Category: Business Etiquette

Evolution. What does it really mean? The first creature we would recognize as human called homo ergester first appeared in Africa two million years ago. Not long when compared to the Oldest species that inhabited earth over 600 million years ago. These species include sharks, ants, Jelly Fish and Sponges among others. The phrase survival of the fittest is what has been described as the outcome of how species with certain talents and capabilities are able to manage environmental threats and reproduce and therefore continue to prosper as living creatures rather than die out or become extinct.

 

Environmental threats exist no matter what. Any time there are multiple interests or forces at work, there is conflict. It is believed that Conflict is a result of various reasons. Malthus, the eminent economist says that reduced supply of the means of subsistence is the root cause of conflict. According to him, conflict is caused by the increase of population in geometrical progression and the food supply in arithmetical progression. According to Charles Darwin, the biological principles of “Struggle for existence” and “the survival of the fittest” are the main cause of conflict. Sigmund Freud and other psychologist hold the view that the innate instinct for aggression in man is the main cause of conflict. So we know conflict is an inevitable fact of life. However, in spite of the various causes the dynamic of conflict is founded on one main phenomenon; Power.

 

Even, in job related or interpersonal relationships where there is no tangible resources to be controlled per say such as money, food, autonomy, process, etc. the exercise of power could involve control of intangible resources such as decision-making, attention, freedom, time, love, etc. even though it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, in an abusive relationship whether a bully-type dynamic at work, an abusive personal relationship or an abusive marriage, one party establishes a pattern of unhealthy control. Even though there might seem to be times of peace and affection, these good times linger in the shadows of the subtle or not so subtle controlling tactics the abuser uses for the purpose of getting his or her own way.

For example, an abusive spouse may prevent his (or her) partner from seeing family members, going out with friends, or going back to college. He may try to regulate the people his spouse talks to, where his spouse goes, or how and when his spouse spends money. He may demand all of his mate’s attention. He may put his spouse on an irrational guilt trip for talking to or doing things with other people. He may consider his spouse’s needs as an infringement on or a betrayal of his own needs. He may act insanely jealous and falsely accuse his partner of cheating on him. He may constantly monitor and check up on the whereabouts of his spouse. Many are known to lash out and belittle their spouse when they don’t get their own way or when they feel betrayed or abandoned. Others threaten to divorce or to physically hurt their spouse or destroy a cherished possession, all in an effort to intimidate and punish their mate.

 

So let’s take some evolutionary theories regarding conflict resolution; Darwin’s theory regarding conflict for example. What does the term “fittest” really mean? Is it referring to our physical embodiment, like our body mass index, speed, skeletal build, or height? Is it referring to our cognitive intelligence like the size of our brains, how good we are at problem solving or finding food during difficult times? Or is it referring to our ability is to prevail through the process of conflict against the opposition or worst yet predators? The answer cannot be our physical embodiment because if that were the case, the dinosaurs would not have gone extinct. In fact one of the most successful species that has ever lived, the ant is one of the smallest and most fragile species. The answer also cannot be our cognitive intelligence because our mammalian brains evolved to the cerebral capacity they are today only since 200,000 years ago, while the successful species described above were around way before our time and have continued to prosper.

 

So how does this relate to survival of the fittest you ask? According to the various personality inventories, with the DISC being one of them and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator being another one, it has been studied that certain personality types are more likely to be entrepreneurial. According to Timmons New Venture Creation: entrepreneurship for the 21st century, entrepreneurship is “the ability to create and build something from practically nothing. It is initiating, doing, achieving and building an

enterprise or organization, rather than just watching, analyzing or describing one. It is the knack for sensing an opportunity where others see chaos, contradiction and confusion. It is the ability to build a ‘founding team’ to complement your own skills and talents. It is the know-how to find, marshal and utilize resources (often owned by others) and to make sure you don’t run out of money when you need it most. Finally, it is the willingness to take calculated risk, – both personal and financial – and then do everything possible to get the odds in your favor.”

