Category Archives: Lessons Learned

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Victoria Lioznyansky Headshot

Episode 033: Victoria Lioznyansky–Introverts and Starting a Business

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

Episode 033 Show Notes: Victoria Lioznyansky

Introduction

Victoria Lioznyansky and Ben Woelk discuss starting a small business as an introvert, discussing her experiences with Nutty Scientists of Houston and the Brilliant Speakers Academy.

Victoria Lioznyansky Headshot

Key concepts

  • Building a business takes passion, skill, and discipline
  • Introverts can be good at consultative sales
  • STEAM or STEM-A is a great way to marry science and the arts.

Quotable

I had this full blown transformation from being somebody very much afraid and not wanting to be in front of a microphone ever to somebody who truly enjoys being in front of an audience. All of this while still being an introvert and not being the center of attention in any way or form.

Introverts have this one big strength–to focus and reflect, to look inside ourselves and really think things through.

On building a business–look inside yourself and decide if there is something that you are so passionate about, that you believe in so much, that you will be willing to take a risk for because building the business is always a risk

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Victoria Lioznyansky. Victoria teaches introverted entrepreneurs and business professionals how to overcome their fear of public speaking and become confident, compelling, captivating speakers. After moving to the U. S. Two decades ago with limited English, Victoria overcame her crippling fear of public speaking to build several businesses, teach in a variety of industries, and speak in front of small and large audiences. She appeared on Fox News and has been featured in numerous publications including CBS, Houston and BizWest media, talking on her experiences going from scared to sought after speaker. Victoria created the Brilliant Speakers Academy, an online public speaking coaching program for introverts. She also owns Nutty Scientists of Houston, a passion project about inspiring kids to fall in love with science. Victoria holds a Master of Science in Computer Science and is currently completing a Master of Arts degree in Communications and Media Technologies. She lives in Houston with her husband and two sons. You can contact Victoria at victoria@byvictorial.com.

Ben: Can you tell us about your business and your background? You have a couple of businesses. Why don’t you talk about those and talk to us about what your workplace is like.

Victoria: Yes, I am in this unique position where I do have two businesses that are as different as you can imagine. One of them is Nutty Scientists of Houston, which is a franchise that I’ve owned for the last six or seven years. And this business is really all about inspiring kids to fall in love with science. I’m not as much hands on in it as I was in the beginning, but it’s still business that takes pretty much probably half of my time. And I have a physical space, so it is a local brick and mortar business where we go to schools all over Houston to do enrichment programs. And also we have all kinds of programs in our space right here in Houston. So that’s one of my businesses. And my second business is public speaking coach and I coach students. I created the Brilliant Speakers Academy program and I work with my audience from all over the world, teaching them how to become a better public speaker, specifically focusing on introverts and how we as introverts can overcome our fear of public speaking.

Ben: That’s fascinating. It almost feels more of a calling type thing. I know that my passion about Hope for the Introvert and speaking and mentoring introverted leaders is really born out of a desire to make a difference for them. What has driven you to pursue this introverted public speaking coaching path?

Victoria: You know, Ben, this is such a good question and you’re so right. It is a passion-driven business. I obviously have been an introvert all of my life. I am as introverted as you can imagine and I’ve been terrified–absolutely terrified of public speaking growing up. And I had a lot of traumatic experiences and I was able to overcome my fear of public speaking. I was able to go in front of audiences of any size and not just be this confident, competent speaker, but actually enjoy it and transform, impact, and bring joy, educate, inspire my audiences. So I had this full blown transformation from being somebody very much afraid and not wanting to be in front of a microphone ever to somebody who truly enjoys being in front of an audience. All of this while still being an introvert and not being the center of attention in any way or form.

Victoria: And a lot of people come up to me after I do train,–I speak somewhere, they come up to me and they say, “Oh, you are so wonderful. You are this natural speaker.” And that made me think, if somebody like myself who was really bad at this, who was really scared, really didn’t want to do it, is able to go through this full transformation and have people believe that I’m a natural at this, then everybody else can do it too. And so my Brilliant Speakers Academy program was born out of this desire to share my experience, my systems, my framework, and teach everybody else how to go from being really, really, really scared and uncomfortable through actually loving being in front of an audience and being good at it.

