Episode 70 – Project Management and the Introvert

Episode #070
Original Air Date: 11.30.2018

33 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Jennifer Kahnweiler

Can introverts succeed as project managers? Are you an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between? Velociteach podcast guest, Jennifer Kahnweiler is called the “Champion for Introverts”. Listen in for expert advice about what motivates and inspires the introverts on your team. How do introverts use “superpowers” to effectively lead their teams, and what challenges do they face in the workplace? According to Jennifer, introverts can be highly effective leaders due to their tendency to listen foremost rather than projecting their own ideas onto a team.
Jennifer describes how introverts often adapt to select the best behavior to use in a situation, and how “Brain Writing” is a useful tool for introvert-friendly meetings.

Jennifer, a Ph.D., is the author of 3 books: The Introverted Leader, Quiet Influence, and The Genius of Opposites. Jennifer has consulted with numerous organizations including Freddie Mac, TEDX, GE, NASA, and the CDC. She has conducted leadership programs from Singapore to Spain and her work has been featured in Forbes, Time Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

“….we need to remember that, by catering to the introverts, we’re not only helping them, we’re also helping the whole team.”

- Jennifer Kahnweiler

“Young people get a real negative self-concept of what it means to be an introvert, and it’s not okay. And so they grow up with the label “shy,” which is not the same.”

- Jennifer Kahnweiler

“..one thing … that’s helped many introverted leaders is to be authentic about who they are. And that’s what …….I’m calling “the rise of the introverts.” “

- Jennifer Kahnweiler

“Introverts can be highly effective influencers when they stop trying to act like extroverts and instead make the most of their natural quiet strengths.”

- Jennifer Kahnweiler

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The Podcast by Project Managers for Project Managers.

Table of Contents

00:53 … Meet Jennifer
01:56 … Difference between Introverted and Extroverted Leaders
07:36 … Introvert Superpowers
09:52 … Competing with the Extrovert
11:11 … Taking on Extrovert Roles
13:36 … Introverts Leading a Team
17:05 … Assessments
18:45 … Empowering the Introvert
21:20 … Extroverts Leading Introverts
22:54 … Four P Process
27:16 … Brainwriting and Meeting Strategies
29:03 … Ambiverts
30:28 … Closing

 

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  We need to really talk about these in our teams and our work spaces.  When I research, my research now is about organizations that are introvert friendly.  And one of the characteristics I’m finding is that it’s out in the open, just like any other element of diversity we have to talk about.  And when we do, it becomes not a really big deal.

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  Every couple of weeks we meet in an effort to get to the heart of what matters to you as a professional project manager.  And the way we do that is by getting inside the brains of the best in the business, people who specialize in helping others either get started or rise to the next level.

I’m your host, Nick Walker, and with me are two guys who are leaders in this effort, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates.  And today, Andy, we’re going to examine what role introverts play in the field of project management.

ANDY CROWE:  This is a topic that we’ve discussed a lot around the office.  Lot of people have been reading a book circulating around, and we’re excited to have the author here today.

Meet Jennifer

NICK WALKER:  Well, let’s meet her.  Jennifer Kahnweiler is known as the champion for introverts.  She’s a PhD, certified speaking professional, and an author and global speaker.  Her bestselling books, “The Introverted Leader,” “Quiet Influence,” and “The Genius of Opposites” have been translated into 16 languages.  Jennifer has consulted with hundreds of organizations, including Freddie Mac, TEDx, GE, NASA, and the CDC.  She has conducted leadership programs from Singapore to Spain.  Her work has been featured in Forbes, Time magazine, and the Wall Street Journal.  Jennifer serves on several boards and is a mentor to many professional women.  Dr. Kahnweiler thanks so much for being with us here on Manage This.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Oh, it’s my absolute pleasure, Nick, thank you.

