The Quiet Strength of the Introverted Leader

introverted leader

Introverted Leader

 

One of the biggest misconceptions about leadership remains that you must be or should be an extrovert in order to succeed. Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PhD, CSP, debunked that myth long ago with her book The Introverted Leader (new edition).

This month, she released an updated version of the book, updated with new research, stories, and experiences.

If you’re an introvert, you don’t have to pretend to be an extrovert to succeed. You don’t need to mimic extroverts either. Learn from Jennifer’s extensive experience and adopt her practiced techniques that can make all the difference. Whether it’s dealing with an interrupting, extroverted boss or learning to lead a project team, you can tap the quiet strength inside.

 

“With the great problems our organizations face today, we are surely losing out by not tapping into more than half of our population and acknowledging the many gifts of introversion.” -Jennifer B. Kahnweiler

 

What are you seeing in the latest research regarding introverted leaders?

I have done my own research through speaking and coaching around the world. It has been enlightening to hear the dialogue about introverts and introverted leadership surface across many industries and organizations where there was bias.

Academic research still appears to be in its infancy, and the studies that I have seen often have very small samples. However, professor and author Adam Grant, Francesca Gino, and David A. Hoffman did research showing that introverted leaders make the best managers for extroverts because they listen. Another study found that introverts’ contributions are more appreciated because they exceed the low expectations of people who believe that introverts are withdrawn or may be too anxious to live up to their potential. I am seeing more studies about the brains of introverts getting published and am very pleased to see all of this activity happening.

 

“Please kindly go away, I’m introverting.” -Beth Buelow

 

Unique Challenges for Introverted Leaders

Would you share just one example of a challenge, or significant barrier, introverted leaders face?

An emphasis on teams is very draining for introverted leaders. When brainstorming happens in meetings and conference calls, the ideas of quieter contributors may never surface. Extroverts, who get their energy from connecting with others, tend to think aloud and thus will often be the first to offer ideas and populate the white board at meetings. It’s not unusual for them to interject themselves into discussions as new thoughts come to mind. Introverts, on the other hand, are more reflective by nature. They may get interrupted or be less likely to contribute thoughts in real time. Instead, they’re apt to come up with ideas on their own after the meeting is over.

 

“Introverts crave meaning so party chitchat feels like sandpaper to our psyche.” –Diane Cameron

 

4 P’s

What is the 4 P’s Process and how did you develop it?

The 4 P’s Process is an easy-to-remember road map that builds on research done with thousands of introverted leaders. The 4 steps are preparation, presence, push and practice,  and they can apply to almost any leadership scenario. Preparation is the first step and plays to the introverted leader’s sweet spot by doing what comes naturally. Presence, the second step, refers to being present in a way that allows you to be with people. You are not thinking of what you could have done differently or worrying about the future outcome. Push, the third step, puts you out of your comfort zone, and Practice, the fourth step, helps you to seize opportunities to practice new behaviors.

 

“You may think I’m small, but I have a universe inside my mind.” -Yoko Ono

 

How Introverts Master Meetings

Let’s talk about meetings because it comes up so often in the book and in conversations about introverted leaders. What tips do you give an introvert who says that she cannot get her thoughts out before the extrovert interrupts?

Keep in mind that extroverts typically don’t mind being interrupted because that is often their speech pattern. Extroverts are also usually unaware that they are dominating the conversation, until they are stopped.

She should try these assertive tools to handle extroverts:

1) Use a physical gesture like raising her palm to grab the interrupter’s attention

2) Say in a firm voice that she would like to finish her thoughts. Note: She might want to practice this aloud before her next meeting to get her game voice on.

3) Avoid smiling and nodding when they are interrupting her. That just encourages the person to keep talking.

3) Grab an ally before the meeting who can step in and tell the group they want to hear from you.

 

How to Manage Up

You have included a unique section in the book on “Managing Up.” Have you noticed this to be a particular need for introverts? What one takeaway would you share from this section?

Yes. Introverted leaders don’t typically initiate conversations with their managers. Because they often fly under the radar and aren’t the “squeaky wheel,” their accomplishments may get overlooked. This is one reason it is important for them to open up the communication channel with their managers. Another is to understand where they fit into their organization’s mission and vision, especially as roles and goals change.

One takeaway? Be willing to ask your boss for what you need including their style preferences in order to succeed. For instance, as an introvert, explain that you need time to prepare and that your boss will get better quality work out of you if you can prepare questions and points ahead of time. The more you share about yourself, the more they will be able to help you.

 

Misconceptions

You wrote the first edition to this book long before introversion was a popular topic. Are there any misconceptions that you find continue year after year?

