to be able to just play and have fun and get outside my head in the sense of not thinking about what I’m going to look like once I got past the first time of doing it. And it’s like, “Oh this is no big deal.” But just the freedom of participating in something like that and seeing what kind of story you can build. So I think that’s what was the real hook for me. I’ve always loved it when the, some of the staging around the Whose Line and they would do the newsroom and all of that sort of thing and just how ridiculous it would get.

Improv--the freedom of participating in something like that and seeing what kind of story you can build. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Ben: I think that’s why I’m really enjoying it and for the class that I’m teaching, working with introverts and helping them understand what that means and that they have strengths, and some of that is introducing them to Cain’s Quiet book and things like that. It’s the first time they’ve read through the things and it’s like you see the light bulbs go on and more importantly than that, you see people who have felt hindered or have felt like they are in some sense of a strong word, “defective” in some sense or just not measuring up to everyone else. And being able to talk with them about what it means to be an introvert and to lead and how to be authentic, which is the other big piece of it. That has been tremendously rewarding and I think the improv work has helped a lot with that also.

Megan: I hear from a lot of first time students, I ask the question, what brought you here? What do you hope to learn? A lot of them say, “I don’t know why I’m here and I’m really scared.” And I say, “Thank you for being here. I hope you have fun. Just focus on having fun. “And at the end of the class I always check back in with people and they’ll say things like, “I didn’t know I could do that.” It’s in you, but because you’re so worried about how you’re perceived or what people could be judging about you, you get in your head. And I think one of the greatest rewards of improv, and this relates back to your class, when I helped with your students. At the end of that three hours or whatever it was, they could say, “I got up in front of people I didn’t know. I was in scenes that I had no idea was coming my way and I succeeded.” So if you can do that, you can get up and give a presentation of information that you’re already comfortable with. If you can do a scene where you’re a flying squirrel and people love it, you can give your next presentation about whatever it is you specialize in.

Improv--I got up in front of people I didn't know. I was in scenes that I had no idea was coming my way and I succeeded. @mmackmedia Click To Tweet

Ben: Well then I couldn’t figure out how to make the mime thing work, which was the other thing I had thought about. It’s like, “Nah, it’s too hard. We’ll do the flying squirrel.” Maybe one day of the mime. But it’s a very hard role to do for something.

Megan: Yeah. You have to rely on your body language.

Megan: And so yeah, overthinking what the possibilities are with that. So if we were looking at an introvert who wants to be a leader, wants to be an influencer, we’ve talked a lot about the improvisation techniques and I think given what we’ve talked about, there’s tremendous amount of value. I can’t imagine not recommending someone do improv no matter how terrified they are. But what would you see as the top things that an introvert should do who wants to become a leader or influencer?

Megan: I’d say the top thing is just be confident with who you are. And this is something that I’ve struggled with and I’ve come to realize is that you may be in a role that is perceived in a certain way. You are supposed to be this. If you are this, you’re supposed to be very outspoken. If you’re someone that’s on the radio or like that. I’m not, I know a few of my colleagues are not, but they’re good at what they do because they are who they are. So take those innate abilities, be confident in the unique skills that you have, and just “Yes, and” those to use an improv phrase. Just be confident with yourself and try to build your leadership abilities based on that. Because what’s the point of trying to be something you’re not? Then you feel more uncomfortable. You feel–you have impostor syndrome, you get in your head, you freeze up, you clam up and it serves the exact opposite purpose of what you want. So as I mentioned before, when I’m filling in for the host of the show, my job is not to be him. My job is to be me and do the best job I can. So it’s a learning curve. But being open minded, being competent and trusting yourself, those would be my top three.

Just be confident with yourself and try to build your leadership abilities based on that. Because what's the point of trying to be something you're not? Then you feel more uncomfortable. @mmackmedia Click To Tweet

Introverts as leaders--being open minded, being competent and trusting yourself, those would be my top three. @mmackmedia Click To Tweet

Ben: And being authentic is a big chunk of it.

Megan: Absolutely. And you mentioned that with scenes to an improv. If you play a character and you’ve never played a flying squirrel before, I’m sure, but you played it very authentically and I believed it and it was great.

Ben: What people don’t know! So in terms of that, and I actually think I pulled this off of your questionnaire, but I’m not sure, what is one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?

Megan: Hmm. I think for people that are not my very close friends might be surprised to know that I struggle a lot with insecurity and that stops me in my tracks multiple times a day. I think that would be, that would be it. Not–not it and there’s nothing else, but that would be the thing, because I’m sure after we finish talking, I’m going to overanalyze everything I said for a couple of hours and it’ll drive me crazy. And I wish that I didn’t have that part of me. But it’s there and it’s something that you try to work through.

Megan: And improv has helped me a lot when I’m really struggling, I turn on my improv brain and the judgy parts of myself go away. So I wish I could draw on that a little more.

Ben: You know, I appreciate you sharing that because I definitely have the insecurities too, and a lot of it has to do with who I’m dealing with and how I feel about that. And I am just as capable of feeling stupid and clumsy and everything else. And I think that is something–things like the improv, just getting out of your head and just doing what you need to do, or trying things and not being afraid to try things, I think is a lot of it and not worrying about failing in that sense. No, I can’t say I’ve mastered that lately either. So Megan, this has been wonderful. I’m glad we’ve had the opportunity to chat and you said overthinking things. I am going to be editing, so I’ll be…

Megan: I have a list of things I want you to remove, so we’ll chat. [Both Laughing]

Ben: Oh, I’ll bet. I’ll bet so. No, this has been a great conversation and I really appreciate you taking the time and very much looking to you on the next improv workshop that we do. Thank you.

Megan: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

 

Extras


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Megan Mack Headshot

Episode 027: Megan Mack–Empathy and Meaningful Discourse

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

Episode 027 Show Notes: Megan Mack

Introduction

Megan Mack and Ben Woelk talk about empathy, meaningful discourse and countering hate speech, not being the loudest voice in the room, and trusting your instincts.

Megan Mack headshot

Key concepts

  • Producing a WXXI radio program
  • Advantages of not being the loudest voice in the room
  • Turned your internal monologue off and stopping judging yourself
  • Countering hate speech with more speech
  • Introverts and group work
  • Active listening
  • Work hard, try to be as confident as you can, and trust your instincts.

Quotable

There’s a tendency in today’s society to quickly judge. Empathy helps me step back sometimes and say, “You know, why do I think this person is acting this way?

It’s such a polarized society right now and a lot of what I would describe as very strident voices and not necessarily well reasoned. So empathy is a great gift.

Some people argue counter hate speech with more speech and I tend to agree with that. So, we can just keep talking.

I am not the loudest voice in the room. And I think sometimes that comes in really handy because I can just sit back, take in everything else and then move forward where I need to.