NICK WALKER:  Now, I’d like to get things started with a quotation from your blog.  You say, “The most effective leaders are not prone to project their ideas onto the team, but listen first to what ideas emerge.  The best leaders also engage with people and are truly present with them, gaining their trust and respect.”  Is that your description of the introverted leader?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  I think that’s a good start in thinking about what an introverted leader does so well.  And they are present.  When you ask people, Nick, who was your best manager, whether project manager or other type, oftentimes they will describe somebody with those exact qualities that you read.  And that’s what really intrigued me about looking at further research about really what makes those people tick.

Difference between Introverted and Extroverted Leaders

NICK WALKER:  Well, let’s talk a little bit about the differences between the introverted leader and the extroverted leader.  What are some of the traits we’d find in each?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Well, I think it’s very similar to when we think about extroverts and introverts.  Extroverts get their energy from other people, from the world outside, from the stimuli going on around them.  Introverts, on the other hand, are reflective and get their energy from the source within.  And over the years, in studying this, I’ve collected so much anecdotal data.

And I think the simplest way to think about it and consider whether or not you’re an introvert or extrovert, aside from taking assessments, is to think about the question, how much do I need quiet time?  How much time do I need?  How badly do I need breaks?  And if you ask an introvert that, they will tell you, absolutely I do.  It’s a “must have.”  For me to function, for me to recharge, for me to decompress, I must have that.  Now, an extrovert, you ask them that question, they go, yeah, that’s kind of nice.  But it’s not absolutely – it’s a “nice to have” versus a “must have.”  And that tends to really help you kind of just figure out where you might be on the spectrum.

ANDY CROWE:  We need a sort of a Jeff Foxworthy “you might be an introvert if,” instead of you might be a redneck.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Yeah, I love that.  That’d be kind of fun.

ANDY CROWE:  You know, I had an employee for many years, and he played a key role here at Velociteach in helping us build this organization.  But he was the consummate extrovert.  And I’m very solidly an introvert.  By no means off the scale or anything like that, but solidly in the realm of introversion.  And so I’ve got a home in the mountains.  I go there to write on the weekends.  I go there sometimes during the week to escape and just sit down and put thoughts on paper.  To him that was the biggest torture, just the very sound of escaping from everybody.  And he used to look at me and think how in the world can you be productive like that without being around other people?  It’s funny.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Right, right.  And it is funny.  And I think it’s really interesting to look at the growth of your company, Andy, and to see that many successful enterprises and projects happen because you do pair those opposites.  As Paula Abdul said, “Opposites Attract.”  The key is keeping that, you know, sustaining that.  And part of that is understanding these styles.

ANDY CROWE:  Bill and I are a good bit apart on that spectrum, as well.

BILL YATES:  That’s true.

ANDY CROWE:  Bill, you would rate yourself primarily as…

BILL YATES:  Yeah, extrovert.  When I take a Myers-Briggs or some other personality profile, that extrovert comes out over and over and over.

NICK WALKER:  How do you think – oh, I’m turning the tables on you guys.  But how do you think that’s benefited Velociteach as an organization?

ANDY CROWE:  I think our leadership styles are very different in general.  And so we’ve been able to find a good pairing, you know, the “Wonder Twin powers activate” type thing, when we fist bump.  That particular one is interesting because my role requires me to be out in the community a lot.  And so I can do it, and I can go out, and I can network, and I can serve in various capacities.  But then I joke that I have to get in the fetal position afterward.  And it’s really just to recharge.  I would far rather spend my time with a book, you know, just recharging, reflecting, getting back up to energy.  But I think he and I, and speaking for both of us, I think Bill and I have both found we have really different leadership styles, and we’ve been able to match those up well.

BILL YATES:  I agree with that.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Bill, what would you say?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, absolutely.  And I think, speaking from the perspective of an extrovert, understanding the differences and not taking it personally.  You know, let’s say Andy and I have a meeting, or let’s say we record a podcast, then it’s likely that Andy’s going to want to have some alone time; right?  Yeah, he wants to go recharge, whether it’s at the cabin or in a Starbucks with the headphones on, whatever it may be.  And for people that are wired as extroverts, not to be offended by that or take it personally or have your feelings hurt, oh, you know, why doesn’t he want to take everybody with him up to the cabin and have a big party; right?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Yeah, one of the elements that I identified in “The Genius of Opposites,” where I looked at these partnerships that endured in every type of field was the fact that they accepted – I called it “accepting the alien.”

