Are you Living in Itopia Like 84.51°?

Are you Living in Itopia Like 84.51°?

As I was finishing my new book Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces, I was fortunate to be introduced to an introvert advocate and change agent named Ryan Showalter. Ryan is Director of Consulting at a data analytics company in Cincinnati, OH named 84.51°. And he is an introverted leader.

One day, he was struck by the courage of a young man in his company who shared his difficulty in speaking in a large group. So, Ryan approached him after the session they were in and praised him for speaking up honestly. And after several conversations, they decided to start a group for introverts. They creatively named it Itopia, and are very pleased with how much it has now grown. In fact, it has become part of their diversity and inclusion initiative, fostering belonging, with an emphasis on introversion-extroversion dynamics.

I am continually impressed by 84.51°’s commitment to educating people about introversion and knocking down biases. For example, one best practice that came out of the Itopia group has been a “Flip the Script” handout. It’s given to all managers which provides specific examples of what to say and do when communicating with introverts. Also, the document is shared in Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces. And Ryan explains more about it in a special edition of this recent company-sponsored podcast called The Uplow’d. You can listen here.

Here are a few other highlights from the podcast:

“How can companies benefit from introvert strengths?”

  • Introverts go deep with projects and people, leading to strong results.
  • Engaged listening and focused conversations mean they create solutions that are built on collaboration.
  • They prepare for meetings and conversations.
  • They take quiet time and can work alone. Examples of great discoveries – the Apple Computer by Steve Wozniak, Grace Hopper and COBOL, etc.
  • They are calm and humble.

“How can extroverts become allies for introverts?”

  • Get to know yourself and your own biases.
  • Get to know Introverts on your team and ask them about their own work style and tendencies so they feel supported.
  • Set them up by helping them to prepare.
  • Speak up when you see introverts being passed over.
  • Look at your practices like hiring, leadership, and communication. Then ask introverts how they can be adapted to be more introvert-friendly.

Ryan provided many real-world examples. Also, Itopia is looking for other organizations that are organizing introverts in the effort to change our workplaces. Feel free to contact me at jennifer@jenniferkahnweiler.com and I can introduce you to Ryan.

We had a lively discussion and ended the session with a lightning round of questions. Dave, our interviewer asked us to complete the answers in 51 seconds. We just made it!  When he asked about my favorite ice cream, I didn’t hesitate. Any flavor of Grater’s ice cream! And anyone who has lived or visited Cincinnati (headquarters for the company) will know what I mean. In fact, I think ice cream is probably one area of commonality introverts and extroverts can both agree on.

Key Lessons From Introverted Leaders Around the World

Interviews with Introverted Leaders Around the World

Clockwise l to r, Richar Ruiz(Paraguay), Jill Chang (Taiwan), Steve Glaveski (Australia) Johanna Vondeling (US), Frank Hagenow(Germany) and Faris Khalifeh (Canada)

Last year I decided that I wanted to go deeper with some of the terrific introverted leaders I have encountered in my work. What were some of their key lessons? I started an interview series called “Introverted Leaders Around the World.” And I am so glad I did!

These leaders are consultants, executives, and entrepreneurs. They identify as introverts but sometimes aren’t sure about where they fall on a given day.  Others are introvert advocates. And in these short talks we connected on many levels, despite our different personality styles, nationalities, gender, and sometimes age. Here are some snapshots of lessons I gleaned from a few of them. I hope you will check out all of the interviews on my YouTube channel.

Richard Ruiz

My first interview was with a psychologist and life coach, Richar Ruiz. Richar is a delightful person who learned English by watching movies. He puts the spotlight on introverts and highlights their strengths. He helps them gain confidence by teaching them public speaking and storytelling skills. Paraguay is an introverted country and his take on how that has impacted people is fascinating.