Running the show alone has given me the confidence to know that I can trust my decisions, and I can be on air, I can be behind the scenes, I can engineer anything they throw at me. If I work hard enough, I can do it.

I think the skills that I’ve applied in the producer area have also found their way into Improv. Work hard, try to be as confident as you can, and trust your instincts.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Megan Mack. Megan Mack is an improviser, sketch comedy writer, and television and radio producer based in Rochester. She is a graduate of the Conservatory and Writing programs at The Second City Training Centre in Toronto, and has studied with Jimmy Carrane, Armando Diaz, Susan Messing, and T.J. Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. Megan performs with the sketch comedy and improvisation troupe, “Thank You Kiss,” and coaches improv and sketch comedy at the Rochester Brainery, Writers & Books, the Focus Theatre, and more. When she’s not on stage, Megan produces “Connections with Evan Dawson,” the daily afternoon radio talk show at Rochester’s NPR station, WXXI. She has also produced television segments for WHEC-TV, NBC Olympics, NBC Entertainment, and Seeten TV in Florence, Italy. I first met Megan at one of her improvisation classes at the Rochester Brainery. Since then, she’s conducted improvisation workshops for me for the STC Rochester Spectrum Conference and my Introverts and Leadership class at RIT. You can contact Megan at mac.megan01@gmail.com.

Ben: Hi Megan.

Megan: Hi. Thanks for having me, Ben.

Ben: Welcome to the Hope for the Introvert podcast. I’m looking forward to our conversation.

Megan: Likewise. Thank you.

Ben: So can you tell us a little bit about your role at WXXI and what the workplace is like?

Megan: I produce Connections with Evan Dawson, as you mentioned, it’s our daily talk show. We do two hours every day, so that’s 10 hours a week. It works out to about 500 hours a year of live radio, which is a lot. [laughing] You’re booking all of those guests and all of that time and researching all those topics. But it keeps me on my toes and it’s a wonderful job. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. Since we’re an NPR station, we have a listenership that’s really respectful and educated and engaged with our content. So that’s really fun for me. On the production side, to hear from listeners every day; to talk to people in the community about what matters to them, the types of shows that they want to hear, what they want to learn, and the types of guests that they can offer us.

Megan: So that’s really great. Our building here, we have a lot of people that work at WXXI. I’m in the radio department and we have a very close knit family here. I share an office with two or three other people depending on the day. It’s a big space, but we all work on similar projects. So we work a lot together every single day and we’re friends, so that’s great. But we also reach out, respect each other’s spaces. So if my colleagues are working on a piece, that I’m not involved in, I go do my own thing and if they need help I can help them. So it’s a nice collaborative environment where we’re not really focused on breaking news, we’re more focused on the context of stories and why they matter. So that collaborative nature plus being given the time and the resources to work on things is perfect for an introvert, because you can work at your own pace and and at the levels that you’d like.

Ben: Well, great! So how does your time break out? Do you have more on-air time? More off air time?

Megan: I’m behind the scenes for the most part. So my day is spent booking shows, researching guests and content and posting shows on the web, editing radio shows, things of that nature. So I do a lot. I do all of the production work for the show with the assistance of our engineer who runs the board for us, a talented guy named Brad Braden, and I also engineer the show when he’s out, or I host the show when Evan’s out. So I do a little bit of everything, which is nice. It’s a good way to multitask and learn new skills, but for the most part I’m behind the scenes.

Ben: So do you find the on air part challenging then?

Megan: Yes! Yes! It’s, it’s tough. As an introvert, you probably understand you don’t often want to be the center of attention. And I’ve taken on a different way of thinking when I’m hosting the show. I learned very early on in my colleague Hélène Biandudi for helped me see this, that it’s not my job to be Evan when he’s not there. It’s my job to be me and to host the show as best I can, and to bring the quality of the show to the listeners, but in my own way. And so that’s been a journey and a learning experience over the past four years. But if I turned my internal monologue off and I stopped judging myself (and that all relates to Improv, which I’m sure we’ll talk about). Once I do that and I just focus on the issues that we’re talking about, the research that we have, I can get into a zone where I feel pretty comfortable sometimes. Most of the time it gets easier the more you do it.

Ben: No, I understand that. I mean even even doing a podcast, there is sometimes a bit of an awkwardness to it and I’ve gotten used to it, but initially it was just this–how can I possibly even talk for two or three minutes by myself and be able to stand it. So it is interesting and I do understand at least in a small portion what it must be like to be on air for that. Really the same kind of thing. Teaching a class or doing a presentation or anything else. Once I stop worrying about me and try to engage the audience, it makes a big difference in terms of how I approach things in general. You’ve identified as an introvert and actually as an INFJ, and I think you’re like the sixth INFJ on the program this year, which is crazy because it’s supposed to be the most rare type.

Megan: Yeah. Less than 1% of the population I think is INFJ,

Ben: So for whatever reason…

Megan: You’re finding all of them apparently.

Ben: Or apparently I collect them or however this actually works. So it’s pretty funny. so you’re an INFJ, you’re an introvert. How does that affect how you approach your work and really life in general?

Megan: I think being an introvert and especially being an INFJ, I have a lot of empathy toward people and working in the news industry in the broadcast–I think there’s a tendency, especially in today’s society, to quickly judge ,and having that empathetic part of my nature, which I really appreciate, helps me step back sometimes and say, “You know, why do I think this person is acting this way?” Either if it’s a guest or someone that we’ve read about in a news story, or even in an Improv class where maybe someone made a choice that I don’t understand or I think is a “bad choice.” I don’t like the word bad, but not a choice I would have made. It doesn’t serve the purpose of the scene. There’s always a reason behind it. Someone has a story. They may be bringing baggage into a scene.

There's a tendency in today's society to quickly judge. Empathy helps me step back sometimes and say, You know, why do I think this person is acting this way? @mmackmedia Click To Tweet

Megan: You know, if someone does something out in the community–that could be a crime, oftentimes they’ve had a traumatic life. They’ve gone through really difficult experiences, which doesn’t excuse the crime, but it helps you understand where they’re coming from. And that leads to what I mentioned before–the context of stories. So having that empathetic nature and emotional intelligence and those pieces of being an introvert help me ask questions beyond the questions that I think are the normal questions you would ask.

Ben: You talked about being an empath and this tendency is such a polarized society right now and a lot of what I would describe as very strident voices and not necessarily well reasoned. So the empathy is a great gift. Or do you find it tiring?

It's such a polarized society right now and a lot of what I would describe as very strident voices and not necessarily well reasoned. So empathy is a great gift. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Megan: Sometimes. Sometimes I think we are often good listeners and it can be difficult to speak up for ourselves sometimes. Maybe I’m generalizing too much, but I’ve listened to some of your episodes and I know some of your guests have mentioned similar comments. So yeah, sometimes it can be tiring. I don’t know how to overcome that and maybe that’s something that I’ll learn in my life, I hope. But it can be draining. Absolutely.