BILL YATES:  Yes.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  So, you know, it’s like with your relationship personally.  You realize after a certain amount of time it’s futile to try to change that person; you know?

BILL YATES:  Right.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  I’ve been married 45 years, and I’m here to attest that I have not changed my husband one iota.  Well, maybe a little bit.  But, you know, when we realize that, we’re in for a lot less stress.  And then we start to recognize the talents and qualities of that person, and we can have real conversations when we differ.

Introvert Superpowers

BILL YATES:  That’s true.  Jennifer, I was excited about one of the quotes I came across in your book, having you in here so I could kind of tee it up, because you just – you’ve just led us right into it.  Introverts have a certain superpower.  They have many superpowers.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Yes.

BILL YATES:  But one of your quotes in “Quiet Influence” is “Introverts can be highly effective influencers when they stop trying to act like extroverts and instead make the most of their natural quiet strengths.”

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Yes, absolutely.

BILL YATES:  So talk a bit more of what are some of these strengths, these superpowers?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Yeah.  So there are a number of quiet strengths, but just a couple of them that I’ll share:  listening, preparation.  We mentioned taking quiet time.  Writing.  Staying calm in the midst of what could be chaos.

ANDY CROWE:  That resonates with me, especially the writing.  That is where I’m a lot of times most effective.  That gives me time to organize my thoughts, et cetera.  What do you think, Bill?  And this may not resonate with you at all.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, well, I’m a very – I’m very attuned to my introvert friends.

ANDY CROWE:  Uh-huh.

BILL YATES:  So the one that I made note of when I was reading through the content that you’d written about this was you said, “Quiet influencers know what they’re talking about.”  You said, “They do their preparation.  They do their homework.”  And I can really relate to that.  There are times from a project perspective when I’ve had members on the team that I knew they were going to own something.  Now, they weren’t necessarily the loud person in the room.  But when I needed to call on them to explain something to a customer, they’d done their homework.  They knew it cold.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Well, you’re an aware extroverted leader, project leader, because the problem that comes is, even though introverts are very prepared, many times the leader, if they don’t hear from them, will go to the squeaky wheel.  And that’s why we look at brainstorming as not a very productive tool, the traditional brainstorming, for introverts because they like time to think.  So as an astute leader, you’re an example, Bill, I think, of a project manager who understands the value of knowing these different personality styles and how to best leverage them within the context of your meetings and your projects.  Otherwise you’re just really ignoring 50 percent of the input.

Competing with the Extrovert

ANDY CROWE:  You know, I think back to earlier in my career, and I was often very daunted by the extroverted leader with the enormous personality who commanded all of the attention and took up all of the oxygen in the room.  What would you say to somebody who’s at a point in their career where maybe they just feel kind of mowed down by somebody who is more extroverted or who does have that bigger personality?  What do you do there?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Well, if you’re in a work situation with somebody like that, know that you don’t have to become that.  I think people get very discouraged, like you’re saying, Andy, over time, thinking particularly, if you’re working in an organization where that’s accepted, or that’s promoted.  There was one company I worked in recently, I was very dismayed to hear in my pre-interviews before the speech that they were endorsing a style called “loudership.”

BILL YATES:  Oh.

NICK WALKER:  Loudership.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  And that refers to what you’re saying.  So what would my advice be to that person?  I’d say look for people who are not like that, people you can connect with within your organization.  And they’re there.  And it’s going to take a little work on your part, perhaps, to seek out internal mentors, external mentors, and connect with your professional association.  I’m really big on that.  And fortunately PMI has a great support network, in addition to learning tools.