Johanna Vondeling

Johanna Vondeling is President and Publisher of Berrett-Koehler Publishers in Oakland, CA. She is an introverted leader who has progressed through an impressive career in the male-dominated leadership ranks of publishing. In our interview, Johanna advises introverts to connect with people before networking events to set up appointments and follow up after events. “Listening is your superpower,” Johanna says. “And as an introvert, you have that skill. People need to be heard! She has noted that in her role of President, “People value that I am quiet.” Johanna says she believes her role as a leader is to “facilitate the brilliance in the room.”

Steve Glaveski

Steve Glaveski is an introverted entrepreneur, author, and podcast host from Melbourne, Australia. He also emphasizes the listening power of introverts. He said that introverts connect the dots and are problem solvers. Steve advises to “hold strong opinions loosely” and that we can’t be SURE about anything. Steve pushes himself with solitary sports and finds joy in mentoring young people. One listener was inspired by Steve’s comments to write, ” I tend to be more methodical or thoughtful while planning. My partners tend to be better at bringing a lot of people around the project. One thing we have had in common is an entrepreneurial mindset and willingness to take risks.”

I had the pleasure of being on Steve’s podcast, Future Squared. You can listen here if you want to get a sense of his great questioning ability.

Check out the other accomplished introverted leaders and advocates on our channel. And be sure to subscribe to get updates on all of our videos. We are looking to book more great guests so please send them our way! Thanks.

How to Shelter in Place the Introvert Way

Shelter in Place

“While I shelter in place, I am very surprised, but I am strangely unbothered by the isolation” wrote my extroverted friend, Ruth, who is busying herself in a slew of house projects.

As for me, I can’t say that I am “unbothered” by having to shelter in place. But I am finding my way, like the rest of us. And part of how I am coping with the quarantine is by drawing on lessons learned from introverts.

A bit of quick background. I am an extrovert. But, for the past 15 years, as a speaker and author of 4 books on introverts at work, I have been helping introverts to appreciate and maximize their quiet superpowers. Recently, I have heard from many extroverts like Ruth, that being forced to slow down has opened them up to different sides of their personality. They are making friends with qualities like listening and getting quiet. In this world where the news can be overwhelming each day, it seems that now is the perfect time to harness those introverted strategies to buffer up our resilience.

It should be noted that we all have introversion and extroversion within us, and we draw from both sides. It is just a matter of degree.

Extroverts get juiced up by being around people. They love to talk and talk. They like getting out and going places. However, introverts get energy from internal reflection. They like people, but they just need to have breaks afterward to decompress.

I found that in my research on quiet influencers and leaders, they use their natural strengths to make a difference.  I believe that we can all incorporate these important qualities now. Here are a few of those action steps that we can use when taking shelter in place. 

1. Get Quiet

Introverts take quiet time. Being sequestered means we have no choice but to slow down. Getting quiet has so many advantages. It unleashes creativity, helps you think more deeply, develop empathy, and better understand your feelings. That is important now when thinking rationally about how we are going to approach each minute matters. 

Extroverts can be prone to hide their feelings by keeping busy (cleaning closets, anyone?). I am diving into some quiet time and practicing meditation, doing yoga, and like many others, taking walks. These silent practices help manage the inevitable stressors of the day.

For many introverts, doing exercise is the place they often escape to take this quiet time. Reviving old pursuits like playing the guitar, painting or sitting outside listening to the birds have all been satisfying. What did you enjoy in the past that you can bring back into your life now? 

2. Listen Deeply

Introverts relish listening to others in one-on-one conversations of substance. Forget small talk – it is about depth vs. breadth and it is about learning. Experts have suggested that to feel better we should call older people, folks living alone, and other acquaintances. Those phone conversations have been gifts for me. They get me out of my own worries, and I am discovering we all have so much in common, especially now. 

