Author Archives: Jennifer Kahnweiler

What Can Project Managers Learn from Introverted Leaders?

This podcast planning flow chart is an example of how Velociteach
practices project management principles in everything they do! 

 

Who Are Project Managers?

I have always admired project managers (PM’s). Their organization and ability to pull together disparate projects on deadline and under budget is impressive. Often promoted from their technical homes in Engineering, Science, and Technology, they get work done!

Influencing people without having formal authority also means that project managers need to refine and sharpen their skills in communication, persuasion, and negotiation. I have found that successful Introverted leaders have learned to use their natural strengths like listening and preparation to accomplish these tasks. They have many lessons to offer PM’s who must navigate their roles up, down, and across the organization.

Partnering with PM’s 

Working with a vibrant project management training company called Velociteach, I developed a course based on the lessons learned from these introverted leaders across a wide variety of industries and organizations.

In preparation, I stopped into the Manage This podcast studio and was interviewed by Bill Yates and Andy Crowe, the executives at Velociteach. As seasoned PM’s, they opened up about the challenges and benefits of leveraging their introverted and extroverted sides. As an extrovert and introvert “Genius Opposite” pair, you will hear how they balance each other out. We also had some good laughs in our time together.

The whole staff threw themselves into the development of my new course and worked the material themselves. We had a number of stimulating conversations about how their own personality preferences served them. Jordan Demers, Media Arts Designer and one of the course developers shared her learning about embracing her own “pause” as an introvert in one of those exchanges.

What You Get from Taking the Course 

Together, we created a compact course with hard-hitting lessons and numerous practical tools.  It is called The Introverted Leader: Leading a Team In Today’s Extroverted Workplace, and it is getting strong reviews.

The good news is you will receive 4.5 PDU’s after listening and watching. There are also lots of handouts and many tools!

I believe this online program is engaging and informative. And as a member of my community, I am pleased to offer you 15% off the regular price. Just use the promo code INTROVERT15 and you are ready to go! Whether you manage projects as your full-time job or just as part of your work, I hope this course helps you gain more control over your work. I would love to hear your feedback. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Five Tips to Handle Conflict with Your Valentine

 

Vera is a newly married introverted project lead in a high tech company. Over lunch, she told me that she finds it easier to address conflict with her diverse work group than she does with her extroverted spouse.  She told me she was afraid that by tiptoeing around each other they would end up like her parents, who barely spoke and didn’t have the happiest of marriages. “Any tips?” she asked.

Experience Teaches 

I am by no means a marriage expert, but I have learned a few things from being married to my introverted husband, Bill for over 45 years. The biggest learning?  I can’t change him. He will never jump up and down when he is excited or tell me that he wants to talk about our “relationship.”  I never will sit and think too long about our disconnects but will often express them at the moment.

I and have also learned that you shouldn’t avoid conflict as your major way of operating. Stuffed feelings and fiery reactions can let off steam but lead to resentments and anger that comes out later in larger explosions.

What I Learned From Genius Opposites

I researched “genius opposites” at work, introverted and extroverted pairs who make their relationships work and who achieve results over time. Like Michelle and Barack Obama these couples complement each other and also learn how to wade through their differences, emerging on the other side stronger.

“The Death Knell to Real Collaboration is Politeness” Francis Crick, Scientist 

Extroverts and introverts are profoundly different. Extroverts get charged by being around other people. Introverts find socialization draining and regain their energy with alone time. Extroverts speak in order to think; introverts think in order to speak. These differences can drive some pairs crazy. But for those who are able to work together, their combined strengths can achieve incredible results – ones they could never get to on their own.

Successful opposites in relationships acknowledge their differences, using them to challenge each other and blast apart assumptions. They accept that decisions come with conflict and that conflict is normal, natural, and necessary. They know that disagreements open up the path to an outcome. Successful opposites get that avoiding conflict, on the other hand, creates tension and prevents them from achieving innovative and creative solutions.

Biologist Francis Crick said it well: “The death knell to real collaboration is politeness.”

