Category Archives: Summit

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Gabby Pascuzzi headshot

Episode 024: Gabby Pascuzzi–Vulnerability and Leaning In

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

Episode 024 Show Notes: Gabby Pascuzzi

Introduction

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

Gabby Pascuzzi headshot

Key concepts

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

Quotable

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

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

Ben: Hi Gabby!

Gabby: Hi Ben.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben: Sure. We’ll go with it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabby: Yeah, definitely.

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

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

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

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

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

Click To Tweet

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

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

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

Click To Tweet

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

Extras

Survivor Profile

Gabby Pascuzzi on Survivor


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Alisa Bonsignore headshot

Episode 005: Alisa Bonsignore–Public Speaker

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

Episode 005 Show Notes: Alisa Bonsignore

Introduction

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

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

Key concepts

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

Quotable

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

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

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

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

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alisa: Right, exactly!

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

Extras

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

Animated .GIF of Alisa as a speaker

 

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Alisa Bonsignore headshot

Episode 004: Alisa Bonsignore–Introverted Entrepreneur

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

Episode 004 Show Notes: Alisa Bonsignore

Alisa Bonsignore headshotIntroduction

Alisa Bonsignore is the principal of Clarifying Complex Ideas, a strategic communications consultancy in the Bay Area with clients around the world. Alisa Bonsignore and Ben Woelk discuss how and why she transitioned from a corporate job to becoming a solo entrepreneur and the challenges she faces as an introvert in that role. We also chat about overcoming reticence in meetings.

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

Key concepts

  • Solo entrepreneurship
  • International clients
  • Entry points
  • Turning layoffs into opportunities
  • Soul-sucking meetings
  • Cultivating reliable clients
  • The importance of management encouragement
  • Subtext

Quotable

Once I come in the door they realize that I have these skills and I can make things very accessible for the reader…people go, “Oh, but I could use that for this project or that project.”

And for me, meetings are particularly draining, because as an introvert, being in meetings is just–it just sucks my soul, especially if it’s not a productive meeting.

I tended to be extremely quiet in meetings for many years… almost to the point of invisibility, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t have ideas.

You’ve got the dominant personalities and they’re sort of fighting it out in a way in the meeting itself. But sometimes, it’s not until later on where you get away from the noise, where it starts to make sense, what people actually meant, like… the subtext of what they’re actually asking for.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

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

Ben: Alisa and I have been friends for several years and first met each other at a Society for Technical Communication Summit Conference in Sacramento, and I believe that was around 2012 or so. Alisa helps administer the Introverted Leadership Slack community and provided her insights for the “Introvert in the Workplace–Becoming an Influencer and Leader,” published in Intercom magazine, May-June 2018. Alisa also contributed an article, Introverted Entrepreneurship–Embracing Your Introvert Skills,” in February of 2017. if you’re attending a conference, so you can often find Alisa and me at events hanging out on the periphery and chatting. We are introverts after all!

Ben: Alisa, many introverts face challenges in their workplace. However, you’re a solo entrepreneur, so your experience maybe a bit different than that of others. What is your workplace like?

Alisa: I work from a home office, which is actually ideal for me. I know a lot of people don’t enjoy the home office environment because they feel like there are too many distractions. There’s the television, there’re other things to do, there’s the kitchen. I know a lot of people have trouble with the kitchen [laughing], but for me it’s actually ideal, because I feel like I get a lot more done because I don’t have the interruptions; I don’t have the people popping into the office needing to chat with me or requesting meetings. Most of my clients are based in Europe–well a lot of them anyway. And with the nine hour time difference that means by my 9:00 AM, most of them are gone for the day, so I do a lot of early conference calls. I get my meetings out of the way and then I have the entire day to be flexible and work at my own pace without interruption, and it’s just perfect for me.

Ben: What kind of work do you do?

Alisa: I’m primarily a writer and an editor. I provide communications consulting to companies, usually large companies (but some startups) around their communications plans, and that can range from anything from their marketing communications to more of their technical communications to a broader content strategy to policies and procedures. There’s a lot of things that that sort of fall into that. Once I come in the door they realize that I have these skills and I can make things very accessible for the reader, and then I’m sort of shuffled around from group to group where people go, “Oh, but I could use that for this project or that project.” But, a lot of what I come in the door for tends to be somewhere between technical communication and marketing. It’s more of your white papers and things like that where you need to explain really difficult technical or clinical concepts to ordinary people in plain language. And that’s usually my entry point. But, then I do a lot of things from there.

