Tag Archives: introvert

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.

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.