Tag Archives: introvert

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.

Video: Introverts vs Extroverts

I love videos of introverts and extroverts that make me smile AND nail home points. A few years ago, I posted this amusing BuzzFeed video highlighting the differences between introverts and extroverts. I show it in some of my programs – it is a great way to bring up our differences with humor.

Do you think the I’s or E’s get a worse rap in this one? Maybe it depends through whose eyes you are watching it. I think when our traits are exaggerated they all can be very amusing (and very annoying at times).

As organizations increasingly encourage Introverted Leaders to use their Quiet Influence to step confidently into their roles, the next step awaits. How do we get introverts and extroverts – those Genius Opposites – to thrive together?

Video is a great way to get people talking. Another group I worked with used their video camera to interview random team members about their perceptions of different personality types. The video clips were shown at a company meeting and people discussed their assumptions and challenges.

So, to make your points and encourage dialogue in presentations and meetings, consider using video to get it done! 

How To Deliver Bad News in a Positive Way

Guest Post by Dianna Booher

Introverts often prefer communicating through writing. Sometimes leaders must take a position or summarize a verbal presentation over email. When this is bad news, it is not easy. But author Dianna Booher has written a book all about that: Faster Fewer Better Emails. In this guest post Dianna provides ways to communicate your message when it isn’t an easy one to convey.

Acknowledge the Facts

If the economy is free-falling, say so. If sales are sinking, say so. If the team is performing poorly, share your numbers. If your organization looks lousy beside the competition, come clean about the market feedback.

Nothing opens people’s minds and raises their estimation of your credibility like admitting the truth—and nothing decreases your credibility like ignoring the obvious or blaming, demonizing, or scapegoating others. You understand how pathetic that makes politicians look if you’ve ever heard them rationalize election results after a dramatic loss or listened to CEOs try to explain away poor earnings after failure to achieve their goals.

Small people shun responsibility. However, strong people shoulder it.

Stop Sugarcoating the Unknown and Unknowable

“Things will work—give it time!” “Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be fine.” “It’ll all work itself out. It always does.” Such are the assurances parents give their kids. You expect them and even appreciate them—at age thirteen. But to an adult hearing such platitudes from bosses, colleagues, or friends who could not possibly know the future and how a situation will actually turn out, these remarks sound empty, if not insulting to your intelligence.

That’s not to say you can’t offer comforting words. You can and should. But to be helpful and consoling, those words should be the right words. Aim to get past the clichés and all-will-be-well platitudes to meaningful comments that encourage and give direction.

Focus on Options for the Future

In a negative situation, strong introverted leaders focus others on positive alternatives and actions with the power of their words. So, if you’re communicating about a tanking economy, the alternative may be to encourage listeners to change investment strategies for their 401K funds. If you’re communicating to comfort employees after personal property destruction because of a weather-related disaster, you could encourage them to consider rebuilding in another area. If you’re announcing a layoff––in addition to communicating compassion––you might focus on the option of new training for updated skills or offer contacts for their job search.

Structure the Message Appropriately

So, for either an email or conversation, how can you organize your bad-news message?

    1. Start on either a positive or neutral note.
    2. Elaborate on the current situation or your criteria/reasoning for making the negative decision.
    3. State the bad news (as positively as possible).
    4. Offer an alternative to meet the person’s goals, when possible.
    5. End with a goodwill statement focused on the future.

To increase your credibility in a bad-news situation, ditch a down-in-the-mouth demeanor. As an introverted leader, give helpful straight talk about the substantive issue and your words will be heard.

 

Dianna Booher’s latest books include Faster, Fewer, Better Emails, Communicate Like a Leader, What MORE Can I Say?, and Creating Personal Presence. She’s the bestselling author of 48 books, published in 61 foreign editions. Dianna helps organizations communicate clearly and leaders to expand their influence by a strong executive presence. National Media such as Good Morning America, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes, have featured her work on communication. www.BooherResearch.com @DiannaBooher

The Quiet Leadership Speaker Who Stunned the Crowd

The quiet leadership speaker who stunned the crowd.