Ben: That’s interesting. So how long have you been doing the solo entrepreneur thing and what did you do previous to that?

Alisa: So I was doing it part time, sort of, the nighttime freelance writer for several years. But this full-time version of it started about 12 years ago. right after my son was born. I had been working in-house at that time, at a medical device company. It was right here in town. The commute was great. I loved my boss. I loved my team. Everything was wonderful, and I came back from maternity leave, and three days later they announced that they were shutting the entire office down and moving to Boulder, Colorado. So that pretty much put things into perspective and I said, “Okay. Maybe maybe it’s time to do the freelance thing that I’ve been talking about before.” So, that’s what kicked me out the door. And it does help when you’re starting out that you have 400 people in your building who have now scattered to the wind, because those 400 people carry your name with them to wherever they go. So, that was a really good starting point, actually. It was a bit of a kick in the butt, but it was a–It ended up being very helpful.

Ben: So what happened was you had thought about launching this and then you were…

Alisa: Well, so we had talked for years about if and when we ever had kids, that that would be a really good time to go freelance because of the flexibility and the options there, and I wouldn’t be tied down to an office where it was more difficult, right? So we talked about it, but I was in a really good situation at the time so I had no intention of quitting and moving on, because it was really working well for me, because it was a, as I said, a good group and a good manager, and I was really enjoying the situation that I was in until it wasn’t there anymore.

Ben: It’s always interesting what provides the impetus for change and, at least in my experience from many times, it doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily ready, even though we were certainly thinking about moving in that direction. So, in terms of your previous workplace, right now you’re working from home by yourself, you have a good deal of control (or at least the illusion of control) when you have conversations scheduled and things like that. What was it like for you when you were in a corporate workplace?

Alisa: So I think my corporate experience was a lot like what most communicators find in a corporate experience, which is that, as a communicator, you have several different clients internally. You’re not just typically writing for one product manager, or one engineer, or one whatever. You’ve got a lot of people who are pulling you in a lot of different directions, which means that you have a lot of meetings, and a lot of busy time that you might not necessarily be accomplishing, but you’re sucked into a lot of the time. [laughing] And for me, that’s particularly draining, because as an introvert, being in meetings is just–it just sucks my soul, especially if it’s not a productive meeting. I mean, the meetings that I have now with my clients, especially since most of them are Swedish and German, we get on the phone, we talk about what needs to be talked about. We get on, we get off, we move on with our day. It’s not the lingering, 12 people on a conference call. “Hi, who’s this?” “Who dialed in?” “Oh, well it’s Bob here.” You’re not drifting out into that sort of thing.

Alisa: It’s a much more pointed meeting and a much more relevant meeting than what I used to have, and as is the nature of any cubicle farm, when you’re in house, people just pop by, and they’ve got things they want to talk about, and they may be work related and they may not be work related, but they suck your day. [laughing] I found that I wasn’t really getting as much accomplished as I wanted to at the time, because it was–there was so much brain power going into the meetings and the time going into the meetings, and it wasn’t really giving me the time to just sort of have uninterrupted time to do what I was really supposed to be doing.

Ben: So, it sounds like there’s a bit of a cultural difference with your current meetings over the typical in-house meeting as well.

Alisa: Well, and I think too, maybe it’s–just a part of it’s cultural– with the type of culture in Sweden, Germany, but part of it too, I think, is it’s a lot easier when it’s a one-on-one call. You’re either both there or you’re both not, and when you’re there you’re not sitting around waiting for somebody else to dial in, and it’s not that waste of time with all the useless chitter-chatter for 15 minutes. It’s, we’re both on, okay, here’s what we have to cover. Boom, boom, boom. Now we’re done. Great. Have a great day.

Ben: In terms of your current entrepreneurial position, what do you find challenging as an introvert? I know based on what we’ve talked about here and talked about previously, you are able to at least somewhat structure your day. What do you find to be a challenge as an introvert?

Alisa: So I think that onboarding new clients is always a challenge, because you always have to be selling. You always have to be networking, right? So this is why I’ve done a really good job over the years of cultivating reliable clients that I know that I can go back to again and again, because I don’t want to have to do that relationship building. That’s draining to me, because it’s selling. It’s about selling myself. It’s about proving that I can do what they need to have done. That’s exhausting. It’s like job interviewing every time you do it and certainly I prefer not to do that. [laughing] So over the years I’ve done a really good job of really cultivating good people, and even within a company filtering down the people that I want to work with in that company, even if it’s a good company overall to work with, that doesn’t mean that everybody is good to work with within the company.

