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 and finalizing materializing in something 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.
“Engaged Listening helps you understand what’s going on around you, what people are thinking and feeling, threads of themes, and even what key pieces of the puzzle might be missing.” p. 74
Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference
How is your listening going lately? Could you use a tune up? In what situations might revving up your listening power help you learn more?
I have learned so much about the introvert qualities of listening and pausing as I wear my interviewer’s hat. Gathering research for a book on successful Introvert-Extrovert work partnerships, I listen to recorded stories driving around Atlanta, taking neighborhood walks, and sipping drinks at my local coffee shop. The audio recordings of these sessions reveal rich tapestries and clues and I am both moved and totally engaged. While the puzzle pieces are yet to be assembled, strong themes are emerging. I know that listening will provide the answers I need.
Engaged Listening is one of the introvert qualities that lead to successful interviewing. I hope you find some of these interviewing tips useful.
Jennifer Kahnweiler’s Five Tips for Successful Interviewing
Provide questions to your interviewees before talking with them. It helps them to reflect on the answers. This is an introvert sweet spot btw. The responses you get will be thoughtful and well considered.
|Pause after asking a question. You extroverts might struggle with this one, but believe me, it works. Count “1, 2, 3” in your head and don’t try to fill the silence. Ask them if they need more time to think and then let them take it.
Record the interview with your interviewee’s permission. I use the recording feature on GoToMeeting and love it. Don’t worry about getting everything down on paper and replay the audio to hear voice tone and nuance.
|Ask open-ended follow-up questions to explore avenues that pique your interest. For instance, “Can you give me an example?” or “Take me back to that day and describe in more detail what occurred?”
|Encourage your interviewee’s questions. You might have overlooked what could turn out to be a nugget. A fave question of mine is “What question haven’t I asked you?”
I have met some wonderful colleagues like Beth Buelow coach and author who is bringing the introvert message to light. She proved to a be terrific interviewer in a recent podcast and used the quiet strength of preparation to make that happen.
My favorite Beth question? “What 3 books would you bring on introvert island and why?” What is making you smile inside today was another(great introvert question by the way)
Curious what your answers would be:)
I took a wrong turn on my way to Coudersport, PA. No. I had not heard of the town either but it was where I was booked for a training gig; a 2 1/2 hour ride from the Buffalo airport. I wondered what I was thinking or drinking when I said yes.
Slave to an uncooperative GPS, I found myself driving 5 miles down a cow path to the next dirt road. Red barns shining in the sun, green grass shimmering and not a bathroom to be seen. As I alternated between slight panic and awe at nature’s splendor, I wondered where the people had gone to in this twilight zone reality. There were houses and cars but not a person anywhere. I saw a tractor, a few kids selling pumpkins but no stores. There were billboards but definitely no nail salons. I finally saw a real road in the distance and inhaled and exhaled relief when I realized I actually might arrive before dark.
I rolled into town, even happy to find my hotel with the “No Dirty Workboots Inside” sign. I grabbed a sandwich in one of two restaurants in town before closing time at 8:00 p.m. and stumbled upon open mike night at a sweet little bar. Guitar music, friendly folks and a warm laid back feeling in this comfy small town.
The next day I found an eager and positive group of eight technical managers ready to learn, engage and support each other with their leadership challenges. Occasionally, talk of hunting, farming and drinking entered the room. The two days went by quickly (at least for me) and before leaving I told them they were the favorite class I had ever taught (in Coudersport!). We all laughed and I jumped into my Corolla with promises to stay in touch. I made it back to the Buffalo airport armed with new directions (and a different GPS).
One of the many gifts of my work is the chance to travel. It takes me outside the comfort zone of suburban Dunwoody, GA. While that travel isn’t always glamorous how else could I meet wholesome people and learn about hunting, farming and dirty work boots? I look forward to the next adventure.
This past week I had the opportunity to interview with a dynamic pastor and church leadership expert named Tony Morgan about The Introverted Leader , I think Tony found me on Twitter (it is hard to remember with so many social networking tools).
Unlike many interviews, where there is some prep, Tony and I winged it. I think it made the conversation more natural and lively. At one point, I referenced holding a drink at a social function and quickly changed the word “drink” to “gingerale”. Tony chided me and said, “Oh, you think just because I am a pastor, I just drink gingerale.” I want to be “politically correct,” was my retort. I think we included humor and quite bit of content in the 14 minute conversation.
It is not truly accurate to say that we did not prepare. Each of us has developed expertise in our respective areas. We just didn’t memorize lines for this one. I believe that being present allowed both of us to flow with the conversation.
Check out An Introvert Interviews an Extrovert On Introverted Leaders and let me know if you agree.
I ran a leadership program with a group of Public Affairs pros today. One introverted leader shared how his team had learned from a recent situation. Because they didn’t include an important stakeholder in the beginning, when it came time to sign off on the project, she had multiple questions. They had to scramble in crisis mode to respond because of this omission.
Lesson learned? He said they will look at who needs to be looped in earlier. Looking back and course correcting will be the key to their future success. He said that he is learning to be a better “observer” of the process. Observing and analyzing are natural strengths of the introvert btw.
I also talked with one participant about ending meetings with a plus – delta round robin. What worked and what do we need to improve? As a team lead, act on those changes when you can and you are bound to improve meeting effectiveness.
What are you doing to look back and learn?