Ben:Yeah, it’s a very, very cool thing. And I know our next episode we’ll spend more time talking about what you actually do as a public speaking coach, I know my own speaking path, how nervous and now absolutely terrible I think I probably was when I initially started speaking, but it’s become so habitual now or much more natural where I have become used to being in front of larger groups. I’ve had conversations with a friend and she talks about how you see people at one point in time and you assume that they always have been like that. I look back at that in terms of leadership. I look back at that in terms of public speaking ability or wherever I am on that path at this point in time. But I know that people who heard me 10 years ago probably would be surprised that that’s me speaking today.

Ben: I know there were many opportunities that I turned down, found someone else to speak because I didn’t want to be in front of a large group. But it’s kind of amazing how that has moved forward over the years. Since we’re going to spend a good chunk of our next episode talking about that aspect of your business, and it sounds like it’s going to be all ingrained with your whole life travel–life journey, I guess would be a better term for it. What’s the passion for the science part of things because that is very different? It still sounds like a very exciting thing to be doing to be going into different schools. What led you into that? I feel like we’re going down two totally different paths, but I know they’re going to intertwine again. So what led you into that?

Victoria: I am a mom. I have two kids right now who are 13 and nine. And when I started my business, my kids were very, very little. I’ve been an entrepreneur pretty much most of my adult life. I’m actually building my fourth business right now. So I’ve had several businesses and my background is in IT. It’s actually not science, it’s Informational Technologies. And my first business was developing websites and building software. But as my career progressed, I found myself working in the educational environment. I was actually managing all of the software development for Harris County Department of Education. And so I found myself as a mom and at the same time working in the education field and I was looking to start a new business. I was looking to invest my time and energy into something that would make me not just happy and fulfilled, but also challenged.

Victoria: And at the same time I wanted something that will be interesting for my kids as well. And so, as all of those things came together, I had an idea to start–build the franchise. It is a franchise that I purchased and I built it from scratch. And right now, the Nutty Scientists of Houston franchise is the number one franchise in the United States among all of the Nutty Scientists franchises. So I built it from zero to be number one. And it definitely was, and still is a passion project as everybody knows. Even if you’re not in education, even if you don’t know anything about science, everybody understands, everybody knows how important sciences for the kids, because a lot of kids go through school not truly understanding science and being interested in it because it’s so theoretical. A lot of times in a lot of schools where schools don’t have time to time or money to invest in the hands on and really inspiring kids it’s all about tests as everybody knows.

Victoria: And a lot of kids just don’t like it. Because nobody ever made them interested in it. And it’s very, very important I think for the next generation to truly believe that science is exciting. And this is what my business is all about. It’s inspiring kids to fall in love with science. It’s not making them all scientists, of course not. But it’s showing them that science is not just about tests and the boring information that they may be getting from school and that’s why they don’t like it. Science could be really exciting and could be really a way to change the world and their future. And so in our little way by doing enrichment classes, by doing camps, by doing science birthday parties, I feel like we are contributing to that cause.

Ben: Yeah, that’s really awesome. I’m at the Rochester Institute of Technology and there’s been such a focus on–there’s always been a focus on STEM disciplines here. But there seems to be–obviously there’s a much larger focus in society in general in the U. S. Especially around the STEM disciplines. One thing that’s interesting that RIT is doing. Our current president is–I don’t know if he’s groundbreaking here, but he’s leading the path here–is making sure there’s also an Arts component with that as well, so that it’s not just the–it may be the same side of the brain actually, but it’s not just around the science things. But it’s also the number of students we have who come in who have passions in acting, in the art,s and music and making sure that they have outlets for that and opportunities as well. So I am interested, and my apologies because I didn’t ask you this ahead of time at all, What are your thoughts around the STEM disciplines, science and still involving the arts?

Victoria: It’s so funny that you ask that because just this summer we had a couple of camps that instead of STEM camps we called STEAM camps–A for art. And we literally combined arts and science. We had a bicycle with–what I forgot to mention is that my business primarily deals with ages four through 12. So we work with younger kids and our camps. We actually partnered with an arts company and we had the camp where with it some science, and every day kids were doing art. And then we had another camp where we partnered with a drama company where we did science and combined it with performance. So that camp was really groundbreaking in a way that nobody in the community has ever done that. Where for half the camp kids we’re doing science experiments and learning about science.

Victoria: And then for the second half of the camp they were acting out, writing the script, creating all the sets, and incorporating science and science experiments that they learned earlier from us into their performance. And they combined both in the performance for the parents. So that camp was a huge hit and kids absolutely loved it ,because they were able to not just purely focus on science, and it’s all fun but also integrated with something else that’s very exciting and makes it a lot more applicable and a lot more fun for them. So I thought incorporating science into drama and adding an art component to that as well, is really an interesting way to go for the kids who are interested in both science and art.

