Category Archives: personality

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Megan Mack Headshot

Episode 027: Megan Mack–Empathy and Meaningful Discourse

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

Episode 027 Show Notes: Megan Mack

Introduction

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

Megan Mack headshot

Key concepts

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

Quotable

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

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

Ben: Hi Megan.

Megan: Hi. Thanks for having me, Ben.

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

Megan: Likewise. Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben: So for whatever reason…

Megan: You’re finding all of them apparently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben: No, no, no. I think you’re…

Megan: We are on a news station.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Megan: Have you gotten any feedback on it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Megan: Yeah, I understand that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Megan: Great!

 

Extras

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

Megan Mack rotten kid YouTube playlist


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Melanie Seibert headshot

Episode 019: Melanie Seibert: Applying Insights from Personality Inventories

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

Episode 019 Show Notes: Melanie Seibert

Introduction

Melanie Seibert headshot

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

Key concepts

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

Quotable

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

  • Prose Kiln
  • StrengthsFinder
  • Keirsey Temperament Sorter
  • DISC

Links

Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melanie: Really!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Roxy Greninger

Episode 017: Roxy Greninger–A Life Lived for Others

Category:introversion,introverts,personality,Podcast

Episode 017 Show Notes: Roxy Greninger

Introduction

Roxy Greninger

Roxy Greninger and Ben Woelk discuss living a life focused on others, the impact of childhood experiences, and finally–the impetus for the Hope for the Introvert podcast.

Key concepts

  • Influencers
  • Growing up and your circle
  • Community
  • Being exposed to diverse people
  • Growing up as an introvert
  • Why the Hope for the Introvert podcast

Quotable

This is part of where I got the idea for Grow Your Circle because I started looking back, getting back to basics, looking back to my roots and thinking of these influencers, these experiences that had cast such a bright light on my life.

I was like your opposite of Dennis the Menace, but I was in my neighbor’s houses, hanging out with these adult neighbors. And the same thing, you know, with the ladies of the shop.

Being exposed to people with visible disabilities at a very young age, which was very important to me to do for my son as he was growing up, because I think if you grow up without having diverse people that look and sound differently than you, it’s scary, right?

I think I’ve always chatted with strangers and had a comfort level. And I think it was because my family brought me out into the world to see different people and not feared difference, um, but embrace it and actually, like I–I crave it, right? Like I need–I need to challenge myself. I need to experience new people, new thoughts, new things or I just feel, I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right.

You see things that I don’t think many of us see. We may see the person who’s acting oddly for whatever reason and see that as somebody we’re uncomfortable with and we want to move away from. In some ways you move towards those people to see what they need, rather than shying away from them.

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

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

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

Roxy: That’s a good question. I don’t even. I don’t know. So Oregon raised, right? I know that I had a diverse group of friends, I don’t remember them being friends with each other, which was always kind of a burden, right? Like you want to have a birthday party, but none of your friends know each other or get along with each other. And also I think–I think I spent a lot of time with adults as a child. I had the fortune of being raised in an art shop, if you will. My grandmother had a ceramics shop, ceramics and porcelain dolls and it wasn’t limited to ceramics and porcelain dolls. So she taught in that shop. And this is part of where I got the idea for Grow Your Circle because I started looking back, getting back to basics, looking back to my roots and thinking of these influencers, these experiences that had cast such a bright light on my life.

Roxy: So thinking of the women that came into that shop and they had such a–such a sense of community. They would come in. They would–they had a kind of unspoken seating arrangement where they would set up–and I would just run around that shop. I mean, I was in that shop from the time you could keep the paintbrush out of my mouth until we moved to New York–my mom and I moved to New York. So, they were like family, these just hundreds of women in the community. And anytime my grandmother needed something, anytime my mom needed something, there was–there was always–you always knew someone. There was always someone who had something that–they could help or an uncle or a somebody. Right? So, we had a lot of fun there.

Roxy: And then also thinking of my neighborhood. I had one neighbor who was an avid bicyclist and when I bought my first road bicycle–not, not my Huffy with the tassels–he went to a garage sale with me.  I was a teenager and I remember he came with my mom and I to help look it over and make sure that it was a good investment, right? I was using my first wages when I was like 13 years old or something. And the neighbor across the street was a florist and I remember I would just go up and chat with these neighbors, because I had that comfort level with speaking to strange–I don’t want to say to strangers, but to strangers that I knew were within the circle, right?

Roxy: They were in the shop where they were neighbors. And I remember being invited into her house and she had let me help her do her florist arrangements. She taught me how to make peanut butter and jelly. I had another neighbor who was a teacher and you’ll–you’ll appreciate this. You’re a professor. So, she was a second grade teacher, or excuse me, she was a fifth grade teacher and I was in second grade, and she gave me the answer key and let me grade her students math work, right? And so I just–I was like your opposite of Dennis the Menace, but I was in my neighbor’s houses, hanging out with these adult neighbors. And the same thing, you know, with the ladies of the shop.