We Pull Out Our Best From Each Other 

Introvert and extrovert opposites, working together, can do extraordinary things by pulling out the best thinking from each other, like blending two brains into one. But they have to be willing to “bring on the battles” for the world to benefit from the results of their genius. Valentines can do the same.

In writing  The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together  I found partners share six key strategies to work through conflict and manage disagreements. The same lessons can apply at home. As you navigate your new or old relationship with your opposite Valentine, consider these ideas.

1. Remember energy differences. 

Accept that your partner’s introverted energy may wane from too much people time, or your extroverted colleague might get too hyped up during a conflict. During conflict and stress, we exaggerate our strengths (like to talk more often and louder as an extrovert or retreat into yourself as an introvert). Resist the tendency to amplify your natural traits. Sometimes a timeout is the best workaround to help you regroup and reconvene, ready to engage with a clear head. Factor in breaks or a few moments of quiet to keep moving toward a resolution.

2. Tell ‘em what you need. 

You can set the foundation for clear communication when you bring on the battles. Let your partner know specifically what you want and what you need to avoid emotional flare-ups. If you need to find a private space to work, then tell them. Or if you need to spill out your thoughts, say so. Mind reading doesn’t work here.

3. Manage crisis together. 

When an inevitable crisis occurs, put your heads together and figure out a way through. That often means drawing on the partner in the pair who is better suited to meet the problem at hand. Figuring out the logical solution may be your strong suit, while your opponent’s strength might be going to the source and diffusing the situation.

4. Bring in a third party. 

Sometimes when you reach an impasse, no amount of discussion will work. The best action you can take is to bring in a neutral party, an objective outsider, to break through the tension and help you get unstuck and find a win-win way forward. I referred to Michelle and Barack Obama. In Michelle Obama’s book Becoming, she talks about going to marriage therapy as a young people navigating their communication and responsibilities with young children and growing careers.

5. Walk and talk.

Consider moving your conversation outside the doors of your home. Talking out their ideas helps extroverts while walking around helps them gain clarity about their positions. Introverts will respond to the relaxed pace. They also will conserve energy by not having to concentrate on making eye contact and other in-your-face listening behaviors. When you let the juices flow by getting up and moving, new ideas spring up and you will see solutions together.

The more high stakes the situation, the more important it is for opposites to bring on the battles as an outcome-focused team or couple.

Sharing knowledge about  Introvert-Extrovert differences with your Valentine isn’t a cure-all. It may not settle skirmishes over whose dishwasher loading method is best (mine, btw) but it can help you clear the static and bring you back to a flow that attracted you to your partner in the first place.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

What is Your Writing Process?

What is Your Writing Process

Journals Started It 

When I started keeping journals, I remember searching for just the right pen and perfect notebook. It wasn’t long before I realized this pursuit actually kept me from writing my first entry! So I took one of the many notebooks I had lying around, grabbed a handy ballpoint pen, and dove in. I am so grateful I did.

Over 20 years and countless notebooks later, the positive calming effects of the practice have spilled over into the rest of my life. Sometimes I write in lovely leather-bound journals, but other times a handy cocktail napkin suffices. I try to remember not to make the writing process supersede the act itself.

Famous Writers Are All Over the Map 

When writers are interviewed, one question you can always count on is “What is your writing process?” Their answers are all over the map. Novelist Alice Hoffman curls up on her couch but can write just about anywhere. Non-fiction author Jeffrey Toobin disciplines himself to write 2500 words each day and often starts writing before he has completed his research. Novelist, journalist, and illustrator Christopher Noxon grabs precious moments in between carpool pickups. Stephen King writes in the morning, reserving afternoons for “Red Sox games…..”

Lessons From Dad 

I was aware of this writing process question as a young girl. My Dad, Alvin Boretz was a screenwriter, and I vividly remember going to sleep to the sound of clacking typewriter keys from the converted closet of my parent’s bedroom. He reserved his days for research trips to the library, diving into his latest passion (Irish playwrights, navigation by the stars, travel, etc.), riding his bike around the streets of our Long Island home and being there for my sister and me with made-to-order milkshakes.