Alisa: I’ve definitely worked on tha t so that I’m doing less selling, which is helpful to me psychologically, but also it helps because I’m not having to do all of the administrative chasing. So I’m not having to worry about setting up the vendor as a vendor and all these different companies and I’m not worrying about as much how to–who do I contact if I don’t get paid, I already have my contacts, I already know who to reach and it makes it a lot simpler to work with at that time.

Ben: So do you pretty much do all of the, all of your business responsibilities yourself?

Alisa: Yeah, it’s all me.

Ben: So no virtual assistant or anything like that at all?

Alisa: No, no, just all me.

Ben: Alisa, you had talked about meetings and how meetings can be challenging when they’re in a corporate environment, because when you’ve got everybody catching up with everybody to see however you want is doing, but you also have the issue where you may be in a meeting with many, many people, but there’s only a small portion of it where you’re really active in the meeting. Now, for me that is multitasking time, which may or may not be a good thing. (Especially if somebody addresses something to you and you’ve been busy working on something else for half an hour.) So what else–was there anything else that you found challenging about being in a corporate meeting?

Alisa: Well,  yeah, I mean especially in a lot of my roles I’ve had to deal with people who are a lot more extroverted than I am, and that means that they talk a lot. When there are people in the room who are dominating the conversation, it’s not my style to dominate the conversation. I mean, I’ll speak up when I have something that I really need to say, but I’m also not the kind of person who will typically talk over somebody else to make that happen. So if you’re in a room with sales, if you’re in a room with that manager who’s really just like loud and dominating and aggressive or whatever, it’s very hard for me to butt in and be like, “But wait, I have a thought here.” It’s not really–it’s not really my style.

Alisa: So, I tended to be extremely quiet in meetings for many years to the point where–almost to the point of invisibility, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t have ideas. I would be much more inclined after I’d had some time, we’d all met and after we leave the room, sort of like when somebody insults you, you get the great comeback later. After a meeting I walk away and 12 steps out the door, I’m like, I get it now. I know exactly what we need to do because I’ve had a few seconds to process what everybody has been saying and where everybody’s coming from, and come up with a solution that works for everybody, which might not come to me on the fly in the meeting itself.

Ben: Was this anything that your management ever mentioned to you at all? I had a conversation, which is on another episode of this podcast,  with a friend whose manager actually described her-to her face-in a meeting as being a slow thinker.

Alisa: [laughing] No, nobody ever thought that I was a slow thinker to my knowledge. Nobody ever said it to me anyway, but I definitely think that there was the perception–well, I feel like there’s the perception that writers in general are quieter people. I mean we’re not expected to be keeping pace with sales in terms of our conversation and our–our loudness in our domination, right? We are–we are generally,–most writers that you work with are generally more reticent than others. So I don’t think it was completely unexpected, but in my last in-house job, my boss was like, “No, you know what you’re talking about. Get in there and just barge right in and do it!” She was much more encouraging of that–not that anybody else had been discouraging–but she was much more, “Why are you not saying something?”

Alisa: “Well, because, I’m not–I’m not going to interrupt the vice president of something or other who thinks he’s got this grand plan.” And she’s like, “No. Somebody has to interrupt him. This is nothing. This isn’t smart. What do you say? You really got to get in there and do it! Tell them what you think, and do–do what needs to be done!” And so there was much more push there from her, so she was really good for encouraging me that way as opposed to the-the negative encouragement of others. No, she was–she definitely gave me some positive reinforcement.

Ben: It’s interesting because I tend to be reticent, and not that you would believe that now either! [laughing] I tend to be reticent in meetings or at least I have in the past, but for me to feel like I’m going to interrupt this vice president, even though I know this person is wrong in what they’re doing, feels a little bit about, “Oh, look, the emperor has new clothes!” And I don’t want to be that person who points that thing out. But obviously, I’m thinking it, whether I’m–whether I’m saying it out loud or not. [Alisa laughing] So I definitely empathize with what you’re talking about in terms of being hesitant to interrupt. And even now, even as “glib”  as I can be for an introvert in meetings, there’re so many times it’s like, “Oh, I should have said something about that.” “I need to talk to this person afterwards, because they didn’t come across the way they thought they did,” or, “that really might not work the way you think it’s going to,” and for whatever reason, and I’m definitely not always right, but for whatever reason, those flaws usually jump out when I hear them or especially if I read them.

