Stumbled upon this article today about Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer requiring workers to come back to the office. The Slate piece fires back about the benefits and wins of working from home.
But do we know the whole story? Yahoo is on an uphill climb and it is interesting that part of Mayer’s solution is get people back “inside.”
Maybe for right now that is necessary.
Watercooler and stop and chat dialogues will likely lead to more innovation and collaboration. Hopefully this is not an all or nothing solution and that workers can still build some flexibility into their schedules. Even introverted workers tell me that they also value connection with people and it can be energy draining to ALWAYS be on their own. So let’s hope it is about balance and not be so hard on Mayer.
Lincoln is described as an introverted leader. In this great NY Times piece calledAbraham Lincoln, Management Guru some of his introverted strengths are highlighted.
I am also lucky enough to have a friend and speaking colleague, Dr. Gene Greissman, who is the author of two books on Lincoln and an uncanny Lincoln impersonator. I asked Gene to share his thoughts on the great man and he shared the concept of Lincoln’s geekiness. Take a look at what he wrote.
Abraham Lincoln Was A Geek
Lincoln seems to be everywhere these days. A Spielberg movie with Daniel Day-Lewis, repeated references to Lincoln in Obama’s speeches, renewed interest in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s magisterial “Team of Rivals,” and even a ridiculous movie called “Lincoln the Vampire Hunter.”
Naturally I’m pleased. For almost three decades I’ve told audiences all over the world that Lincoln is the quintessential high achiever, worth studying by anyone interested in career success. One important lesson we can learn from this magnificent historical figure is the importance of possessing deep knowledge. That’s the reason I gave this piece the title “Abraham Lincoln was a Geek.”
Let me explain. The word “geek” means someone who is immersed in a particular subject to an extreme that is beyond normal. We speak of “sports geeks” or “social media geeks” or “political geeks.” The word always indicates deep knowledge.
And that describes Lincoln beautifully. By the time he became President, Lincoln had already acquired deep knowledge of a specialized field of law: patent law and copyright law. In Illinois, Lincoln was regarded as the lawyer to get if you went to court over a patent infringement.
Besides this, Lincoln also had acquired a deep knowledge of voting behavior. If Lincoln were alive today, he would be giving interviews to the media, and a TV guest on election nights. He had a firm grasp of voting patterns, turnout, and trends.
Here is how Lincoln comported himself the night of the 1860 presidential election. He, along with several companions, spent the evening in the second-floor office of the Illinois & Western Telegraph Company. One of the people in the room–a journalist by the name of Thurlow Weed–described the returns that were coming in as “Greek to me…but Mr. Lincoln seemed to understand their bearing on the general result in the State and commented upon every return by way of comparison with previous elections. He understood at a glance whether it was a loss or gain to his party.”
And here is the way one authoritative biography–Nicolay and Hay–describes Lincoln’s geek-like ability: “He was completely at home among election figures. All his political life he had scanned tables of returns with as much care and accuracy as he analyzed and scrutinized maxims of government and platforms of parties. Now, as formerly, he was familiar with all the turning points in contested counties and ‘close’ districts, and knew by heart the value of each and every local loss or gain, and its relation to the grand result.” Obviously, not just a small-town lawyer at work here.
There’s a fundamental truth for all of us in this account. It’s an achievement factor: If you intend to become a high achiever in any field, you need to possess deep knowledge of at least one thing.Bear in mind that deep knowledge and communication skill need not be mutually exclusive. You really don’t have to choose one or the other. Put another way, it’s important to be able to tell what you know, but it is equally important to know what you tell.
Speaking at the Vietnam Education Foundation conference on the introverted leader last week I decided to take in a few sessions. I settled back into my seat in the large auditorium, not sure if I would be bored or intrigued. Sir Harold Kroto, a Chemistry prof at Florida State University and winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry invited the audience of 200 plus engineering, science and technology graduate students into his brilliant mind.
Dr. Kroto blew every stereotype I had about boring nerds. With several other scientists he built on the work of Buckminster Fuller to discover certain carbon molecules. He wove in art, poetry, and even sports to demonstrate the connections in all of life. Sir Harold told us that he never set out to win a Nobel Prize and seemed slightly bemused in describing this accomplishment. It was obvious in his description of his many projects that he loves life and squeezes it like a sponge. What he did do was continue to work on things that interested him (at the age of 73 he is now pursuing another early love – graphic design). And his advice to the students? Do work that you enjoy. Many students converged on him after his speech. I would not be surprised if we hear about a future Nobel Prize winner coming from Vietnam; someone who, like all of us was moved by the genious and passion of this man.