Entrepreneurs take a stance on their vision, even if it means they might fail. Dozens of studies over the last three decades link risk-taking propensity with entrepreneurial achievement. Tony Tjan calls this trait guts: the ability to take action. An entrepreneur, he sums, must have “the guts to initiate, the guts to endure, and the guts to evolve as a new company changes”; we call it being emotionally intelligent. The ability to take risk in spite of fear, the ability to curb anxiety in spite of uncertainty, the ability to cope in spite of failure and the ability to persevere in spite of failure.   Two out of the four Emotional intelligence characteristics involve recognizing emotions in oneself and being able to work through them in spite of how difficult they may be in communicating with others.

 

One particular article has actually emphasized that these four personality types are more likely to be financially successful. But let’s put money aside and concentrate on just the entrepreneurial personality type for now, because as we know money can come from doing good and doing evil and it can do good as well as do evil. We believe that the “entrepreneurial spirit” or personality in this case, is not just relevant to the world of business, but rather to any venture that requires similar skills such as starting a new relationship, or a marriage and working though and nourishing it to flourish year after year. The four MBTI personality types ENTPs, ESTJs, ENTJs, INTJs, and ISTJs which are entrepreneurial are all curious, creative, take responsibility, and are decisive. According to Gallup, knowledge seekers increase their company’s chance of survival. Likewise, a 2015 Slovenian study revealed that entrepreneurial curiosity is positively correlated with company growth. According to the Journal of Small Business Economics as a result of these four sub personalities, they are Persuaders (enterprising) as measured by the Holland Occupational Themes. However, persuasion can either be tied in with psychopathy, machiavelian and/or narcissism or it could be tied in with conscientiousness, social helpfulness, and absorption; a disposition or personality trait in which a person becomes absorbed in their mental imagery, particularly fantasy. In reviewing the Big Five personality components, Contrary to expectations, a study in the Journal of Business Venturing found a negative relationship between the entrepreneur’s openness and long-term venture survival. On the other hand, according to the Journal of Management Decision, creativity was the single most critical and prevalent trait associated with entrepreneurship. However, in a recent study in the issue of Harvard Business Review, Target Training International Ltd., a research firm, a multi-variable analysis of a group of serial entrepreneurs identified five personal skills that clearly made them unique. The above personality traits applied but according to the study, the glue that held them together was “Personal skills” — often classified as “soft skills”. These include effectively communicating, building rapport, and relating well to all people, from all backgrounds and communication styles. Our research at Center for Work Life in working with hundreds of executives over a period of 18 years has found similar results.

 

It is believed that personality traits are usually pretty stable. However, interpersonal skills as practiced through emotional intelligence training are learned and open to change.

 

So how does this all tie in with our original question of what is evolution? Whether in the work place or in interpersonal relationships with friends, spouses or loved ones, we are constantly striving to either survive or evolve. Of course, similar to many other aspects of life, this is not an all or none dichotomy, but rather a spectrum. In Darwin’s terms, these two concepts were one and the same, but we say they are very different when it comes to social and psychological development. There is a difference between the individuals who tolerate, hide, ignore, avoid and stay on their own path when the evidence clearly calls on them, versus those that turn the system up side down because they strive for a different vision and are unwilling to take it as is. They resist control and instead choose cooperation.

Of course in symbiotic relationships where there is equity or a balance between give and take the power is distributed equitably.  We believe that Emotionally intelligent individuals are the highly evolved members of our society and of our species. Remember the sponge we talked about earlier? The one who has lived on earth for over 600 million years ago? What is the secret to its long and prosperous existence? It has been studied that as sponges feed, they filter out tiny particles of organic matter from the water. Researches believe, millions of years ago these particles would have included dead microbial matter, which rots and consumes oxygen. Sponges helped to clean water of this material. Without all of the rotting going on, the water would have experienced a significant decrease in oxygen levels.

More oxygen in the water then set the stage for more complex life forms to emerge, such as the first predatory animals with guts that started to eat one another, marking the beginning of a modern marine ecosystem, with the type of food webs we are familiar with today. So rather than merely surviving, the most successful species on the planet, thrived by “thinking” outside of itself and enterprising on the vision of coexistence, support and a symbiotic relationship with other species that it yearned to neighbor some day. So in spite of having no IQ at all, no cerebral cortex, no significant size or particular muscular strength, the sponge could just have been the most emotionally intelligent species that lived.

