Category Archives: personality

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Episode 010: Janine Rowe–Neurodiversity, Career Counseling, and Finding Your Niche

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

Episode 010: Janine Rowe–Neurodiversity, Career Counseling, and Finding Your Niche Show Notes

Introduction

Janine Rowe and Ben Woelk discuss neurodiversity and career counseling, MBTI, career choice and finding your niche, and presentations. 

Key concepts

  • Neurodiversity
  • MBTI
  • Preparing for presentations

Quotable

Neurodiverse students and diverse individuals–that really refers to individuals who have some variance in how they learn and think about the world…So what we’re finding is that individuals who are neurodiverse often have a lot of skill sets that are really in demand in the workplace

As an introvert I also have a preference for really getting to know people on a deep level. Rather than knowing a little bit about a lot of people, I can get to know people deeply.

It was very important to me to pick a career where my listening abilities, which is something that just comes naturally to me, that I would be able to use that as a primary skill set that I use every single day, and it’s really a key to being able to do my job well.

(Speaking about presentations) So for me, listening to music through headphones is very important in terms of preparation and I think it serves a couple of purposes for me. One, is so that I can control some of the sensory input that I’m getting, and just drown out what I don’t want. And it helps kind of manage some of my nervous energy, so I like to listen to something that I know very well–something I know by heart. So I also don’t get overstimulated from that as well.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Janine Rowe. Janine is a career counselor at the Rochester Institute of Technology where she provides guidance to students on identifying educational career and life plans that suit their interests and goals. Janine is also a counselor, educator and supervisor, author, and advocate for the advancement of neurodiverse individuals in the workplace. She has an M.S. Ed. In counselor education from the College at Brockport, SUNY, and is a certified MBTI practitioner. You can contact Janine at Janine.Rowe@rit.edu. Janine and I are colleagues at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Janine was a contributor to the February 2017 issue of Intercom magazine where she wrote the “Intersection of ASD and Technical Communication,” where she interviewed technical communication practitioners who had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Ben: Hi Janine. Welcome to the podcast. Let’s talk about your role as a career counselor at RIT, and I’d like to know more about how you advocate for the advancement of neurodiverse individuals and what that actually means.

Janine:Thank you, Ben, for having me. Happy to be here. My role here at RIT is primarily to meet with students one-on-one and help them explore a lot of facets about themselves that go into making an informed educational choice and career choice. So it really has a lot to do with encouraging self awareness and self exploration and connecting that with information about the world of work. And in doing that, I have found I’m kind of in a niche area. And working with the neurodiverse students and diverse individuals–that really refers to individuals who have some variance in how they learn and think about the world, and primarily that’s our students who are on the autism spectrum, but also includes individuals with dyslexia, learning disabilities, and other related disorders. So what we’re finding is that individuals who are neurodiverse often have a lot of skill sets that are really in demand in the workplace. But unfortunately, what was happening is when they’re going–competing against their peers, they didn’t have as much success as their neuro-typical peers or individuals who are not on the autism spectrum. And so a lot of my work is helping people who are in the position to make hiring decisions and make promotional decisions on behalf of these individuals. They really understand the unique contributions that neurodiverse employees can make in the workplace.

What we're finding is that individuals who are neurodiverse often have a lot of skill sets that are really in demand in the workplace. @JanineMRowe Click To Tweet

Ben: Now, is that just something that is specific to RIT or is this something we’re starting to see more of across higher education?

Janine: That’s a great question. It certainly was born out of the need to work with the individuals that were already here at RIT who are neurodiverse. And since we’ve been doing that, we get quite a lot of questions from individuals in the community, from employers from all around the world really, who want to know more about neurodiverse hiring. So it’s been very rewarding.

Ben: That’s really interesting. So what is your workplace like? How do you typically spend your day? What do you find challenging as an introvert?

Janine: So I have a pretty large staff team. There’s about 35 of us, but I feel within this team I have the absolute ideal role for an introvert, which is the majority of my time (up to 80 to 90 percent) I am doing one-on-one counseling and able to just meet with students individually. And so that gives me a lot of time to just reflect and work with the students in that one-on-one setting where I don’t have a lot of interruptions, and I don’t have a lot of demands to do multitasking–things like that. So that’s really what I set out to do. I knew that that setting would be a good fit for me. I also teach undeclared students in a class called Career Exploration Seminar that meets once a week. And my office in general, Career Services and Cooperative Education, we put on a lot of events and we’re in general, very externally focused–we conduct a lot of outreach. So I do get involved with those somewhat, but it’s not a primary focus of my role.

Ben: What do you find to be most challenging as an introvert in your office?