Fortunately, Dad was a fast writer and wrote well with deadlines. Stories, dialogues, and characters lived in is his head, but he sometimes needed gentle nudges to transfer them to the page. When a script was due, his “coach in residence” (my mom, Lucille) knew he could become easily distracted. When mom heard Dad talking on the phone, kidding around with my sister and me, or napping a little too long, she would call upstairs with an emphatic  “Get to work, Alvin!” That verbal cue was usually all he needed. Dad always sent his scripts in on time.

I have been a productive writer. I have written 4 books in 8 years, with another one on the way. Still, it doesn’t get any easier. So, I continue to seek out different writing routines. Would it be better to force me to write with a timer? Should I take a cabin in the woods? Is listening to Mozart or Mendelson more conducive to eliciting that elusive phrase?

I don’t want the process to become the end itself. That only keeps me from writing. It is about the blank screen and diving in. So I think I will use a version of mom’s mantra (along with my phone’s timer) to continue working on that next book. “Get to work, Jennifer!” serves me for right now.

Lessons from Introvert Island: The Power of Quiet

The beach at Spring Bay, British Virgin Gorda. Photo taken by Adam Goldberg https://agoldbergphoto.com/

 

I recently returned to the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. It’s been a year since Hurricane Irma reaped its devastation, leaving 95% of the quiet island’s residents homeless and without power for weeks. 

Rising from this storm, came numerous stories of resilience and inspiration. Neighbors helped neighbors. Private individuals stepped up and volunteered with donations of food, supplies, and funds to help the island get on its feet again. People created new jobs for themselves. Out of the “mash up” as they called it, folks are slowly getting their footing. You hear the sounds of buzz saws and drills everywhere. And there was great applause as one small guest house was finished hours before the guests arrived. 

The post-traumatic stress of this event impacted everyone, but slowly tourism is returning and houses are being built. We loved visiting with our friends on the island who we have known for over 35 years. They smiled, but keep working together to rebuild.

I wrote the post below 2 years ago, but the lessons about quiet and calm are even more relevant to me in the shadow and aftermath of Irma. 

Calling Mom 

As I sat on a beach in the British Virgin Islands, I called my 96-year-old mom, Lucille. It was snowing in NYC and I wanted to make sure she was safe and sound in her apartment. After assuring me that I “shouldn’t worry,” I held the phone up to the sound of the gentle waves and described the bright blue sky to her. Mom had been to that same place 30 years before and she described snorkeling from that same beach. The fish were beautiful, she said. I told her she could still visit that place anytime she wants to by closing her eyes and imagining the quiet, serene scene of warmth and sunlight. I want to follow my own advice.

Introverts Know How To Get Quiet 

One of the many strengths of introverts is that they are able to get quiet and engage in an active inner life. One way to do that is through guided imagery. WEB MD says, “You can achieve a relaxed state when you imagine all the details of a safe, comfortable place, such as a beach or a garden. This relaxed state may aid healing, learning, creativity, and performance. It may help you feel more in control of your emotions and thought processes, which may improve your attitude, health, and sense of well-being.”

Introverts Can Be Alone 

Introverts relish being alone. Stepping away from phones, the news, and the busyness of life allowed me to step into my introverted side and be present. I noticed the changing weather, the sounds of roosters, the soft breezes, the far away airplane engine, and even a barracuda’s sleek lines as we passed each other under water.

Early one morning I walked to a nearby beach. I sat down and leaned against a large boulder. Except for the crashing waves and my footprints in the deep, wet sand I was totally alone. It was exhilarating and so rare an experience in today’s world.

Return to the Island 

Thanks to the brain’s ability to take me back, I will conjure up that scene when I start to feel overwhelmed or anxious. I believe it will become easier the more I do it. I can return to the island and regain the power of quiet. Guided imagery is a gift we all have access to any time, in any place.

Communication Gaps Between Introverts and Extroverts

 

I had two situations recently where key differences around communication between introverts and extroverts showed up for me.

Scenario #1:

When was the last time you came back to your office and listened to 100 voicemails? More likely you responded to the many emails in your inbox.

I reached my saturation point a few weeks ago after I realized that I hadn’t had one live conversation all day. That is an energy drain for an extrovert. The real tipping point came during a back and forth email dialogue with an introverted work colleague.

