Introverts in an extrovert world?

Posted by on Apr 11, 2013 in Communication, Leadership, Meetings, Presentations, Self-awareness | 0 comments

The United States is one of the world’s most extrovert culture, and business is a place where it is particularly prized.  Do we lose something from that?  What if you’re an introvert in an organization where the extrovert behaviors are the benchmark? Some say that the single most important aspect of personality is where you sit on the spectrum of introversion/extroversion.  It influences career and spouse choices, how we communicate, make decisions, resolve conflict and show love.  It influences what kind of leader we become. Both ways of thinking and acting are necessary in the world and in any organization.  “A species in which everyone was General Patton would not succeed, any more than would a race in which everyone was Vincent Van Gogh,” says American educator, and musician Allen Shawn. As Leaders:  Studies on leaders and books like Good to Great have found that the charismatic, gregarious extroverted leader may not be the most successful.  Extrovert CEO’s had bigger salaries but not better corporate performance.  But those characteristics still get rated higher.  At Harvard Business School, the behaviors of extroverts are a component of the grade.  Why? Extrovert Ideal:  Susan Cain explains what she calls our value system of the Extrovert Ideal in her bestselling book Quiet  – “The omnipresent believe is that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.  The archetypal extrovert prefers action to comtemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt.  He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong.  She works well in teams and socializes in groups.” I worked with an extrovert who loved huge events with lots of people and favored conflict in meetings because he preferred the speed and energy of the conversations.   Characteristics of Introverts:  Introverts tend to be more thoughtful, and work more slowly and intentionally. They find it easier to concentrate and focus and be less likely to multi-task.  But they are NOT hermits.  Introverts can have strong social skills, be great listeners, and clear speakers.  Introverts tend to find presentations challenging and conflict difficult.  They often dislike small talk but enjoy deep conversations, and may prefer to express themselves in writing. They are not necessarily shy, either, which is an indicator of discomfort.  A shy person in a meeting may find it exceedingly uncomfortable to speak up; an introvert may just need time to listen and formulate their thoughts before speaking up.  The result of a smaller presence in the meeting may be the same, but it’s for entirely different reasons. We see ourselves as a nation of extroverts, yet studies show that one third to one half of Americans are introverts.  It may be easy to see how introverted scientists or artists might change the world – think of Einstein and his theory of relativity or Chopin’s nocturnes.  Are there introverts that have changed the world by taking a public leadership role?  Yes!  How about Rosa Parks or Eleanor Roosevelt or Gandhi whose influence came not in spite of but because...

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Email slime

Posted by on Sep 24, 2012 in Communication, Mindfulness, Self-awareness | 0 comments

Has the boundary of your work week disappeared as you labor over email at home nights and on weekends?  Do you ever have your email misinterpreted and find yourself having to explain your way out of trouble?  What about sending an email when you’re tired or rushed then wishing you had a “Find and Destroy” key on your keyboard to use? You aren’t alone. I’m a victim of porous boundaries, particularly owning my own business.  Here I am writing this blog post on a Sunday evening. I’m also afraid I’m becoming an email junkie – checking it first thing when I come down to make coffee and last thing before I go to bed.  Why? It’s not like any of my messages are quite that urgent.  It’s  a bit addictive, like looking for something in a treasure hunt – a gem among the junk. Plus it’s much easier to just take care of whatever it is right away.  And so overwhelming to have screen after screen of unopened emails if I don’t stay on top of it. Research says you don’t get it:  The ease of email and our rush to get them handled and off our screen leads to trouble, though. We’re really lousy at reading the subtleties of email – there’s no voice quality, no body language to explain the tone.  So we guess – and half the time we guess wrong.  According to research conducted by the Universities of Chicago and New York,  we have only a 50-50 chance of reading the emotional tone of an email correctly. It gets worse, though, because most of us (a full 90% of us) think we can read the emotional tone of an email correctly. According to research, there are two other reasons that make email risky.  First is the inability to develop personal rapport over e-mail, which makes relationships fragile in the face of conflict.  Second,  though the prospect of instantaneous communication creates an urgency that pressures e-mailers to think and write quickly, which can lead to carelessness, it also has a permanence that gets us in trouble. Companies power down:  What do we do about it?  We could avoid email all together. Apparently one in four companies have created some sort of formal or informal no email rules, according to a recent article in The Washington Post.  Reasons cited include creating more balance for employees, enhancing creativity and efficiency with periods of uninterrupted time, and eliminating some of the miscommunication that emails can cause. One French IT services firm Atos went so far as to announce plans to end email altogether, saying their managers were spending  5 to 20 hours a week just reading and responding to emails. On the University of Notre Dame Australia website this month, they were less drastic, announcing a trial of a weekly “email free” period from now through the end of the year.  The Vice Chancellor, Professor Celia Hammond was quoted as saying “the ease of email use means that we...

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Is being intentional about your presence wearing a mask?

Posted by on Sep 18, 2012 in Communication, Effective conversations, Mindfulness, Self-awareness | 0 comments