Janine: Even though I do have in a lot of ways, an ideal role for an introvert, there are some things that routinely challenge me, and the biggest one I think is when my phone rings, especially if I’m not expecting it. That’s just a–I guess–an occupational hazard. But I do find it challenging to speak up in meetings. I know a lot of us share that trait. Especially if I am speaking up in a meeting and I’m interrupted at some point, which you can imagine that can happen in team meetings–as much as 35 people. Another thing that I find difficult is when I’m being put on the spot to generate my thoughts and ideas extemporaneously and I don’t have time to prepare. So, I really need to seek out time to prepare when I have those meetings so that I don’t feel that pressure.

Ben: So Janine, it sounds like in a lot of ways you’ve picked a perfect environment for you and your temperament type, which was INFJ, which is Counselor, which we haven’t really talked about yet.

Janine: It was very important to me to pick a career where my listening abilities, which is something that just comes so naturally to me, that I would be able to use that as a primary skill set that I use every single day, and it’s really a key to being able to do my job well. And I appreciate that in my role, listening and taking time to respond is considered the ideal response to most of my sessions, and jumping right in with that verbal response, that’s typically kind of discouraged within counseling. So that works out perfectly for me. And as an introvert I also have a preference for really getting to know people on a deep level. Rather than knowing a little bit about a lot of people, I can get to know people deeply. I also have a small team that I work on as a part of the larger team and they know that I’m an introvert, so they are courteous enough to give me lots of space in meetings to express my thoughts.

As an introvert I also have a preference for really getting to know people on a deep level. Rather than knowing a little bit about a lot of people, I can get to know people deeply. @janinemrowe Click To Tweet

Ben: Janine, you’re the first guest that I’ve had who is MBTI certified. Can you talk about that a little bit and what you’ve discovered through that certification maybe about yourself and working with others?

Janine: Absolutely. I think working with the MBTI everyday, administering the test, interpreting results for our students and RIT alumni, and providing consultation to my peers on Myers Briggs temperament types, is a huge benefit as an introvert and just to me personally because of the value that I think that it provides. So within the certification process I certainly learned It did help me to embrace my introversion, because of course, as we know, there is no ideal type. No one preference or one trait is a more highly valued than another, but there are certain environments that allow those preferences to shine. And so that’s really the orientation that I take when I work with students is that it’s not, “okay, here’s your personality type” and here I’m trying to put people into boxes and and predict where they’re going to be the most successful, but helping them to recognize where their natural strengths lie and helping them connect that to the world of work. An example we use all the time is handwriting. You’re right handed or left handed. That’s your preference. You don’t even have to think about it and if I ask you to write for a little bit with your non-dominant hand, that’s going to be really challenging for you. You’re going to want to stop pretty soon after you start that, because you’re going to be fatigued, and you’re going to have to really think about it and you’re going to want to go back to doing what’s most natural and comfortable for you. So that kind of analogy we use all the time with students just to help them have a picture of how learning about personality types can benefit them in their career.

Ben: One thing that I found was interesting looking at the Myers Briggs and for some of the work that I’ve done in some of the articles and in a workshop that I do, I think many people might assume that the 16 different personality types identified are actually broken evenly across the population, but that’s not the case at all. And some personality types or temperament types, it’s a very, very small percentage of the population. Could you talk about that a little bit and then I’m really kind of interested if you see dominant or dominant side, the right is the right word, but more frequent personality or temperament types among our students here at RIT?

Janine: Certainly. You’re absolutely right. This is not an even distribution across all 16 types. I think that is a common misconception and we do see that extrovert ideal playing out (in my opinion) within the types that are most prevalent in the United States. So according to our figures which we use from the accreditation body that actually certifies MBTI practitioners and provides us the test materials, some of the most common types are ESFJ which make up to 13 percent of the population. And interestingly, ISTJ, up to 14 percent of the population. One of the things that I see often playing out with my individual students is how gender can influence how people experience their types in their preferences. So females for example, may feel more socially rewarded for operating in that feeling preference; In males, maybe more towards a logical in some cases. And here at Rochester Institute of Technology, I do work with a lot of engineering students, a lot of computing students. So luckily for me, I do work with many introverts on a daily basis, and some of the types that we work with quite frequently here would be the INTJ and the INTP, especially who tend to–I find them in engineering fields

Ben: And both INTJ and INTP are relatively small slices of the population as a whole.

Janine: Absolutely. I don’t have figures on the entire student population. That would be a very interesting project for us to work on. But just anecdotally, I would say if we’re looking at INTJ and INTP as about four percent of the population each, I would say it seems to be over-represented in those two types.

Ben: Let’s talk about doing presentations. Doing presentations has been an interesting topic that we’ve discussed in the podcast, but also among a lot of my friends in general, about what they find to be helpful in their presentations, what they find to be especially challenging about them. And most of the guests so far have been active presenters, although a few of them would prefer not to get up in front of people at all if they can help it. Do you enjoy presenting? What do you find the benefits to be? What do you find the challenges to be?