As our email tennis match proceeded, I could see the misunderstandings multiply. I wrote him to ask for a five-minute phone call to clear up the issue. He wrote back, asking me if we could “settle it on email”. “No way,” I thought. “It would take more time to write each other again than to talk.”

With some apprehension, I decided to pick up the phone and dial his number. We had a brief conversation in which he explained his position and we discussed several viable options. The matter was resolved in less than four minutes.

I know, as an introvert, he prefers to communicate via email. I agree — most of our communication can be handled that way. But there are times that we need to do the extrovert thing and talk it out. We can ask each other questions, dig a little deeper, and listen to our respective voices.

Scenario #2:

One of the lessons I have learned from introverts is the value of preparation. So when my colleague, Caroline, asked to talk to me about her new website, I wrote back and requested that she send me a few questions to consider. I wanted to have the time to adequately prepare so that I could give her valuable feedback. Was she looking for help with the design, the content, or the branding? There were many aspects of her website I could consider. She didn’t take too well to my questions at first but then realized that our style differences were probably the reason for her concern.

I found it interesting that she thought I was an introvert. I suppose I have been flexing into introvert behaviors for so long that people don’t realize that I am much more extroverted.

Here is what Caroline wrote:

“When you asked what questions I have for the conversation, it didn’t even occur to me that you, as an introvert, prefer and become more comfortable thinking ahead of time. My instinctive reaction was that you were challenging the relevance or desirability of spending this time with me. This was probably reflective of the fact that I am doing a lot of selling these days in which I’m asking strangers to meet with me. It was only after writing the questions down that it occurred to me that the I/E difference might be at play.”

I assured her that I just wanted to be prepared. She thought about what she wanted from me and I had a chance to reflect upon her questions. We had a productive dialogue as a result.

It is natural to have differences in communication between extroverts and introverts. Here are some tips which should help you to smooth out some introvert-extrovert disconnects.

Quiet Leaders, Heroes When it Counts

It is in a crisis that the true colors of people rise to the surface. In the case of a snowstorm last year, I benefited from the strength of three quiet leaders when it really mattered.

The weather forecast wasn’t great, but I made it to LaGuardia airport in NYC without incident. As I settled into the Delta Skyclub the snow fell harder and the dreaded red canceled signs on the screen started appearing. I waited in line with the other passengers and managed to secure a standby seat on the one remaining flight headed back to Atlanta.

The delay seemed to last forever, but miraculously the flight was not canceled and 6 hours later several of us headed down to the gate. My first quiet hero was an off-duty flight attendant who volunteered to join the assigned crew so that the plane could comply with the FAA and be able to take off. She changed into her uniform and waited 2 hours for her clearance. Then she stepped into character, switching from a weary passenger to a focused, working flight attendant. When I boarded the plane and thanked her she looked slightly embarrassed. “Of course!” she said and continued helping passengers on the crowded flight with their bags.

After we landed late that evening, I ran to a taxi at the curb. Atlanta was emerging from an ice storm and I knew driving could be treacherous. My cab driver navigated the road safely. He exhibited calm and made low-key conversation so the time flew by. I trusted him to get me safely home and he did.  When I thanked him he just smiled.

It was 2:30 a.m. when the garage door finally opened and the man who I have known most of my life stepped onto the ice to help me out of the cab. I was so happy and touched that husband Bill actually waited up for me. He showed up and that meant everything.

The actions of quiet leaders speak so much louder than words ever can. Without fanfare, they deliver when it counts.

Are Introverts or Extroverts Better Suited to Rule Business?

One of the risks of labeling personality types is to go too far on the stereotyping. We are in danger of getting carried away with pronouncements about introverts and extroverts. In a sort of backlash, the scale has tipped away from extroverts, pronouncing them as ignorant loudmouths who are superficial.

It is true that introverts have a tendency to exhibit certain strengths, but it does not exclude extroverts from claiming those strengths as well. In writing my books, I try to be careful about putting absolute labels on either group. Most of us actually straddle the introvert-extrovert line and move back and forth between styles.