Taking on Extrovert Roles

NICK WALKER:  Let me ask you something, Jennifer.  It seems that there are times probably that the introverted leader needs to maybe even take on some of the characteristics of the extroverted leader.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Yes.

NICK WALKER:  I know people I work with in television, a lot of them are introverts, and they say, “I’m an introvert, but I play an extrovert on television.”

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Yes.

NICK WALKER:  Is there some situations where the introvert needs to play the extrovert?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Absolutely.  I think what introverts will say to me is if they’re clear about what the role they’re playing is, then it’s fine.  It’s like a comedian.  Most comedians that we go and see are actually introverted.  And this came to me one time when I finished a show, and we walked over to the back to talk to the comedian.  We realized that he barely wanted to even speak.  And onstage he was – so it kind of came to me.  You know, I said, what’s going on?  And when I started interviewing introverts, they tell me when they’re playing a role it really works, if you know what the role is.

Now, the challenge, Nick, becomes if you’re overplaying the role.  If you constantly have to step into the role of an extrovert, and you’re never able to be your authentic self – I’ll ask Andy this, too – it’s exhausting.  And over time that stresses you out, and you can burn out.

ANDY CROWE:  You just hit the key to me.  It’s, I mean, to some degree leading – there are elements of leading that there are extroverted components to that.  You have to engage people, you have to be with people.  You can’t do it completely through email in a dark room with the shades drawn.  Which, I mean, that’s not appealing to most people anyway.  But you have to be able to do it authentically, and you have to figure out how can I engage authentically?  Where do I have resources and energy to give, and where do I not?  And if you try and fake it, and try and be somebody else, or try and act like somebody else, it’s going to come across as disingenuous, and it’s going to be exhausting.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Well, one thing I’ll tell you that’s helped many introverted leaders is to be authentic about who they are.  And that’s what I’m finding gratifying now about what I’m calling “the rise of the introverts.”  You know, 10 years ago I would be called by a reporter, and they would say, you know, tell me about a – can you give me a name of an introverted leader?  And I would.  I’d give him a couple people I thought were introverts.  And they would refuse to talk to the journalist.  There is such still a stigma about this.

ANDY CROWE:  There is.

Introverts Leading a Team

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  So we need to really talk about these in our teams and our workspaces.  And when I research, my research now is about organizations that are introvert friendly.  One of the characteristics I’m finding is that it’s out in the open, just like any other element of diversity we have to talk about.  And when we do, it becomes not a really big deal.  So, Andy, you can own the fact that you need time alone.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, you know, we have here, and this is somewhat reflective of my own leadership style and somewhat my own introversion, we have a non-meeting culture at Velociteach.  And the way we describe it from the moment somebody comes in in orientation is you’re empowered.  You’re empowered to make decisions.  You don’t have to have – everything doesn’t have to be collaborative.  You don’t have to have people agree with you and support you on every decision.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  I love it.  I want to work here.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, it sounds great.  And it is great for some of us.  Some people struggle in that because they really need the energy of others and the ideas of others.  And so we have to balance.  We really have to be careful with that.

BILL YATES:  That’s true.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Well, I must say I’ve experienced that from being involved in some of the development of the courses.  And on the receiving end I will say that it is very, very beneficial.  So thank you for that.

BILL YATES:  Jennifer, you had a friend, CJ, who was a project manager.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Yes.

BILL YATES:  And she was an introvert and recognized, because of her leadership style and her preferences and how she was wired, she had to make adjustments in how she related to the team.  I thought that was really insightful.  Would you mind just sharing a bit about that?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Well, I think you’re referring to CJ realized that she needed to really be present for her team.  She also needed to be connected with her blind spots and know when she was being myopic and not really looking at what she wasn’t doing well.  And she really inspired me to look further at this related to project management because I think project managers, I know it’s changing some, oftentimes come from the technical world, and they’re not necessarily trained to have that awareness.  And she made special efforts as a technical person to learn how to be more aware of the environment and especially the people.