Janine: I do enjoy presenting, whether that be in a classroom setting or in my professional home, which I would consider to be the National Career Development Association and the National Association for Colleges and Employers. I Have been fortunate to present primarily around my neurodiversity work in those spaces. I do really enjoy it, but it is exhausting. I have found when I’m attending a convention or a conference, if I’m presenting, I cannot relax at all until that presentation is over because it’s just weighing on my mind. So I’ve come to develop a little bit of a routine to help me with that. And that involves activities–what I’ll do before, even down to what I eat and drink before a presentation and then what I’ll do after.

Ben: Can you expand on that a little bit?

Janine: Yeah, absolutely. So for me, listening to music through headphones is very important in terms of preparation and I think it serves a couple of purposes for me. One, is so that I can control some of the sensory input that I’m getting, and just drown out what I don’t want. And it helps kind of manage some of my nervous energy, so I like to listen to something that I know very well–something I know by heart. So I also don’t get overstimulated from that as well. During the presentation, I will often ideally identify some people that I already know in the audience and I may even ask them if they wouldn’t mind asking me a question, and I may even tell them what type of question I think would be beneficial to ask, and that helps manage because the Q and A is the worst part for me as an introvert, because I can only prepare for it so much.

Janine: And so if I know that I’ve got someone, a friend, who’s going to maybe ask me a question that I already know the answer to, I find that something I can really look forward to. And that helps kind of balance all the energy that I’m expending.

Ben: It’s funny. Alisa Bonsignore. who was a guest on a previous podcast, talked about the same type of issue that she has where she’s rock solid through the prepared material, but then has to deal with Q&A. In the story that she told she had gone to her doctor and he had given her a Holter monitor because it had been some time since her heart rate had been measured, and she wore it when she was presenting. And the night that she was presenting, everything was fine and then she hit the Q&A part, and she said it measured like she was in a sprint the whole time. So the Q&A, so she runs Alisa faces those same issues in terms of the part that is prepared is straightforward, but it’s the unknown that’s coming at us that makes it really confusing. Or really the unknown that’s coming at us that produces anxiety.

Ben: I do have to ask one question though, because someone is going to want to know what is on your track that you listen to before you present…

Janine: I knew you were going to ask me that! [Laughing] It might surprise you. I like a lot of Motown and music from the Sixties and Seventies. And I think the reason why is that’s what I listened to when I grew up, and it has such intense positive associations for me of being in my hometown or being with my family. And it just–I just can’t help but have a happy reaction to listening to that. So I will make sure that I find time in my schedule to get some of that.

Ben: That’s absolutely great! And I would say for the benefit of our listeners that I have been at conferences where Janine presents and she looks totally unflappable. So although there may be anxiety going on, it’s not something that’s apparent on the outside. Now, you had mentioned earlier that you find presenting exhausting and by extension, I’m assuming some of the conference attendance and activities as well. What do you do when you finish presenting, and you finished the Q&A, what do you do?

Janine: A lot of times I’ll try and hide, just to be totally honest! I will definitely need to take a break and recharge. And often as an introvert, that has to be either with a very small group of people I know very well or alone. So that means many times I may sit out in the next session after I’ve presented.

Ben: Yeah, actually I do the same thing once I’ve presented. I typically do sit out the next session, just to kind of–And I guess it is an energy recouping, but it’s also just to maybe settle the nerves down some. Though I’m not super aware of nerves when I’m presenting at this point either, but I do like to be able to wind down, and exactly like you said, I’m fine being around friends who will just let me sit there and wind down, but I not so great with follow-up questions immediately after a presentation, though the follow-up questions can be very good and they are very important. And what I found, especially when I started talking about introversion, there are a lot of follow ups through the remainder of the conference.

Janine: Hmm. That’s an interesting point. That’s what we do as introverts. Right? We process.

Ben: That’s true.

Janine: After the fact.

Ben: Yeah. Oh, that’s good. That’s interesting.

Janine: Hmm. That’s an interesting point.

Extras

 


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Alisa Bonsignore headshot

Episode 006: Alisa Bonsignore–Growing as a Leader

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

Episode 006: Alisa Bonsignore–Growing as a Leader Show Notes

Alisa Bonsignore headshotIntroduction

Alisa Bonsignore is the principal of Clarifying Complex Ideas, a strategic communications consultancy in the Bay Area with clients around the world. We discuss thought leadership, volunteering, the leadership journey, and career growth.

