Our culture values extroversion over introversion. But this undervalues the strengths and contributions of introverted traits. You can change this to unleash far more of what people offer. Jennifer Kahnweiler is a leading expert who can help you lead more effectively with this knowledge.
You will learn:
- What extroversion and introversion actually means
- The benefits of introverted characteristics in leadership
- Fallacies about these traits being fixed
- How to unleash the introverted traits within yourself and others
Learn more about the power of introversion.
Brad Wolff 00:00
Okay! Welcome to the, “It Is About You Podcast” today. I’m honored to have as my guest, Jennifer Kahnweiler, Jennifer’s a leadership speaker and author of three bestselling books on introverts. Jennifer, welcome to the show!
Jennifer Kahnweiler 00:21
Brad, I’m thrilled to be on your podcast. Thank you!
Brad Wolff 00:24
Absolutely! So would you share a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Jennifer Kahnweiler 00:29
Sure! I am a speaker and I’m an author and I have a niche or as they say in Europe, a
Brad Wolff 01:13
Interesting! So from what you said, what I gather is there is a bit of a bias against introverts in favor of extroverts. Would you say that’s true?
Jennifer Kahnweiler 01:23
I would say that’s absolutely true! The extroverted ideal or the type a workplace is
Jennifer Kahnweiler 02:17
That’s really the focus of my current work now is taking a look at how can we now adapt our workplaces to really suit and harness the power of everybody. Earlier in my, yeah, so I was just saying earlier when I started this work about 12 years ago, I was really driven by the fact that I was working with a lot of introverts and just to rewind, what I look at as introverted are people who really get their energy from within. And I was a person that became introduced early on to “The Myers Briggs”. And like a lot of us, I’m sure Brad, you’ve had that experience. You sort of have like, Aha! You see, you understand more about you and the people around you. And people said, well, how did you get into this work?
Jennifer Kahnweiler 03:00
You’re more extroverted and the real motivation, you know, it always seems to always start with our personal lives. And I had married a really strong introvert and I didn’t really understand what was going on after I married him. Like he never spoke, I guess before we got married, he spoke more. Maybe not, I was maybe talking too much, so I couldn’t hear him. But I realized that it was, you know, I’d see bill very sociable and out with people and our friends, and then he would just go hibernate, you know, you go to his room and his man cave back then we didn’t, we only had a tiny apartment, so he went to one end of the apartment. And I’d be very frustrated. But luckily, as I say, I had the odd introduced to this personality theory and realize that introverts get their energy from within and extroverts really get it from outside stimulation, from the people in the world around them.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 03:52
So, hence the reason for a lot of the clashes and that we see between introverts and experts when they don’t really understand, you know, what those differences are. And I think what’s happening now, they’re very cool thing. I’ve been doing this work for 12 years, you know, as you know, I’ve written a couple of books, starting with “The Introverted Leader” and then looked at influence and quiet influence. And then the last one before the revision of “The Introverted Leader” was a book called “The Genius of Opposites”. And I speak on all those topics and “The Genius of Opposites” really is about how introverts and extroverts can have extraordinary results working together if they figure out how to do that. So I kind of created a roadmap in each of my books, taking a little lessons that I’ve gotten from introverts, primarily out in the world.
Brad Wolff 04:40
Interesting! So you should, from what I heard you say is that you’re an extrovert, so you’re drawn to this because of your experience as an introvert. You were drawn to this about your experience of other people starting with your husband and how dealing with introverts effected you.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 05:04
Yeah! That’s a very good way of encapsulating it. The other piece of that was, you know, it was, as I started to work early on in coaching and HR leadership development, I worked in a lot of organizations, you know, from everything from higher edge to corporate like GE and places like that, federal government positions. I would find that I oftentimes was drawn to supporting, people who are more introverted in the technology area. like Engineering, I.T., which I know you’re familiar with Science, R and D and they would be brilliant people, but, and they, but it had such frustrations in trying to connect and to understand how they could be heard, how they could get their projects how they could get a collaboration on their projects. They were kinda hitting a wall, I’m sure. You know what I mean with that. Right?