BILL YATES:  And in her case she liked working behind the scenes.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Yes, yes.

BILL YATES:  Right?  Not being the person speaking out in the meeting or sharing the big idea, et cetera.  But she felt like, okay, as leader of this team, I need to step beyond that.  They’re looking for me to step up in cases.  Not, again, I want to be authentic to who I am, yet I need to stretch a bit in this area.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Absolutely.

BILL YATES:  How do you find that balance?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  How do you find the balance to…?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, how does CJ find that balance?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Well, and it goes back to her knowing herself and being able to balance her energy output.  You know, she really did.  She knew how to be alone and also engage.  And it was, you know, she constantly walked that balance, but was a very, very successful project manager.  And I see that with other project managers I meet every week.  I think it’s such a fascinating role to me as somebody who studies human behavior, to know that, you know, you get your work done through other people.  And I think that is the most challenging, but also the most rewarding, when you can bring out the best on your team.  Having these tools of introversion and extroversion as one element of the many tools that you have I have been told is a real asset for project managers, and I agree with that.

Assessments

ANDY CROWE:  I have a question for you, Jennifer, as we talk this through.  Some people may not be clear on where they fall on the spectrum.  And a lot of people like to say, well, I’m sort of halfway in between.  I need both.  But what assessments do you like?  What assessments are you drawn to professionally that you feel like would give people at least some insight into their own style?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Well, I think the one that most people are familiar with, Andy, is the Myers-Briggs.  And that’s the one that changed my life, you know, back many years ago when I…

ANDY CROWE:  So what are your letters?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  So MBTI.  So I’ll let you guess.

ANDY CROWE:  No, no, no.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Ah, I always have people guess.

BILL YATES:  Nick, you want to guess?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Nick doesn’t know what we’re talking about.  Nick, we need to give you one.

ANDY CROWE:  I’ll go first.  I’m an INTJ.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Oh, okay.  I’m married to an INTJ.  That’s why I’ll figure you out, Andy.

ANDY CROWE:  And Bill?

BILL YATES:  ENTJ.

ANDY CROWE:  Bill’s an ENTJ.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  ENTJ, okay.

ANDY CROWE:  So we’ve got the NTJ covered here.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Okay, well, we’re all the same on the N.  We have no Fs in the room, then, huh?  Okay.  ENFP.

ANDY CROWE:  Okay.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Which makes sense as coming up as a counselor and a coach, you know, to be a helper kind of thing.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

BILL YATES:  Right.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  So very good.  So I can see where you guys all connect.  So it’s kind of a fun game to figure that out.  Now, that’s not to say we want to typecast people, either.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s just an insightful thing.  And I probably – I took the Myers-Briggs.  I took the DISC assessment.  I took a couple of others,  I can’t remember what their names were.  And all of them, and these were – I was much younger when I was doing this.  But they kept coming back and saying you’re an “I.”  You’re an introvert.  And I didn’t want to be an introvert.  I really didn’t.  I wanted to be that big personality who…

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Right, right.

ANDY CROWE:  And that’s just not my natural sense.

Empowering the Introvert

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Andy, you’re bringing up a really good point because it goes back even before taking the Myers-Briggs.  And this is one of the reasons I feel so passionate about this topic and helping to empower introverts, because many introverts – and tell me if this happened to you – were given that message from family, from school…

ANDY CROWE:  Yes.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  …from the culture.  And it’s still happening that it’s not okay, you know, if you’re the quiet one in class, or you don’t want to be involved in all these activities, you just maybe want to pick one.  Because parents, I don’t blame them, they just don’t know, you know, teachers.  Young people get a real negative self-concept of what it means to be an introvert, and it’s not okay.  And so they grow up with the label “shy,” which is not the same.

ANDY CROWE:  Those are not the same things.

BILL YATES:  It’s not the same, no.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  They’re not the same thing, exactly.  It’s more about, you know, shy is about anxiety; right?  And so but they take that little child with them into the workplace until they start to learn about this.  And it’s a process of kind of unraveling.  So you see it’s so incredible.