Ben: Yeah, that’s amazing. I’m also looking at another thing that’s been sweeping–I wouldn’t say society, but a lot of the professions over the last couple of years, has to do with the use of Story to communicate information. And this sounds like such a clear example of how–you can really influence things both ways with it, but how to communicate science through story in a sense. And even science being part of the story that you’re presenting.

Victoria: Right, right. And that’s actually how we run our enrichment classes. The class may have a theme of, I don’t know, sharks. The whole class was about sharks and we don’t just go like, “Well, sharks do this; sharks do that.” Right? We make it–we actually weave a story into this, and this is how sharks are born and this is what happens. And their parents do this and little sharks get abandoned and lalala! I mean there is a whole bunch of information that you can just present as information, or you can create stories out of it and then incorporate science experiments. And then by the end of the class, kids get a really full picture of that one topic that we’re trying to cover.

Ben: Yeah, that’s a very, very cool thing. So the thing that I think that really makes it funny is the Houston Astros have the song about Baby Shark, Right?

Victoria: I have to let you in a secret. I am not a baseball fan, or a sports fan for that matter.

Ben: No, no. I just remember seeing something about it. And the Baby Shark thing rings true because we have a grandson who absolutely loves all of the Baby Shark thing. So that’s why I’m laughing. It’s just funny that it would– it’s Houston. It’s just a funny thing, but I think it just shows how much some of this just kind of permeates through culture at different levels. So you’ve been a serial entrepreneur, I guess is one way to look at it. And you’re not the first guest that I’ve had who’s built a string of businesses and who’s an introvert. How did being an introvert affect how you’ve been an entrepreneur?

Victoria: I think as an introvert or as introverts, we have this one big strength, and that strength is the ability to focus and reflect, ability to look inside ourselves and really think things through. I really think that introverts do make some of the best entrepreneurs because as we love to focus, as we love to think, as we love to reflect, we are able to truly shape our business in the best way possible. And also mentally prepare for unexpected, you know, for any struggles we may have, for any challenges we may have. I think as introverts, it’s a strength and most of the introverts or pretty much all of the introverts have it. And I think the misconception is that extroverts make better business people because they tend to like to be the center of attention, right? That they like to be in the spotlight. I like to go out there and interact, but the reality is as much as we don’t like to go out there, when we do, we truly nail it. And I think it’s also our ability to have really meaningful conversations whenever we meet with somebody.

Introverts have this one big strength--to focus and reflect, to look inside ourselves and really think things through. @victorialtweets Click To Tweet

Victoria: Even when you are doing a sales presentation, as an entrepreneur, you are constantly selling, right? Even when you’re doing a sales presentation, as an introvert, you really focus on the needs and on the benefits to your client. You take the focus off of you and put it on your client and they’re going to talk a lot more about it. When we speak about public speaking, speaking in public, I think as introverts, this is really our strength is to be able to truly have a meaningful conversation with another person and make it about the other person. And that makes sales a lot easier for introverts. And this could be not something that other people talk about, but actually a consultancy.

Ben: Yeah, I think in the aspect of consultative sales? Absolutely. I think many of us think about sales as just the numbers game, the cold calling thing of it, which is a piece of it, which I’m not sure anyone really enjoys that piece, but the consultative part and the whole introvert strength you’re talking about about this ability to engage and listen to the other person and not necessarily be racing ahead thinking, “What am I going to say next?” Or you know, “What am I going to say?” And that ability to listen is really important. It’s a bit challenging when we’re doing this podcast because I am thinking, “What’s the next thing that I’m going to talk about” But I think that introvert strength of being able to listen and reflect back is really key in engaging and really building customers and clients and relationships in general.

Victoria: Absolutely. And of course we’re not talking about–today’s conversation is not about sales at all, but I just have to mention that if you, as as you said, if you are an introvert, really use that strength and make every sales call or sales meeting into a consultative sales call, you’re going to have so much success. And I speak from my own experience, because unfortunately I still do some sales calls, some cold calling, which as you said, nobody likes, I’m not looking forward to it and I outsource as much as I can, but I’ve still done a good share of them. And I built my business because I was able to take every single cold call and make it about them, make it about benefiting the client that I’m calling versus, “Let me sell you on my stuff.” And I think it’s very, very important. And I think as introverts we are equipped with dealing with this, and we just should use it more and train ourselves to use this strength more. Listen and reflect back and focus on the other person.