In the last few days, we have learned more about Robert F. Smith, leadership speaker and Austin billionaire who quietly announced at the 2019 Morehouse College commencement that he was paying off the student loans of each and every one of the 400 graduates. There was shock and then sheer exuberance at the realization that this tremendous financial burden would be lifted.This generous gift will change the lives of these graduates who can feel free to move ahead in their careers without the burden of financial debt.

So who is this man who performed such a generous gesture? There isn’t a ton on line about him but what videos and clips exist reveal a person who doesn’t want the spotlight except when he must stand in it. This makes me wonder if Robert Smith may be introverted in temperament. Introverts shy away from lots of attention unless it serves a purpose..

In videos of his speeches and interviews he describes how he learned and grew in his career.

What else about Mr. Smith have we learned?
  • He believes in having grit,…”calling someone each day for 5 months finally materializing in something you what you want” was an example he shared.
  • Discover the joy of figuring things out. “Fight through those problems.
  • He admired James Bond growing up.
  • He builds and develop people in his company, Vista Equity Partners. 
  • He is a deep thinker as evidenced in his interviews. A technology and business background supports this.
  • He gives to many causes, In addition to Morehousethe NY Times reports that “Cornell renamed its School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering after Mr. Smith, and he has made major gifts to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture and other cultural institutions. “
  • He  seized opportunities in each position he was in at Kraft, Goldman Sachs and Bell Labs before he founded his company.
  • He believes in the importance of studying. “You can make more money being smart than being strong or fast.” No one else can take intellectual property from you.

Robert F. Smith  has stayed under the radar until now. The NY Times reported, “Though he shunned the spotlight for many years, he has recently embraced a more public role, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and making major charitable contributions.”

Mr. Smith opened his heart and his purse. Whether he is an introvert or not may be revealed. What is certain, is that this leadership speaker has changed the course of hundreds of lives.

Why I Am a Big Fan of Techies

Why I am a fan girl of techies
With Janet Davis and Jennifer Ng AIn Kin, technology leaders at an IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference

 

I am a big fan of techies. Yet it makes no sense at all. From my earliest school days, I suffered from math anxiety. I still do.

Ms. Walsh, my 2nd grade teacher would write a math problem on the chalkboard, and my throat constricted, my stomach tightened, and my eyes got blurry. Things didn’t get much better in junior high and high school. The problems just got harder and more confusing. Even the math tutors my parents hired to help me decipher this foreign language couldn’t do much.

Fast forward, and now even doing my taxes can send me into a total tailspin. So what’s up with my fascination with techies? I think it comes down to three key reasons:

1) Techies are Creative 

Techies use numbers creatively to design robots, create time saving applications, and access instantaneous information.  And that creativity is closely associated with a wicked sense of humor!  Just take a look at the photo above of Canadian engineers Jennifer Ng Ain Kin  of Abbott Point of Care  and Janet Davis of Ciena, who called attention to the superpower of techie women at an IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference.

2) Techies Love What They Do

In describing a new process or program, I lose myself in their exuberance. It doesn’t matter that I have no idea about the intricacies of the problem they are solving. I just enjoy watching their utter joy in describing it to me.

3) Techies Appreciate and Respect “Soft Skills”  

Many techies are introverts. In order to sell their ideas, obtain resources, and instill innovation they know that people skills are necessary. And they look for ways to apply these tools to get results.

Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about that next algebra exam any longer, but remembering that anxiety is useful. It gives me empathy for introverted techies who detest walking into a social gathering or speaking up at a meeting. Maybe we aren’t that different after all.

3 Reasons Introvert / Extrovert Partners Butt Heads

 

We live in a divided world. An estimated 50 percent of people fall on either the introvert or extrovert side of the spectrum. With those odds, chances are that you have interacted with and will interact with your opposite often.

