Tag Archives: Introverts

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.

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! 

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.