Author Archives: Jennifer Kahnweiler

How to be a more creative person

 

I am so pleased to share this new TEDX talk by my friend and speaking colleague Bill Stainton. Bill is a living example of how practice is the key to greatness. He prepared for his moment on the TEDX stage for months, rehearsing 5 times a day or more. And the results clearly show…Bill shares wise, powerful lessons about creativity that will make you think for days and weeks afterward. That is the mark of a great speech!

For those of us who write, speak or otherwise create for a living, the art of creativity remains elusive. Yet, Bill’s idea about cracking our cocoon offers one clue to get closer to it.

From the speech description:

“What do Johnny Depp, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and a little old lady from Russia have to do with creativity? More important, how can they help you tap into your own creative genius?

Bill Stainton believes that when we isolate ourselves from ideas, experiences, and people who are “different,” we are robbing ourselves, our businesses, our communities, and our world of the creative ideas that are essential to solving our biggest challenges. Only by becoming less isolationist—by “cracking our cocoon” and embracing people and experiences that may at first seem “weird”—will we discover the connections that can lead to breakthrough ideas….”

I have been more aware of how collecting different experiences helps awaken my creative spirit.  They take me out of my cocoon.  For instance, last weekend, while in DC, I visited the new National Museum of African-American History & Culture. My eyes were opened and I  was so moved. The triumph over adversity showed by African-Americans was so impactfully displayed. The museum images continue to play in my head and I am still processing my feelings. They have shifted something inside and that alone jostles my creative muscle.

I have little interest in gardening but found myself at a plant show this morning, I was struck by the vibrant beauty of the blooming pansies. Another shift.

And I  broke through an impasse on a writing project when away from my desk, stretching in a Yoga class. The idea came as the instructor voiced some soothing words in the background.

By bringing in disparate ideas we often catch that golden one.

I am so grateful to Bill for sharing his gifts with the world and helping us all find the creative genius that lies below the surface.

How can you move out of your cocoon? If you like Bill’s talk please share it with your communities. Thanks!

Evolent Health Tunes into Introverts

Last week I presented a session on introverts and extroverts in the workplace at a fast growing company called Evolent Health. They have grown from 5 employees to 2400 in the last 5 years and are partnering with health systems across the country to provide value based care.

Casey Wilson, Managing Director of Learning and Organizational Effectiveness, along with senior leadership, believe that styles are an important part of the diversity and inclusion agenda. They have previously addressed gender and other issues and saw the need to bring styles into the conversation.

The of 100 participants were made up of remote employees and in-person attendees who were at the Arlington headquarters that day. The class was particularly receptive to learning more about how we can approach conflict. We covered practical approaches such as using key phrases (ex. “you may be right”) and eliminating “but’ from our sentences. We also demonstrated approaches like not standing head on but at a 45-degree angle and implementing the “walking meeting” option.

The importance of humor was also addressed and I shared clips of the Chicago film critics Siskel and Ebert who turned a hostile relationship into one of deep friendship. In discussing, “Destroying the Dislike” I noted that it is when you act like friends and show respect,  your team can accomplish a great deal.

Class participants committed to specific actions and by taking the time to increase their awareness they believe that their effectiveness with teammates will increase.  I am encouraged by the steps of organizations like Evolent Health and Casey Wilson who know styles differences are important to address.

Five Ways An Introvert Can Participate in a Political Debate

Five Ways An Introvert Can Participate in a Political Debate One of my favorite introverted editors, Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc asked me to write a guest post on introverts and politics for the Berrett-Koehler blog. If you have not seen the fantastic newsletter he sends out you are missing a terrific opportunity. Sign up now and tell me I was right. Here is the post with some additional introductory content.

In this age of political divisiveness, it often feels like we are living in different worlds from our co-workers, friends, and neighbors. In trying to preserve these relationships we avoid discussing political issues with those who have different opinions from us.  

Yet, when we connect with our “opposites” we often find that we can develop compassion, and even grow from understanding a wider range of views. If we see disagreement as necessary to arrive at better outcomes we can challenge each other to come up with better solutions. I agree with Penn Jillette who said of his longtime partner in magic, Teller, “We often hate each other but it is the kind of hate that is worth the while.”  

