Tag Archives: jennifer kahnweiler

Deep Conversations; Connections So Sweet

Retreat facilitator Samantha Slade  and author of Going Horizontal, holding up a chart with some
ways we can ask for help in creating soulful collaborations.

I sat there at breakfast on the last day of the Berrett-Koehler Author’s Retreat in Wisconsin wondering what felt different. As I walked to the clean-up station and emptied my dishes, it hit me. It had been a while since I had connected with people in deep conversations. These connections felt so sweet.

How did those connections play out? In one-on-one deep conversations and through creative group processes.

One-on-One Connections

The conversations with new and old friends filled me up. The breakfast discussion which involved a bit of problem solving and some storytelling left me with a smile. The process is what hit me. I wasn’t on my phone texting or trying to make sense of the last email in a confusing chain. I dove deeper, clarified my ideas, and learned from other people with a wide variety of perspectives and life experiences.

Many deep conversations continued through that weekend with people in the community.  Authors, members of the publishing team, and leaders from the BK Foundation weren’t rushed and let the talk meander and flow.

One conversation swung back and forth while sitting together on a porch swing, another flowed as two of us walked by the lake early one morning, and a few others happened in randomly placed chairs in a meeting room.  It didn’t matter where they were, although being in nature on a crisp fall weekend certainly provided a lovely backdrop. The common theme? All of these discussions went beyond small talk.

Large Group Connections 

The large group experiences also allowed for sweet connection. I have created many training designs and am sensitive to balancing structure with loose open spaces where people can connect organically. This retreat did just that, allowing for the retreat’s theme, “Soulful Collaborations” to emerge. A shoutout here to retreat design chairs Samantha Slade,  Ed Frauenheim and Tammy Pickering and their fabulous team made up of Alan Briskin and Marilee Adams. Emily Axelrod as the Author’s Co-op President shepherded everything along.

In our retreats (this was my 9th one) we use a method I love called Open Space. People offer topics that are on their mind and ask for input. They start it off by sharing their perspective or asking a question. There are no leaders. The person with the idea who convenes the group is the facilitator.

There are some simple operating guidelines like being able to get up and move to another session if you feel “complete”. Some open space sessions draw large groups and others small numbers. The amount of people who come to a particular session is not relevant. The people who need to be there seem to show up.

I convened one open space session on marketing ideas and left with my plate satisfyingly full. Another open space was facilitated by my author buddy, John Kador who took our group on a free writing journey. He started off with a writing prompt (ex. “There is a situation in the kitchen”) and timed our writing for a finite period of 3 minutes. We shared some of our pieces; laughing and tearing up together. Again, an opportunity for deep connection.

Sweet Connections

I came back from the retreat feeling renewed and connected to new friends and better acquainted with old ones. Having these soulful collaborations taught me more about myself and have helped me form new relationships going forward.

Most importantly, in the last several weeks I have made efforts to take  time for live conversation and even have called a few old friends who I have lost touch with in recent months.

Texts and Instagram posts don’t replace the sweetness of talking together. Soulful collaboration does connect us in ways that are hard to measure but are very sweet indeed.

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

Dad and His Letters: A Father’s Day Tribute

Father's Day Tribute: Dad and HIs Letters

Photo by Carrie Boretz, his daughter

I wrote this blog post a few years ago for Father’s Day, and thought I would share it with you again.

For all us who have loved and lost our fathers.

 

I was sitting on a long airplane ride yesterday with tears streaming down my cheeks. Listening to a touching Story Corps podcast episode about fathers triggered profound feelings of loss.

My dad, Alvin Boretz, died 9 years ago and Father’s Day since then has been hard. His birthday was June 15th so the two days are always entwined in my mind. We always laughed that he got a bit cheated with a combined celebration.

I can’t call him to talk through a problem, share a piece of good news, or share the kids’  (and now the grandkids’) latest exploits. The truth is, he was gone in his mind several years before he actually died. But the physical loss was so final.

I do know that I am luckier than many people. Aside from having a father who was my greatest cheerleader, I had a Dad who wrote numerous letters through his life to me and many others. I have saved over 100 of them.  He was also a screenwriter and the entirety of his work is archived at The University of Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. I have been there several times to read his many screenplays, notes, and correspondence and it is always a joy.

As I write this post, the letters sit next to me, spilling out of the folders I have placed them in, loosely organized by decade.

Dad’s essence comes through in every one. Many are filled with encouragement, humor, and hope for the future – his and ours. And Dad loved to send me advice, including clippings from the The NY Times. Every time I forward a link to a friend or colleague, I smile and thank Dad for passing on his endless curiosity and desire to help others explore their current interests. He was always on the lookout. I read the NY Times each morning and often reflect on that comforting image of my mom and dad absorbing the news.

Dad’s words helped me to navigate life from my teens through my 20’s and 30’s.Though I left  NY at 18 for college and a career,  I could always depend on these welcome gifts in my mailbox from St. Louis, to Amherst, Tallahassee, Cincinnati, and Atlanta. Other letters remain tough to read as Dad’s sadness and worry seep through the page like dark ink blots. He had a lot of tragedy in his life and his writing was an outlet for the emotions he couldn’t always express in his scripts or voice aloud. His letters didn’t escape this darkness.

After significant life events, both happy and sad, dad often made a point of writing letters. Here are a few excerpts from some of those letters. The beauty of his prose still moves me.

Excerpts from Dad’s letters

On deciding what career I should pursue:

“I have no advice….simply that your own good sense of survival and your judgment will help you to make proper decisions…none of which have to be irrevocable of course. That is important to remember. You are not committing your life…but simply starting out on a course of action which will allow you to make a livelihood and also hopefully to enjoy what you do and contribute. A most rare combination.” 

When my spouse ,Bill lost out on a job he wanted very much.

“The world is open to you. All that is required is resistance to all the injustice and madness that afflicts us all. There are few exceptions. Courage, my dear Bill. You can’t miss.”

After a  friend’s long time boyfriend broke up with her.

“You are the only one who can handle it and put a stop to your unhappiness. ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’ is a terrible cliché, but it is also an important truth. You will be busy working, functioning, living, and yes, even loving. Respect my gray hair and believe what I say. You are Kelly and that is someone wonderful.”

When Bill and I were in a serious car accident but weren’t injured:

“Sorry about the accident, but we all need a trauma like that to remind us of our vulnerability. Precisely at our zenith, we often attract the fates and that is good – for an affirmation that it is always a struggle. There is, of course, the inner struggle that all of us face and which surfaces when we least expect it. But at least it gives us a chance to handle our own destiny and to have some of the responsibility for our own lives. “

Thank you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day and Happy Birthday!!!

 

 

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.

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.