  • Twitter: @ClearWriter
  • Email: hello@clarifyingcomplexideas.com

Key concepts

  • Thought leadership
  • Volunteering
  • Mentoring
  • Career growth
  • No single path to Leadership

Quotable

Thought leadership can take a lot of different forms. You could be a blogger. You could podcast…. It could be about personal topics that are of interest to you, that help you to just make a connection with the reader somewhere. Maybe you’re a technical communicator by day, but maybe you also have a certification as a wine expert that you write about, and that could be something that a potential client or a potential employer reads about you own is like, “Wow, this person has a level of depth that I didn’t know about!”

I think it’s easy to look at someone that you see as a leader and you think they have always been a leader.

But none of that (career growth) would have happened if I had just sat back and been the quiet one. I had to look for new approaches to my career, where I had to find those alternative leadership opportunities, where I could influence laterally instead of just being placed in a leadership role.

How are you going to prove your worth if you come in the first day doing X, and you leave five years later, still doing exactly the same thing? You need to grow and develop and learn things as you go….  And I think it just takes a little bit of time and a little bit of patience, because you can’t expect (that) you’re going to take a slightly new role or take on a project and it’s going to change your life radically overnight. It’s a gradual process that builds over time as you are exposed to more and more.

Whatever your path is and whatever you might be thinking and whatever you’re stressing about, there is no right or wrong way. There is no one path. You just have to find the thing that works for you.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: We’re continuing our conversation with Alisa Bonsignore. Today we’re going to talk about her role as an influencer or as a leader. Alisa, can you talk to us a little bit about in what roles you’re an influencer or a leader and what that’s like for you?

Alisa: Sure. We’ve already talked previously about speaking, which obviously is a leadership thing in its own right, but I think for a lot of people, speaking ties in very closely with teaching. Some people will do it in a classroom. Some people will do it more in terms of conferences or annual speaking engagements, which is really a form of thought leadership. I’d like to think that people were coming to hear me talk because they liked my ideas, and that there is something useful that I have to say.

Alisa: And thought leadership can take a lot of different forms. You could be a blogger. You could podcast. Here’s an example! You could write a book, you could contribute are articles to Intercom. (We’re always looking for articles in Intercom, but it doesn’t even have to be limited to professional topics. ) It could be about personal topics that are of interest to you, that help you to just make a connection with the reader somewhere. Maybe you’re a technical communicator by day, but maybe you also have a certification as a wine expert that you write about, and that could be something that a potential client or a potential employer reads about you and is like, “Wow, this person has a level of depth that I didn’t know about. This is very interesting. I want to know more about them.”

Thought leadership can take a lot of different forms. You could be a blogger. You could podcast.... It could be about personal topics that are of interest to you, that help you to just make a connection with the reader somewhere.… Click To Tweet

Alisa: Mentoring is a great opportunity for guiding others. I’ve tried to mentor some people throughout the course of my career. I’ve been mentored by some wonderful people. I think that’s a really great way to influence and give back, but volunteering–as we’re both on the board of directors for STC.–volunteering is a large role in my life. But, you don’t have to be again, in a professional capacity. It doesn’t have to be for a professional society. You could be a volunteer at your local community park. You could be a volunteer for the soup kitchen. I mean, whatever it may be, something that helps you to be seen as a leader in a way that you might not be seen in your day-to-day professional work.

Ben: Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting point and an important point, because in my professional capacity working in higher education, there isn’t really a career path in the area that I’m in. I’m a program manager in the information security office. I’m responsible for awareness and training. I manage a lot of the initiatives we do, but my step up is to be an information security officer, and that’s a far different role, and that role has a lot to do with incident handling which can come in at any hour of the day or night. So there’s some real–maybe some pluses–but there’s some minuses with it as well.

Ben: So I think that whole idea of finding leadership opportunities outside of your immediate workplace is really, really important. If I had only pursued what I could pursue within RIT, I wouldn’t be doing this podcast. I wouldn’t have run for president of an STC local chapter. I wouldn’t have run for the Board. I would probably not have been able to get engaged in mentoring relationships. My other leadership opportunities again, are through Educause, which is another nonprofit organization, where I’ve led one of their working groups, and I present regularly at their conferences, and I’ve–they’ve even thought some of what I’ve said has been thought-worthy–I’ve been asked to participate in podcasts about things that we’re doing here at RIT. But again, there are things that I was able to start, so I think understanding that your leadership path and your influence path is both within and outside your workplace is really important.

Alisa: Yeah, and especially as an independent. I don’t have a career path per se. I mean?what am I going– I’m the only one in my company–What am I going to be? I’m going to be the president. Oh, I am the president. Okay. Well, I’m also the writer. I’m also the administrator. I’m also the ITperson. I’m also–There’s no growth path here. I can change my clients. I can change the focus of my work, but it’s not like you’re going to see a progression in title or anything like that, so my leadership approaches have to be different. They have to come from a different place than in your standard “rising through the ranks” type of leadership.