Writer Sarah Larson wrote in The New Yorker about how to conduct an actual phone call in this time of Corona.“…, No screens, no juddering technology or buffering, no contending with the distracting horror of your own disembodied face. Just voice: mind meeting soul meeting timbre. Don’t have a TV on; don’t have a laptop in front of you. Sit in a favorite chair and look at your plants and your books. They are beautiful. Look out the window, the trees outside. Listen to your friend.” 

3. Write

Introverts use writing to understand and express what they are thinking and feeling. I received a moving email from Jamie, an introverted client. After checking in with him the first week his company moved everyone to remote work,  Jamie articulated his feelings about being misunderstood as an introvert in this time of COVID-19. 

 “It is funny because a lot a people are saying, ‘Oh you must be loving this because you are introverted’ – but again a bit of a myth that we have to bust. We are not anti-social – but just inward-focused…..just like everyone we are feeling isolated. We might be better equipped to curl up with a book, binge watch a show or enjoy working from home, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t miss the social interaction with those we care about.”  

Writing is an especially good outlet for me now. Journaling and writing this blog post allow me to go inward and let go of some of the feelings and thoughts that need a place to land. 

4. Prepare

I often say that preparation is a huge differentiator and advantage for introverts. Preparing for meetings, conversations, and projects produces results.  Extroverts often “wing it” and right now, winging it can mean staying in your pajamas all day and feeling you didn’t accomplish much. 

Preparing a daily schedule the evening before is one helpful way to gain a sense of control over our time and our stress. We know what is coming and can move fluidly through our day. And it also works for kids to have a schedule.  

So, thank you, introverts for these and so many other lessons that will help extroverts shelter in place.  We owe you a lot. 

And when we emerge from this challenging time, my hope is that both we as individuals and the workplace as a whole will embrace these introvert qualities for a more inclusive, productive, and satisfying way of work.

Remote Work and the Coronavirus

 

With the coronavirus impacting business,  many organizations have moved to remote work. The  “WFH’ or Work From Home option is now becoming more of an imperative than another workplace benefit.

Kara Swisher, an American technology business journalist and co-founder of Recode writes in an article that this way of working “has been growing in recent years, albeit more slowly than the technologies that facilitate it.”

Recently, however, Zoom, a video conferencing platform that many of us already use, has seen a tremendous uptick. In the last month, it has risen to a $30 billion valuation which, even to the non-silicon Valley soul, sounds pretty good!

As Swisher writes, “It’s too early to know if we need to resort to this kind of behavior on a widespread and prolonged level. But it will be instructive to see how well business and other analog activities can continue to operate in a digital world during a crisis.”

Working from Home can Make a Huge Difference

Coronavirus aside, working from home can make a huge difference in retention and job satisfaction.

I have studied remote work from the perspective of introverts who need an escape and reboot of energy after spending long days in open workspaces. But in fact, I found it impacted everyone positively, both introverts and extroverts. When people are allowed even one day a week to work from home, their happiness increases. Diane Baldwin, associate vice president of Sponsored Programs at Boston University, discovered that her one-day-a-week-from-home program “changed people’s lives.”

“To even have one day where they don’t have to commute, where they can work in their pajamas is a retention strategy,” Diane told me. A medical center employee interviewed for a Ladders article on remote work explained the benefit of her company’s “work-at-home Wednesdays” policy. “Although I am working, my day is so much more relaxed, not to mention two hours shorter (due to her 45-mile commute each way). It is like a mini-weekend.”

So if that is the good news. What are some of the pitfalls? Consider this quote:

Q: What are the three biggest competitors to remote work?
A: The TV, the bed, and the fridge.
—Nicholas Bloom, 2017 TEDx talk

As a writer who sometimes uses the bed as a desk, I agree! Working at home can lead to isolation and a kind of creative paralysis without the chance to bounce ideas off others. It can also make you feel a loss of connection.

Of course, there’s always the chance of being interrupted at a very inopportune time!