#2 Introverted leaders achieve high performance levels with extroverted employees. The Answer? True
A study published in the Academy of Management and summarized here revealed that introverts make highly effective leaders, especially with extroverted employees. Why? Because they listen! One of the study’s authors, Professor Adam Grant of the Wharton Business School said, “Introverted leaders…..are more likely to listen carefully to suggestions and support employees’ efforts to be proactive.”
I have found this in my own work with introverted bosses. Their patience, calm demeanor and thoughtful presence set the stage for the talkers in the crowd to think their ideas out loud. Adam, a manager I coached told me that he gives his team a “think break” in the middle of meetings to give the extroverts a bit of down time to really consider their ideas. He says that winging it doesn’t always yield the best results and he sees great power in the pause. The result? More well crafted ideas.
Explanation of Quiz answer #2 “How Well Do You Know Introverts” Quiz.
#2. Introverts are typically not good at public speaking. FALSE
Being introverted does not mean you can’t also be a phenomenal speaker. Introverts often use their natural strength of preparation to sound smooth and clear in their message. And just like an actor that goes into character they often perform brilliantly in their roles. In fact, a large majority of actors and comedians are actually introverted in temperament. They rehearse and then step into character.
Making a presentation to two or twenty people is the way to educate, inform and influence others. Introverts know this is an important vehicle for imparting their message and gaining visibility in their organization. They agree with Warren Buffet, who said that “public speaking can be our greatest asset or our worst liability.”
Often they will act “as if” they are confident, suave and sure of their message. Paul, an IT consultant I interviewed for The Introverted Leader shared that he imagined himself as James Bond when making presentations. He even wore the right sunglasses and clothes to get himself into the role.
What are other techniques introverts use to excel at successful public speaking? They use visualization where they imagine a successful speech before it occurs. Others push themselves to speak up in meetings, to their boss and even on the grocery store line. They also pump themselves up by replacing negative self-talk with positive statements.
And after the presentation? A welcome retreat to solitude usually does the trick.
I promised to explain the answers to the “How Well Do You Know Introverts” Quiz. Here is #1.
“Introverts prefer focused conversation to small talk.”
A focused conversation is not the same as the chit chat that can drive you up the wall and out the door. Instead, these are dialogues with a specific point in which you combine listening and purposeful talking. Focused conversation helps you to truly share your ideas with others and learn about what they believe and feel.
Small talk is usually about more superficial topics and, while it may be a way to segway to more meaningful conversation, introverts don’t see the point. Small talk also takes place in bursts with several people (think cocktail parties). The kind of conversations introverts prefer are one-on-one or in small groups.
Doug Conant, the former CEO of Campbell Soup Company said that “the action is in the interaction.” I agree. It is in these meaningful back and forths that we build relationships and influence others.
The image of introverts in politics is still so off base. Take views of Obama for example. He is a known introvert. His lower key temperament, passion for privacy, preference for focused conversation and considered comments all support this personality preference.
Now that candidate Obama is under an enhanced microscope, critics are using the term introvert without a clear understanding of what it means. Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast brought to light an off base comment by political writer John Heileman who said about President Obama
“I don’t think he doesn’t like people. I know he doesn’t like people. He’s not an extrovert; he’s an introvert. I’ve known the guy since 1988. He’s not someone who has a wide circle of friends. He’s not a backslapper and he’s not an arm-twister. He’s a more or less solitary figure who has extraordinary communicative capacities. He’s incredibly intelligent, but he’s not a guy who’s ever had a Bill Clinton-like network around him. He’s not the guy up late at night working the speed dial calling mayors, calling governors, calling CEOs.”
Okay – most of the description sounds like it makes sense based on Heileman’s proximity to Obama. But come on. Liking people? There is NO evidence that introverts don’t like people. The introvert tendency to keep feelings to themselves can create misunderstandings and a perception gap. What they intend to show is not what is seen. I think this assumption about President Obama is a clear case of the perception gap at work.