Ben: So another thing about leadership that we’ve talked about, and we can pick it up in a couple of things, but one thing that you’ve mentioned to me in conversations in the past is that leadership is a journey. When we see leaders around, it can be, “How did they get to that point?” or, “They’ve always been that kind of person.” I know for me personally, my leadership path probably started many years ago, that I’m not really aware of, but it didn’t really start actively until about eight years ago. What have you found in terms of what you observe with others around leadership paths? What has yours been like and what recommendations would you have for introverts especially who want to become influencers or leaders?

Alisa: Well, I think it’s easy to look at someone that you see as a leader and you think they have always been a leader, right? You–you assume that these were the people who were the class president in high school. They think they’ve just always been in that leadership role and I was never that person. That wasn’t my personality. That wasn’t who I was. I didn’t really meet you. Look back on my career, I–it’s worked out beautifully and people say, well how did you put all this together? How did you have this plan? And I’m like, “Yeah, I had a plan. Right. Okay.” Because I had started out in healthcare years ago, like 20 plus years ago, and then when we moved to California it was during the first dotcom boom and there was no healthcare work to be had. It was all tech. I didn’t know anything about tech. I’d never done anything in tech in my life, but it didn’t matter, because there was such a shortage of available personnel that I got hired at a dotcom, because I had a pulse, basically. [laughing]

I think it's easy to look at someone that you see as a leader and you think they have always been a leader. @clearwriter Click To Tweet

Alisa: I mean that was the only job requirement, so I ended up going from doing taxonomy and content at a startup which were a couple of network security companies. And broadening my horizons there on topics that I knew nothing about a few years earlier; and then ultimately getting back into healthcare, which is where I wanted to be in the first place, but, having the opportunity to get back into healthcare. But then that’s all dovetailed over the years to be Healthcare IT–all of the security, all of the security concerns surrounding HIPAA, surrounding personal health information, and people go, “Wow, it’s so amazing that you’ve planned your career this way, so that you find yourself in this healthcare IT arena.” And I’m like, “I planned that. Absolutely,!” [laughing]

Ben: And it’s interesting because 20 years ago some of these things didn’t even exist.

Alisa: Well, exactly. And it all seems like a series of seemingly random choices at the time. Right? When I was first graduating from college, I wouldn’t have imagined that some day I’d have my own business and be serving on a board of directors. I mean, who would’ve thought that? I-I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d have multiple international clients in Europe, or that I would have speaking engagements a few times a year, both domestically and internationally. But none of that would have happened if I’d just sat back and been the quiet one. I had to look for new approaches to my career, where I had to find those alternative leadership opportunities, where I could influence sort of laterally instead of just being placed in a leadership role. But it was more of the types of things like project management where I was influencing across groups and building consensus, and all things that work with my personality, but not necessarily things that I would have known about or would have sought in my natural tendencies.

But none of that (career growth) would have happened if I had just sat back and been the quiet one. I had to look for new approaches to my career, where I had to find those alternative leadership opportunities, where I could… Click To Tweet

Ben: Let’s say I’m a new practitioner. I’ve been a technical writer for a couple of years, or I’ve been a security person, or I’ve been in any kind of industry. It’s not really just confined to these industries. What advice would you have for me in terms of becoming an influencer? Becoming a leader? Is it important for me to become an influencer? Is it important for me to become a leader. How would I go about that?

Alisa: Well, I think it is important in terms of wanting to get some more visibility for yourself. I mean how, how are you going to, for, for lack of better explanation, sell yourself within the company? How are you going to prove your worth if you come in the first day doing X, and you leave five years later, still doing exactly the same thing? You need to grow and develop and learn things as you go, and in the process, you get exposed to a lot of different things. And so I think the part of the thing that you need to do when you’re young and that I did without realizing it, was taking on opportunities that were a little uncomfortable. That didn’t feel like they might’ve been a natural fit for me, because I only saw sort of what they were on the surface. But that really worked well with my personality type, because, as I said, project management–it may not be the thing that I want to do all day every day.

How are you going to prove your worth if you come in the first day doing X, and you leave five years later, still doing exactly the same thing? You need to grow and develop and learn things as you go....@clearwriter Click To Tweet

Alisa: But the skills that I learned in some of the more project management type roles that I did, have had a tremendous impact on what I do as an independent, and how I manage my projects, and how I manage clients, and how I balance work, and how I understand how the flow goes, and building consensus across groups and across language barriers, even. There’s a huge difference there from where I was 20 years ago to where I am now. And I think it just takes a little bit of time and a little bit of patience, because you can’t expect these things are going to–you’re going to take a slightly new role or take on a project and it’s going to change your life radically overnight. It’s a gradual process that builds over time as you are exposed to more and more.

Ben: I found that was the case for me as well. There are times I’d say, “Well, why couldn’t I have been doing this 10 years ago?” Or, “why didn’t I think…

Alisa: Right, because you weren’t in this place at the time.