Ben: Yeah, I think that’s really great. I’ve worked as a consultant and it’s always been about providing solutions, but it’s not providing solutions that I’m coming in with packaged solutions. It’s understanding and really doing that analysis of what does the client or what does the customer need and building a solution that meets that. And I do think that the analytical abilities I think can transcend whether it’s introvert or extrovert, but I do think it’s that ability to stay engaged in the conversation and to build a relationship and build the trust that is really, really important in this.

Victoria: Yes. Absolutely.

Ben: Do you have some recommendations for introverts who would want to become–we’ll break this into this two-part bifurcation here–do you have recommendations for introverts who are interested in building businesses? And I don’t mean in the numbers game, but more, I guess you feel like they want to do something on their own. They don’t want to necessarily just have a job with a company or something. They’ve got a passion for something. They have a belief in something. What recommendations would you have for an individual who wants to explore their own path and maybe that path is being an entrepreneur?

Victoria: I definitely thought about it a lot in the last couple of decades. Because of being a serial entrepreneur and also being in the corporate world from time to time, and as somebody who really doesn’t like to be in the corporate world and working for somebody. As somebody who was clearly born to be an entrepreneur, I had to give it a lot of thought of not only do I want to start my own business because the answer was always yes, but also what do I want to do? And so as advice to anybody who feels restless in their workspace, who feels that they’re wasting their life. Maybe because I know I had those thoughts when I was in the corporate, that I’m wasting my life, that I am asleep and I need to wake up and do something that I’m passionate about. I think my biggest advice is to look inside yourself and decide if there is something that you are so passionate about, that you believe in so much, that you will be willing to take a risk for because building the business is always a risk and I’m not saying that, “Oh, I’m so passionate about this or that I’m going to quit my job tomorrow because Victoria said you need to be a risk taker.”

Look inside yourself and decide if there is something that you are so passionate about, that you believe in so much, that you will be willing to take a risk for because building the business is always a risk. @victorialtweets Click To Tweet

Victoria: No, you can be a careful risk-taker. You can stay in your job for awhile until you build your business to the extent where you can quit your job. Because that’s exactly what I did. I had already purchased the Nutty Scientists franchise, but was still working full time. I knew that I can’t leave my job and start the business from scratch, because obviously when you’re starting a brand new business, you’re not making any money for the first little while. I wanted to jump into the business and start making money from day one and the only way to do that was to build a foundation for that business while still working. So for anybody who feels a little restless and they feel like, “Okay, I want to start the business,” what I recommend is to start a business. Do not do anything crazy. Stay at your job, start a business. The little steps become really organized about your time.

Victoria: What I did when I had already purchased Nike scientist, but I still was at my job: Every lunch hour I would go to my car. I would sit in my car and would be making sales calls, cold calling, sales calls for my business, trying to set up things three, four, five months down the road, so that I could eventually quit my job. And so when I did leave my job, and I did that, I did that during lunch hour, every single lunch hour for real, for months I was doing that. Evenings, weekends, you have to find something that you are truly passionate about or it’s not going to work. It’s not going to hold you. It has to be something you can’t live without. But once you do all of this work and you feel that you are ready, then you can quit your job. So when I quit my job, I was literally making money from day one in my business because I prepared all of the foundation. I did all the sales that I needed. I went into my business full time and then I never looked back.

Victoria: I think there are two things here: you need to find something that you really passionate about, but you also want to find something that you’re really good at. And a lot of times what people do is they take their work skills and use them for their new business. So it’s kind of like an intersection of what you’re good at or maybe not doing good but great at. Or it’s maybe something that you don’t even realize you’re so good at. But everybody tells you, “My goodness you’re so great that this, “and you’re like, “Isn’t everybody great at this?” People would come to me with public speaking and saying, “You’re a natural.” And that’s when I got that idea that, “Wow, I’m not the natural,” but to people I do look natural now, which means I can teach this because I know how I did this. I can teach it. So you look inside yourself and again as an introvert we’ll love to reflect, we’ll love the inside of our head. So going inside your head, turn everything off and look and see what are you great at, what you think you are good at, but everybody else thinks you’re amazing. And what you’re passionate about.

Ben: Yeah, that’s it. That’s the other thing. That’s what I’m really hearing from you. People are passionate about things. People may be good at things, but they have to build the foundation. And there’s a lot of discipline involved in terms of finding that time outside of your normal work time to be able to build these things or to do these side hustles, I guess is the more popular term now, initially. And maybe those grow into something.