Introverts and extroverts can create great harmonies together. Or their relationships can implode. Whether the outcome is wildly successful or totally disastrous is likely determined by whether they are in sync—or butt heads—with each other.

There is no way to assess how many breakthrough ideas never broke through because opposites could not get over the barriers their differences caused. But consider these examples:

  • Lerner and Loewe, world-famous Broadway show composers of hits such as Camelot and My Fair Lady, had much more to offer the world in an already-impressive roster of songs, but they couldn’t get over their dislike of each other.
  • Bob Eaton, the former Chrysler CEO, was outmaneuvered by his German counterpart and new CEO, Jurgen Schrempp of Daimler-Benz, in an ill-fated “merger of equals.”
  • Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren, famous newspaper advice columnists and sisters, didn’t speak for seven years.

Perhaps you have a few examples like these in your own life. Maybe you’ve left a project because one of the key team members was an opposite type to you and the frustration overcame you. Maybe you left a job because you couldn’t work through your differences with your supervisor.

There are many reasons opposite partnerships in business don’t make it. Here are three of the major ones.

  1. Opposite wiring causes misfiring

The relationships of high-performing duos don’t just happen. Even as leaders with experience under our belt, we can let those with different styles crawl under our skin. Introverts don’t talk fast enough. Extroverts won’t stop interrupting. And under stress, introverts tend to shut down while extroverts go into hyperdrive. That is when potentially productive conflicts become stalemates.

  1. Not destroying the dislike

Introverted Gene Siskel and extroverted Roger Ebert, film critics, had a hit show together for 13 years, yet they vehemently hated each other. Clips from their interviews reveal a complex relationship in which they bickered and laughed, both on and off camera. But they had a hard time getting past their differences. They had to learn to act like friends and stop competing so their audience could reap the benefits of their great show.

  1. Not realizing your opposite’s strengths are your weaknesses

My daughter, Jessie Kahnweiler, is an LA-based filmmaker and an extrovert. She hired Liam, an introverted director of photography, for one of her complicated film shoots. As they were scoping out shots, Jessie spilled over with ideas. However, she sensed that Liam was not sharing in her excitement and she became frustrated. That is, until the day of the shoot when he appeared with a large notebook of carefully thought-out shots that had incorporated many of her suggestions. Jessie realized that Liam had the same level of enthusiasm as she did but approached it in an internally focused, methodical way. He was a planner and needed time to sort things out in his head—something she needed. His strengths were her weaknesses.

To determine potential landmines, become aware of where you and your opposite can clash. Learn what specific adjustments you can make to become the high-performing, dynamic duo you and your opposite are truly capable of being.

The Sound of Silence

Silence.

I think the universe is giving me the high sign to be quiet. For extroverts like myself, it is too easy to talk and make conversation. But what are we missing when we fill the space with our words and do not stop to let our pauses land?

Why, for instance, when waiting in line, is it easier to chatter or pick up your phone than simply stay present and notice what is going on with you and your surroundings?

I attended a retreat in Mexico and was away from technology and deadlines. The silence was beautiful. I meditated every morning and spent time in quiet reflection. To my family’s surprise, I even attended a silent dinner.

That last activity was a surprisingly relaxing and calming interlude. It was hard to believe that it lasted 1½ hours. I ate slowly, thinking about my food and how it looked and tasted. I was simply being. I came back determined to live more in the pause.

“The truth is in the silence. People are afraid to have a silent moment. People are jumping up and giving their opinion too quickly.” These words, spoken by the late comedian Gary Shandling  are profound. In an interview with podcast host Mark Maron, he went on to say that he believed that not being silent was a defensive reaction to not going deeper.

In my research for my book, Quiet Influence I found that introverts value quiet time above all other strengths. It is the place which is the wellspring for their creativity energy and where they go to recharge.