Ben: I could not have done that because it’s that sum total of everything that has come up to this point in time that’s enabled me to actually do these things, and also even has provided the interest. Twenty years ago I didn’t think about personality types or temperaments or introverts or extroverts or even leadership at all. As I mentioned, the leadership progression for me is fairly new, but I found that I’ve become really passionate about it and passionate about helping other people become leaders, especially introverts, who often feel like there’s no place for them. So it’s really interesting the way–as you’ve put it–it’s all of these things that have come together to enable us to take these next steps. The other thing I thought that you said that was really important, was being willing to take steps that are outside of our comfort zone.

Alisa: Yeah, and it’s–I mean it’s so easy to say, “Well, I was this at my last company and I’ll continue to be–I’ll look for the same role in my next company,” or under the new management re-org or whatever it may be, but stretch a little. It’s good for you! Even if you decide that’s not the thing for me, I want to go back to what I was doing. You’re still taking the skills that you learned and bringing them back and it’ll make you better at what you were.

Ben: Anything else that you would like to pass on to our listeners?

Alisa: I think you just need to know that whatever your path is and whatever you might be thinking and whatever you’re stressing about, there is no right or wrong way. There is no one path. You just have to find the thing that works for you.

Whatever your path is and whatever you might be thinking and whatever you're stressing about, there is no right or wrong way. There is no one path. You just have to find the thing that works for you. @clearwriter Click To Tweet

Ben: Great, so I think that’s wisdom and I thank you so much for sharing it with us. Thanks Alisa for sharing your thoughts today. We look forward to having you join us for another podcast in the future.

Alisa: Thanks, Ben. It’s been good to be here.

Extras

Alisa has a Twitter bot that is sometimes hysterical. https://twitter.com/alisa_ebooks

 

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Alisa Bonsignore headshot

Episode 005: Alisa Bonsignore–Public Speaker

Category:Introverted Leadership,Leadership,personality,Podcast,STC,Summit

Episode 005: Alisa Bonsignore–Public Speaker Show Notes

Introduction

Alisa Bonsignore is the principal of Clarifying Complex Ideas, a strategic communications consultancy in the Bay Area with clients around the world. We discuss public speaking and the stress and value of Q&A, and how being an introvert with the INFJ temperament type affects her roles.

  • Twitter: @ClearWriter
  • Email: hello@clarifyingcomplexideas.com

Key concepts

  • Keirsey Temperament Theory
  • Public speaking and stress
  • Empathy
  • Situations and scenarios
  • Counseling

Quotable

As an adult, you associate public speaking with your experience as a student, and when you’re a student, you’re up there and somebody is grading you and they’re looking for ways you’re doing it wrong.

They’re in your talk for a reason, and they’re not there to criticize you or to grade you or to challenge you. They’re there because you have something that they want to learn about and when you shift that mindset that you have something valuable to say, it really changes your perspective on speaking.

Instead of listening to the surface, I understand the subtext of things a lot better, which is incredibly helpful with getting to the real problem instead of just painting over the problem that seems to be at the surface.

What brings the consensus here… is that we could do this other thing and that would solve everybody’s problems. And people go, “Oh, well, I was so wedded to my idea… that it never occurred to me that there was another option.” …It’s a lot like counseling, actually–family counseling–family counseling for groups and teams. .

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Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Alisa Bonsignore. Alisa runs Clarifying Complex Ideas, a strategic communications consultancy in the Bay Area. Her professional mission is to create clarity and build engagement, giving people the information they need when they need it. Alisa helps companies communicate complicated topics, including policy development and sustainability communications surrounding the UN sustainable development goals (SDG), medical devices and pharmaceuticals/genomics, network security, and healthcare information technology. You can contact Alisa at hello@clarifyingcomplexideas.com or on Twitter @Clearwriter.

Ben: Thank you for joining us again, Alisa. I look forward to us continuing our conversation!

Ben: One thing that Alisa and I have talked about previously is where we stand on Keirsey Temperament theory and where our MBTI letters come out, and Alisa is an INFJ, which is typically a counselor-type role. She’s very cognizant of the people issues that are going on. I’m an INTJ, which can be described as architect or scientist, or the one I really like, mastermind, but the problem with that is that I’m not always attuned to what’s going on with the people. And one of the ways this has been described is that, say that you’re on an ocean liner and the engine breaks down. As the INTJ, I would be down in the engine room–assuming I had any of those mechanical skills–I would be down in the engine room trying to figure out how to get it started. Alisa would be busy making sure that the people got off the ship, so there’s definitely a focus difference in terms of this rational versus idealist-type traits, the way that Keirsey puts it. And I think that this is an example then because I don’t necessarily tend to think of what were the motivations? Why was this person saying this? Sometimes I do, but probably not nearly as often as I should.