Take a look at this infographic below about introverts and how they “rule the world.” I agree with most of the myths and strengths highlighted here except for #5 — “Introverts make better bosses.” One research study says introverts make better managers with extroverted employees but that does not mean that introverts always make better bosses.

We need to be careful about making sweeping generalizations about introverts and extroverts. There is relatively scant research to make true claims about either one. And people’s temperaments are complex and not so easily wrapped up. Yes — Introverts can be terrific at listening (Reason #2), however extroverts can be as well when they use their natural skill of developing rapport and asking questions.

So in this article which the infographic is based upon,  7 Reasons Introverts Now Rule the World,  author, Larry Kim writes that extroverts are okay BUT that introverts are “particularly suited for the digital age.”

“I’m certainly not trying to hate on extroverts. I’m simply suggesting that it’s time to rethink the qualities we value in business. The tendency has been to favor the boisterous, loud, whirlwind energy of extroverts. Instead, we need to take into account those introverted underdogs. They are the ones, with their thoughtfulness and creativity, who we’ll see pulling the strings in our increasingly more digital-oriented age, the one in which they were born to rule.”

Yes, I agree. We do need to rethink the qualities we value in business. But let’s consider that both introverts and extroverts are both suited to meet the demands of a complex workplace and yes…. they were both born to rule.

 

Infographic Example
This infographic was created using the Visme. An easy-to-use Infographic Maker.

How collaboration drives open spaces for introverts

One of the best things about going on the road to give speeches (aside from sampling the local cuisine) is to see how workplaces are evolving. Recently, I had the honor of delivering a keynote to the folks at the American Chemical Society and their Chemical Abstracts Service. CAS, as it is known, “is made up of scientists who collect, and organize all publicly disclosed substance information creating the world’s most valuable collection of content that is vital to innovation worldwide.”

After lunch, I was taken on a tour of the Columbus, OH facility and heard the story of how they are transforming much of their building to meet the demands of a new work flow.  The software developers in the IT area, for instance, have adopted Agile as the way they perform work. This is an approach to software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams and their customer(s)/end user(s). This lends itself to ongoing discussions and connection throughout the day. In the “before” photo below, you can see how many of the offices were set up in what they call “submarine hallways.”

Joe Sjostrom, Director, Product Technology, and Operations at CAS is an astute introverted leader who shared his experience in this transition from offices to open space. At first, he was very skeptical, but now says he would never go back to the old ways. In fact, his office sits smack dab in the middle of the open space, near the feeding bowl for the cat. Yes – there is a company cat who hangs out with everyone.

Joe explained why he thinks introverts thrive in this new open work space, contrary to what you might expect; that they would hole up away from people.

“I’m really glad you got the opportunity to see our new work space” he wrote me in a follow-up email. “Regarding introverts and work environment, I’m sure many would balk at a statement that ‘open spaces are good for introverts’. The key issue is that the work of software application development has changed from what used to be a mostly solo activity to what is now a highly collaborative activity.”

Joe continued, “So the work environment has necessarily evolved, and the (surprising/counter-intuitive) discovery is that software engineers (in general, a highly introverted population) are actually able to adapt in a very positive way to this new environment. As I see it, we introverts don’t actually ‘change’, there is still a strong bias for some element of isolation.  But my experience has been that the human mind is actually much more highly adaptable and without actually being physically isolated, the open environment can be well-tolerated – and the overall team productivity is greatly enhanced. As I mentioned, I can hardly comprehend how we ever got work done in the ‘submarine hallway’ days!”

Joe also told me that most team members learn to tune out extraneous conversations but will chime in when they think they can contribute. He also said that the headphones they ordered were not used.

The wave of the future is connection and collaboration. And while having spaces and places for breaks can help, the bottom line is that more work is getting done in this open space. In fact, the marketing director told me her work area is removing offices and creating a new open space environment to support the new Agile work processes they are implementing.

There might be a reason to keep a few old offices that offer privacy and quiet. A few of the editors and proof readers said they LOVE those submarine like spaces with doors because they can concentrate. So maybe some work functions won’t ever find it necessary to change. In this collaborative software development department, though, they have gone “all in” and are not looking back. The results are speaking for themselves!