I smile when I think about the articles I have been interviewed for about how introverts love, date, spend, money, plan weddings, etc. Though there is truth in these pieces, they also tend to make neat generalizations about introverts and extroverts. In actuality, we all have both introvert and extrovert qualities within us. Our behaviors are not as drastically different as these posts tend to position them.

There are still misconceptions about introverts: Introverts: can’t lead, are shy, aren’t good at public speaking and they don’t like people. And we often think introverts are bored or angry when they don’t show much on their faces.

Fortunately, with the “rise of the introverts,” we are seeing these stereotypes erode.

 

Misconceptions about introverts: can’t lead, are shy, aren’t good at public speaking and they don’t like people.

 

For more information, see The Introverted Leader.

 

“I am rarely bored alone; I am often bored in groups and crowds.” -Laurie Helgoe  

 

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The Many Benefits of Mindful Eating

Improve Your Relationship With Food

When I first went to dinner with my in-laws, I was struck by something unexpected. My father-in-law savored every bite.

Every. Single. Bite.

Not only was he slow, chewing each bit more than I could calculate, but he talked about his food in ways I had never heard before. He savored each bite, and his senses were on high alert.

 

“One should eat to live, not live to eat.” –Moliere

 

I was raised in a house where you had to eat fast, or you were left with what no one wanted.

My father-in-law was raised in an environment where food was scarce. He once told me that when any of his friends were eating an apple, someone would yell, “Coresies!” That meant that he was able to eat the core of the apple. He told me that, if they liked you, they would leave you some of the apple instead of only having seeds. Throughout his life, he demonstrated an appreciation for every person he interacted with, for every bite of food, and for every day. When he told me this story, I got a glimpse into why and how he developed such an appreciation.

Today, few would dream of eating the core of an apple, especially one already chewed up.

 

Appreciate Every Moment

My father-in-law was practicing something without knowing it. It’s the practice of mindful eating.

It’s a practice that first came to my attention when I saw my friend Jude at a conference. He had lost weight and was healthier than ever. I wanted to know what he was doing. Turns out, he read a book about mindful eating by Vietnamese Monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Savor, Mindful Eating, Mindful Life somehow changed his relationship with food.

 

“Mindful eating is very pleasant. We sit beautifully. We are aware of the people surrounding us. We are aware of the food on our plates. This is a deep practice.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Benefits of Mindful Eating

Some of the benefits of mindful eating:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase enjoyment
  • Easier digestion
  • Reduce calories
  • Lose weight
  • Less binge eating
  • Control food instead of it controlling you
  • Enjoy the moment
  • Reduced food cravings

 

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” –Jim Rohn

 

7 Techniques

How Leaders Create Engagement and Competitive Advantage

purpose

How Leaders Create Engagement

A decent product at a fair price with good customer service may once have been enough. No longer. The bar has moved. Employees and customers want organizations to do some social good along the way.

My friend and bestselling author John Izzo is out with a new book, co-authored by Jeff Vanderwielen: The Purpose Revolution: How Leaders Create Engagement and Competitive Advantage in an Age of Social Good. The book is full of examples and ideas to help you move your organization to one that is infused with purpose.

I recently asked John to share more about his research and work in this area.

 

“Winning in the purpose revolution requires authenticity.” -John Izzo

 

4 Forces Driving Change

You say that there is a revolution happening right now and ignoring it will send your company to irrelevance. What is it and what forces are driving it?

The revolution is a desire among employees, customers and investors to leverage social good with their choices. This is a revolution of AND not OR. Employees want everything they have always wanted, but they also want a job that gives them a sense of purpose in a company they feel is doing good in the world. Customers want products that excite them at a good price, but they also want to leverage good with those choices—and certainly buy things that cause no harm. Investors was a return on money, but the fastest growing funds are those that also promise social impact.

In an age of commoditization, the marketplace is filled with many similar products, and purpose is a way for companies to create brand differentiation based on values, not just product.

What’s driving the revolution are four primary trends. The Millennials are now a global force with a strong set of values around creating social good and having meaning in their work. The boomers are moving into the “legacy” stage of life where the impact they leave starts to compete with ego. The rising middle class in the developing world is another major driver, as people rise out of poverty, they are able to think about the social good in their choices. Finally, business is both blamed for some of the world’s biggest challenges but also increasingly seen as the key to addressing those same issues through corporate social responsibility.

 

“Purpose is a way for companies to create brand differentiation based on values, not just product.” -John Izzo

 

Connect Purpose to Contribution

How do leaders help employees connect purpose to work contribution?

The first step is to have a clearly articulated compelling purpose that is authentic. Starbucks’ purpose is to “inspire the human spirit one cup of coffee at a time” while 3M’s is to “advance every life and improve every business while using science to solve the world’s greatest challenges” (like sustainability).