Alisa: And see, that’s a huge thing for me because it’s a huge part of figuring out when people contact me and say, “I need you to do this urgent project and here’s my rationale for why,” I can usually by the time I’ve talked it through with them, figure out you’re saying on the surface that it’s because of this, but really, the pressure’s coming from another source and let’s talk a little bit more about that. Maybe this isn’t actually what you need. You need a solution to this other problem that you think is this item, but actually your problem could be fixed with a different approach.

Ben: Alisa, one thing that I’ve had conversations with other guests on this podcast is presenting. Now, all of us that have talked so far on the podcast have been introverts. All of us present fairly often, but when we talk to people who–whether they’re extrovert or introvert, many people are totally intimidated by the idea of speaking in front of groups. What is your experience been speaking in front of groups? How did you get started? What have you found that’s helpful, and any interesting anecdotes that you could share?

Alisa: [laughing] So I actually started–my presentation life was doing a lot of sales training for different clients or different in-house companies that I worked for–so it was working with select groups on select topics, but what I realized pretty early on, is that as an adult, you-you associate public speaking with your experience as a student, and when you’re a student, you’re up there and somebody is grading you and they’re looking for ways you’re doing it wrong. Right? So when I was in high school at one point I had to recite Hamlet’s monologue–the “To be or not to be,” right? And of course my teacher’s sitting there listening to make sure that I get every word exactly right. There’s a different level of pressure there when you’re trying to make sure that you have memorized exactly every word in exactly the right order to communicate what you need to do to get the grade.

Alisa: By the time you’re an adult, nobody’s grading you, and you don’t realize this right away [laughing]–what you’re up there doing–you have a purpose up there. You’re up there telling people something that they actually want to hear–especially if you’re speaking at a conference. I mean, maybe not at a sales meeting–they might just have rolled in because they have to roll in and listen to you–but at a conference especially, there are other choices. These people could be at another session. They could be out having coffee with a friend. They could be blowing off the conference entirely and boondoggling with their employer. Who knows, right? But they’re in your talk for a reason, and they’re not there to criticize you or to grade you or to challenge you. They’re there because you have something that they want to learn about and when you shift that mindset that you have something valuable to say, it really changes your perspective on speaking.

Alisa: Now, having said that, that’s not to say that it’s not stressful in its own way. I like to approach every talk as if it’s a conversation, so I pick a couple of people in the room that I can sort of speak to and feel like I’m having a conversation with. I can make eye contact with them. I can communicate with them directly rather than feeling like I’m just talking to a large, faceless group. That definitely helps. But, in spite of that, I’ve also discovered that I still get a little bit stressed about the whole thing. Even though on the surface everything seems calm, I still get a little stressed. So it happened to be that one day I was giving a talk at a local STC chapter, and earlier that day I had gone in for a routine appointment with my cardiologist, and because I hadn’t had a Holter monitor–the portable monitor–in several years, they wanted to do just a follow-up check to make sure everything’s the same, blah, blah blah.

Alisa: So I ended up going to my talk completely rigged up–wires everywhere–this apparatus hanging from my belt. I-I look like a crazy person and I’ve tried to like pull my sweater up over my neck. Right? But nobody knows that I’ve got this on, hopefully. But, here I am. I’m fully rigged up like a patient. Right? And so I go through the whole talk and everything seemed fine and I’m really good through the part that I have rehearsed and practiced, whatever. And then we get to the Q&A [laughing], and later when the doctor called back and was like, “Um, so about what were you doing at this time?” I’m like, “Oh, that was the question and answer portion of my conversation.” [laughing] Literally, my heart rate had gone above my target heart rate for like running sprints. It was just completely through the roof.

Alisa: And I–I didn’t–I mean I know that there’s a little bit of anxiety there, but I had no idea that it was really like above 180 beats per minute. [laughing] This is some serious stress here! But, this also explains why I feel so exhausted when it’s all done. I put all of my energy into this, but you can only script so much of it and then–then you’re let loose with the Q&A and the conversation, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. [laughing] So apparently that, that unnerves me a little bit, a little bit more than I realized.

Ben: Yeah, that is such a funny anecdote and you said you were aware that you were a little stressed, but you–I guess you didn’t have any idea how much until you actually saw it measured.

Alisa: No, no. You get that sort of, [inhaling] okay, what’s this person going to ask me? There’s a little bit of nerves there, but I had no idea it was that level of cardiac response! [laughing]

Ben: So, I guess one solution would be not to leave any time for questions and answers at the end of a presentation…

Alisa: Yeah, but the Q&A is actually the best part. I mean this is where you have really good conversations with people and once–once I’m into–once they’ve asked me the question, and I–we’re having that conversation, the one-on-one. It’s great, but there’s that moment before they begin where it’s like, [inhaling] “Ooh, what are they going to say? [laughing] I don’t know if I’m prepared. Will I have an answer?” There’s nerves there more so than I had imagined.