Victoria: Right, right. And if you do it for a little while and after a few months you realize, you know what? Nah, I really love the security of my job. Well it’s okay then you just stay at your job, but most likely, you will realize that I–you’re going to feel it. It’s going to be totally like an intuition, that feeling that I am on the right path. I am doing what I was meant to be doing and then after taking and after building the foundation, after doing everything that you need to do, after preparing both financially and logistically, you will be able to step into the life of an entrepreneur and not everybody wants it. Not everybody can do it. But until you try, you won’t know.

Ben: It sounds like wise counsel on how to do things.

Ben: Thanks Victoria. This has been a really fun conversation and I love your passion and also the ability to couple that discipline with that passion. I think that’s a really key part of this. So I’m really looking forward to our next segment where we’re going to talk about public speaking and introverts, which many people just think that makes absolutely no sense. But let’s see how that goes. It’ll be a fun segment.

 

Extras

Brilliant Speakers Academy screenshot

Baby Shark YouTube


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Eeshita Grover headshot

Episode 032: Eeshita Grover–Leveraging Introvert Strengths

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

Episode 032 Show Notes: Eeshita Grover

Introduction

Eeshita Grover and Ben Woelk discuss leveraging your introvert strengths in the workplace as a manager and to advance in your career.

Eeshita Grover headshot

Key concepts

  • Introverts have a heightened sense of empathy
  • Introverts are analytical and process information internally, and often longer
  • Introverts can appear to be detached
  • Introverts are often self aware
  • Introverts are independent
  • Self knowledge and independence help you grow in your careers
  • Managing up can be challenging for an introvert

Quotable

Introverts have a heightened sense of empathy that takes us a step further in building those relationships that we are typically shy of.

Because introverts are more analytical and absorb information on an ongoing basis, that’s the reason why we don’t express while in the moment. Expression comes to us–it might come 48 hours late–but it does come to us.

Introvert are inherently blessed with being very self aware. They know what their own blind spots are. They know exactly what their pitfalls are. In that regard, I think introverts are very realistic.

Introverts enjoy a sense of independence. They have the ability to enjoy their own company. They really thrive on ‘Okay, right now I need to be myself, but in the morning when I’m at work, I am going to be with my team.’

The more conscious you are of yourself and the more independence you develop in your approach, the better you’re going to emerge as a leader.

The most challenging aspect of of being an introvert and management is managing up.

Educate your management, educate the people who are your peers about what you’re doing. That goes a long way in communicating value for introverts.

In teaching you just never know when you’re going to make an impact on someone’s life. When you’re able to make that impact or touch someone’s life in a positive way, you’ve won the battle of life.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Hi Eeshita. It’s great to have you back on the program. I’m looking forward to continuing our discussion today. We had been talking about the challenge it is to really step out of our comfort zone for a lot of us in a lot of ways, and especially when we’re going into—networking’s not exactly the right word for it–but rather than a presenting environment, which I agree with you at this point in my life, I have no problem standing up in front of people and talking. But the difference in terms of actually going into an environment where you’re networking, it’s a little bit different challenge.

Ben: Now you’re married and have a son, correct?

Eeshita: That’s correct.

Ben: I’m married and have two kids. Is the rest of your family introverts? Extroverts? For me I was surrounded by extroverts. I was the only introvert. My wife, my son, my daughter–all extroverts.

Eeshita: We had three of us in the family and I think it’s safe to say I’m in the middle. My husband is even more an introvert as compared to me. And my son is actually quite an extrovert. So I am right in the middle and I tend to adjust to whatever needs there might be in the moment. So yes, it’s quite interesting, because when my son was younger, I remember I’d get home after work and he’d want to play and he’d want to–actually middle school was a time when they still want to talk and have a conversation with me. And I’d be so tired. And it’s funny because it’s not physical labor. It’s not like I’m lifting big huge rocks all day or something like that. It’s just that mentally, you’re exhausted and you just need to recuperate, and he would be, “Oh Mom. This happened and that happened and I met so and so.” And I’m like, “Okay. Can you please just give me 20 minutes? I need to just chill and then we can resume this conversation.” But there were so many times when that would happen.

Ben: Yeah. There’s very much for me like having to have that little bit of space so I can transition into whatever the other environments are like. So I definitely get that part of it too. But it’s funny.

