Tag Archives: introverted leaders

Goodbye to the telephone?

I remember the day the mimeo machine gave way to the Xerox copier.  And now disappearing with that blue ink comes another relic of the baby boomers;  the telephone.

I knew it was coming.  Honestly though, I read this recent NY Times piece , Don’t Call Me, I Will Call You with mixed emotion. The basic premise is that the telephone is dead.  Pamela Paul writes,

“It’s at the point where when the phone does ring — and it’s not my mom, dad, husband or baby sitter — my first thought is: “What’s happened? What’s wrong?” My second thought is: “Isn’t it weird to just call like that? Out of the blue? With no e-mailed warning?”

Her point is well taken.  We do communicate through email, text and social networking.  When we do choose to talk on the phone, it may be to clear up a misunderstood email or to handle a more complex matter. It is common for us to make appointments for phone calls so we avoid the inevitable telephone tag. I learned this technique from introverted pros who are well prepared for those phone calls when they do occur.

The smart phone now bridges our voices so not all hope is lost for this type of connection. In a world where we are  literally tethered to our machines, it is important to be able to read each other behind the lines. How else might I find out that we are both totally confused about the latest company directive? How can I hear your perceptions about our newest customer and learn about what makes you tick?

So before we say good-bye, let’s look at how we can still use the telephone as one tool among many. It is not ready for the dump just yet, is it?

Do Introverted Women Ask for Mentors?

How many times have we heard that mentors are key? Irene Lang, CEO of Catalyst believes that women often lack mentors to “guide and protect them in unsettled economic times.” In a recent article in the WSJ  called Women Lag Further  in Reaching Executive Ranks she states that mentors were shown to be a key to women’s advancement.

I know that all of us,  introverts and extroverts, find it difficult to ask for help. We think we need to “have it all together” in today’s competitive corporate cultures. But I wonder; Do quieter women leaders shy away more than their vocal counterparts from reaching out to experienced leaders? In some companies, can being less verbal and more vulnerable derail your career?

Melissa, a savvy introverted marketing director and coaching client worked in a male dominated service business.  She came to me with the news that the newly appointed company president, Lani, was a female. A fast rising star, Lani had jumped through the hoops and placed her last company’s brand on the world map. Melissa was pleased that at last there was now an ambitious female in her midst.

So as her supporter (and goader) I asked Melissa, “Have you scheduled a meeting with Lani to discuss your career development?”  Her silence on the phone told me that the answer was no. Melissa had, in fact,  met with Lani several times to review her business projections and strategy. All was going well on that front.  What she had neglected to do is focus on a critical element; her own future.

Melissa did eventually set up that meeting. Lani offered insights and was very receptive. The two women agreed to meet monthly to discuss challenges and successes.

I know that if Melissa continues to draw from Lani’s experience and insights she will grow from these exchanges with this accomplished leader. She may even realize that she wants to deviate from the senior exec’s game plan. Either way  she will be expanding her knowledge base, perspective and potential network.

There is overwhelming evidence that mentoring works. Recognizing that we are worth developing is an internal hurdle that both introverted and extroverted women need to overcome. And we better get to work quickly on this one.

Introverted Nurses Rule

When we think of nurses we don’t often think beyond their service to patients. Yet nurses have stepped into leadership roles, where they shine. And no surprise – a good number of them are introverts.

The strengths of calm reflection, thinking before talking, and responding before reacting, are assets in the sometimes-chaotic heath care world.  I know of a hospital nurse who had to make a last minute scheduling change with a staff member. She was greeted with an out of control rant. Using a calm tone and taking a breath, she told the staff member to call her back when she had settled down. The staffer did, and they worked out a suitable arrangement.

I love what one introverted unit manager said in Introversion Can Be a Benefit for Nurses In Leadership Positions, an excellent article by Lin Grensing-Pophal in ADVANCE for Nurses, “It’s lonely at the top and introverted leaders don’t have a problem with the solitary nature of the job.”

Also take a look at the Laura Raines’ piece in the AJC Pulse where she profiled introverted Chief Nursing Officer, Joyce Ramsey.