Ben: Yeah. And I’m not sure whether it–whether it even is something to overcome. It’s like you said, it’s a gift and I’m not sure. I mean, yeah, it may be tiring. There may not be a way around that.

Megan: We’ve had a lot of conversations on the show about meaningful discourse. So if you and I were sitting here and we had a fundamental disagreement about an issue which, you know, choose anything in today’s society and we come from very different viewpoints, I think a lot of people would just say, “You know, Ben, you’re wrong and I’m not going to listen to you.”

Megan: And you could say the same thing about me. And then the conversation stops and I’m evil, you’re evil, you know, no movement. But through these conversations on the show and then being an empath, you try to understand why do you feel this way? What is the foundation of your belief? And maybe I want to try to change it, but if I do and I feel like it needs to be changed for whatever reason, I can approach it in a way that is beneficial to you and doesn’t make you feel threatened and vice versa. I’m not saying you’re always wrong, Ben.

Ben: But no, we won’t go there for sure! And I’m an INTJ so I am, I am absolutely convinced I’m always right. Of course. [Megan laughing] And everything can be argued through and reasoned. It’s interesting, I read a book by Sebastian Junger called Tribes. I think it’s The Essence of Belonging or The Meaning of Belonging. I don’t have it quite right, but he talked a lot about civil discourse and how that’s really kind of disappeared from the country, and drew the parallel between the country post-911 and how unified everyone was and very concerned about terrorism. And He makes statements that basically there isn’t a whole lot they need to do now. They can just kind of watch us tear ourselves apart. And the polarization does not seem to be decreasing at all. So I don’t know. I do worry about where we’re going to be as a society, but I have no idea what to do about that either.

Megan: I think some people argue counter hate speech with more speech and I tend to agree with that. So, I don’t know, we can just keep–we can keep talking.

Some people argue counter hate speech with more speech and I tend to agree with that. So, we can just keep talking. @mmackmedia Click To Tweet

Ben: I don’t know. We’ve gone into a very heavy discussion.

Megan: I know! I didn’t mean to do that. I’m sorry.

Ben: No, no, no. I think you’re…

Megan: We are on a news station.

Ben: I think I helped lead us there. So, okay, so you’re an empath, so that’s obviously one of your biggest strengths as an introvert, what else do you see as your strengths and in what ways do you leverage them?

Megan: I think being a good listener absolutely helps me with my job and being a producer. I have to manage many different things at one time and we have issues that come up on the show or mini–crisis that may happen. And then another one pops up and you have to be in many places and at the same time. And I think being able to listen to everybody at once and try to pull all of the collective suggestions and try to move forward has been helpful.

Megan: Again, I’m not one to again want to be the center of attention. I am not the loudest voice in the room. And I think sometimes that comes in really handy because I can just sit back, take in everything else and then move forward where I need to. We have a very small team on our show, so there’s seven: the host, there’s me the producer, there’s Rob our engineer, we have managers and we have people in the building that help us. But for the most part it’s the three of us. When something goes crazy wrong and everybody floods into the booth and we have six to 10 people shouting things. At the end of the day, it’s my decision, what happens next. And that’s a lot of pressure. And so to trust myself to make the right decision after listening to everybody else, I think that’s been a strength. I’m not pushing my ideas. I’m trying to hear everybody out.

I am not the loudest voice in the room. And I think sometimes that comes in really handy because I can just sit back, take in everything else and then move forward where I need to. @mmackmedia Click To Tweet

Ben: Well, it’s interesting you talk about the quieter voice in a sense. I know I’ve been in meetings before where there are people who very seldom will speak at all. And then when they do, it’s “Oh! We really need to pay attention!” Because she’s speaking, she’s not just absorbing and obviously listening to everything that’s going on. But being willing to take a stand or advance an argument for someone who’s an introvert can be very challenging. And I think frightening in some ways.

Megan: I think you’re right. That reminded me of a story from college. I was in a creative writing class and I was being taught by this brilliant writer, Mary Gaitskill. And at the end of the class she gave me a B and I was disappointed. I thought I did a good job in the class and she wrote me a note and said, “Well, I deducted some points because you didn’t participate a lot.” And I thought, okay, I guess I should have spoken up more, but that’s just, I listened. I’m not one to offer an opinion like you just said. And then later she, she called me, she emailed me, I don’t remember what it was and she said, I changed your grade to an a because I realized you just have a different learning style and I thought, “Oh, thank you.” I wish people were more open minded about that because it doesn’t come naturally to some people to just raise your hand and offer your opinion.

Ben: Well and I struggle with it in the classroom also, because at RIT we have a good chunk of introverted students there anyway, but there always is that issue. You will have a few students who will always have something to say about something, and it gets to the point you really have to manage that classroom traffic as well. But I’ve stepped away from–and I have to think about whether I really want to keep doing it–but I’ve stepped away from giving a lot of group work type assignments primarily because I–you have people, you have–well, group dynamics in general, the extroverts get the ideas out first and people tend to go along with them because they’re very confident about those ideas, whether they’re good ideas or not. So I’ve really kind of struggled with where does group work fit in because everybody’s having to do it when they graduate, too.

Extroverts get ideas out first and people tend to go along with them because they're very confident about those ideas, whether they're good ideas or not. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Ben: So it’s really tricky type of thing to try to figure out and I am not sure I’ve ended up where I will be on it yet, but at least for now I’ve really reduced the amount of group work that I do.

Megan: Have you gotten any feedback on it?

Ben: Not too much directly from–no, not really too much. I have talked to other professors who–students, one of the problems I ran into with the group work was I also did a peer evaluation, and some of those peer evaluations were just absolutely scathing, especially if they didn’t like someone or they had a strong personality. And I had to be very careful about how I was assigning, like I said, participation points or however you wanted to do it.

Ben: A lot of my teaching is online, so I don’t really have that issue. I was still have them doing group work. But in terms of participation, it’s written participation, it’s online participation and introvert or extrovert should not make a bit of difference in terms of how well they participate on things. So it’s interesting. I’m not sure where it should be. I do need to recognize that when people graduate, yes, that they have to be able to work in companies after work around people and they have to work with people. So it always gets to be a bit challenging.

Ben: So we’ve talked about your strengths. What do you see as your biggest challenges as an introvert? In the workplace or in life or anything?

Megan: I think one of my biggest challenges is the–my hesitant nature to speak up. As you just mentioned, I was in a meeting today and we were having a great discussion, maybe five or six of us and everything everyone else was saying I had thought as well, but I didn’t offer it and I thought to myself, why? Why can’t I just speak up? Why? Because it looks like either I’m not participating, I don’t care. I don’t have any ideas. But again, it goes back to that listening component. So I wish I could speak up more confidently and maybe, maybe it goes to confidence. Maybe confidence is the biggest challenge because I am pretty insecure, [laughing] which is great for Improv. But yeah, everybody has self doubt, but I get in my own way a lot. So that holds me back sometimes.