In Krista Tippitt’s podcast, On Being, Tiffany Shlain, a web guru, described how she and her family take a technology Sabbath on Friday night and Saturdays and how it has changed all of their lives for the better. Taking a radical step like that might just be the answer to reclaiming silence.

So, what will you do to build silence and a quiet space into your hectic life? Things are not going to get less busy, so it is probably wise to figure that out now, not tomorrow.

Do You Know the Secret to Being an Ace Interviewer? Introverts Do!

Guest blog by Dean Nelson

I met author and journalism professor Dean Nelson last year at a writing workshop. I was so pleased to hear that he has incorporated many practical lessons about interviewing into his new book, Talk to Me: How to Ask Better Questions, Get Better Answers, and Interview Anyone Like a Pro. We both agreed that preparation is the absolute key to ANY successful interview. So whether you have a project or a podcast, check out Dean’s tips in the guest blog post below.

There is a myth out there that the only people who can get sources to talk to them are the hard-charging extroverts, the people who exude confidence through their pores, who have no trouble walking up to strangers and getting them to say things they wouldn’t say even after the fourth waterboarding treatment.

It’s simply not true.

There are some people who see no stranger danger, but most of us are a little more reluctant. Most of us know full well that it takes a willful suspension of discomfort to interview a stranger.

One of my favorite movies is Almost Famous, which is based on a true story of Cameron Crowe’s experience of being on the road with a rock and roll band. The movie is a terrific tribute to rock, and a poignant coming of age story. But if you watch it through the prism of interviewing, it is a clinic on how to conduct interviews when you lack confidence. The main character, William, is 15. And the best way to describe him is “awkward.”

Early in the movie he gets an assignment from the Creem, the rock magazine, to interview the band Black Sabbath. But that interview doesn’t work out. It seems he wasn’t assertive enough. As he trudges away from the arena where they blew him off, another band passes him. He follows them to the stage door and tries to engage them.

“Hi, I’m a journalist. I write for Creem magazine,” he says.

This band is equally dismissive. He seems discouraged, but tries one more thing.

“Russell. Jeff. Ed. Larry,” William says, instantly gaining credibility. “I really love your band. I think the song ‘Fever Dog’ is a big step forward for you guys. I think you guys producing it yourselves, instead of Glyn Johns, was the right thing to do. And the guitar sound was incendiary.”

William gestures with a fist, says, “Way to go,” and starts to walk away.

“Well don’t stop there,” one of the musicians yells.

“Yeah, come back here! Keep going! I’m incendiary, too!”

Then the backstage door opens and they pull him in with them.

Preparation will triumph over personality every time.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself when you consider talking to a source, a client, a customer, a witness, or whomever else you think might be reluctant to talk to you:

  • Why do you want to talk to this person? You’d be surprised how often people don’t think about this ahead of time.
  • What do you hope will be the outcome of this conversation?
  • What can I ask this person that hasn’t already been asked many times? In other words, what will make your conversation unique?
  • How can you make this conversation appeal to the source’s self interest?

And here are some methods that will give you confidence as you enter into that conversation:

  • Before the interview, educate yourself on the topic. In the age of Google, there is no excuse to not already know a lot of the answers you’re looking for. What you want from the interview is the human voice, the insight, the complexity.
  • Put your questions in order. Know where the interview is going.
  • Ask the difficult question, even if it’s awkward. Believe me, they’re expecting it.

Doing these things won’t make you someone you’re not. They’ll make you comfortable with who you are, so that you can be authentically you.

If you’re authentic and prepared, you’ll be amazed at the access people will give you. They might even call you incendiary!

 

Dean Nelson, Ph.D., is the founder and director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, and the host of the annual Writer’s Symposium By The Sea. His new book, published by HarperCollins, is “Talk To Me: How To Ask Better Questions, Get Better Answers, and Interview Anyone Like a Pro.” This essay is adapted from that book.

https://www.amazon.com/Talk-Me-Questions-Answers-Interview/dp/1982610093

See his interviews with writers at www.deannelson.net