As humans, we have achieved so much through the art, science and technology. However, the illusion of control, or the misrepresentation of the power to guard resources has led us to kill, repress, exclude and severely harm our own kind. Rather than control, what if we shared our resources, capabilities, and strengths with others. Rather than possess, what if we freed rights and took responsibility not just for ourselves but also for other human beings and species. What if we learned to be better communicators? Being intelligently aware of our own challenges and communicating them while seeking others challenges and empowering them. Interestingly, it turns out that fortunately we have the wiring to do just that. As opposed to homo ergaster and homo erectus, as homo sapiens we surpassed the test of time and were the only species that continued to live on the planet as descendants of apes some 6 million years ago. But why? Homo erectus was slightly bigger and more powerful than Homo sapiens, so why did we survive when they did not? The most simple answer could be that this happened because we had bigger brains. But it turns out that what mattered was not overall brain size but the areas where the brain was larger. “The Homo erectus brain did not devote a lot of space to the part of the brain that controls language and speech,” has said John Shea, professor of paleo-anthropology at Stony Brook University in New York.

“One of the crucial elements of Homo sapiens’ adaptations is that it combines complex planning, developed in the front of the brain, with language and the ability to spread new ideas from one individual to another. Planning, communication and even trade led, among other things, to the development of better tools and weapons which spread rapidly across the population”.  

 

One could argue that not all people have the luxury or even want to be emotionally intelligent, because they have to be strategic. Our response: strategy or strategic action is associated with a competitive advantage-seeking behavior to create value.   If that value were one sided, meaning just valuable to us, or worst, gained at the expense of disvaluing others, that value would surely be short-term. And value, which is short-term, is not value at all. Hence true gain in competitive advantage utilizes Emotional Intelligence within all strategic decisions to create influence rather than control and hence a win-win for all.   Sponges could have ruled the planet. They could have reserved all of the earth resources for themselves. But they were the active agents that oxygenated the ocean around 600 million years ago and created a world in which more complex animals could evolve, including our very ancestors.

Work and Live Your Relationships Like a Sponge

Work and Live Your Relationships Like a Sponge

anigif_enhanced-15690-1394578851-1Who doesn’t like movies like Grease, Terms of Endearement, Tootsie, Clueless, or Men in Black? In fact these movies were the highest grossing movies in their category and are still the most highly rated clips in the media. However, the truth is that all these movies have one fact in common. They all make sexual harassment a joke.

Sexual harassment is, above all, a manifestation of power relations.  Treating sexual harassment is not a matter of one training course, but rather a fundamental shaking up of an individuals perceptions and attitudes about the target of their harassment.  For this reason,  sexual harassment training needs to be embodied within an overall communications training process supported by a ground-up process of inquiry, where the individual perpetrator can realize why they victimize. Without that piece of knowledge, the symptom rather than the actual disease is what gets treated and in fact even it doesn’t.  Because the individual perceives training as a punishment rather than an opportunity for growth.

The Legal Dictionary defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment. According to the Unites States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, It is unlawful to harass a person because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Regardless of the form of sexual harassment, it is illegal to purposefully harass someone at work in order to gain any type of sexual favor. However, many cases remain unreported because of fear of embarrassment or termination.k9563790

There are two types of sexual harassment, Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment. Quid Pro Quo Harassment occurs when a manager or supervisor withholds or awards job benefits on the basis of sexual favors. This includes work assignments, hiring, termination, promotions or demotions, positive or negative reviews, or any other job related benefit. On the other hand, if any rewards being withheld because the victim refuses to engage in the sexual favor, the company is would be considered guilty of sexual harassment. Both of these practices although very common in the work place, involve the risk of losing a job and with unemployment rate at a steady 7.4 percent, that isn’t something that most people consider a positive outlook.  Therefore, so many people keep quiet and remain victimized at their place of work.

 

So what is the root cause of sexual harassment, and why is it that it’s so common? From a social psychology perspective, the disconnect is in how people view hostility towards men and women. Research has indicated that stereotypes about socially appropriate gender roles for women and men are a driving factor, while the causes of sexual violence include socioeconomics, anger, power, sadism, sexual pleasure, psychopathology, ethical standards, laws, attitudes toward the victims and evolutionary pressures.