Brad Wolff 05:57
Well, there’s a bias that if you, if you don’t communicate and get people’s attention and you don’t fit in image that people have of a leader, for example, then, well, he’s not leadership material or, you know, he or she has gone as far as they’re going to do. They’re really a lab person or whatever. So extroverted leaders make assumptions then that become limitations.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 06:22
Absolutely! That on the hiring and the promotion side. That’s true. And even internally, as I was giving the example of trying to get hurt on your, if you are an introverted leader and trying to get your get support from your stakeholders, you know, there was frustration there. It’s like, how do I communicate? So in a way that people really have credit, I have credibility and so I would work with them and we would come up with lots of plans and strategies and, and we would base it on they’re quiet strength. So in other words, for instance, how can you take your strength of writing? You like to write? Okay, so how can you write the document up and send it out as maybe like us, we used to call it straw man, you know, like just an idea, a proposal thing, get feedback that people could reflect on.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 07:10
So people would use their natural proclivities who were introverted to get these things adopted because what they would do is then meet one on one, another strength of an introvert, right? Not having these large scale meetings, but let’s, let’s talk about your concerns about this project. For instance. Let’s work through it. And what people found is that they also not only had those adopted, those projects were starting to get adopted.
They were also developing key relationships throughout the organization, which then allowed them to have a stronger network. So that’s just one example of many, you know, hundreds where I would coach my introverted clients to again, not change who they are. You have to of course, bring some of your extrovert out. And by the way, we both, we all have both in us, right?
Brad Wolff 08:02
Absolutely! Yeah! I mean I think that’s one of the misconceptions about it is that you’re either an A or B, no where some combination and that can change over time.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 08:13
You’re absolutely right!
Brad Wolff 08:15
It’s not, it’s definitely not a rigid element.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 08:19
So what’s interesting, yeah, go on. I’m sorry.
Brad Wolff 08:24
No, it’s not rigid. I’ve become more introverted over time as I’ve valued the ability to reflect and think deeply and right. And I’m less extroverted. So my belief that I grew up with is you’re born with these characteristics and if you’re a really a high extrovert or a low extrovert or whatever, and what I found from research in my own experiences, that’s actually not true. There’s a lot more complicated. So, yeah. But I think what’s important is to say
Brad Wolff 08:56
Where are you now? Who do you want to be and how do we leverage that as a strength for you to bring out?
Jennifer Kahnweiler 09:02
Exactly! Be aware. That’s, I think what you’re saying and actually the research supports you. The, we’re looking at personality as we are a lot of things in diversity and inclusion around having a spectrum.
Okay. There’s this spectrum. So if you think about a bell curve, you know, most of us cluster towards the norm, towards the middle. So like you’re saying, you know, I tend to believe as Carl Jung did, I think back then is that we tend to have an even, a slight preference towards one of the others. So you’re not saying you’re totally an introvert Brad. But that you have had life experiences to show you that it really is beneficial when you take quiet time, when you reflect, when you write, right, when you’re not having to always go out all the time.
Brad Wolff 09:49
Yes! I’ve become more introverted. I was, you know, any personality assessment always said I was a high, high extrovert. And some of it I think is, I believe that that’s what I’m supposed to be and that’s better. So yeah, no!
Jennifer Kahnweiler 10:05
Same with introverts. Let’s look at introverts. They oftentimes will say, people will oftentimes tell introverted leaders, who are my clients, they’ll get this feedback. It’s interesting. You’ll say you know, Raj or whatever they named like Raj, there is no way you’re an introvert. Like they’ll argue with them. They’ll say, no, I’m really a very strong introvert. No, you’re not. No, you’re not. And why is that?