Too much alone time can also result in team members losing sight of the larger mission of the company. This is because of what authors Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel call a “lack of environmental cues, slogans, and messages that are part of the fabric of an organization and its culture.” Instead, they (team members) become overly focused on individual projects over team and company goals.

So if working at home is an option for you or your team because of the virus or if you already are working remotely and want to insure success, consider these five success factors that I discovered in my research.

Top Five Considerations for Making Remote Work Options Work for Introverts

  1. Create a remote-working agreement with guidelines around accessibility, in-office time, and accountability that employees must sign.
  2. Be intentional about how and when you communicate with remote employees. The biggest challenge we found for organizations is in preventing alone time from becoming ineffective isolation.
  3. Schedule regular in-person one-on-one and team meetings as well as more casual “visits” like breakfasts or lunches to strengthen personal as well as professional connections over Zoom
  4. Place the responsibility for remote employees to track their own work. The introverts in your company will particularly appreciate having the space to work and do their deep, reflective thinking without frequent interruptions.
  5. In team and individual meetings, call out individual and group successes to bring visibility to the work of remote employees.

We don’t know when COVID-19 will slow down and we can return to offices but in the meantime, work can’t stop. This unexpected situation is a forced opportunity for us to be creative in how work gets done. It may likely lead to sustainable changes that benefit our workplaces and everyone in them.

Introvert-Friendly Workplaces – Why They’re So Important

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces: How to Unleash Everyone’s Talent and Performance.

I was teaching a week-long leadership class for 30 engineers from different companies when I noticed that one of the participants, who I will call Sean, hadn’t been very vocal. At a break I asked him how the class was going for him. Sean hesitated and then said, “Well, Jennifer, I think the material is interesting, and I may be able to use some of it. However, I know I will never be a manager at my company.”

“Why do you sound so certain?” I asked.

“Because the managers in my workplace talk really loudly and move so fast. That’s not me,” Sean replied.

I tried to provide the usual encouraging words like “Don’t give up!” and “You have so many strengths!” but I could tell that Sean wasn’t buying my seasoned pep talk.

In my previous books, The Introverted Leader (2018), Quiet Influence (2013), and The Genius of Opposites (2015), I made the case for how introverts can own their quiet strengths and use them to achieve results and make an impact.

In that moment of talking to Sean, however, I realized that my work with introverts had to be part of a broader movement, one in which organizations also worked to harness introvert power.

How can we tap into the potential of introverts like Sean and support their working styles in our traditional extroverted workplace cultures? I believe if we don’t factor introvert strengths and personalities into how we run our organizations by creating introvert-friendly workplaces, we risk missing out on the talents and skills of millions and the huge positive impact they can have on our businesses. If introverts like Sean are continually told that they need to change who they are and to be more vocal and outgoing, they will eventually hit a wall. They will check out, taking with them their ideas, creativity, and unique perspectives. And what then becomes of our workplaces? Our cultures become less vibrant, our solutions become more homogeneous, and we lose our competitive edges.

5 Steps You Can Take to Make Your Team Meetings Introvert-Friendly

5 Steps You Can Take to Make Your Team Meetings Introvert-Friendly

One measure of an effective team is that it satisfies member needs. Along the same vein, management guru and prolific author, Patrick Lencioni has discussed the meaning of team collaboration. In his 2016 book, The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues, he wrote about the three characteristics of an ideal team player – hungry, smart, and humble. That third trait, which includes sharing credit and defining success collectively rather than individually, is one most often associated with introverts. But while introverts have a high likelihood of being “ideal team players,” it is all too common for their quiet, humble contributions to be drowned out.

Team meetings are often where that happens. Here are five approaches that work to counter that trend and bring out the valuable input from those “ideal team players.”

1. Implement a one-minute rule
This rule requires each team member to speak for one minute on a work-related topic they are focused on. One scientist we interviewed structures team meetings so everyone has a chance to contribute for the same (short) amount of time, ensuring that introverts have the same opportunity to be heard as their extroverted counterparts.