Traditional conceptualizations of sexism have focused almost entirely on overt hostility toward women. While historians, anthropologists, feminist scholars, and psychologists have previously suggested that sexism involves positive and negative evaluations of women.

Ambivalent sexism is a theoretical framework which posits that sexism has two sub-components: “hostile sexism” and “benevolent sexism”. Hostile sexism reflects overtly negative evaluations and stereotypes about a gender (e.g., the ideas that women are incompetent and inferior to men). Benevolent sexism represents evaluations of gender that may appear subjectively positive (subjective to the person who is evaluating), but are actually damaging to people and gender equity more broadly (e.g., the ideas that women need to be protected by men).

Besides Television programming, another cause and arena leading to the rise of sexual harassment is on-line and gaming. There is no shortage of examples of harassment online, a Pew Survey published this week is the first of its kind to drill down into the level and types of online harassment. The report, which polled almost 3,000 Internet users, brings to light that women for the most part have it worse off than men, while most people don’t realize it.  Although men are more likely to report they experience harassment on the Internet (44 percent of men compared to 37 percent of women), as a general rule, more women have been targeted on social media sites (73 percent women vs. 27% men). Women also tend to face the most severe types of harassment, like stalking and sexual harassment, while men generally face milder issues like name-calling and public embarrassment. Young women are the most likely to experience this severe targeting, with a quarter of women between the ages of 18 and 24 reporting having been stalked or sexually harassed online. Furthermore, the representation and coverage of the matter in the newspapers is certainly very biased. In He Said, She Said, Let’s Hear What the Data Say: Sexual Harassment in the Media, Courts, EEOC, and Social Science, Joni Hersch & Beverly Moran explore the coverage of sexual harassment in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and whether it is consistent with sexual harassment as it is reported in three other sources: a 1994 United States Merit Systems Protection Board (USMSPB) survey, charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from 2006-2010, and complaints filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (EDPa) from 2010-2011. The review of the media coverage suggests that sexual harassment is covered in an intensely local and episodic manner, with little recognition that sexual harassment is a national phenomenon that could be connected to “a larger, social, economic or political trend.” (P. 778.) In comparing the media coverage and the data sets, the authors found that while the reporting of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal generally does not mislead regarding the demographics of sexual harassment claimants, particular stories may downplay the seriousness of the factual allegations made in complaints. The article suggests that differences between the media portrayal of sexual harassment and what can be found in the data may result from the media’s focus on litigation. The authors note that a focus on pre-litigation harassment claims may provide a fuller picture of sexual harassment. The authors end the article observing that the focus on litigation leads to reporting that tends to miss “a sense of what happens before litigation and what sexual harassment means to victims in terms of their economic, professional, and emotional lives.” (P. 781.)

One’s view of sexual harassment can be highly variable depending on their position as it relates. The victim, vs. the perpetrator, vs. the organization vs. the human resources don’t necessarily experience the matter the same nor do they have the same outcomes in mind although they should. Regardless as a work life advocate, we suggest a No Tolerance policy with specificity and clarity in describing anti-harassment policies and procedures. The following information from the EEOC will serve your organization well: http://www.eeoc.gov/federal/model_eeo_programs.cfm#possible

Office Politics is the inevitable. If you feel uneasy with resolving conflict or looking at it in the eye, you certainly have a hurdle to jump over. Whether you believe in reincarnation, god, or simply the psychology of fear and life, they all basically say the same thing: What you fear most, will ultimately be a repeated theme in your life.

One of the reasons maneuvering politics seems a daunting task makes so many of us uneasy is that complex situations are difficult to read and impossible to control. There are personalities and then there are motivations, which co-habit within each of us and put with that limited resources, decisions, deadlines and power struggles, and anything can happen. But what if you were to take some of the guess-work out, but using a planning-based approach to managing politics? We’ve taught the same method to many male and female executives over the years.  Whenever there is anxiety associated with a situation, that anxiety is usually a result of lack of control. As human beings, for better or worst, we are at ease when we have a certain degree of control. Control and predictability go hand in hand, and if one was to create predictability into the most crucial of organizational interactions, the issue of control, would inadvertently be minimized.