Ben: Yeah. And I can relate to that, and my biggest thing that I have to learn, and it’s still a challenge, is that more active listening or really the cueing behavior so that I’m communicating the fact that I’m actually paying attention and not just checked out in my own world somewhere. So that part is definitely a bit of a challenge. I think I’ve pretty much–well, it’s really interesting because if it’s a meeting with–if it’s a group of people I know, I have no problem voicing opinions and things like that. But I think if I’m put into a new situation, I’m much more likely to observe and possibly be very late to offering my opinion at all. But then again, I also know I get very frustrated if I think things aren’t going the way that they should be. And I’m much more likely to say something at that point.

Ben: But it’s been an evolution. I can look back, years ago I wouldn’t have said a word, and I had classes, I had doctoral level classes in history where I basically said next to nothing the entire semester because I felt like everyone knew more than I did. So, which may actually really have been the case in that class, and not just an impostor syndrome type thing, but it wasn’t good behavior and it was just very hard getting past myself I think with that.

Megan: Yeah, I understand that.

Ben: So it’s been interesting. So the podcast is typically–is mainly about introverted leadership. So in what ways do you feel like that you are a leader or an influencer?

Megan: Well, I think the show has some credibility in the community and that puts pressure on our team to produce shows that are consistently good, consistently generating conversation, responding to the news cycle, finding powerful stories. It can be very difficult. And I would hope that when they created this position four years ago, that they wanted someone who, that who they felt could lead the show in that direction consistently. So I know they had a lot of great candidates for this position. I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity. So I think running the show alone has given me the confidence to know that I can trust my decisions, and I can be on air, I can be behind the scenes, I can engineer anything they throw at me. If I work hard enough, I can do it. And so I think being a leader in that regard, in this building, just showing my peers and if you work hard–and I mean I’m here until three in the morning sometimes–so I don’t recommend that. But if you give your all, you can be someone who’s not as outspoken as maybe someone else who’s on the air all the time, and still have an impact. So I think that’s one sense.

Running the show alone has given me the confidence to know that I can trust my decisions, and I can be on air, I can be behind the scenes, I can engineer anything they throw at me. If I work hard enough, I can do it. @mmackmedia Click To Tweet

Megan: And I also think teaching Improv classes, I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this because we’ve known each other awhile, but I never wanted to do improv. It was scary.

Ben: Yeah. I think you may have mentioned something, but did not go into detail around it.

Megan: Yeah, I wanted to take the writing classes at the Second City in Toronto. And to take Writing Level One, you had to take Improv Level A. So I thought, you know what, I’ll sign up. I’ll power through it. I’ll do the best I can. I was terrified. And I was the only person from out of town. Everybody else knew each other. It was tough. And I walked into the room thinking this was such a mistake, why am I here? But after the first exercise, I loved it. Everybody was silly together. There was no hierarchy of who was more talented than the other people. It was just great. And I fell in love. I did Levels A through E, then I did the Professional program One through Six. And I came back here and we have a great improv scene in Rochester, as you know. I found some people that were like-minded and worked with them for a while, and now I’m teaching in a number of different places. So, I’ve been very fortunate to have many different classes, many different teams that I’ve coached. And I’m also very fortunate that people call me when they need help or they need a coach or they need a teacher. So I think the skills that I’ve applied in the producer area have also found their way into Improv. Work hard, try to be as confident as you can, and trust your instincts.

I think the skills that I've applied in the producer area have also found their way into Improv. Work hard, try to be as confident as you can, and trust your instincts. @mmackmedia Click To Tweet

Ben: Well, and at times I joke–I mean I’m in information security. There are days I feel like our jobs are nothing but improv, because we don’t know what’s going to come in the door, but we still have to be prepared to deal with that. And part of what you talked about, when you gained confidence as you produced a show by yourself and did all the parts of it, that was over time and not something you immediately stepped right in, and Oh this is me. I can do all this. And it’s funny with the Improv and so I’m, I could thank you for being on the show today and I’m looking forward to our next conversation and we’re going to explore improvisation and a little bit more in what that means as an introvert.

Megan: Great!

 

Extras

Megan’s playlist on YouTube, including clips from Thank You Kiss.

Megan Mack rotten kid YouTube playlist


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Gabby Pascuzzi headshot

Episode 024: Gabby Pascuzzi–Vulnerability and Leaning In

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

Episode 024 Show Notes: Gabby Pascuzzi

Introduction

Gabby Pascuzzi and Ben Woelk talk about the importance of vulnerability and openness in the workplace, empathy, and leaning into weakness.

Gabby Pascuzzi headshot

Key concepts

  • Remote work can be challenging because so much of communication is non verbal.
  • Vulnerability and openness can be a strength
  • When you lean into a perceived weakness you may find it’s really a strength
  • Leaning into a weakness can help you improve that area
  • Empathy is a key leadership trait
  • No one started off as an expert and you do yourself a disservice if you write yourself off and say, “I can’t do that.”

Quotable

On remote work–The nuances and so much of communication is nonverbal, that you really have to work hard to make sure that you’re not misconstruing something that somebody said…making sure that your tone is appropriate and thoughtful. @gabbypascuzzi

On authenticity–at the end of the day, even if we’re writing alone, we still need our teammates. And one way to build a stronger team is to let them see who you are. @gabbypascuzzi

Being comfortable with my emotions is tied to one of my biggest strengths, which is being vulnerable and being authentic and just being really present, bringing my whole self to work. @gabbypascuzzi

Empathy helps you put yourself in other people’s shoes so that you are able to do more of this servant leadership style where you’re serving the people under you. @GabbyPascuzzi

Leaning into weaknesses, meaning things that you are not very naturally skilled at. We get so obsessed with “What is your strength?” @GabbyPascuzzi

Nobody started out as an expert and you really do yourself a disservice if you write yourself off, and say, “Nope, I can’t do that. That’s a weakness,” because you don’t know if you may have more skill then you thought or you’re able to improve. @GabbyPascuzzi

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Gabby Pascuzzi. Gabby is a technical writer at Tenable, a cybersecurity company. She also competed on the 37th season of Survivor: David versus Goliath. I met Gabby at the 2019 STC Summit Conference in Denver where Gabby was our keynote speaker for our Honors event. Gabby shared her experience as a contestant on Survivor: David versus Goliath. Her presentation was well received and one of the hits of the conference. You can follow Gabby on Twitter @GabbyPascuzzi. I encourage our listeners to visit HopefortheIntrovert.com where you’ll find complete show notes including a transcript of today’s conversation.