So when you talk to people about being introverted, and they hear about it for the first time, you can literally see them sit up in their chairs, which I’m doing right now, kind of, and just having a straighter posture, and start to say, you know what, this is okay.  In fact, it’s a good thing, you know, when they hear about the famous people in the world, all over, in every type of profession, who are introverted.  And they start to say, well, I’m not alone.  So I think the young messages we get, we have to really question those.  And we are in a new age right now.

ANDY CROWE:  Early in my career I was a coder.  And I was a C++ developer for about 15 years at the early part of my career.  I was happiest when someone would give me a challenging problem, and I could zone in, lock in on that, work on that, and just crunch away and solve that problem and kind of be left alone.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  And come out with a solution at the end.  And it was a lot of fun, you know.  And then as I became a PM, that became a lot more challenging because those same skills didn’t translate well because I needed to engage people, and I didn’t always want to engage people.  Sometimes I got frustrated with them.  They weren’t as reliable as computers.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  You’re right about that, Andy.  You’re right about that.

BILL YATES:  They get sick.  They need time off.  They, you know, don’t…

ANDY CROWE:  They want to complain.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Yeah, I’ve heard the expression, “Managing would be great if it weren’t for the people.”

BILL YATES:  Right, right, right.

ANDY CROWE:  Might be a great gig if it weren’t for the…

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Nick likes that one.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.

Extroverts Leading Introverts

NICK WALKER:  I’d like to talk to the extroverts for just a second.  Is it important for the extroverted leader to be able to sense who the introverted people are on their team?  And, if so, how do they bring out the best in those folks?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  So first of all, be aware, and stop and listen.  I think the pause, as my colleague Patricia Fripp said, is not a moment of nothing.  It’s a time to connect intellectually, emotionally.  Extroverts need to pause.  And so when they do that, and when they’re aware, when they understand what an introvert needs – like time to prepare before the meeting, like space to not be interrupted.  So when they’re finishing their thought, let them finish.  To not always be stopping into their work area and asking what they think about something, you know, but to write them an email and cater to their preference for debriefing, maybe through the written word.  When they understand those things, introverts are so grateful, and you will see the output increase.

And by the way, when these changes are put in place, you will also hear, as one PM told me, when I stopped in the meeting to let the dust settle, let people go out and think about it before we made the decision, not only did the introverts benefit, but the whole team, the extroverts have more time, and I get more rich quality in my responses and in our decisions.  So I think we need to remember that, by catering to the introverts, we’re not only helping them, we’re also helping the whole team.  And I’ll add one other thing that we help, one other person we help, and that’s the extrovert.

Four P Process

BILL YATES:  You’ve got a lot of points on this in your book.  There’s so much depth there, so I appreciate you bringing some of these highlights in.  One of the things I feel like we’d be remiss if we didn’t get into is you offer advice to the introverts, whether they’re in a leadership roll or they’re a participant, they’re a team member.  And you talk about a “four P” process.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Oh, right, right, okay.

BILL YATES:  And you apply that to different scenarios, whether it is a meeting or a client engagement or a presentation, et cetera.  What are the four Ps?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  The four Ps, Bill, are based on what introverted leaders tell me time and time again they do to be successful without changing themselves.  They prepare, they have presence, they push themselves, and they practice.  And they do that with all of these various scenarios that they’re challenged with.

ANDY CROWE:  “Prepare” makes sense.  I think that will resonate with people.  What does “presence” mean in this case?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Andy, it’s like we were talking before.  It’s being present, it’s being in the moment, it’s knowing that you’ve done what you could to prepare.  You’re not going to project what the outcomes are going to be, but you’re going to be right there.  So let’s say you’re running a meeting, and you have an agenda, but things get off track.  But you realize, you know what, we do need to go off track for this moment.  You’re not so wedded to your preparation that you’re not going to go to where the group is.  So you’re able to flex because you’re prepared.  And that’s what great actors do.  Every audience is different, so they change it up a little bit.  And that’s what great PMs and introverted leaders do.

