Category Archives: Leadership

  • 0
Roxy Greninger

Episode 016: Roxy Greninger–Culture Consultant and Brightest Part

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

Episode 016 Show Notes: Roxy Greninger

Introduction

Roxy Greninger

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

Key concepts

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

Quotable

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

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

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

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

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

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extras

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


  • 0

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

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

Episode 014 Show Notes: Ben Woelk

Introduction

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

Key concepts

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

Quotable

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

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

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

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

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

First Things First: What’s an Introvert?

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

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

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

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

Applying Introverted Strengths to Leadership

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

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

All were introverted leaders, and all were very effective.

My Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Transformation into a Leader

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

Gaining a Better Understanding of Introversion

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

Understanding My Personality/Temperament Type

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

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

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

Understanding How I Communicate and Work Best

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

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

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

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

Building on Small Successes

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

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

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

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

Making It Personal: Examining My Strengths and Growth Opportunities

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

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

Where Do You Go from Here?

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extras

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


  • 0

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

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

Episode 013 Show Notes: Helen Harbord

Introduction

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

Key concepts

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

Quotable

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

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

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

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

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

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helen: Yeah, empathy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helen: Yeah. Definitely.

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

Ben: Thanks Helen, for a fun interview!

Extras

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


  • 0

Ben Woelk Speaking Schedule–Spring 2019

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

Spring 2019 Speaking Schedule

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

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

 

Schedule

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

  • 0

Episode 009: Jennifer Kahnweiler–Introvert Champions

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

Episode 009 Show Notes: Jennifer Kahnweiler

Introduction

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

Key concepts

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

Quotable

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

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

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

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

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

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

Ben: Hi Jennifer. Thanks for joining us today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer: There you go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer: Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extras

Ben and Jennifer

Ben and Jennifer at the NYSERNet Conference 2018.

 








Site Search

Subscribe to Blog via Email

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

Join 2,009 other subscribers

Categories

Support Introverted Leadership on Patreon

Blubrry affiliate banner