Because Raj has learned how to be out there, how to network, how to have social skills, but yet what is Raj need if he doesn’t get his time to decompress too? Like my husband used to do, go to the other side of the apartment, you know, and like be alone. If introverts don’t get that is extremely stressful. And that’s what I, in all my work with this what I’ve determined, people say, I don’t know if I’m an introvert or an extrovert. You ask them that question, must you have quiet time after being with people? The introverts don’t hesitate. They’ll say, absolutely, I must have it. The extroverts like you like me will say, yeah, I kinda like it. It’s nice to relax. I like going to yoga, you know, I like meditating. It’s a nice to have. It’s not absolutely essential.
Brad Wolff 11:16
We’re not necessarily completely drained. But after an introvert,
Jennifer Kahnweiler 11:25
Well, I don’t know about a month, but yeah, no, you’re right. And you know, interesting talking about, you know how we said most people are in the middle there. We all have friends, don’t we, Brad, who are, I would call them flaming extroverts. They never stop, right? The Energizer battery out there all the time, all the time. And then we have introverted friends. I have one of my colleagues who wrote a book, a Maura Errands Mellie wrote a book called hiding in the bathroom. She calls herself a hermit. It’s a very good book. I highly recommend it. And she weaves anxiety into there too, which affects her. And millions of others, she talks about hiding in the bathroom. She calls herself a Hermit Entrepreneur.
Brad Wolff 12:06
Jennifer Kahnweiler 12:06
Very successful. But she’s an intern and she’s you know, on the real end of the spectrum.
Brad Wolff 12:13
So, when people have said, I think you’re on the, somewhere on the spectrum, what they really mean is
Jennifer Kahnweiler 12:22
No, When they sound the spectrum, oftentimes they meant like autism. They’ll talk
Brad Wolff 12:26
No, I was kidding, cause you’re referring to the spectrum. Everything in life. It’s a spectrum. But when I was, I was actually being silly. So, based on your experience, Jennifer, what do you see as the keys for more introverted people to be effective leaders?
Jennifer Kahnweiler 12:49
What I found, Brad is what I learned, have learned from introverts. And I’ve done a lot of, just to kind of tell you where this comes from and a lot of the tremendous amount of interviews I’ve done surveys, I take the lessons I get from working with my client organizations. And what I’ve learned is that introverted leaders tend to do four.
They take four steps. It’s a, it’s at, I call it the four P’s, right? Work. I’ll just tell you briefly, and this is true for any kind of scenario they’re facing, whether it be like I mentioned earlier, meetings or networking or public speaking, they do these four things. Okay? First of all, they prepare a sweet spot for the introvert, a differentiator. They have a roadmap. They have a plan. It’s not going to necessarily go exactly like that, but they take time to think about their purpose what they’re trying to achieve and the content of what they’re going to say.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 13:42
And it’s very interesting that extroverts tend not to always do that. Right? They wing it. I’m good at winging it, but no, you’re really not good at way. Yeah, you’re more effective when you do what the introverts dear I prepare. Second thing they do is to have presence. And if you’ve ever had a leader who you might’ve thought was an introvert and you were talking with them and they were just with you, you know, they’re like, you are with me now. You’re totally listening. Your focus is there. You have eye contact. You’re not looking to see who else might I talk to in the room. You know, even if it’s a short period of time, you are where your feet are. And that’s true. Again, for any scenario, not just in talking to people one on one, you’re focused on where you are presently.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 14:26
You’re not thinking about what I could have done differently. I didn’t prepare enough or how’s this going to go? And you and I know we do speaking. So we know how important that is to be there, to be present with our audience and not to be worrying, right? If we missed a PowerPoint slide or something, right? So presence, next thing, the third P is push. And this is the one where people to say, when we go through the model that they need to do the work on this piece. And this is stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s very easy to get comfortable in how we do work and how we relate to people. But when’s the last time, for instance, you reached out to one of the people on another team who you work with on email and actually had a conversation with them, you know, or when’s the last time you actually brushed off those public speaking skills and made a short pitch or presentation?