Eeshita: Yeah. It’s actually interesting because I’m sure you know this. As introverts we have a higher sense of empathy. We have a higher sense of understanding the other person’s perspective, and that’s what would happen with me. And this happens with my friends even today. I understand and I anticipate that this is what they’re looking for from me. And because I understand and I anticipate, there are times when I will comply. I will do what I’m expected to do. I’m not trying to make it sound like I’m doing anyone any favors. But you do want to–you know, there’s that sense of, “Hey, I can do this for you,” kind of thing. I think introverts do have that sense that they have a heightened sense of empathy in comparison. And I think that takes us a step further in terms of building those relationships that we are typically shy of. My friends who I’ve known for 15-20 years, until today they say this about me, “You can come across so cold and unattached,. But once people start to talk to you, there is that other side of you.”

Introverts have a heightened sense of empathy that takes us a step further inbuilding those relationships that we are typically shy of. Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah, I think so. It sounds like there’s a whole lot going on inside, which has been my experience as well. But on the outside you can’t necessarily tell–at least for me–whether I was thinking at all. That’s definitely been a challenge over the years. You mentioned the empathy thing. One of the things I’ve found is a challenge, and this gets back to a little bit about what your friends describe as you being detached while your mind may be spinning like crazy, thinking about all sorts of different things. One of the things I find I have impatience with is in terms of being so used to processing things internally and sitting with someone who’s processing things externally. I find that to be a challenge. I don’t know how that is for you.

Eeshita:  In my presentation from Lavacon, I’d used the quote, “Quiet people have the loudest minds,” and I personally think that that’s very true because I pretty much go all day, and now given my job, of course I’m talking quite a bit and I’m speaking quite a bit. But there have been times when I’ve been sitting in day-long meetings or I go out for dinner with my friends, and there’s a group of five or six of us, and I’m the quietest person in the group and everyone’s chatting away, and two days later I’ll call up one of my friends and say, “Hey, you made a comment about X, Y, Z, and this is really what I think about it.” And oftentimes my friends are like, “What? That conversation happened like five days ago, why are you still thinking about it?”

Eeshita: So it’s true, we are usually absorbing a lot of what’s going on around us, whether it’s conversations, whether it’s mannerisms, whether it’s the color of someone’s shirt. I mean, there are things that will stay in my head sometimes for good reason. And sometimes they’re just there. And I think it’s a result of–yes, I observe. Yes, I am mentally very very present as compared to anyone who might seem they are because they’re talking or they’re engaged in a conversation. But really, I think there are things that I will retain in my mind, even facts about situations. And in all honesty, they’ve served me well because I can go back I don’t always have to rely on my notes. It’s funny because I remember from memory that this happened. This was the reason why it happened. And that’s why I think because we are more analytic, because we absorb a lot of information on an ongoing basis, that’s the reason why we don’t express while in the moment and expression comes to us–it might come 48 hours late, but it does come to us. So yeah, that’s another aspect to being an introvert is that you’re processing information all the time. Somethings going on in that head and you just have to, like I said, give me that 20 minutes to just be okay with I’m ready to take on more. That’s how I would put it.

Because introverts are more analytical and absorb information on an ongoing basis, that's the reason why we don't express while in the moment. Expression comes to us--it might come 48 hours late--but it does come to us. Click To Tweet

Ben: It’s definitely a challenge. And it’s interesting. I like to think that I have a better answer when I’ve thought about things for that long, but I’m not sure that that’s necessarily the case. Though I would like to think that.

Ben: We’ve had several members of that Introverted Leadership Slack community who are moving into management type positions, and they’re introverts and some of them are not feeling very comfortable with that change. What recommendations would you have for them as an introvert who’s a manager of really quite a few people in the workplace?

Eeshita: If I was to hone in on a couple of skills that an introvert has, is inherently blessed with, I think they’re very self aware. So they know what their own blind spots are. They know exactly what their pitfalls are. In that regard, I think they’re very realistic. That’s number one. Really being realistic helps you connect much better with people because there’s no question of introverts will really build themselves up. They will rarely try to sound like, “Oh, I’m everything and I have the answer to everything.” Even though, like I said, they are keen observers. They know a lot more than what shows on the surface. So from that perspective, I think introverts are able to connect better with people because of them being so self aware, because they know who they are. That’s number one.