2. Pair up
Pat Wadors, chief talent officer at ServiceNow, structures team meetings to be more inclusive by pairing people up. For example, she will ask one person sitting in on the live meeting to “adopt” a remote team member who is participating virtually. They can privately check in with each other via chat or a program like Slack to see if the remote team member needs more explanation or context. The live team member can also advocate for the remote person if they want to make a comment and are having trouble interjecting their thoughts. Pat finds
this approach particularly helpful if her team is made up of people for whom English is not a first language or who are, like Pat, introverted and need more time to process information. Additionally, the buddy system helps to increase compassion and understanding among team members and build one-on-one relationships.

3. Create team member user manuals
Consider the creative technique of asking team members to write their own user manuals that help others understand how they like to work. It can include their collaboration style, ideal times of the day for group and solo work, their motivations and stressors, and their interests at and outside of work. Among my clients, user manuals seem to be a growing trend. I believe they are a great tool for introverts, who often prefer written communication, to let their needs be known to the rest of the team.

4. Consider teams of two or three
Introverts often prefer one-on-one or small-group meetings to larger ones. Instead of all-person team meetings all of the time, consider breaking your team up into smaller groups. These groups of two or three can focus on specific tasks where they can then work on their own. Encouraging these smaller groups to take walking meetings may also make it easier for your introverted team members to speak up. Walking while talking helps to get introverts out of their head and facilitates the flow of ideas as they think on their feet (literally).

5. Foster transparency
Consider using a design or system map to get both introverts and extroverts involved. According to Service Design Tools, this is a “synthetic representation that shows in one single frame all the different actors involved in a service delivery, and their mutual links (e.g. flows of materials, energy, information, money, documents, etc.).” You can hang it and allow Post-it notes to be added and moved and notes made by anyone.

Though team meetings are not everyone’s favorite pastime, when we must hold meetings let’s make sure we include everyone in the room or on the call. These approaches may be your key to higher engagement in your organization.

These and many more ideas about team meetings and leading are in my forthcoming book, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces: How To Unleash Everyone’s Talent and Performance which you can pre-order now.

Deep Conversations; Connections So Sweet


Retreat facilitator Samantha Slade and author of Going Horizontal,
holding up a chart with some ways we can ask for help in creating soulful collaborations.

I sat there at breakfast on the last day of the Berrett-Koehler Author’s Retreat in Wisconsin wondering what felt different. As I walked to the clean-up station and emptied my dishes, it hit me. It had been a while since I had connected with people in deep conversations. These connections felt so sweet.

How did those connections play out? In one-on-one deep conversations and through creative group processes.

One-on-One Connections

The conversations with new and old friends filled me up. The breakfast discussion which involved a bit of problem solving and some storytelling left me with a smile. The process is what hit me. I wasn’t on my phone texting or trying to make sense of the last email in a confusing chain. I dove deeper, clarified my ideas, and learned from other people with a wide variety of perspectives and life experiences.

Many deep conversations continued through that weekend with people in the community.  Authors, members of the publishing team, and leaders from the BK Foundation weren’t rushed and let the talk meander and flow.

One conversation swung back and forth while sitting together on a porch swing, another flowed as two of us walked by the lake early one morning, and a few others happened in randomly placed chairs in a meeting room.  It didn’t matter where they were, although being in nature on a crisp fall weekend certainly provided a lovely backdrop. The common theme? All of these discussions went beyond small talk.

Large Group Connections 

The large group experiences also allowed for sweet connection. I have created many training designs and am sensitive to balancing structure with loose open spaces where people can connect organically. This retreat did just that, allowing for the retreat’s theme, “Soulful Collaborations” to emerge. A shoutout here to retreat design chairs Samantha Slade,  Ed Frauenheim and Tammy Pickering and their fabulous team made up of Alan Briskin and Marilee Adams. Emily Axelrod as the Author’s Co-op President shepherded everything along.