Roxy: My grandmother would also take me to the nursing home. She volunteered avidly in the community and one of the things that she did was to go to the nursing home, although I think she might’ve been paid for that–that wasn’t a volunteer opportunity, but I was volunteering. I wasn’t paid. And I know there was one day out of the month that the disability–the folks with disabilities would come in a van. And I think that one she did for free as a generosity to the community. But I remember being exposed to people with visible disabilities at a very young age, which was very important to me to do for my son as he was growing up, because I think if you grow up without having diverse people that look and sound differently than you, it’s scary, right?

I think if you grow up without having diverse people that look and sound differently than you, it's scary, right? Roxy Click To Tweet

Roxy: So when you’re exposed to someone who’s in a wheelchair and doesn’t have control of their speech or might have, for lack of a better term, like they’re drooling or these things, you might not even look at them or notice them. So it was very important for me to have my son volunteer with me when I moved to New York. So you get to the answer–that was a roundabout way. Just trying to navigate through my childhood. I think I’ve always chatted with strangers and had a comfort level. And I think it was because my family brought me out into the world to see different people and not feared difference, um, but embrace it and actually, like I–I crave it, right? Like I need–I need to challenge myself. I need to experience new people, new thoughts, new things or I just feel, I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right.

I need to challenge myself. I need to experience new people, new thoughts, new things , or it just doesn't feel right. Roxy Click To Tweet

Ben: It’s interesting. I wrote a blog post a few months ago about saying, “Yes and?” to Leadership Opportunities. But one of the things that I’ve found when I was researching the blog posts was a quote by Albert Einstein in which he says “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” And I think listening to you and talking about your ability to talk to–I will say adults rather than strangers I think. But your ability to interact with adults and really be a servant leader in many ways and be of service to others, I think as you know, is what we’re seeing with this. And it just seems to be such a part of your DNA at this point that you see–you see things probably through your upbringing. You see things that I don’t think many of us see. We may see the person who’s acting oddly for whatever reason and see that as somebody we’re uncomfortable with and we want to move away from. In some ways you move towards those people to see what they need, rather than shying away from them.

Albert Einstein--Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile. Click To Tweet

Roxy: I agree wholeheartedly. I just thought of another example that sounds like you might say that it’s unique and me, but if it’s something that someone doesn’t find that they have, it’s a skill to hone. Right? So there was a program back home and it was called the Pitchford boys, and it’s no longer in place, which is unfortunate, but it was kind of like a second chance.The Pitchford program was for boys who might have gotten in trouble–juvenile trouble from anything from theft to violence to–you name it, right? And they were under 18 so they couldn’t go to jail.

Roxy: So they would send them to this ranch that was down the road from my house, and they would serve time on the ranch doing farm work, and I’m working with the agriculture there and when they’d proven that they could show respect and be trusted–It was a privilege to go to school–then they would be assimilated into the school system. When they rode the bus with me–I lived kind of out in the middle of nowhere. I’m already in the middle of nowhere! And I got to know them and there were just always new kids in the program and you could either be afraid of them and sit at the front of the bus and don’t talk to them. And you know, they can be crass, right? Can say things that are rude. But if you jump right in and you get to know them and ask them questions, you really get to understand why they behave the way that they do. And you know what unfortunate circumstances led to their being there. It was such a great relationship to have like that. I’d have year after year with many of them. I think there was only one of them that ever truly didn’t belong there. And he was the only one that ever scared all of us. [Laughing] And he was very short–for a short time on the bus.

Roxy: But, I think that anyone–I work very closely with our Center for Youth which serves the homeless children’s population. And a lot of people in Rochester don’t even realize how many homeless children there are. They look around and say “Where, where are these homeless children?” And they’re there. You don’t have to look very hard to see them. Or, when you see a family that’s suffering or see a family that talks or acts differently than you, and then they have a hardship, are you quick to dismiss them because they didn’t have the same things you had and the same advantages that you had? It’s definitely a skill that I think people should invest a little time in if they don’t feel that they have it. It’s–it’s just humankind. It was just being kind and considerate of–Don’t, don’t fear a homeless person. I don’t hand dollars to homeless people. I invest my money in legitimate programs. But, don’t be afraid of them! I think that’s another–another conversation. What media has done to make us afraid of the homeless population and assuming that they all have mental health and they’re all going to attack you on the street. But that’s a different–that’s a different soapbox conversation. [Laughing]

Ben: Yeah, we’ll do that on another segment at some point in time. [Roxy laughing.] So one thing that’s funny about this, is that you’ve identified as an introvert, but we also talked about how you were a sociable introvert, and when you were growing up you were in a lot of conversations with people that say a classic–if there is such a thing–introvert would have found very difficult to even engage in. So it’s, it’s, it’s kind of fascinating how you need the time and the quiet and the space, or the books even, to recharge. But you’re still able to go out and be very very social. So you’ve definitely built on that skill.