Introvert are inherently blessed with being very self aware. They know what their own blind spots are. They know exactly what their pitfalls are. In that regard, I think introverts are very realistic. Click To Tweet

Eeshita: I think the other aspect to this is the sense of independence introverts enjoy. They have that ability to enjoy their own company. So they really thrive on that option that, “Okay, right now I need to be myself, but in the morning when I’m at work, I am going to be with my team.”So let me use this quiet time to prepare for the time that I have to be with my team.” I think that that has helped me a lot. I am an early riser so I end up waking up early. The 30-40 minutes that I get in the morning before my day starts are the most valuable for me, because that is where I collect my thoughts. I know what I’m willing to do, or at least to have a blueprint of what I need to pursue that day. There could be a few action items from the previous day that still need to be finished. So there’s those two things that I think really help leaders–really helping management, because the more conscious you are of yourself and the more independence you develop in your approach, the better you’re going to emerge as a leader.

Introverts enjoy a sense of independence. They have the ability to enjoy their own company. They really thrive on 'Okay, right now I need to be myself, but in the morning when I'm at work, I am going to be with my team.' Click To Tweet

The more conscious you are of yourself and the more independence you develop in your approach, the better you're going to emerge as a leader. Click To Tweet

Ben: That makes a lot of sense. What do you find most challenging being an introvert and being a manager of the group?

Eeshita: I think the most challenging aspect of of being an introvert and management is managing up. So you must be very aware of that. Managing up is–you really have to go and put yourself out there, and put your team out there. Talk about, but basically advertise yourself. You know you have to. You really need that marketer’s hat on your head where you’re like, “I’m doing this, I’m involved with that. They’re going to save you so many millions of dollars.” You know, all of those you have, and you have to be up on the buzzwords. So managing up is a challenge. I’m still learning.

The most challenging aspect of of being an introvert and management is managing up. Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah. I find that a challenge also. And it’s not something–it takes time to learn how to do that. Obviously with individuals especially. Do you find that you’re more willing to advocate for your team than for yourself?

Eeshita: 100%. I have no problem going to battle for my team. I have no problem going in and voicing my support or even being supportive for them under any circumstance. But you ask me to do the same thing for myself and I’ll go hide in a corner.

Ben: Yeah. I’m glad I’m not alone in that. Not that it helps in a lot of situations. But like you said, you are now a director of marketing. So you are the managing to get promoted up the ladder despite being an introvert. How do you communicate your successes and things to your management then? How do you help them understand who you are and what you would like to do and why they should consider you for a promotion for instance?

Eeshita: The technique that has worked for me is building one-on-one relationships. Learning–first of all of course–know who the key stakeholders are. That’s important. And as introverts we tend to find that out in our own way. Figuring out who the stakeholders are, figuring out who the decision makers are and obviously your immediate managers is going to be instrumental in terms of your growth. And going back to the point I made earlier is that, building those one-on-one relationships have helped me quite a bit. I’m thinking about this a little bit more. I think having a one-on-one conversation, absolutely no problem.

Eeshita: And that is why I bring up one-on-one relationships is because step out for lunch, meet for a 30 minute chat. Educate your management, educate the people who are your peers in terms of what you’re doing. And I think that goes a long way. You don’t always have to be in a 50-person setting to tell your management chain about what you’re doing. You can achieve those results in one-on-one chats as well, or sending out some sort of communication to your manager. If you haven’t chatted with them for a while, send out an email and say, “Hey, haven’t had a chance to sit down with you. But I wanted to give you a quick update.” Whether you do it on a weekly basis, whether you do it on a monthly basis. As you grow in the management chain, you’re going to be reporting to people who have bigger and bigger portfolios or far more responsibilities then you have, of course. And you have to figure out how to make an impact or how to communicate with them or how to keep that communication channel open with them. So that they are hearing from you and you’re hearing from them.

Educate your management, educate the people who are your peers about what you're doing. That goes a long way in communicating value for introverts. Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah. So what thing I’m hearing with that, and I think it’s a challenge for many introverts especially, is that you do have to communicate your value. You do have to tell people what you’re working on. And you cannot rely on them to just know. I mean, even if you’re stuck on something and you’re going to need management help, you absolutely have to communicate it.

Eeshita: Absolutely. I mean there are times when there’s a budget situation or there’s a project-related situation and even though 90-95% of the time you are managing things yourself, but also at the same time, there are going to be situations bigger than you that you are going to need some handholding. You’re going to need someone to help you navigate through the waters when it comes to those situations. You want to already have that camaraderie with your management or with your peers that they can help you and you can rely on them to help.

Ben: Awesome. Any other recommendations for introverts in the workplace?