Here is a method you can call on for yourself, the next time you are confronted with office politics and really would like to come out of on top rather than run away from. It’s a form of scenario planning if you will, and uses the power of psychology and emotional intelligence to  map out strategies in an algorithm format:

To keep up with the players and be in a position to advocate for your specific agenda, maps out potential scenarios according to three separate quadrants—personalities, motivations, and variables.

Lets say you attend an annual planning meeting that is fraught with politics. Here’s how you can do your homework. Map out the personalities involved to help you plan and strategize how each individual might react to your agenda. Then add in each individual’s motivations to analyze and compare what you believe each person would expect to accomplish. Finally, take an inventory of other relevant variables that you can anticipate. These are factors that might lead individuals to go one way or another as the meeting plays out. This process can help you create some real options, feel prepared, and remain calm and in control in most political situations rather than feeling ambushed, like a sheep among wolves.

Oh and the next time you notice politics at play, rather than maneuvering it, which implies a degree of passivity, think empowerment, and how you can play the game to come on top.

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You are probbaly wondering what does Ebola have to do with your career, other than the fact that god forbid you somehow contracted the illness and had to be in quarentine, etc. etc. 

No, that is not where we are going with this.  Although the Ebola virus in our eyes as human being and victims of the disease is a deadly virus and it reality it is a very smart and calculated being.  Here is what we already know about the Ebola Virus:

1.  It knows it’s purpose and has done it successfully and consistently since the 70’s

2.  It thrives hosted within a familiar and trusted environment

3.  It is a national and  international sensation and it knows it

4.  It knows how to blend in and when to flare up

4.  It has great longevity (referring to its ability to sustain itself)

5.  It has has upward mobility (currently being the biggest epidemic in history)

Again what does this have to do with your career?  As a practicing industrial/organizational psychologist, a coach and a trusted advisor, I have had the pleasure of working with so many professionals and one of the chief complaints I have heard regardless of status, number of years of experience, education, or pay has been “I don’t know where my career is headed”.  Beyond the obvious human condition of not having a crystal ball and not being to unfortunately foretell the future, the truth of the matter is that you have more power and control over your career than you may think or willing to admit to.  Well, what if you considered your ambitions the Ebola Virus?  Not in a negative way, so this exercise takes a bit of reframing your original mind frame.  Rather, viewing your career goals as a push forward, “nay” resistant, calculated, has a life of its own creature?  Now look at the 5 items above and read them from the perspective of your job and career.

There is a “science” to herding your career and advancing your goals in the work arena.  It is true that with the world of globalization, technology and unprecedented layoffs, predictability is definitely not what it used to be.  However, risk management applies to money management and finances 10, 20, or even 30 years down the line, so why can’t your career follow suite?  But it can.  Between emotional intelligence, careful and planned training, and network building we have got you covered.  We counsel career professionals, executives and the c-suite on these matters daily, so take a comfortable seat and lend and ear.

1) Find a familiar host and/or trusted environment

It’s true. It’s who you know, not what you have accomplished. Many people do not want to believe this simple but unspoken rule about life and work because it means the hardest working, most creative, most dedicated people are not necessarily going to get the next promotion.

This means that unless you have  a good relationship with key people directly or at least indirectly,  you will not get ahead no matter how hard you work, no matter what your accomplishments are.

The person who will get the next big promotion or the next big job opportunity will be someone who knows the boss better than you do, someone who has more face time with the boss, and someone who the boss has better chemistry with.

People climb up the ladder and/or get recognized because the boss feels they can be trusted to do the job, to follow thoroughly, and to be a loyal supporter. You may be all of these, but unless you can communicate that clearly, no one will know.  Prior accomplishments are often not the main consideration.  I have often coached individuals who feel discouraged that they are getting passed on opportunities.  After further inquiry I have almost always gotten to know that there is always a counter part who gets recognition after recognition, and promotion after promotion.  When I inquire why they believe the other individual keeps getting ahead, their response is “I don’t know, to me it seems that all the person does is a lot of talking”.  My response “thank you, I am  Sure they are very articulate and very well spoken, but comparing their track record to you, you don’t see all the hoopla?  The trust upper management places on an individual is usually not necessarily correlational to the numbers.  Given today’s economical conditions, that is usually a requirement rather than a plus.  Upper management puts trust on the individual who toots the company’s horn, their team’s horn, and supports the boss’s agenda whether through an added skill(more on this below), or presentation, etc.