Ben: So, meeting behavior can definitely be a bit of a challenge?

Alisa: Yes. Yeah, for me, a lot of what goes on in conversation–there’s–you’ve got the dominant personalities and they’re sort of fighting it out in a way in the meeting itself. But sometimes, it’s not until later on where you get away from the noise, where it starts to make sense, what people actually meant, like what was the subtext of what they’re actually asking for. They may be barking about needing X, but really, the reason why they’re barking about that, is because they’re under pressure about Y, and–“Oh, if we can address that, then X becomes less relevant. We don’t have to fight about X.” Right?

Ben: Looking forward to the second part of our conversation.

Extras

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

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microphone

Ben Woelk–Spring 2018 Speaking and Conference Schedule

Category:EDUCAUSE,Information Security,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Presentations,STC,Summit

Updated 18 February 2018

It’s going to be a busy few months for speaking engagements for the first half of the year! I hope to see many of you.

Speaking Engagements through June 2018

Topic Date Venue Registration Link Notes
Slack for Technical Writers and Editors 23 Jan STC San Diego and STC Rochester Virtual Workshop NA With Sara Feldman; Recording available.
Slack for Communities 16 Feb STC CAC Leadership Virtual Workshop NA With Sara Feldman
Lessons Learned on an Introvert’s Journey to Leadership 22 Feb STC Atlanta Webinar Sign up on Meetup to receive registration instructions
Lessons Learned on an Introvert’s Journey to Leadership 27 Feb Webinar for Quebec City Private
Digital Self Defense 28 Feb meRIT webinar Register Open Registration
Digital Self Defense 20 March American Society for Quality, Rochester Section 0204 Register
Spectrum 2018 25-27 March Rochester Institute of Technology Register on Eventbrite Co-chair, no formal presentation, 40+ presentations and workshops over 3 days
Digital Self Defense 3 April Rochester, NY Private
It Doesn’t Take Magic: Tricks of the Trade to Create an Effective Security Awareness Program 10 Apr Preconference seminar, Baltimore, MD Register at EDUCAUSE With Tara Schaufler, Princeton University. EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference, Separate registration required
Different Boats for Different Folks: Tales of Security Awareness Follies and Successes 11 Apr Panel Discussion, Baltimore, MD Register at EDUCAUSE With Sandy Silk, Harvard University; Christine Bonds, Elon University; Emily Harris, Vassar College, EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference
Slack Workshop TBD STC PMC Virtual Workshop TBD With Sara Feldman
Summit Leadership Program 20 May STC Summit Register
Temperament-Based Strategies for Excelling in the Workplace 20 May STC Summit Preconference Workshop Register Additional registration required
The Introvert in the Workplace: Becoming an Influencer and Leader 21 May STC Summit Presentation Register
Yes and…: Improv’ing Your Corporate Communication Skills 21 May STC Summit Workshop Register With Jack Molisani; Additional fee ($20) required; limited to 20 participants per session.
Yes and…: Improv’ing Your Corporate Communication Skills 22 May STC Summit Workshop Register With Jack Molisani; Additional fee ($20) required; limited to 20 participants per session.

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Join me in Orlando in May 2018 for Temperament-based Strategies for Excelling in the Workplace!

Category:introversion,personality,STC,Summit Tags : 

Summit Save the DateTemperament-based Strategies for Excelling in the Workplace
Sunday, May 20, 2018, 1:00-4:30 PM | Ben Woelk

Temperament types have big impacts on work relationships. Today’s workplace presents challenges for both introverted and extraverted team members.

  • Many workplaces are adopting open space layouts that foster teamwork but provide little opportunities for introverts to contribute as individuals.
  • Extraverts may struggle with working with Introverts.

Because of Western society’s emphasis on extraversion, many introverts feel unsuited or ill-equipped to thrive in today’s workplace and are not sure how to take that next step to increase influence and improve visibility.

All personality types may have issues working with coworkers or management. Is your manager a Guardian, an Idealist, a Rational, or an Artisan? How does that change how you approach them?

Suitable for all attendees, you’ll benefit from understanding your temperament and how you interact best with others. Attendees will benefit most from the workshop if they know their Myers-Briggs/temperament profile in advance. I recommend taking the tests at humanmetrics.com and keirsey.com before attending.

Register at https://summit.stc.org/preconference/


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