Eeshita: One of the things that I did mention before is that build a group of people you trust, those two or three relationships where you can rely on them no matter what the situation. It’ll be hard to start out with, but you will know who you can trust and who you can rely on. And I really do think that having that small–even though it’s a small support system, I think it takes you a long way. You need that as introverts, a little bit of boost from people, that goes a long way.

Ben: Absolutely. I totally agree with you there. I know in my workplace it’s a small group of people and we don’t get together as a group. But individually, at least once a month, and just having that time for conversation, especially since they’re not necessarily in the same workplace–maybe they are–but they’re certainly not doing the same job. It provides an opportunity for an outside perspective on things, and in some ways a sanity check. But also I think it’s just important to be able to have people to share your burdens with.

Eeshita: Absolutely, absolutely!

Ben: So one last question, what is one thing about you that people would be surprised to learn?

Eeshita: Well let’s see. The one thing about me is that I love is my true passion lies in teaching and that is one thing and I would go back to teaching in a heartbeat. That’s how I look at it. And I think a lot of people who have seen my career in high tech, they find it surprising, but really that’s my true love.

Ben: And honestly, I’m in a very high tech workplace. I am in Higher Ed, so it makes a little bit easier. But I thoroughly enjoy the teaching piece of it and working with students and trying, in some ways, yeah, it sounds trite, but trying to build our future in a sense and being there and helping students understand what they need to do to succeed as well.

Eeshita: Yes. And I think what impresses me so much about teaching is the fact that you just never know when you’re actually going to make an impact on someone’s life. And you’re able to make that impact or touch someone’s life in a positive way, I think. You’ve won it. You’ve won the battle of life.

In teaching you just never know when you're going to make an impact on someone's life. When you're able to make that impact or touch someone's life in a positive way, you've won the battle of life. Click To Tweet

Ben: Awesome. Thank you Eeshita for your time. It’s been a great conversation. I’m glad we finally got to have it. We’ve been talking about that for a really long time.

Eeshita: I truly appreciate the opportunity, Ben. It’s been a pleasure. And I have enjoyed doing this podcast with you.

 

Extras

Why Introverts Make Successful Leaders, Lavacon 2017

 


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Ben Woelk Headshot

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

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

Episode 014 Show Notes: Ben Woelk

Introduction

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

Key concepts

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

Quotable

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

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

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

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

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

First Things First: What’s an Introvert?

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

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

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

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

Applying Introverted Strengths to Leadership

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

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

All were introverted leaders, and all were very effective.

My Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Transformation into a Leader

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

Gaining a Better Understanding of Introversion

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

Understanding My Personality/Temperament Type

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

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

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

Understanding How I Communicate and Work Best

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

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

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

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

Building on Small Successes

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

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

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

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

Making It Personal: Examining My Strengths and Growth Opportunities

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

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

Where Do You Go from Here?

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extras

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


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Ben Woelk Speaking Schedule–Spring 2019

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

Spring 2019 Speaking Schedule

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

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

 

Schedule

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

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Introverted Leadership and Cyber Security Speaking Schedule Fall 2018

Category:Information Security,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Lessons Learned,Schedule

Speaking Schedule

I’m very excited about my fall 2018 speaking schedule. I’ll be a first-time attendee and speaker at two conferences, one of which I’m keynoting. (This will be my first time speaking in the United Kingdom!)

I hope to see you there!

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

 

Date Event Topic Format More information
28 August North Texas Lone Star Chapter STC Lessons Learned on an Introvert’s Journey to Leadership Webinar Recording to come
25 September Technical Communication UK Temperament-based Strategies for Excelling in the Workplace Workshop De Vere Staverton Estate, Daventry, England
26 September Technical Communication UK Lessons Learned on an Introvert’s Journey to Leadership Keynote De Vere Staverton Estate, Daventry, England
26 September Technical Communication UK Digital Self Defense – Tips, Tools, and Best Practices to Stay Safe Online Presentation De Vere Staverton Estate, Daventry, England
4 October The NYSERNet Conference 2018 Creating a Culture of Digital Self Defense Presentation Marriott Syracuse Downtown
24 October Society for Technical Communication The Introvert in the Workplace: Becoming an Influencer and Leader Webinar Free members-only webinar
26 October STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter Introverted Leadership: Harnessing your Innate Strengths Webinar STC-PMC webinar
14 November STC Instructional Design and Learning SIG Saying, “Yes, and…?” to Leadership Opportunities Webinar Registration available to all

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