BILL YATES:  What about “push,” that third one?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  “Push” is to stretch yourself.  It’s the proverbial step out of your comfort zone.  It’s about pushing just enough, but not too much, you know, finding that sweet spot where you’re challenging yourself every day to go a little further with a skill, with an approach, with a quality in your personality.  But the self-aware leaders do that.  I found people, when I interviewed CEOs, that’s what they do.

BILL YATES:  So back to CJ, the example we had earlier, the project manager.  She pushed herself out of her comfort zone to recognize the need of her team and adapted to that.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  And then that leads to “practice” because, with your practice, you’re getting better.  It’s a muscle that’s getting stronger.  So when you have a feedback to Andy, when people say, as we did before, “I didn’t know you were an introverted leader,” because Andy has practiced – I don’t want to speak for you; right?  But it looks…

ANDY CROWE:  You’re doing a good job, so just carry on.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  I’m kind of used to that.  But it becomes natural, the example of Andy and the way he said that people don’t necessarily know that he’s an introverted leader or are surprised.  It’s because he’s practiced, my assumption is, and you practice so it becomes more natural to you.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, you know, I’ve had to give a lot of talks, for instance, at chapter meetings for project management.  I do that a lot.  I’m comfortable doing it.  A lot of times the more exhausting part is afterward, and people want to come up and engage, and they want to talk.  And that can be a lot more tiring than giving the talk itself, is now, you know, I’m in another city, staying at a, you know, hotel for the night, and I’ve got to stay here for an hour.  I really have to push past that on my own.  That’s, for me, that’s pushing because I need to see the good in that.  I need to work not to…

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Tremendous good.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  And it’s…

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Tremendous.

ANDY CROWE:  It doesn’t have to be completely exhausting.  You know?  It shouldn’t be.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  You just need to learn your own balance with that, like what works for me, and to design your travel and your surroundings so that that works for you.  But I’ve got to tell you, Andy, you are making the biggest impact in those one on ones, and particularly for your introverted brothers and sisters.

ANDY CROWE:  So what I do to prepare – this is just a fun tidbit.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Uh-huh.

ANDY CROWE:  I will put on John Coltrane’s album “A Love Supreme.”  I put on headphones for about an hour before I get up to speak.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Excellent.

ANDY CROWE:  And I sit completely by myself.  And I’ll go over my slides and think through transitions or think through how I’m going to manage certain elements of it, especially if I haven’t given it in a little while.  But that recharges me.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  You’re doing a ritual.  You’re using a ritual.  And that, for our listeners out there, can be very helpful to calm you down before giving presentations.  So kudos to you.

Brainwriting and Meeting Strategies

BILL YATES:  Jennifer, I have a follow-up question I wanted to ask you.  Earlier on you talked about brainstorming, how if I’m an extroverted leader of a project team, brainstorming is going to work for some folks on my team, but I’m going to miss some valuable input from the introverts.  What should I do instead?  What’s a quick, okay, brainstorming’s not right for my team.  What should I do instead?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  So I recommend that teams consider using brainwriting, Bill, which is basically writing down ideas before they’re spoken in the meeting.  And this is a good practice to follow whenever you’re throwing a question to a group, is to give everybody a chance to write down their thoughts before speaking.  And you will find it is incredible, and people will even notice that the difference in the depth and the quality of the conversation and moving the problem along faster, or the solution, I should say, along faster.

BILL YATES:  I’ve got a quick comment on that.  The first time I heard of brainwriting was from an introvert, good friend of mine who’s an introvert.  Not Andy.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  There you go.

BILL YATES:  But he’s the first one that brought that to my attention.  Didn’t even think about that being a more useful tool for him.  Makes sense.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Excellent.  And I encourage people like your friends to share their ideas because extroverts really don’t know.  We’re going so fast sometimes that we just don’t realize that we need to do that.  So put the brakes on.  I’m using a stop sign right now and say, you know, you guys, let’s try this.  You could be what I call a “meeting SME,” subject matter expert in meetings.  You can add suggestions that are introvert friendly, and you will see a whole shift in the results of your meetings.