Introverts have an advantage over extroverts in discussing hot topics. They bring strengths like listening, calm observation, and delving deeply to truly understand a topic or person. Here are
5 specific ways introverts can participate in a productive political discussion while
maintaining their cool.

1)  Listen without defending. You most likely are a great listener already and demonstrate this by nodding, paraphrasing what you hear and asking great questions. Your conversational partners will not feel defensive if they know they can express themselves freely. You will preserve the relationship and continue to be perceived as a calm, reasoned person who shows respect. The key is to check yourself on your judgments as you listen. Just be curious about where your strong emotion is coming from and set that aside while you try to understand the other person. An introverted colleague listened to her teammate argue against gun control and though she vehemently disagreed with his position, she didn’t cut him off. They still have many areas of disagreement but their dialogue continues.

2. Get Your Voice in the Room. Don’t hold back your ideas. Your voice matters. So get comfortable with stating your opinion by first writing down your ideas before speaking them. Consider keeping a journal or use your mobile device to record your private beliefs. When it comes time to share them you will have given them deep thought, something you are comfortable with doing as an introvert.

3. Take Quiet Time. The onslaught of negative news can create stress for introverts, and the overstimulation can be difficult. Be sure to build in breaks from news, social media and political conversations. Be careful not to overreach and make your breaks morph into isolation. This can lead you to spend too much time brooding about events in your head and having circular conversations with yourself. 

Read the rest here: 

 

5 Proven Approaches to Bring Out Introverts

Five Proven Approaches to Bring Out IntrovertsMany introverts tell me that they prefer live meetings to conference calls. Why? They find it easier to read people when they can see them. Body language cues and facial expressions are helpful in understanding more about who is speaking and what they are expressing. Listening to voice cues alone is often limiting.

Smart managers know workarounds to this dilemma and use 5 proven approaches to bring out introverts.

  1. Prepare an agenda. Even if you are not an agenda maker, pause and take some time to write down the items you want to address. Also, include a space for the action items and who will own the task. Introverts will appreciate having the time to carefully consider the topics and their input will be more substantial.
  2.  Tell Introverts Why They Are There: If you have points you want quieter participants to contribute you can let them know by providing a quick email beforehand. Tell them why they are there. To avoid conflict introverts may not push back when they are not sure why they have been included on a call. If you explain the reason they are on the call they will be able to contribute in a more meaningful way.
  3. Get There Early – Get on the call at least 10 minutes before the start time. Technology can fail and it is good to test all connections. You can also use this time to develop rapport with others as they get arrive. When you start the call, try to avoid immediately diving into the task. Go around the “room” if you have no more than 10 people and ask them for one short positive update which can be either personal or work related. Introverts,` who don’t usually volunteer personal information as easily as extroverts will appreciate this structure. As a team leader, you are building relationships between meeting participants, which will make the work go more effectively.
  4. Create Structure on the Call – Put some structure in place that sets the stage for everyone to be heard. A ground rule like “One person speak at a time ” can encourage introverts to voice their ideas. You can also ask people to write down some solutions to a problem or question and allow for a few minutes of quiet time as the ideas take shape. Since introverts find meetings and conference calls draining consider how you can incorporate small task forces outside the meeting to cut the calls shorter and play to the introvert’s strong suit of more focused conversations.
  5. Consider technology –By using programs like Zoom, Skype  Google Hangout  or Freeconference.com  you can incorporate video into your calls. This allows introverts to have access to body language cues. These web-based platforms also have a chat feature that allows everyone to post comments and questions during the call. Having the ability to reflect and express their ideas in writing is very natural  for introverts.

 A special word to Introverted Meeting Leaders:

Dan, a senior director at a government agency shared that he and his team rarely talk because they are all introverts and don’t like to meet! He had to push himself to schedule calls with his remote group. Introverted leaders can see the benefit of drawing from the synergy of teams but do find the experience draining.

It is most important that introverted leaders  allow enough time before and after meetings to energize and recharge. Breathing space will help you to function at your best. Also be sure to meet participants by phone or in person. Connecting one-one-one is a strong suit and you will have a better understanding of who is on the call when you speak “off-line.” This is true for after the call as well, if there are unfinished items or you are unclear about next steps.