Jennifer Kahnweiler 15:21
Eric, we can get very rusty and so we need to also challenge ourselves. And I see introverted leaders do that with intentionality beautifully. Just I’ve seen so many examples of that. And then the fourth P is practice. And like any virtuoso, you know, the comedians have taught me that lesson. They constantly refine their skills. And I love the Jerry Seinfeld example when you read about Jerry Seinfeld, he talks about like his brain, he said, I thought, I think about my brain is broadband. And if that’s not used, but I don’t have ideas and a comedy coming out of that brain, it’s going to shrivel up. So I always forget that image. You know, Jerry Seinfeld, any kind of a performer will constantly refine their skills and keep pushing the bar up higher. And you and I know many speakers in our national speakers association organization who are at the top of their game, but they never see it that way, right?
Jennifer Kahnweiler 16:18
They’re always going higher and higher and getting better and better and better. And so I think that is a really important lesson. So those four Ps that prepare the presence, the push in the practice, and in the introverted leader books, I have the second edition that came out this past year. The whole book is organized around that framework of the
Brad Wolff 17:16
I want to highlight what you said here. This specifically, I want to highlight the push and practice the last two Ps. Cause when I hear that, what I hear is that’s the personal develop. That’s a big piece of the personal development aspect because it’s getting out of the comfort zone. And comfort. I believe comfort is the enemy of personal development.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 17:43
Oh, that’s right! You should tweet that one Brad.
Brad Wolff 17:46
Well not right now though. So, but I want to highlight
Jennifer Kahnweiler 17:52
You’re being present. That’s why you’re not tweeting.
Brad Wolff 17:54
Yes! And this, this show is about you. Not about me. Okay. So that’s so important because that’s where the growing edge lies and the push and practice cause that’s where the effort and discomfort
Jennifer Kahnweiler 18:24
Let me, let me tell you a quick a story about that and that might bring it home on a share sometimes with my audiences, and I think about Jeremy who works at the local, he did work at the local ups store and Jeremy was quite introverted and one day I came in and he said to me, Jennifer, he knew the kind of work I did and he said, Jennifer, I think you’ll be pleased at the course. And I’m taking over at the Georgia perimeter. I said, you know, what is that? Jeremy? And he said, well, I knew he was an it major. And he says, no, it’s public speaking. I said, Oh, that’s so great. You’re going to be, you know, able to have confidence and make pitches and it’s going to just really do you well taking that that course, I know it’s going to be such a plus for you. And he says, yeah, you know the best thing about it, Jennifer, in his low, very quiet introverted voice, he said to it’s online
Brad Wolff 19:17
Public speaking online, that’s one, we can unpack that one at another date. That’s another episode.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 19:24
Well, let me tell you something, Jeremy. Fast forward, he’s gone on to have a very successful career. I’ve stayed in touch with them, Jeremy for that. At that point in time, like you were saying, you have to look at where you are at that point in time. For that point in time, it was a really big push for him.
Brad Wolff 19:42
Jennifer Kahnweiler 20:00
That’s a frog story, isn’t it?