2) Be a national and an international sensation and know your worth

On the opposite side, I have worked with individuals who are constantly looking for the next opportunity and pushing the bar against their own self  What’s their secret? When I observed these individuals closely, I often notice that they never pass up an opportunity to market themselves. Yet they do it so subtlety, that most people either don’t notice, or are not turned off or annoyed by it.

Whenever there was a large meeting with both peers and superiors, this person would find a way to get everyone’s attention. Then, while discussing the current topic she would ever so slightly mention something what she and her team had just accomplished. However small, she would somehow show a connection between that accomplishment,  and the topic at hand.  In this way, every accomplishment was highlighted to management.

For further examples you may refer to the book How to Guerrilla Market Yourself and Get What You Deserve by Jay Levinson and Seth Godin. Once you get used to doing this, it becomes so natural and almost subliminal in it’s effect.

So the tip here is to make sure upper management, other branches, or locations know what your contributions and accomplishments are, and do it in a subtle way if possible.  Don’t rely on your boss to broadcast this, Be your Own Messanger.

3) Know your purpose and stick to it

If you have read any of the material on this web site you know by now how important it is to do the work you were cut out to do. It’s hard to be passionate and committed to doing work that does not utilize your natural talents and your personal competitive advantage. Spend 15 to 20 minutes everyday and take an inventory of your passions and talents and see which ones you are constantly nurturing.  A part of our Career Planning Program is the discover y of “what types of work you were truly meant to do”.

4) Know when to blend in and when to “flare up”

Disagreeing with upper management or anyone for a matter of fact in front of other people is simply not smart. Dale Carnegie in his book How to Win Friends clearly states that “no one likes criticism”.  No matter how close you and the other individual are and how right you think you are, never disagree with them in public, even if they invite you to. Instead, learn to become a valuable advisor and yes to the boss especially. Here’s how…

If you disagree with the boss, wait until you two have a private moment and then explain your viewpoint. Then, at the end say “Thanks for listening to me. I really appreciate the opportunity to be heard. You are the boss, and I am a loyal soldier so I will do it your way. “

Why? Even the most confident boss will have doubts about himself. So while he / she does not need you undermining his/her credibility, there is an underlying achiever there that will appreciate “Constructive criticism”. Bosses want to see that everyone is in alignment and following them. So doing any  dissension is really a disservice to them but ultimately to your career.

If you really want to get ahead, anticipate future issues and possible disagreements and discuss them in private, ahead of time. In this way you become a trusted advisor to the boss. This will build trust and demonstrate loyalty.

I once had an employee who used this skill with me many times. He would come into my office and say something like this: “There is going to be a meeting later today and I expect this issue to come up. I just want to give you a heads up. Here is my perspective… and here is the opposing view…”

Eventually I learned to trust this person and I felt we made a great team. I would frequently seek out his opinion before making critical decisions. So I know first hand that this process does work.

5) Create upward mobility by filling a Gap In a Skill Set

Through observation, research and record keeping you can connect dots in others behaviors and learn how to connect with them .  One of the facets of Emotional Intelligence, and also the best way to get close to key people in the organization  and to make yourself truly valuable. If done well, this will truly benefit the organization.

All of us have Achilles, some that we recognize and others we might not be aware of. The key is to understand the strengths and challenges of those around us  and see if we can somehow fill the gap.  I observed this in one organization where the boss was not very strategic, and his position did require that he provide direction and vision to the organization. One astute direct report figured this out and made a point of regularly communicating with the boss and coming to him with strategic ideas, vision and direction. The executive adopted many of these ideas and they became his own and that of the entire organization.

Once you have fulfilled  a need missing within a superior and it is noticed, you are branded in their mind, and even the organization if you go about it smartly.  That goes beyond all other hard skills you possess.

To understand the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and others, all you need to do is pay attention and observe patterns.

 

 Many of the viruses and diseases of our past have been eradicated by measurement.  To eradicate the Ebola virus as well, careful assessment of its patterns of behavior will be key.  Through measurement, we will establish a pattern of behavior, and condition the infection to fall on its face.