The second step is to drive job purpose more than job function. Focus on the real impact jobs and teams make. Have every person identify the purpose of their job and the same for every team. Consistently tell stories of how your company makes a real difference. Bring in customers to tell their stories, and create space for employees to do the same. One large bank we worked with started having a standing agenda item in every branch: “How did we make a difference for a client since last time we met?” In the branches that did it, engagement went up 23% and sales went up 18%!

 

Move Purpose to Center Stage

Create a Vibrant Leadership Culture

Help Your Organization Thrive

One evening a few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit our local public radio station. That’s when I met Maureen Metcalf who was interviewing me on leadership in advance of my book release.

We had a wide-ranging conversation about leadership, success, and culture. Not too long after that, we sat down again to pick up the dialogue.

Maureen wears many hats beyond her show. She is the CEO of Metcalf & Associates, a speaker, and an author. Metcalf & Associates is focused on building leaders and their organizations for the future. The firm focuses on management consulting and executive coaching – helping leaders transform who they are and how they lead in service of navigating the disruptions across industries. She also has authored several books including the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook.

In this video interview, we cover many topics including:

  • How organizations need to evolve concurrently with the leaders
  • Creating a vibrant culture and the harmonic vibrancy framework
  • The importance of aligning behavior with culture and systems
  • How leaders make an impact on the culture
  • How those in the middle of an organization can positively influence the culture

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Clarity: How Smart Leaders Achieve Outstanding Performance

clarity

Achieve Outstanding Performance

Lean management expert Karen Martin tackles the problem so many organizations and leaders face: a lack of clarity. In her new book, Clarity First: How Smart Leaders and Organizations Achieve Outstanding Performance, she gives specific recommendations on how to improve clarity and thus your overall performance.

The book helps leaders identify the organization’s purpose, set priorities, and build problem solving capabilities while developing personal clarity to be a more effective leader.

I recently spoke with Karen about the importance of clarity and the role it plays in leadership and organizational success.

 

“Clarity, in contrast, feeds an organization in the same way that fertilizer feeds soil.” -Karen Martin

 

The Importance of Clarity

What are some of the effects of a lack of clarity?

Lack of clarity touches organizations in small, daily ways and in large ways that introduce risks to customer satisfaction, the employee experience, the balance sheet, and compliance. An example of a “small” issue might be a customer problem that remains unsolved because no one knows who owns it. Larger problems brew when various parts of an organization work at cross purposes from each other. In the end, a lack of clarity often results in runaway expenses, market share loss, high turnover, and sluggish innovation, to name a few.

Those outcomes are often caused or at least exacerbated by the incremental accumulation of ambiguity about work that happens closer to the customer. For instance, a lack of clarity about customer requirements result in products that don’t meet true customer needs. It results in poorly designed and poorly managed processes that require heroics to execute. It results in excessive rework or productivity-sapping time spent clarifying what should have been clear to begin with. In a low-clarity environment, margin and morale erode because people do work that doesn’t fit together and doesn’t move the organization toward a common performance goal.

Clarity, in contrast, feeds an organization in the same way that fertilizer feeds soil. It nourishes everything visible, as well all the quiet and invisible activities that take place out of sight to make an organization outstanding, such as decision making. When you have it, there is greater alignment, greater collaboration, higher levels of innovation, and so on. When you don’t have it, everything becomes stressed to the point that even basic decisions require more effort that they should need.

Imagine you are leading an organization filled with well-meaning and talented people in a growing industry, but you haven’t developed a culture where everyone values holding clarity front-and-center in everything they do—foundational clarity like: why you are in business, what the organization’s top priorities are, how the organization is performing both operationally and financially, and the level of performance it wants to achieve, and other important questions that drive organizational alignment and outstanding performance. Without clarity on these issues, in the near-immediate term, the relationship between the organization and its people begins to break down. Team members begin to feel unsure that their work produces customer value or contributes to organizational success. Such uncertainty leads to frustration, low morale, and eventual disengagement, creating low productivity, talent turnover, poor customer service, loss of market share, eroded margins, and so on.

To be clear, I emphasize words such as everyone and everything because clarity requires it. Leaders are in a privileged role. You may feel that you DO have clarity. But if your direct reports don’t, or if their beliefs about the priorities of the organization are different from those of the peers they work with on a daily basis, then the organization as a whole lacks clarity even if there are pockets of clarity here and there.

 

“Purpose is your why. Why does your organization exist? Why do you deliver the particular goods or services that you do?” -Karen Martin

 

Six P’s of Organizational Clarity