In our retreats (this was my 9th one) we use a method I love called Open Space. People offer topics that are on their mind and ask for input. They start it off by sharing their perspective or asking a question. There are no leaders. The person with the idea who convenes the group is the facilitator.

There are some simple operating guidelines like being able to get up and move to another session if you feel “complete”. Some open space sessions draw large groups and others small numbers. The amount of people who come to a particular session is not relevant. The people who need to be there seem to show up.

I convened one open space session on marketing ideas and left with my plate satisfyingly full. Another open space was facilitated by my author buddy, John Kador who took our group on a free writing journey. He started off with a writing prompt (ex. “There is a situation in the kitchen”) and timed our writing for a finite period of 3 minutes. We shared some of our pieces; laughing and tearing up together. Again, an opportunity for deep connection.

Sweet Connections

I came back from the retreat feeling renewed and connected to new friends and better acquainted with old ones. Having these soulful collaborations taught me more about myself and have helped me form new relationships going forward.

Most importantly, in the last several weeks I have made efforts to take  time for live conversation and even have called a few old friends who I have lost touch with in recent months.

Texts and Instagram posts don’t replace the sweetness of talking together. Soulful collaboration does connect us in ways that are hard to measure but are very sweet indeed.

Unplugged Discussion on Being an Introverted Leader

Introverted Leader Discussion at Outset Medical     Introverted Leader Discussion at Outset Medical

What are the challenges of being an introverted leader? That’s exactly what we discussed when I visited Outset Medical, a fast growing, pioneering medical technology company that is reimagining dialysis for patients and health care providers.

I entered the Outset offices and was greeted by my host, Jennifer Mascioli-Tudor, Vice President of Quality Assurance & Regulatory Affairs.

I immediately sensed the quiet.  There were lots of people working, but no loud voices – probably driven by the nature of their work in technology, but also by the fact that there are so many introverts in this organization (as is the case with most technology organizations).

Jennifer is an introverted leader and said she pushed herself to take a lead role in moderating our session. Jen (we both agreed we don’t identify with the name “Jenny”) was in one my leadership classes several years ago and we have stayed in touch, mostly because of her strong interest in introversion and her desire to bring the topic to her company.

The group of diverse employees gathered in their central area and we dove right in. We had a wide-ranging, open and honest discussion about being introverts in the work place. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Jennifer said that trying to interject with extroverts sometimes takes “a leap of faith.” She feels extroverts are often “brainstorming aloud” and that it is hard to keep up with the conversation when you are reflecting on one comment while they’ve gone on to the next one. We talked about using a hand gesture to signal their attention and that they usually don’t take interrupting personally.
  • Introverts sometimes smile to keep people away. The downside is that when they do this, others think they agree with an idea – even if they that is not the case. So be aware of possible mixed messages that can be transmitted if what you are expressing on your face doesn’t match what you are thinking.
  • May people could relate to the introvert’s aversion to social situations, especially when they come up at the last minute. Jennifer relayed the example of  stress of being asked at 5:00 p.m. to attend a party at 8:00 p.m. Terrifying!
  • We discussed reframing the idea of selling yourself to focusing on sharing results. Having some visibility is important and others can highlight your accomplishments as well.
  • As this company expands and hires more salespeople, the introverts will need to adjust to the extroverts. We discussed how to create Genius Opposites, those partners who achieve extraordinary results, and drew from concepts from my book. One of the ideas we discussed was “Accept the Alien.” That means you know that you will not change your opposite. And when you accept this, you are in for a lot less stress!

Outset Medical sponsors a discussion series at its company headquarters in San Jose, CA. It is called “Unplugged.” People with ideas are brought in for an informal chat with an executive, and the idea is to learn and provoke new thinking.

Here is the Unplugged interview I did following the session with Stacey Porter, VP of People Operations & Strategy, and also an introverted leader at Outset Medical, Inc.