So with a little planning and sensitivity to the needs of introverts, conference calls can be a tool for gathering the best from your entire team.

There are more suggestions for introverts and meetings in my book The Introverted Leader: Building On Your Quiet Strength.

Overcoming public speaking anxiety for introverts

Overcoming public speaking anxiety for introverts David, a manager at a global publishing company was kind enough to write me and share the approach he took to overcoming his performance anxiety.  He wrote: ” I am considered an introvert and I am transitioning to a leadership role,” he said.

“……The ironic thing for me is that my position requires a lot of public speaking, training and facilitating in meetings. I will say that it can be very draining, and very often I will withdraw from the public for hours or the rest of the day after long meetings or training sessions. I dine alone or take two-hour naps to recharge.

The public speaking aspects, as well as the internal and external customer interactions that I am “forced” to do, are not so problematic for me now because I  a musician, and have for much of my life focused on solo piano. There is nothing quite as nerve-racking as walking up to the stage to expose your every weakness, physical and mental, before an audience who is all too familiar with the repertoire. You think you will make a mistake, then you do, and everybody knows when it happened. It often looms larger in the performer’s mind than it does with the audience, and so it eats away at you. The small mistakes can make you that much more nervous during your next performance. “

Here is how David said he overcome that challenge: “One of the things I tried to do was to put more focus on the energy or the spirit of the performance, to focus on the performance itself and not the technical aspects of the piece. In this way, someone might say, “oh, it’s a shame you didn’t nail such-and-such a section”; however, they cannot take away from the energy or the emotion of the performance. This makes a performance satisfying to both audience and performer.”

And he continued, ” Besides all that, it makes public speaking a breeze! I always go into a meeting or a training room with the idea that talking is easier than playing Liszt. I have placed my mindset in advance so I can methodically make presentations and “improvise” as necessary. This way, public speaking becomes like playing and I am never nervous.”

David’s parting words? “My advice for people with public speaking fears is to go out and take some piano lessons, with the goal of performing a piece in a group recital after a year or so. These things are typically arranged by studio teachers and are great for inviting family and friends. Not only does one benefit from learning a new language, but one also benefits from the trial-by-fire performance of a Mozart trifle, missing some notes, then moving on with life and getting better.”

Thank you, David. Let’s see if anyone takes you up on your suggestion. Playing an instrument also helps your brain cells multiply so it sounds like a good suggestion all around.

Kaleidoscope: Become “Value-unique” this Valentine’s Day

Become value-unique this Valentine's Day You know it right away. When you walk in a restaurant and the hostess doesn’t catch your eye. It happened the other night…it was a LONG night as we waited for our food and made the best of it. The leadership of that restaurant could benefit from reading author and customer service guru’s Chip Bell’s books, especially his latest one called Kaleidoscope.

It is a quick read with deep ideas like how to deliver a “masterpiece” and “deliver with candor.” I love this guy and his books. And so will you.

In The Genius of Opposites, I write about the exponential power of opposites. In my case,  it is introverts and extroverts, who through their different perspectives and styles emerge with stronger solutions than they might have alone.  Chip writes that by challenging our staid thinking we emerge with truly innovative customer service solutions.

Check out his guest post and I encourage you to buy his book TODAY on Valentine’s Day for those you love, including yourself! Let’s help everyone “deliver innovative service that sparkles!”

Chip’s words:

There is an old conflict resolution technique by which opposing parties have to articulate the other person’s view as if the two had swapped positions. It is useful in clarifying misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and erroneous facts. It is a clear and present manifestation of standing in another person’s shoes.

The technique is a powerful tool for innovative service. It is turning everything upside down and around to find new ways to deliver a profoundly delight-filled experience to those you serve. What if we used drones instead of trucks for deliveries? What if the doctor came to you? What if the guests controlled the theme park experience instead of the park cast members? What if the car drove itself? What if a wearable—shirt, watch, or headdress—managed the vital workings of your life?

We love to talk about managing differences—introverts vs. extroverts, old farts vs. upstarts, men vs. women, or democrats vs. republicans. But looking at the world from a dramatically different perspective led to the decline of the flat earth society, barbers as bleeders, and the horse as the best mode of transportation. If turned a circus into a Cirque du Soleil, a bookstore into an Amazon, and a Big Boy Burgers into a Chick-fil-A.