Ben: Hi Gabby!

Gabby: Hi Ben.

Ben: I’m excited that you’ve agreed to join us today. I’m very much looking forward to chatting with you. I’m sure we will chat about Survivor, but I’d like to talk a little bit about your career in general, and we’re going to talk about weaknesses and strengths and how those should maybe be handled in life and in the workplace. So you work at Tenable, I’m in Cybersecurity, so I’m actually familiar with Tenable, but can you tell us a little bit about what you do for them and what your workplace is like?

Gabby: Yeah, so I have been a technical writer at Tenable for a year and a half now. And I write mostly user documentation, our user guides for a couple of different products. One is Nessus, which is a vulnerability scanner. Another is Tenable IO, which is our platform. And yeah, a lot of user guide content which is pretty, pretty fast. We are always coming out with new features. So we do work in an agile environment.

Gabby: I have only been a technical writer for–this is my fourth year, so this is pretty early in my career and I’ve found that it’s been really challenging, but really interesting. And another challenge that has come with working for Tenable, which is one of the things I love as well, is it’s largely a remote company. So a lot of the employees are remote. The headquarters is in Maryland, but I live in Virginia and we do a lot of our coordinating and communicating through Slack and through Zoom calls, and we have people not only in this area, but also spread across the country and sometimes in different countries. We have some people in Ireland, some people out of India, so it’s a very global company, which makes for an interesting workplace at times. But yeah, very fast moving and I’m excited to be working for them.

Ben: What led you into technical writing as a career?

Gabby: I had no idea that technical writing existed until right before I graduated from college. I went to school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and I majored in Linguistics, and then I added a second major, which was in the English Department called Professional Writing, which is–I always laugh because what’s the opposite of that? Like unprofessional writing? But, they had a few technical writing classes and I had always been pretty technically minded. I always did well in science and I had taken an introductory computer science course at CMU, which is a school that’s kind of known for that.

Gabby: I found that the technical writing classes really merged my skills in writing, which I had always been interested in English and writing, but I had never been particularly creative. I was always more on the technical side. So that’s when I discovered that technical writing existed and allowed me to really combine those two skills.

Ben: Yeah, it’s interesting. I took linguistics classes in college also, though I actually did an anthropology undergraduate, which I’m certainly not doing that now, but I found the linguistic stuff absolutely fascinating–just how much it could inform a culture and tell you about a culture, but also in some ways determine how a culture acted in some ways. So it was always a really, really interesting field. I didn’t go there, but it’s definitely an interesting field. So do you work as part of a team at Tenable? How often do you see each other?

Gabby: Yeah, so I am part of our technical writing team and there are 10 of us and we have a manager that’s just our manager for the technical writers, but each one of us focuses on a different product. And so then we’re also integrated onto those development teams. I’m pretty well connected to the developers for the products I write about as well as the product managers. And as you know, with all of us tech writers we’re always talking to everybody. So you get to know a lot of people, even though I’m not seeing them all face to face all the time, and my team gets together at least once a quarter, which I feel like is important for us to have that bonding time and remember that each other are people, not just our little screens. We Zoom call a lot so we make sure to do video calls. So we do see each other face to face, which I feel like is important in a remote context, because you don’t want to just always be communicating via Slack message or email and then you really–you don’t even know what the other person looks like or sounds like and you lose some of that personal touch.

Ben: Yeah. It’s interesting because at the Summit conference where I met you there was one woman I had been mentoring for the last three years, and we’d never seen each other face to face. We’d seen each other on our screens through Slack calls or whatever. But it was so funny. It’s, “Oh, you’re really tall,” and all that sort of thing, which you obviously can’t tell that when you’re just talking virtually, but I agree. I think that face-to-face connection makes such a dramatic difference in terms of–well you catch nuances that you wouldn’t catch otherwise and just getting to know each other a little bit better.

Gabby: Yeah, definitely. I mean, working for a remote company definitely has its pros and cons and a pro is that you really have awesome team members that are not limited by geographic location. Right. We have some brilliant people that they happen to live a state over so they can’t come into headquarters, so it’s great in that way. But yeah, there are drawbacks, which is that you don’t have those face to face. I agree with what you said, the nuances and so much of communication is nonverbal, that you really have to work hard to make sure that you’re not misconstruing something that somebody said as well as you have to make sure your intentions are clear when you’re just chatting over Slack, making sure that your tone is appropriate and thoughtful. And that is, that’s relevant to us as writers, you know, because we care about our tone, but definitely something to keep in mind.

On remote work--The nuances and so much of communication is nonverbal, that you really have to work hard to make sure that you're not misconstruing something that somebody said. @gabbypascuzzi Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah, definitely. So I have a question. For our listeners, one of the things that we do, is our guests fill out a questionnaire and they describe themselves in the questionnaire. And Gabby described herself as an awkward extrovert, which is interesting. And I was curious, what do you mean by that and how does that play out?

Gabby: Yeah. So when you asked me to be a part of your podcast, the first thing I said to you was, “You know, I’m not really an introvert. I am actually an extrovert”, but I can relate to introverts because I can be awkward and I can be shy at times. And not to call introverts awkward and shy [laughing], but I feel like a lot of introverts might describe themselves that way. So to me it means that I am extroverted. I really get my energy from being around people, talking to people. That’s how I recharge. I’m very outgoing, but there are definitely times where I find it hard to reach out, especially if it’s someone that I don’t know very well. And so there’s definitely a little bit of a hump for me to get to that extroverted part of myself.

Gabby: Being an awkward extrovert is also sometimes challenging in my remote workplace because, for all of us as technical writers, we have to initiate a lot of conversations because we need to ask somebody for information. We need to ask for clarity; we need to ask for reviews. So it’s hard because a lot of technical writers are introverted or are a little awkward, when really we need to be very bold and not shy. And that can be really hard for a lot of us. It’s hard for me and it’s something that I’ve definitely had to work at, just being confident that, okay, I’ve got to get an answer so I’ve got to reach out and you really can’t be too shy about it.

Ben: Okay, awesome. So what do you see as your main weaknesses and strengths?

Gabby: I think my weaknesses and strengths are very linked and I feel like that’s true for a lot of us. So when I think about my weaknesses, I think about things that affect me. Sometimes I can be a little disorganized. Sometimes I have a hundred ideas at once. I like to multitask. And that can be challenging. Things that other people have said are weaknesses of mine, and this actually for me, it came out in the context of Survivor, which I’m sure we’ll talk more about later, is that I am a person that definitely wears her emotions on her sleeve. [laughing] So I think that some people might view that as a weakness because you’re in a workplace, you’re in a professional place, and it’s not to say I’m having emotional breakdowns in the middle of the workday, but I’m pretty open with my emotions, and some people might take issue with that, and I think it ties in perfectly to what is my strength.

