Category Archives: tolerant

Introverts as Collaboration Partners

Today I’m delighted to bring you my good friend and colleague, Naomi Karten, as our guest-blogger. Naomi is a witty and prolific writer with important information for  introverts and extraverts.  I hope you’ll follow the links in Naomi’s bio at the end of this post. Debbie

Naomi Karten

Not everyone believes I’m an introvert because I’m a professional speaker and also because I can get pretty extraverted in some situations. But I’m a lifelong introvert. It’s easy to find me at a party where I don’t know anyone. I’m the one at the bookshelf scanning the books.

When I first started writing about introversion, there were a few books on the subject and not much else. Now, there are blogs galore, a steady stream of tweets, articles, and numerous books. Not so extraversion. There’s not much at all on extraversion outside of academic/research circles except in the context of both introversion and extraversion and their interaction with each other and other aspects of our personalities.

Why is there so much on introversion and so little on extraversion? The reason, I think, is that introverts struggle to make their way in the world in a way that extraverts don’t. And that struggle can easily affect the quality and success of collaborative efforts.

Think about it. Introverts who collaborate with extraverts may have to contend with people who yakkety-yak non-stop (as some extraverts do), people who have seemingly boundless energy (as many extraverts have), people who get energized by interaction (as so many extraverts do), and people who excel at thinking out loud (practically the epitome of extraversion). Challenges, indeed, for many of us introverts.

photo by katrinket

Of course, there are huge upsides to collaborating with extraverts. Their energy can be infectious. When I’m with extraverts, I become more extraverted because their energy energizes me. They are comfortable in social situations (at least, that’s how it appears to us), and that’s something that can enhance collaborations. Their thinking out loud can generate ideas that we introverts may have also, but we have a tendency to want to mull them over before we speak – and perhaps edit them, revise them, modify them, rethink them, and edit them yet again before we say anything. It’s not that we’re withholding ideas, of course, just that those ideas have to find their way from brain to mouth. Extraverts seem to have a direct connection between brain and mouth. Even though that sometimes drives me crazy, the truth is I often envy it.

If we introverts want to collaborate with extraverts, we have to take some responsibility for what we need. For example, we can explain that sometimes we need to take things in and reflect on them before responding. If someone asks a question or requests our opinion, we don’t need to feel forced to respond immediately; we can ask if we can take a minute (or an hour) to respond. We can incorporate some quiet periods during face-to-face collaboration and arrange some cave time to recharge. And if extraverts go on at length, so that our brain is about to burst, we can ask for a time-out. We can even do that before our brain is about to burst.

We can also do some things for the extraverts, especially those to whom we are a mystery (which is most of them, I think). When extraverts are speaking, we can show some facial expression so they know there’s someone home; seeing blank stares on our faces doesn’t give extraverts the feedback they need. We can welcome approaches that extraverts thrive on, such as brainstorming (provided, of course, we intersperse it with some quieter approaches). We can be more forthcoming than we might otherwise be, so that we don’t give the false impression that we’re not team players or are not willing to do our part. We can tolerate, and maybe even enjoy, the on-and-on-and-on communication style of our extraverted collaboration buddies, recognizing that in the midst of all that thinking out loud are great ideas that will further our efforts together.

Extravert/Introvert by e³°°°'s photostream

Basically, I believe that introverts and extraverts can collaborate – and can do so successfully if:

  • Early in our collaboration, we each explain our communication and work style as it relates to introversion and extraversion, and discuss how our styles are similar or different. This will go a long way in helping us understand and appreciate each other.
  • We collaborate not just about our project, but also about how we can work together in a way that maintains respect for each other – and ourselves.
  • We give each other permission to raise concerns about how we are getting along so that we can make adjustments in support of our collaboration and our relationship.

Now, I have to go back to the cave.

***

Despite being an introvert, Naomi Karten has delivered seminars and presentations to more than 100,000 people internationally. Get information on her downloadable guide here: How to Survive, Excel and Advance as an Introvert. She has also published several other books and ebooks and many years of newsletters. She blogs. She tweets. She’s published more than 300 articles. All of these are easier for her than picking up the phone. She’d enjoy hearing from you (by email, of course) at naomi@nkarten.com.

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Promises, Promises: How Collaboration Helps Strangers Meet Goals Part 2

In yesterday’s post, Ben described how the idea of Promise Partners came to him. Today’s post continues with the collaborative design process. Debbie

I used a collaborative process to get from the idea of Promise Partners to the pilot group and here are a few of the things I realizedabout community, collaboration and working with others.