Opposites can be the birth of innovative service‹the kind customers experience as having the charm and attraction as a toy kaleidoscope! It takes courage and curiosity. It requires the pursuit of paradigm-breaking experimentation.  And, it takes embracing the fact that value-unique (ingenuity borne of difference, not sameness) is a far more powerful marketplace differentiator today than value-added (giving customers what they expect plus a little more). Disruptors get comfortable with dissonance and shun the way we’ve always done it.˛ While we all enjoy the ease of “birds of a feather flock together,” the winners are the embracers of “opposites attract’.

 

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several national best-selling books. His newest book is the just-released Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. He can be reached at chipbell.com.

Introverts and others act the part in the courtroom

share_05I had the same reaction many of us have upon seeing the word “SUMMONS” on the form letter that arrived in my mailbox. “Jury Duty? How can I get out of it?” and ” At the very least I will get some reading done. I haven’t been selected the other 3 times I have gone down to the county courthouse so this will be the same. “

I never realized that the three days I spent serving as a juror would prove to be so enlightening and disturbing at the same time. One of the observations I made was that all of us involved in deciding the fate of the defendant had roles to play and during the trial, we were expected to play our parts. It was only after the trial ended did this become clear to me.

The Jury Experience 

Monday morning I took public transit down to the county courthouse in a sad part of downtown  Atlanta where I was starkly reminded of my white suburban privilege. As I waited with several hundred jurors we were told that there were a number of trials on the docket that day and many of us would be needed.

I actually started to be curious about the experience. After all, didn’t both the promo video and pleasant jury administrator say it was our responsibility as citizens to serve on a jury of our peers in a democratic society? In addition, my spouse Bill had served on a murder trial several years ago in this same county and was greatly affected by the experience. I mulled all this over and was simultaneously intrigued and nervous about the potential of serving. .

It ended up that, in fact,  my number was called when the final juror pool was selected. The three-day trial was to decide if a young man was guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. There was a great deal of evidence for us to consider and multiple witnesses. The experience opened my eyes up in many ways as I learned about the way things work in the courtroom, the role of gang violence, drug busts and how law enforcement acted in all of this. I had to listen so intently and take in the body language of the witnesses and other players every minute I was in the courtroom. And we were instructed many times by the judge to not discuss the case, so I felt the fatigue of keeping my conflicting theories and reactions inside without having a chance to discuss them until later.

Act The Part 

What became quickly apparent is that we all had roles to play in this courtroom drama.

The Defendant – He was dressed up in a new suit, looked focused and took constant notes. Was he told to do that by his defense attorneys to show he was seriously paying attention?

The Judge – SERIOUS. A woman who had a face that meant business in her courtroom. She chastised both the prosecuting and defense attorneys equally and would not let us jurors use pens to take notes because the clicking noise was “distracting.”  Her demeanor showed that she owned the courtroom.

The Defense attorney –  Had a flair for the dramatic. She was pregnant, wore stilettos and went after witnesses coolly and intently.

The D.A. – A warm, southern gentleman who was conversational in his manner. He slowly and methodically laid out the case.

The Jury – Our foreperson was a gregarious retired school principal who led us in a memory name game on our first morning:)  After that, we all seemed to bond pretty well. We went from banter in the jury room to somber, silent walks into the jury box.

Stepping Back Into Ourselves 

After 2 days the closing arguments ended and we entered deliberation.  Everyone on the jury had their chance to be heard and we made absolutely sure that, based on the evidence we believed the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  It was a huge responsibility and we wanted to be as certain as possible that we made the right decision ( It helped that the judge later told us she believed we had).

So why did I title this blog post “Act the part”?

Here is what happened. After the verdict was announced,  the judge told us that she and the attorneys would be visiting us in the jury room. They wanted to learn how we had made our decision and what made an impact on us. What evidence did we weigh? They found feedback helpful, they said.