ANDY CROWE:  I think it’s easy for leaders to fall into the trap of thinking the biggest personality with the most passion might have the best ideas.  And that’s just not the case, not all the time.

Ambiverts

NICK WALKER:  Jennifer, you’ve talked a lot about the need sometimes to switch back and forth between the introvert role, the extrovert role, while still being true to yourself.  In one of your books you use the word “ambivert.”

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Yes.

NICK WALKER:  Is that what we’re talking about?  Or is there something else to this?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Well, that is something else.  There’s some new research that’s come out about successful salespeople in the last few years.  And that term has been attributed to them by researchers like Adam Grant at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, as well as Daniel Pink, who many folks out there probably have read.  And they amplified it in a book called “To Sell Is Human.”  And what they did was analyze successful salespeople and said that you need both qualities.  So you need introverts and extroverts to work.

Some people say “I’m right in the middle,” let’s say, on the Myers-Briggs.  So it could be they’re ambiverts.  If it’s useful for you to think that way, I say fine.  Here’s my response to people when they are agonizing over am I or am I not an introvert or extrovert.  What I tell them, Nick, is look at what behaviors are working for you.  Look at where you have an opportunity develop.  And work on those.  And don’t get caught up in the am I or am I not.  Sometimes you’re going to use more extroverted behavior.  Sometimes you’re going to use more introverted.  It’s about awareness and knowing when to use each one.

Closing

NICK WALKER:  And for those of us who do want the conversation to go on, how can we get in touch with you?

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  I’d love to continue the conversation, Nick.  My website’s probably the best place to reach me.  And that’s JenniferKahnweiler, that’s J-E-N-N-I-F-E-R-K-A-H-N-W-E-I-L-E-R, dot com [JenniferKahnweiler.com].  I’m sure it’ll be in the show notes, as well.  Reach out to me there.  Get on our monthly newsletter with lots of tips.  And we have three quizzes on there, too, that are free, where you can check out more about your introverted leadership style as a PM.

NICK WALKER:  I’ve got to check that out.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Definitely.

NICK WALKER:  I tell you what, this has been a fascinating talk, and I wish me could go on more.  The extrovert in me, you know, wants to pick your brain a little bit more.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  You like to talk it out.  You like to talk it out.

BILL YATES:  Andy’s ready to get out of here.

ANDY CROWE:  I’m so done.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Andy needs a nap.

NICK WALKER:  Well, Jennifer, before we go, we have a gift for you, this Manage This coffee mug sitting right in front of you.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Oh, I love it.

NICK WALKER:  You can take that with you.  It works equally well for an introvert as well as an extrovert.

ANDY CROWE:  Studies have shown.

JENNIFER KAHNWEILER:  Thank you so much.

NICK WALKER:  Well, thank you so much for being with us.  And Andy and Bill as always, thanks for your input, your expertise.  Good stuff.

And now a word just to our listeners – actually, a thank you.  We appreciate the effort you’ve made to tell us what exactly you’d like to hear on Manage This.  And for those who haven’t taken the opportunity to do that yet, please send us your questions and what sort of guests you’d like to hear from.  Just go to the Velociteach Facebook page and use the comments section.

And we have something to give you.  If you’re looking for ways to collect PDUs, Professional Development Units, toward your recertifications, we want you to know that you just earned some by listening to this podcast.  To claim your free PDUs, go to https://www.velociteach.com/ and choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs and click through the steps.

Well, that’s it for us here on Manage This.  We hope you’ll tune back in on December 18th for our next podcast.  In the meantime, you can visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us.  And tweet us at @manage_this if you have any questions about our podcasts or about project management certifications.  We’re here for you.

That’s all for this episode.  Thanks for joining us.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

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