Gabby: And I actually feel that being comfortable with my emotions is tied to one of my biggest strengths, which is being vulnerable and being authentic and just being really present, bringing my whole self to work. I don’t feel like I bring a fake version of myself to work. And, what that means to me is that I’m able to show up and connect with my peers, my coworkers, and not just be a robot behind a screen. Especially, like I said, especially if we’re just talking over Slack, somebody that’s just asking for this, asking for that, let’s get the job done with no sense of personability. Is personability a word? [laughing].

Being comfortable with my emotions is tied to one of my biggest strengths, which is being vulnerable and being authentic and just being really present, bringing my whole self to work. @gabbypascuzzi Click To Tweet

Ben: Sure. We’ll go with it.

Gabby: The thing is, as writers and as linguists, we can just make up words. But yeah, if you’re not bringing your authentic self to work, I feel like you’re missing out on an opportunity to build those connections with your peers.

Gabby: And at the end of the day, even if we’re writing alone, we still need our teammates. And one way to build a stronger team is to let them see who you are. And that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t still be boundaries and that there aren’t things that are appropriate and not appropriate to talk about or to show at work. But when you’re able to be–have a little fun and tell people when you are really excited about something or tell your teammates, “I’m really frustrated about this, can I vent to you for a second?” And maybe you’ll find out that they’ve been experiencing the same issues too. And what can you guys do about it? Maybe you can trouble–you can brainstorm how to fix this issue. Maybe it’s a culture issue that you guys are going to bring up in your next team meeting, but that really isn’t possible unless you are open and show up every day. So that was a long answer to your question.

On authenticity--at the end of the day, even if we're writing alone, we still need our teammates. And one way to build a stronger team is to let them see who you are. @gabbypascuzzi Click To Tweet

Ben: No, but it’s very interesting issue because I think for most of us in the workplace, the idea is that–maybe the idea is that you squashed down your emotions and you do your work and then you some ways you are not yourself in the workplace. There was–actually part of the Next Big Idea Club, which is a book club, which I don’t read nearly as many of them as I should, but one of their recent offerings is called No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work. And that’s by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy‎. And that one gets very much into really being, I think completely at the workplace and recognizing that you need to be able to share your emotions. And I think that’s in some ways it’s a corrective, I think to a lot of the business type writing that’s been out there in terms of what are we supposed to be like in the workplace. We’re supposed to be very just not emotional or just always focusing on work. So I think it’s a really interesting discussion and an interesting thing for a lot of people.

Gabby: Yeah, definitely. That book sounds really interesting. I am going to have to take note of that and read that. It’s something that I’ve thought a lot about. Can we have emotions at work that are appropriate and be more authentic? Rather than squashing them down because everybody knows what happens when you squash down emotions. They are going to bubble up. And I don’t think people at your workplace would like that very much either, if suddenly there was an explosion of emotions that you had been letting pent up, because you weren’t comfortable talking through anything that came up. And I think with emotions and with emotional intelligence also comes empathy. And empathy is very important for interpersonal skills in the workplace, especially if we’re talking about leadership skills. Empathy is one that I feel you must have as a leader; it helps you understand if you have people below you, it helps you relate to them. It helps you put yourself in other people’s shoes so that you are able to do more of this servant leadership style where you’re serving the people under you.

Can we have emotions at work that are appropriate and be more authentic? Because everybody knows what happens when you squash down emotions. They are going to bubble up. @gabbypascuzzi Click To Tweet

Empathy is very important for interpersonal skills in the workplace, especially if we're talking about leadership skills. @gabbypascuzzi Click To Tweet

Empathy helps you put yourself in other people's shoes so that you are able to do more of this servant leadership style where you're serving the people under you. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet

Gabby: And I know for me, I’m not in a real leadership position in my team. I’m a technical writer. I’m on the same level as a lot of my peers. But for example, in a group discussion, so once every two weeks we have a group meeting where we revisit our style guide and we make decisions on outstanding items where we haven’t come up with a standard for our style, or we revisit past decisions if they’re not working for us. And it’s definitely a group conversation. And I think when you are empathetic, for example, in that situation, you’re able to understand everybody’s viewpoints and listen to each person fairly and not be biased and not take things personally if somebody’s opinion doesn’t agree with yours. So in that kind of situation, empathy really is key.

Ben: And I think that gets back to our comments early on about nonverbal communication. And I’ve just seen too many times somebody gets an email and they read it–I’m assuming they misread it in terms of the emotion or the intent that was behind it. But having that ability to see each other face to face and catch those nuances is critical as well.

Gabby: Definitely. Yeah. So many times things can get misconstrued. And I think if we all just try to remember that most people are coming from a good place and things usually are not personal in the workplace, then hopefully we can avoid some of that. And that also comes with lowering your guard a little bit and not being so on defense. Right? If you’re always playing defense, then you’re possibly going to take things as a personal attack, when really it may have just been somebody posing an alternative and it’s nothing personal against you. And the more empathetic you are able to be, the more open minded and emotionally intelligent that you are, the easier it will be for you to listen to feedback like that and not take it super personally.

The more empathetic, the more open minded and emotionally intelligent that you are, the easier it will be for you to listen to feedback and not take it super personally. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah, and I think it’s hard. For instance, if I have an idea of doing something in a different way and I’m very, very invested in it and I’m very, very passionate about it, but then it’s not received well, it’s very hard for that not to feel like there’s a personal element there. Mainly because I’ve probably invested too personally in whatever the idea was.

Gabby: I’m definitely guilty of that. Yeah. I’ve seen it go that direction as well. And it’s really hard sometimes to not feel attached to your work because we do care about it so much. And you know that that happens to me even with things as simple as I send things for a peer review and they didn’t like the word I chose. And I’m like, “What do you mean? I really thought about that word.” Because you really have to remind yourself sometimes it’s not personal. If you’re on a team, you’re working together to create the best outcome and there are always going to be differences of opinion.

Ben: Yeah. It’s funny because you’re gonna get that. But that was, what do they, what are they saying about me if they don’t like my word, you know? Yeah. It’s funny. Don’t they appreciate me?

Gabby: Yeah, definitely.

Ben: Gabby, one thing that you had mentioned to me before we started recording today, was this idea of leaning into weakness. And when we had talked about leaning in, you said it wasn’t necessarily in the sense of the book for women in the workplace called Leaning In. Can you expand on that a little bit? What do you mean by leaning in and especially in the leaning into your weaknesses?

Gabby: Yeah, I am very big on this idea of leaning into either what you perceive to be your own weaknesses or what others perceive to be your weaknesses. When I think about the idea of leaning into your weaknesses, I see two halves to this. One is the idea that what people may see as a weakness is not really a weakness. So by leaning into it, you’re really highlighting a strength of yours. So for example, like I mentioned before, as a person myself who is very in tune with her emotions, some people may see that as a weakness. I see it as a strength. So if I know that I can’t really help but be emotional, let me think about how I can use that as a positive influence in the workplace.