And there they were; in front of us, without armor or posturing. The prosecuting and defense attorneys were no longer glaring tensely at each other. They were actually laughing as they debriefed some of their interactions. The judge shared that she was acting so stone faced up on the bench because smiles could be interpreted as favoritism for one side or another. And as one of the few black females in her position, she was held to a higher standard. She also got in some opinions about SEC football. Who knew that our judge was a real person who liked sports?

Actually, this switch in behavior makes perfect sense. We ALL have to play roles according to the situations in front of us.  In most work scenarios we have to adapt to the culture, the climate and the people. Consider If that DA and attorney started kidding each other the way we saw them do in our post-trial meeting. I am pretty sure the jurors would not know what to think and it would have impacted our decisions. Or If the judge had shared her strong opinions about women and football she would have clearly colored our thinking. Impartiality would have gone out the window.

We do have to adapt and hide some of our true cards  IF that serves the scenario. Read  Unless You’re Oprah Be Yourself Is Terrible Advice by author and professor Adam Grant for research that supports this view.

In my coaching work, introverts ask me why they need to be more visible and vocal. And extroverts ask why the need to slow down and be quiet. The answer is that those behaviors can help them achieve success precisely because they are playing roles.

For all its flaws, the criminal justice system continues to function. If the many professionals charged with carrying out justice can act the part when the stakes are high then we should take a cue from their playbook and stretch into roles that will get our own jobs done.

And I do hope you get a chance to serve on jury duty. I think you will find it to be an eye-opening if not transformative experience.

Why You Should Embrace Your Inner Introvert To Make Career Decisions

Why You Should Embrace Your Inner Introvert To Make Career Decisions

I am very pleased to share this week’s guest blog post.  Darcy Eikenberg, PCC, a long time friend and colleague has built on her strong background as a corporate executive and coach to help people figure out how they can make that next career decision. I love that she recognizes the value of tapping into our introverted side to do that.  Read more below and consider checking out her training video series here. 

by Darcy Eikenberg, PCC

It was a moment I’ll never forget. I had just landed in Chicago one winter’s night for a business meeting the next morning. My boss was trying to reach me, and since this was before we had smartphones and Bluetooth to easily talk and drive, I pulled over into a McDonald’s parking lot to take her call. Then, she blindsided me.

She told me she was retiring early. I hadn’t expected that at all. She was an amazing mentor and champion and still had many years of valuable career runway left. While in hindsight I should have seen warning signs that she wasn’t happy, I was totally gobsmacked.

And then, the other shoe dropped. She told me that she’d already chosen someone as her replacement. And it wasn’t me. Right then, in the bad fluorescent light of the McDonald’s parking lot, I realized something.  I felt . . . relieved. Because I realized I didn’t want my boss’ job. And in the same moment, I heard a little voice inside my head ask: “SO, if you don’t want the next obvious job up the ladder, what DO you want?” And I had no answer. All I wanted right then were fries.

The Path to Making Better Career Decisions

That’s when I started on the path to decide what was next for me, which led me to research, test, and now, teach better ways to make big career decisions. And if I’ve learned one thing in the decade since that night in a cold McDonald’s parking lot, it’s that it would have been a lot easier if I’d let my introverted side take the lead.

I’ve since realized that focusing your introverted energy—the energy to look inside yourself instead of outside—is critical to making a successful career decision.

I call this process “listening to the whispers.” But it’s a stage too many extroverts like me skip over. They often jump immediately from any career discomfort to action. Updating resumes. Surfing LinkedIn. Going to networking groups where they deal out business cards like blackjack. And they wonder why they stay stuck.

But for you introverts (and those of us who need to embrace our inner introvert), those whispers become a human GPS, helping create more clarity about what you want next in your life at work.

As an extrovert, I learned the hard way. If I’d embraced my inner introvert then, I would have had more confidence and clarity in my decision-making, and not wandered down the right path not merely the “logical” one. So when it’s time to make your next career decision, it’s a good idea to channel your inner introvert. Even if you’re an extrovert like me. I know you will be glad you did.

 

Red Cape Revolution founder Darcy Eikenberg, PCC, is an executive & leadership coach, speaker and author of “Bring Your Superpowers to Work: Your Guide to More Clarity, Confidence & Control.” Join her video training series, How to Make Your Best Career Decision for free when you sign up here: http://tinyurl.com/DarcyTraining2017