Ben: That’s amazing. It’s such a good story.

Ben: Another question for you here–part of what we’re doing during the series, during the Hope for the Introvert podcasts, is talking about our biggest strengths and how we leverage them, and also the biggest challenges we face. What do you believe your biggest strengths are as an introvert? And in what ways do you see that you’ve leveraged them?

Alisa: So as you were saying earlier about my feeler status, right? I’m the empath. I feel what people are needing and experiencing. I think that I have leveraged my ability to understand people’s motives. I think that that’s really gone a long way from like, instead of listening to the surface, I understand the subtext of things a lot better, which is incredibly helpful with getting to the real problem instead of just painting over the problem that seems to be at the surface. But I think for me–right, but it’s also because I’m a good listener. It’s the fact that I’m not always the one talking. I mean, you watch the extroverts in the meetings, right? They’re not getting the feedback. They’re always pushing information out. They’re always talking. And if you’re always talking, you’re probably not listening. So, from my perspective, I’m the one who’s listening to everybody and generally not talking, so I’m not only hearing, I’m watching the nuance that’s going on and how people are responding to each other and how the dynamic is going in addition to the actual words that are being said, and the emotion that’s being conveyed or whatever it might be going on in the room. So I’m good for that.

Alisa: I’m good at identifying customers’ pain points because I can feel the pain. It’s the empathy thing, right?” But I can understand in context, if we’re writing documentation for–let’s say that my client is selling the ventilators to assist with breathing in the hospital, right? Well, if we’re writing one kind of documentation for the initial setup, that’s one thing, because you’ve got somebody who rolls in in the middle of the day in a normal situation and plugs it in and tests it and sees that it’s working, and whatever. But it’s a very different thing, if you’re trying to do a troubleshooting document, because it could be three in the morning. You could have a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, a whatever, a ton of people coming in. You’re triaging people. You need to get the ventilator working. It’s not working. How does this work? Oh my God, you’re not at your peak of attention or focus or clarity. How do you find a clear and easy way to help this person get the device back online? Right?

Alisa: So understanding the situations and the scenarios and how to make–how to create the best tools for people in their various situations–I’m pretty good at that. I’m pretty good at understanding where we need to simplify, where we need more detail, that kind of thing. But, and I think from a client perspective, my J of my INFJ is Judging, which means that I’m task oriented and I haven’t missed a deadline in my life. [laughing] That’s just not something I do. So as an independent, this is incredibly useful to my clients because I’m very reliable. They know that not only will I meet the deadline, I’ll probably have it in early, and one of my clients once said to me, you know, you return everything early. I know that if you ever miss a deadline, you’re probably dead. [laughing]

Ben: Hmm. It’s interesting and part of being that individual contributor, working with the clients, sometimes you can set deadlines that are realistic in that you can–you can achieve those deadlines or you can turn things in in advance of those deadlines. So that can be a really big deal.

Ben: One other thing that you had said in terms of being a very, very good listener. One thing that’s important there I think, and we’re talking about the extrovert-introvert difference here, and I don’t want to paint extroverts with too broad a brush, but there is often a case where people are waiting to say what they want to say and so they’re just waiting for the other person to finish, so they can jump in with what they wanted to contribute, and I think what I’m hearing from you is that you’re more willing to sit back, let the conversation happen, and then bring up pertinent points when appropriate, rather than, “Oh, oh, oh! I know what I want to say here. Please finish up talking so I can say what I want to say.” So I think that’s one of the big differences, and again, I would not accuse all extroverts of doing that, nor would I say that I’m never guilty of that myself.

Alisa: No, no. But there are definitely people who–introvert or extrovert–there are definitely people whose meeting persona is more dominant and people whose meeting persona is more reserved, and I’m definitely one of the more reserved people, because–I am just not by my nature–I’m just not the person who gets into the thick of things in a large group, inasmuch as, “Okay. So we’ve been talking about this for half an hour. You’ve said this, you’ve said this, you’ve said this.” What brings the consensus here is that what we could do is that we could do this other thing and that would solve everybody’s problems. And people go, “Oh, well, I was so wedded to my idea and I was so wedded to my idea that it never occurred to me that there was another option.” Right? So yeah, it’s a lot like counseling, actually. Family counseling, family counseling for groups and teams. [laughing]

Ben: Which gets into your whole INFJ counselor temperament type again.

Alisa: Right, exactly!

Ben: We’ve enjoyed today’s conversation and look forward to continuing the conversation in our next podcast.

Extras

Alisa has a Twitter bot that is sometimes hysterical. https://twitter.com/alisa_ebooks

Animated .GIF of Alisa as a speaker

 

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