Leaning in is the idea that what people may see as a weakness is not really a weakness. So by leaning into it, you're really highlighting a strength of yours. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet

Gabby: So can I use it to connect with a coworker that is having a bad day? And I’m able to empathize with them and we’re able to talk and, and I help then refocus is, is it possible for me to use my emotions, my emotional intelligence to have a tough conversation with a manager about a culture problem that I see that needs to be addressed that I noticed because I’m in tune with my emotions. So I think when you lean into something that is supposedly a weakness, it actually might highlight it as a strength.

Gabby: The other half of it is leaning into weaknesses, meaning things that you are not very naturally skilled at. So I really feel like sometimes we get so obsessed with “What is your strength?,” “What are your strengths, what are your strengths? “And that’s great. We should also be doing jobs that highlight our strengths. However, you don’t want to become so scared of leaving your comfort zone that you never try anything new. For example, if I am scared of public speaking and I consider that a weakness of mine, what if you really tried to lean into that and signed up for a toastmasters club or went to a public speaking class or volunteered to lead the next meeting that your team was having? If you really try to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and do things that make you uncomfortable, I wonder if you might discover that it’s not as big of a weakness as you may have thought.

Click To Tweet

If you really try to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and do things that make you uncomfortable, I wonder if you might discover that it's not as big of a weakness as you may have thought. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet

Ben: Well, I think you also have the perception when looking at someone who’s been speaking for a while, that they’ve always been a good speaker. And I think realizing that it is a process. And it’s a learning process and that goes from everything from initial podcasts as opposed to 20 episodes in, to being willing to speak in front of a team meeting to maybe addressing several hundred people like you did at the STC Honors Event. I think what happens is I think you get more comfortable with it the more often that you do it in that example and I think the leaning into that weakness or knowing it’s something that you want to maybe turn into a strength. I think makes a lot of sense.

Gabby: Yeah, I definitely agree. We really have to remember that not everybody–actually, nobody started out as an expert and you really are just doing yourself a disservice if you write yourself off, and say, “Nope, I can’t do that. That’s a weakness. I don’t do that. I’ve never done that. And I never will do that,” because you don’t know if you may have more of a skill there then you thought or just that you’re able to improve from where you were at one point.

Click To Tweet

Ben: Well that’s awesome. I think there’s some very good things here. And Gabby, I’d like to thank you for being on the podcast and I’m looking forward to our next time together and we will, I promise our listeners, we will talk about Survivor.

Extras

Survivor Profile

Gabby Pascuzzi on Survivor


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Marcy Phelps headshot

Episode 020: Marcy Phelps–Designing Your Career Around Your Introversion

Category:introversion,introverts,Podcast

Episode 020 Show Notes: Marcy Phelps

Introduction

Marcy Phelps headshot

Marcy Phelps and Ben Woelk talk about how she’s designing her career as a PI around her introversion, and networking at conferences.

Key concepts

  • Career goals may change when exposed to new options
  • You can build a career that suits your temperament
  • Conferences can be both draining and rewarding
  • Networking may not be what you think it is

Quotable

I think I’ve designed my career pretty much around my introversion. I found out early on that working in an office. I was actually trained as a teacher. I found that being with all those people all day was so physically and emotionally draining that it was hard to actually get work done.

We as introverts, we don’t really like to shine the light on ourselves that much. So we focus on others a lot, and I think we’re in general, pretty good listeners.

I think as an entrepreneur you have to be really  attuned to client needs. You can’t say this is how we do things. You have to do them according to what clients need them done.

I think actually being a speaker helps. When you’re speaking at a conference, people will introduce themselves to you. So it’s kind of nice in that respect.

You mention networking, and people think big event and you’re wearing a name tag. Trying to make conversations with people you don’t know. But networking basically just means building and maintaining a group or a network.

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: Hi Marcy. I’m really excited you’re joining us today. Looking forward to chatting with you. Can you tell us about your job? And what does it mean to be an investigative researcher and what is your workplace like?

Marcy: An investigative researcher uses available information either on the web or sometimes through conversations–interviews–to answer our client’s questions. I’m not the kind of PI that’s out doing surveillance. I’m most likely sitting here in front of the computer checking up through public records, other public sources and not so public sources. That’s pretty much what an investigator searches. And my workplace,  I absolutely love. I’ve worked from home and my home office is just sunny and I have a great view, and I have two dogs that keep me company and bark at people. And I really enjoy working here. It’s very conducive to focus, which I I need for my job.

Ben: Yeah, I understand that. So you work as a licensed private investigator, but not like the type of PI that does surveillance. So your clients aren’t really individuals. Right?

Marcy: Exactly. I work for corporations, law firms, sometimes, nonprofit associations. But I don’t work directly with individuals, so I’m not chasing somebody’s deadbeat husband–that type of work that’s more corporate work–due diligence investigations, and asset investigations, that type of work. It’s focused on fraud–fraud prevention or identifying fraud.

Ben: So how did you go from getting a master’s degree in library and information sciences or information services, excuse me, to doing what you’re doing now?

Marcy: It’s been a quite a pivot–actually a few pivots. In grad school I just knew I didn’t want to be that typical librarian in a public library. I think public librarians do great work. I’m not suited for it. And, I just wasn’t quite sure what that looked like–what non traditional librarianship would look like. And then I was offered a position. My last year in school, someone asked if I wanted to join a project to create an online library, a virtual library for online learners. And, it was fascinating work and very innovative at the time in 1999. And I said, “Well, if they’re going to pay me to work from home and do research, who else would?”, and about that time I found out about AIIP, The Association of Independent Information Professionals, and I found that there were a bunch of people who were doing the kind of work I was doing–online database research, and doing it as their own business.

Marcy: And I was fascinated, and it wasn’t too long after that that I started my own business. I started out doing business and marketing type of research for years. I started my business in 2000. And eventually I was introduced to a private investigator who needed some help with some Internet research–news in social media. He had a media researcher he worked with for years who was retiring. And we got connected and I became fascinated with his work, and  he encouraged me to become a PI myself, which I eventually did. It was really a nice encounter and great work. And it’s been fabulous ever since. I just love my work.

Ben:  And it looks like you’re coming up almost on 20 years of doing it now.

Marcy: 20 years of owning my business. I became a PI about four years ago, so I made that big pivot about five years ago.

Ben: It sounds like an interesting story. I don’t know if it’s an unusual path for people or not, but it seems to be a good fit for you. IN general, how does being an introvert affect how you approach your work and life in general?