Introverted leaders are the best for proactive employees

My Google Alerts and equally alert friends were quick to inform me of some intriguing developments on the research scene. A new study on introverted leaders appeared in Harvard Business Review’s Dec. issue and takes a look at how introverted leaders fare with more “proactive” or extroverted followers. One key learning? They listen and process the ideas of an eager team. Extroverted leaders don’t do as well with other extroverts because they are too busy being outgoing and contributing ideas – leaving little time to act on them. Research was conducted in the research lab and in the field.

Francesca Gino ran the study along with professors Adam M. Grant of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and David A. Hofmann of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Their article, “Reversing the Extraverted Leadership Advantage: The Role of Employee Proactivity,” will appear in the Academy of Management Journal next year.

Note: Extroverted can be spelled with an “a” – the strictly Jungian version. I choose to go with the commonly accepted spelling “o”. Neither is right or wrong:)

Want to hear more? Listen to Dr. Gino’s interview. She explains the study and the potential implications. We have already had a delightful exchange and are meeting soon to share our mutual findings. Stay tuned.

Another Low-Profile CEO

With sweets on the mind and in the mouth this Halloween night,  I enjoyed reading this USA Today piece about a company that makes candy and other products; Nestle. Nestle’s CEO Paul Bulcke  (pronounced Boolk-eh) does not, according to the article, have the over-the-top personality of a Richard Branson or Donald Trump….colleagues say he is well-known and well-liked at the company. When they learned in 2007 that he would be CEO, employees at the Swiss headquarters publicly signaled their approval.

“There was a standing ovation when it was announced internally, which I had never seen before,” former CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe told Fortune magazine. “I didn’t get a standing ovation when I was announced.”

Employees describe Bulcke — who became CEO in April 2008 — as low-key and traditional. But they also say the Belgian-born CEO has a quick sense of humor and will hit the dance floor at company events.

That transition between being a buttoned-up corporate executive to a regular fellow is one that Bulcke easily makes, says Nestlé USA CEO Brad Alford. “Paul is as comfortable with heads of state as he is with factory workers,” says Alford. This ability to establish one-on-one rapport is a strength of introverted leaders. This strategy has obviously earned Bulcke respect.

The article says that Bulcke, a 31-year Nestlé veteran, has helped the firm to maintain its reputation as a conservative yet strong entity.

“It’s a well-run organization,” says Paul Weitzel, a managing partner at retail consultancy Willard Bishop. “It has solid people and solid thought leadership.”

The thoughtful, quiet approach of successful introverted leaders can lead to outstanding business results. Despite the bumpy economy, Nestlé said Friday that its nine-month sales rose 4.1% to about $85 billion. Pretty impressive.

Practice – the strategy of choice

In my research on introverted leaders, I found that focused practice was a consistent part of the plan.They took every opportunity to speak in public, drive discussion with their bosses and inspire team members when needed. Whatever they felt compelled to work on, they did – 100 plus percent.

My friend, Marty Mercer, recently happened upon Tiger Woods in a hotel gym.  TW was engaged in a vigorous weight work out, after having played in a tournament all day.

I really enjoyed this NY Times piece (9/12/09) which highlights the roots of comedian Jay Leno’s drive for success. He never lets up – always working on his act. As a Dyslexic who was even advised by a counselor to leave school, he faced one obstacle after another.

Being at the top of our game, whether on the stage, the playing field or in the boardroom, requires this single minded focus. I don’t think this practice is all drudgery either. With goals set and results seen, the practice time can be one of challenge and satisfaction – at times it even may be fun (in Leno’s case, let’s hope so!)…

“Mr. Leno continues to be a brute for work. Last year, even working 46 weeks on “Tonight,” he managed to perform his stand-up act on 160 dates. It is not uncommon for him to finish taping a show and then fly off somewhere like Fresno, Calif., where he appeared this summer at a chicken festival in 104-degree heat. He said he had just as many stand-up appearances booked for this year, even with the new show.”