 

 

Management Monday: Managing and Motivating Introverts

Modern business is all about extroverts, teams and collaboration, which is great. However, history has proven that it’s important not to overlook the value of introverts. The world recognizes introverts such as Warren Buffet, Jo Rowling, Johnny Depp, Audrey Hepburn and Steven Spielberg as some of the most impactful leaders, artists and innovators. It would be a shame for the business world to burn-out or suppress a future Warren Buffet. Workplaces are much more attune to nurturing extrovert talent and often don’t understand how to help rather than stifle bright introverts.

Audrey_Hepburn_Tiffany's_Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

It is important to understand that introverts are an important asset to the business world. Healthy companies need both to survive. In fact, studies by psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist reveal that often the most creative people in many fields are introverted (New York Times). Below are some tips to help introverts feel welcome and part of the team, without overwhelming them. Different tips are right for different scenarios.

Managing Introverts:

1)      Introverts can be vocal on topics of interest to them. During team meetings, find ways to incorporate their interests into the discussion, which will help get them to start talking.

2)      Naturally, introverts internalize a lot. Know that it will help motivate an introvert if they’re in an environment where they have time to process and think. To put this to use, practice having two weekly meetings, one in which problems, goals and ideas are laid out and a second where the team is invited to discussion. This gives the introverts time to mull over the topics.

3)      Introverts are likelier to share their ideas in writing than they are trying to win out over other people’s voices. Try having everyone turn in any ideas they have on paper during the week and then discuss them as a whole.

4)      Make the work space friendly to introverts. Provide areas in the office that are quiet and secluded where people can think.

5)      Avoid making the mistake of trying to make introverts into extroverts. At the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, gene specialist Dean Hamer conducted a study revealing that the D4DR gene on Chromosome 11 affects dopamine, a neurotransmitter connected to excitement, motivation and physical activity. Extroverts have a long D4DR gene and as a result require more external input to maintain their level of drive. Introverts, on the other hand, have a shortened version of this gene, so too much external excitement can exhaust them and disrupt their thinking (Chron and Collaborate). Introversion is not a defect. It is thought to be genetic and is a positive trait when embraced.

6)      Don’t overload introverts with meetings and phone calls. If an introvert is hired for the purpose of coming up with big ideas, it is important to give them quiet and uninterrupted time to do just that. Too often, introverts are given goals and strategic projects, but then bombarded with unnecessary internal and external communication, which blocks their progress. Monitor this for introverts in the office to help them thrive. While it is important for them to be aware and part of the team, it should be done tactfully.

7)      Another tactic is to set up one-on-one meetings more regularly and group meetings less often. Contrary to popular belief, most introverts are vocal and enjoy discussion, but prefer to talk with one person at a time. So balancing the amount of small and large meetings gives both introverts and extroverts opportunity to flourish.

8)      Another idea would be to create an introvert/extrovert friendly environment. Talk to employees about the genetic differences between both introverts and extroverts. Talk to them about the strengths and value of each. Establish a system where each employee is given a sign that reads introvert on one side and extrovert on the other. This sign can be hung on their door during their working (non-meeting) hours and flipped to the status of their choosing. This way introverts gain their valued quiet time, but extroverts who need discussion and collaboration to reboot know which other employees are on the same page at that time.

 

There’s no doubt that incorporating introverts on teams and motivating them is worth the effort. They are creative and bring a different form of innovation than extroverts, which is equally and sometimes more valuable. They are the ones who are always thinking, always strategizing and often working in isolation to produce brilliant outcomes, like introvert Bill Gates working alone on his computer to eventually develop Microsoft. Nurturing introverts isn’t rocket science, but it can be done and is worth the results. In the words of a famous introvert, Audrey Hepburn, “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m Possible!’”

 

Related Reads:

Hermione: Leadership or Management?

Leadership Programs and Assessments

Leadership Qualities of Sheryl Sandberg

Nine Signs You’re Really an Introvert (Psychology Today)

This Blog has been featured by the West Orange Chamber of Commerce. Sources such as HLN have also been home to publications by Dr. Farnaz Namin-Hedayati and she has been cited by the Orlando Business Journal

Center for Work Life of Orlando, Florida is an award-winning executive development firm providing leadership and management training to executives and organizations. Our main services include executive coachingleadership developmentexecutive succession planningemotional intelligence trainingcareer planningstaff development, and communication in the workplace.

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