Marcy: It definitely comes into play a lot. I think I’ve designed my career pretty much around my introversion. I found out early on that working in an office. I was actually trained as a teacher. I found that being with all those people all day was so physically and emotionally draining that it was hard to actually get work done. So that is probably the biggest reason that I was so attracted to this idea of starting my own business and working from home. So, I’ve pretty much designed that around my introversion, and my life, I guess. Unfortunately I’m married to somebody who’s not an introvert, or fortunately I must say. And it’s an interesting dynamic, but you make workarounds, and it’s not like I don’t interact with people at all, but I have to prepare myself and I have to spend a little time recuperating, too.

I think I've designed my career pretty much around my introversion. I found out early on that working in an office with all those people all day was so physically and emotionally draining that it was hard to actually get work done. Click To Tweet

Ben: I totally get that. And my spouse is an extrovert as well. Both my kids were extroverts, so I was really the only introvert in the household, and it does take a while to make those adjustments so that we can–tolerate is by far the wrong word here–so that we can support each other in terms of the things that we need in our lives. For me, working on a university campus, I’ve seen enough people during the day that I’m quite satisfied with that. And I’d just as soon not do anything once I get home. For my wife, she typically works from home as an independent consultant, but as an extrovert, that means she doesn’t get the time around people that she really needs to flourish. So we’ve had to kind of work through how that works out for us. So it’s definitely an interesting dynamic.

Ben: What do you feel your biggest strengths are as an introvert? And in what ways have you leveraged those strengths?

Marcy: We as introverts, we don’t really like to shine the light on ourselves that much. So we focus on others a lot, and I think we’re in general, pretty good listeners and that’s really helped me with marketing. It’s helped me with my client projects or cases. I can really say I’ve worked on how to listen, listen really well and understand what they really, really want. What’s under the questions they’re asking because that’s not always what people want in my business. So I have to do a lot of digging and interviews. You have to be a very good listener in an interview. You have to know how to ask questions, but then you have to know how to shut up. So, I think that’s really helped me in my investigative work and my marketing to clients, just really able to find out what potential clients really want.

As introverts, we don't really like to shine the light on ourselves that much. So we focus on others a lot, and I think we're in general, pretty good listeners Click To Tweet

Ben: That sounds great. Other strengths that you feel like you have, we can go wherever you want with that. Go ahead with start with being adaptable, if you want to explore that a little bit.

Marcy: I think as an entrepreneur you have to be really  attuned to client needs. You can’t say this is how we do things. You have to do them according to what clients need them done. So I think that’s helped me in my business. Maybe it’s also helped me as an introvert because I’m able to do things that a lot of people would say, “Oh, introverts wouldn’t ordinarily be doing those kinds of things.” But I can adapt.

Marcy: I’m very adaptable. For example, I do public speaking and believe it or not, I think a lot of public speakers are introverts. And the problem is that it all happens at one time of the year. It seems. I have four events just in May that I’m attending conferences. You have to be part of the action all day. I have to mingle with people. It’s really very kind of stressful for an introvert. So I adapt. I have to go, these are things that are very good to do for my business and I have to make sure I can do them even though I’m an introvert, so I schedule time for myself when I get back and don’t have high expectations about what I’m going to get done or any more mingling. So that kind of conference schedule where everything seems to be packed with them.

I think as an entrepreneur you have to be really attuned to client needs. You can't say this is how we do things. You have to do them according to what clients need them done. Click To Tweet

Ben: Mine is, well, this weekend I have a ton of stuff, but then I kind of have a month and then I’ve got back-to-back conferences. So I fully understand where you’re coming from on that. And I also have the absolutely having to have downtime after the conference because it is exhausting.

Marcy: Oh yes. Oh absolutely. I’m not used to being with that many people in one week. It is physically and emotionally draining, stimulating as well. I learn, I meet fabulous people. I don’t want to make it sound like this is a horrible thing to do. I love going to conferences and meeting new people. It’s just I have to manage, adapt to my core, the way I do things.

Ben: You mentioned when you were talking about many speakers actually being introverts. And I do think there’s a misconception about that in general. And that would go for singers or other musicians as well, or even actors or actresses. But I do think there’s that overall, “Well, you’re an introvert, you must be shy. You must be reticent.” And I think that you know clearly not the case.

Ben: But I am curious about one thing. When you go to these conferences, part of my being comfortable with these conferences is that I tend to go to the same ones. So there’s a core group of people that I look forward to seeing every year. And after you’ve been a couple of times you’ve kind of established your group that you’re going to hang out with. But I also recognize that I’m also going in different roles sometimes where I have to introduce myself to a lot of people, which is definitely not what I would prefer to do. Normally. I do tend to be shy (is the right word or not), but I’d much rather not be introducing myself to tons of people. I just find it uncomfortable. How do you handle the networking and the actual people part of these conferences?

Marcy: Well, in small doses, hopefully. I think actually being a speaker helps. When you’re speaking at a conference, people will introduce themselves to you. So it’s kind of nice in that respect. It, which is lovely when people do, they kind of take it off of me, but that helps. But, I guess it’s just like anything else. I don’t like to do. It’s something that’s temporary. I’m just going to do it for this two-hour networking event or whatever. And then I reward myself afterwards. I get to go back to my room for an hour and recuperate before the dinner event, or I get to take a walk out in the sunshine. I reward myself with something I really like, but think about how good it feels when I take that time to myself too.

I think actually being a speaker helps. When you're speaking at a conference, people will introduce themselves to you. So it's kind of nice in that respect. Click To Tweet

Marcy: So I just have to pace myself and tell myself that it’s fun. I, I actually do enjoy talking to people. It’s not like it’s painful for me when I’m doing it. I’m having fun. It’s just planning in those rest times and I’m trying to plan maybe more one-on-one networking. That’s the other thing, Ben, networking has a bad definition or a bad rap. You mention networking, and people think big event and you’re wearing a name tag. Trying to make conversations with people you don’t know. But networking basically just means building and maintaining a group or a network–your connections, and yes, large events with the name tag are one way to do it, but there’s so many different ways to network. I think that’s another way I’ve adapted. A lot of times if I’m not speaking and I’m not expected to mingle, rather than mingle with the large groups, I’ll set up one-on-one coffees or lunch.

You mention networking, and people think big event and you're wearing a name tag. Trying to make conversations with people you don't know. But networking basically just means building and maintaining a group or a network. Click To Tweet

Ben: I try to do that as well. I do think there’s always been a misconception that networking is about quantity and how many people you can introduce yourselves to and give business cards or vice versa or their LinkedIn names. But I’ve find the same thing. I’m quite comfortable talking one on one with people, though it certainly helps once we’ve found a shared interest or something to give us a framework to talk around.

Marcy: Which you usually do, you can always talk about, like I said, if you’re a speaker or they’re a speaker, that gives you an immediate opening of something to talk about. or you can talk about the most recent session and what’s the most useful session.


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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.


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