Did you ever think about whether you behave or respond in a different way than usual with someone?  Are there are times when you are purposefully different because you think the situation demands it – tougher or more sympathetic, bolder or more subtle? And do you sometimes behave differently without awareness? I’ve coached people who have been challenged by certain situations, for example union negotiations, and we work at how to prepare and bring a different presence to those situations.   If their default style is thoughtful and gentle, they consciously think about being more active and assertive. In other situations, I’ve had clients who’ve had to look at whether they were being unintentionally different, shifting their style without awareness.  For example, if they expected a tough meeting, were they starting out prickly – already wearing armor, when they were normally quite relaxed?  And if so, did that cause the others to get prickly or aggressive? What about shifting your style for a client?  I know when I led a sales team, we trained in how to put people at ease, to meet them where they were.  If you were working with a formal client, you might approach them with more formality and vice versa. I had an interesting conversation yesterday about whether shifting your style or your presence for a particular situation is being inauthentic – faking it, or wearing a mask. I’ve long thought we need to expand our range of behavior to have choices in how we react or present ourselves depending on what or who we are facing.  Sort of like playing the piano and knowing how to use all the keys – even if we don’t play them all during every song. It was a good to be challenged to think about whether somehow that is a flawed assumption.  If I’m a thoughtful gentle person should I be courageously true to that, regardless of the situation, regardless of the consequences, even if it puts me at a disadvantage?  What if I’m action-oriented, fast, and direct and I tend to roll over people? I know that what happens in any interaction is a product of what we each bring to that interaction – co-creation.   I remember reading a book by the neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor, about her experience having a massive stroke.  She couldn’t communicate well and was highly sensitive to her environment.  She had someone put a sign on her door asking people, particularly caregivers, to be careful about the energy they brought with them into her room.  We experience one another far beyond the simple words we exchange. I’m still mulling this over, but I think I like the idea of paying attention to what is needed in any given situation and bringing those parts of myself forward that are called for.  I’m not being fake or manipulative, am I? I’m being flexible and intentional. What do you think?      ...

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Mindful Email ROI

Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Communication, Leadership, Mindfulness, Self-awareness | 0 comments

How many emails do you send a day?  How many do you receive?  How often are your emails misunderstood?  How can you make your email communication more effective? This week, two of my clients described situations in which they were repeatedly expending a lot of time and energy because of being misunderstood and an exchange of emails was to blame. Email is a highly effective communication tool when used well.  However it’s ripe for problems.  What are the pitfalls to avoid? Pitfalls: Tackling an issue where emotion is involved Resolving differences of opinion Giving bad news Including the wrong people Sharing information you don’t want forwarded. Why we fall into the pits:  These pitfalls probably seem obvious but I can’t tell you how often I see people doing all of the above by email.   Why do we fall into these “pits” so frequently? Email (or texting) is fast and easy,  so we approach it with speed and tend not to give it as much thoughtful reflection as we might give something we were putting on paper. It’s easier to use email on emotional issues because it allows us to avoid the emotional response we might fear (either our own or the other person’s). Emailing is a solo activity and so we tend to sit inside ourselves rather than in connection with the receiver.  If we were face to face or even on the phone we’d at least have to take the other person more into consideration. We’re so busy, we’re multitasking when we’re emailing or thinking about the next thing to do so we’re not giving the email our full attention. Mindfulness:  Recently I read a blog post about a course on mindfulness called Search Inside Yourself offered at Google. Apparently, the folks at Google are so stressed by the fast pace and astronomical expectations that they need skills to manage that stress. (True for all of us?) One of the elements taught is mindful emailing to avoid the risks and unintended consequences of stressed people reacting to assumptions they make from misinterpreted emails. When you’re a leader, this risk intensifies. The blog didn’t explain how to write mindful emais, but I’ve got some thoughts. Mindfulness involves being completely attentive.  So mindful emailing seems to me to involve attending to the whole context of that email, not just the specific content. Mindful Emailing:  For each email, I could consider all of what I know, all of what the recipient knows, what I might want them to know, what they might want to hear, who else might read it.   It involves the framing of the issue, the data, the context, the emotions.    I could pay careful attention to how I could be misunderstood based on the differences in all of the above, the gap between where I am and where my recipient is. Finding time for this: Okay, I hear you saying, “I get 500 emails a day. As it is I’m constantly behind on my email. How can...

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Are You Being Heard???

Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Communication, Effective conversations, Leadership | 0 comments

Three clients came to me recently with concerns about whether they were making themselves clear, in meetings, in employee conversations.  They asked, “how do I make sure they hear what I want them to hear?” There are two pieces to this:  what you say and what they hear. In one case a client’s associate was continuing down a path they discussed was the wrong path.   Had the associate misunderstood? Or was the advice just being ignored? In another case, the client’s employees kept coming back with questions on the same issue.  Did the client not make himself clear enough the first time?  Were the employees not feeling empowered to make decisions on their own? In a third case, the client felt that their team was leaving meetings without clarity.  Was she not communicating clearly?  Were they interpreting the content differently than she intended? Let’s start with what you say.  What gets in the way of clarity? Skipping steps.  If you have spent a lot of time on the issue, have a lot of history with it, you may skip important context and details without realizing.  It’s so obvious to you it seems unnecessary to say.  The antidote?  Paying careful attention to where the other person is coming from and what they are likely to know and not know.  Ask them.  “What do you know about this already?” Forgetting the why.  If you just tell people what you want them to do and how you want them to do it, you aren’t empowering them to act.  People need to understand the why.  If they understand the goal and they understand the reason why, they can fill in the details of what to do without continually coming back to you. Using too many words.  If you’re not clear on what you’re trying to say, or use too many words, you lose people.  Be succinct.  Frame up what you’re going to say.  Identify the important points.  Know in advance what you want them to leave with. Using the wrong words.  If you use words that others may not have in their vocabulary, you won’t be understood.  This can happen when a boss is proud of his or her intellectual prowess and vocabulary.  It also happens when someone uses insider words to an outsider.  Insider words can be the jargon of an industry, the jargon of a division, the jargon of a culture.  Put yourself in their world and notice how people communicate in that world. Assumptions.  Don’t assume anything.  Don’t assume they know what you want.  Don’t assume they understand.  Don’t assume you’re being clear. How do you know what they hear? In order to know you have to ask! Ask so you know and they know.  Here are some examples of how to ask that I shared with my clients: What are you taking away from this conversation? What stands out for you about what I’ve said? If this happens again in the future, what will you do next time? What...

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