You need the time and the quiet and the space, or the books even, to recharge. But you're still able to go out and be very very social. So you've definitely built on that skill. Click To Tweet

Roxy: I’ll tell you what I missed as a child was hours and hours and hours of quiet play. I loved building houses for my dolls. My mom did some design work and I always had access to supplies, right? So I was always building houses out of U-Haul boxes and carpet swatches and things like that. And I noticed right away when my son was growing up–he’s an extrovert–and I noticed such a difference in–not behavior, but just he as a very small child needed to be in the same room with us. He did not ever want to play by himself in his room. And I thought it was so strange, I didn’t force it, but I thought it was so strange, that he wouldn’t just play, and I could get him playing and then if I left the room, it wasn’t very long before he would come find me and bring his toys out to the space where I was.

Roxy: And that continued on and, you know, even to now, like he will–if he’s in his room, it’s because he’s on social media with his friends. He’s FaceTiming or Snapchatting with friends or he immediately wants to run out and hang out with friends. And not just because he’s a teenager, but because that’s just innately who he is. But yeah, hours of quiet time for me. I would play in the backyard by myself. Sing songs, choreograph dances all by myself, right? So I saw it at a very early age that I didn’t know I needed it until you start working and you start–I don’t want to say being robbed of your time–but your time becomes less of your own when you’re an adult.

Ben: No, absolutely. And I’m looking back at my childhood, and we won’t go into any depth on it, but I also grew up in kind of the end of the bus stop, and a quarter mile into the orange grove to get to the farmhouse I grew up in. And we didn’t have close neighbors and I was an–I did have a sister a couple of years younger–but we’re both introverts, and we could amuse ourselves for hours doing whatever.

Ben: Ironically, one story that goes with that: The house I grew up in has actually become a museum at this point in time because it’s one of the few surviving examples of what they called Florida Vernacular Architecture. It was built in the late 1800s, and I didn’t realize it had happened, but they did some archaeological digs up near the house. And one of the things they actually dug up was plastic Flintstones dinosaur bones that my sister and I had apparently buried in the hope that some archaeologists at some point in time would dig things up and find it. So it was this ability to be amused–I’m not sure what that says [laughing], but this ability to have that kind of play and whether individually or with just the two of us that I find really interesting, and there’s always a debate about whether it’s nature or nurture in terms of introversion or what that combination might be.

Ben: One thing that I referenced earlier in our conversation was that you were really the catalyst for starting the Hope for the Introvert podcasts. And I kind of wanted to revisit that. It’s pretty recent. It’s only a few months ago where this came up. But what were your thoughts around why you thought there should be a podcast like this? It’s not like it’s the only introvert podcast out there.

Roxy: Yeah, I–it totally draws from my current influences. So within my circle I follow a variety of YouTubers and motivational speakers if you’ll call them that. Celebrity types. And they’re constantly talking about their evolution into how they became who they are. And it’s fascinating to me to see the progress that they’ve made. And when you were talking about your blog and talking about your work, it just, it just fit, right? I just made the connection between what I see them doing, and you’re at the beginning phases of where they were and where they’ve gone to. I can–I can almost see your path right when you were talking to me. And also, maximizing your audience. Not everybody reads blogs, believe it or not, right? So, myself, I–I read. I don’t know if I read blogs. I read books, but I’m more so try to maximize how I’m getting input, and that comes by way of podcasts, that comes by way of audio book. Although I found it to be dangerous reading audio books on the Thruway because I also like to take notes, and so I end up pausing the audio book more–more times than not because I can’t take notes. But yeah. it just–it just seemed like a natural fit to suggest podcast foryou because the influences that are around me now are doing it, right? So if you had the same influences that I did absent me, you–you would have had a natural progression into a podcast, I feel as–as well without me.

Ben: As we’ve usually found in our conversations, Roxy and I have covered a good deal of ground here and uncovered subjects that we didn’t really plan to talk about at all, but which I hope have been of interest to you as listeners and now you have a little bit about–a little bit of the background about why I’m doing a podcast. So, if you’re enjoying this, you can thank Roxy for her influence on this and her urging me to do it. So again, Roxy, I’d like to thank you again for joining us today.

Roxy: Thank you so much for having me, Ben. It’s such a privilege and an honor to be part of your podcast and I hope to join you again.

Ben: Awesome. I think that’s definite.

Extras

The Flintstones logo
The Flintstones was a Hanna-Barbara series that ran from 1960-1966.


  • 1
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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Episode 013: Helen Harbord–Acting, Presenting, and Improv

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

Episode 013 Show Notes: Helen Harbord

Introduction

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

Key concepts

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

Quotable

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

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

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

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

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

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helen: Yeah, empathy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helen: Yeah. Definitely.

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

Ben: Thanks Helen, for a fun interview!

Extras

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


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