Collaboration Point 1: Share excitement. Many people come up with great ideas that just stay in their minds and don’t make it into reality. I was so excited about this project that I just couldn’t help but share around the office. The more people I shared with the clearer the project became and every step of the way, I inspired someone to take a part in the project. Every person that played a part in designing this project saw the possibility of this program and how excited I was about it. From this I learned that if you are genuinely excited about something and share with the people in your life, surprising connections happen. I noticed the distinct difference in the response I got between the times I was distracted or uninspired and the times where I was empowered and excited. The excitement I embodied and shared involved over 20 people in the design and implementation of the pilot group.

picture by Alphachimp Studio

Collaboration Point 2: Involve people smarter or more experienced than you. To build a program that would bring together strangers and transform them into a community ofpartners, I knew I needed some help. I invited a group of facilitators, coaches, and community development experts to participate on a call to develop the program together. Ironically, I had come in with a certain perspective of how it should be done, but I was committed to listening. To really enable myself to listen, I requested that a friend of mine guide the meeting and be accountable for a consensus. On the call an incredible program was produced that blended coaching, facilitation, and appreciative inquiry. New ideas came up such as using appreciative interviews to look at sustainable change in a person’s life, using the Wheel of Life to identify areas to work on, and a graphic method of displaying promises. All of these areas were brand new, and things that I never would have thought of. On that call, we thought through each of the pieces and developed a possible program from it.

picture by Pat Castaldo

Collaboration Point 3: Find the strengths in the views of others. Nonetheless, I was in an interesting position by listening. I didn’t agree with everything that was in the program or see it as the best way to get the outcome we wanted. My first reaction was to throw out the ideas and go with my own. But, as I looked at what was talked about in that meeting closer, I saw that there was value in every idea that was suggested. If we could tweak to the Wheel of Life to use it as a base for conversation rather than an self-evaluation we would have an excellent start to the conversation. If we used appreciative interviews instead to look at where this area worked well, then we’d have an open exploration that could guide us towards action. And if we did depict the promises visually, it would be very captivating. By looking at each of the ideas suggested and finding the strength at the core of the suggestion, we were able to use them in the best possible way for the program. By coming from a place that the ideas of others are essentially valuable, then the real job was to find the core of truth in that idea that would best contribute to the project.

Tomorrow I’ll post about what we learned during the pilot event.

Ben Wood-Isenberg creates the conditions for positive change that help people and organizations accomplish their hopes and dreams. He is a new addition to Wholonomy Consulting llc, having recently graduated from Arizona State University with a B.A. in Global Studies. Ben has worked with a variety of organizations across the state of Arizona providing training and curriculum development, community building workshops, facilitated community discussions, and system-change processes. In this capacity, Ben utilizes the approaches of Appreciative Inquiry, Technology of Participation, World Café, and Open Space Technology.

How can you collaboratively develop your great ideas?

The trick is finding the time!

The setting:  A NJ small business conference room

The participants:  12 from NJ; 10 from Beijing, China

The plot:  Emerging leaders in a growing life sciences business join together to build their effectiveness as a team.

The challenge:  How to find a time to meet where everyone is normally awake and available.  Beijing is 12 hours ahead of NJ-time.

The collaborative solution – All participants share in a bit of discomfort with the Beijing folks starting their day a bit early and the NJ folks ending their work days a bit later —Consecutive Tuesday evenings, 6 – 9 PM EST or 6 – 9 AM Beijing time.

Many businesses are dealing with this sort of time zone challenge when doing business today.  “Sharing the pain” seems to be a common solution to this challenge where leadership groups trade-off being inconvenienced in order to have time together.  Technology helps gives global enterprises tools to assist this sort of collaboration, but how groups decide to operate across time zones speaks to the ability to create and tolerate a new “normal.”  In collaborations, there are many trade-offs needed in order for each member to feel accepted and valued.

What has your team done to create an accepting atmosphere for difference?

Maddie

The power of “falling in love”

This morning in my coaching session with a client, the image of an actress on stage filled the conversation.  As a child, my client had acted in dramatic and musical school productions, always being cast in the lead female roles.  She recounted the thrill of learning to embody old  or crazy women.  Elements of these roles were quite foreign to her natural shyness but taking them on enabled her to stretch her reserve into an unexpected, powerful presence.

Fast forward to the present where my client is an executive woman surrounded by disapproving, judgmental colleagues.  She is spearheading a new project where her expertise is vital for the project to succeed.  Each time she presents her vision or the project, criticism abounds.  The criticisms have grown to the point where my client’s capacity to speak out is failing under the weight of the disapproval.

Fall in love with your cast

After hearing the latest story of the project’s challenges, I intuited that my next step as her coach was to support my client reconnecting with some of her strength.  I asked her to tell me what enabled her to be so successful as an actress earlier in life.  After responding with the process she used to learn her lines, map out her placement on the stage and connect with the other actors, she paused and then added with a sound of surprise in her voice, “I just fell in love with something in each of the characters I portrayed. I looked for the part that I could care for and everything else happened naturally.”

I didn’t say anything immediately, letting my client’s pause to generate more insight.  Her voice broke the silence by asking, “I wonder if I need to fall in love with something in each of my colleagues now. Maybe that is what is missing.  I think maybe I’ve been so wrapped up on being their audience… and giving them poor reviews at that!”

It’s gratifying to me to experience someone figuring out that her own judgment of others can keep her disconnected.  It’s easy to find fault with those around us, but often it is our attitude that helps to feed the attitudes in others.

Where is an opportunity in your life to shift judgment into falling in love?  What can you uncover in your difficult colleague that may decrease your negative reaction to their behavior? And like my client, what is something in yourself that you can fall in love with all over again?

Maddie