Brad Wolff 20:02
You know what,
Jennifer Kahnweiler 20:25
Yeah! And I want to take this up, you know, down from the 50,000 feet, cause you know, I’m a career former career counselor for career coach and I always, I’m very, very behavioral. So what does it look like, right when you’re developing yourselves and I think you, you hit some of that Brad with, with really stretching yourself, but I think a personal development has to be a
I think this is more the tactics and the strategy of how you get there. And it’s really taking stock every once in awhile, right? What’s going on with me? What am I enjoying about what I’m doing? What is frustrating? Where am I using my superpowers? We hear that term a lot now. Where am I allowed to use, you know that those, whether I’m in a regular type of a more structured type of a job or maybe I’m in a more freestyle entrepreneurial adventure or maybe I want to be, so it’s taking stock of currently what’s working for me and what isn’t.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 21:29
And it’s also taking another stock at your personality and your style. You, we mentioned earlier, things can shift, right? So it is where I’m working now and what I’m doing, not just in work and my life giving me satisfaction to, to satisfy who I am or am I having to, as we were saying, introvert and extrovert, my always having to be out there and onstage when that’s really not my temperament or vice versa. Am I stuck behind a computer all day, not talking and interacting with people when I really need that engagement? So without knowing who we are, nothing’s going to be perfect. You’re never gonna get the perfect work situation
Brad Wolff 22:10
Who would really develop if we had the perfect situation, how much would we develop from the perfect situation because the discomfort wouldn’t be there.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 22:19
That’s a good way to look at it. yeah! So I think it’s, it’s the personality, it’s the life experience also. I think that’s a key part to looking. I would, when I worked with people in career coaching and personal development, I always ask them about let’s make a timeline of what you’ve done in your life. And many times we go back to when they were kids. You know, it just a quick example in my case, what was your dream Brad? You know, like, do you, I’m sure you had one. What did, who did you identify with his characters?
All of those offer clues to our personal development. So if we ignore those, we really ignore the voice inside of us. And one cool thing about aging, I think as you kind of get more open to looking at, for me, I’ve been looking past, you know, as well as. It’s like, okay, what do I really want to do? Well, it connects also do in terms of my values, that’s another piece of it. Values, personality experiences. What skills do I have or do I want to develop? So you can see those kinds of questions. Don’t just come like, you know, I’m gonna, you know, take a Marta train and write them on a, but you know, look up my phone, right.
Brad Wolff 23:28
Well those are introverted activities by the way. What you’re describing are by definition, introverted activities. And I want to highlight what you said there about as we get older that a lot of it’s a natural progression of how do I want to live my life because we realized that it’s a finite period and I have less ticks of the clock left. So what do I want to do with those fewer ticks of the clock? So I want to highlight how that often ties into major changes people make.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 24:05
Yeah! Absolutely! Middle age and above. And also, as I said, the values are, it can’t be overlooked. I mean, what’s important to me? Like I work a lot with women still in coaching and development and teaching them. I do some courses around assertiveness and that’s a passion of mine is you know, looking out for yourself but also respecting others and how do we find our voice, if you will? Right? So finding your voice comes from that reflection from that self, right?
Brad Wolff 24:36
Right! A lot of growth inherently is an introverted activity of alone reflection to get in touch with how I really feel and think
Jennifer Kahnweiler 24:47
Well, let me also push back a little bit on that. It’s not just, and I think you probably, you might agree with this. It is individual and internal, but you also can overuse that strength of being in your head and get into, you know, sort of analysis paralysis. You can’t, you need a sounding board. So whether you go coach or a group, a mastermind, a community
Brad Wolff 25:13
We need both, we definitely need both but what happens is I think often we will progress to the polls, especially if we’re more extreme introverted extrovert. And because we’re comfortable in those polls, those more extremes, we spend limited time in our discomfort zone because it was very hard for me for many years to have that quiet time because I was so conditioned to when I’m uncomfortable, reach out and talk to people and interact with people. So yeah!
Brad Wolff 25:41
Yeah! To have quiet time. And also to, as I think, men, I taught about gender too. Men have a hard time asking for help and thinking they could need to figure this out, you know, and you’re right, the introvert thing comes into it too extroverted
Brad Wolff 25:55
Whatever it is that whatever, if we’re, if we tend to be very far in one or the other, we need the opposite of that to balance ourselves out and really grow, I think.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 26:04
Brad Wolff 26:05
Whatever it is. So Jennifer as we close this out, what are the regular practices that you have that you feel have been most helpful in your own growth and development?
Jennifer Kahnweiler 26:17
Well I could speak for now probably more so than everything. I’ve always felt exercise was important, but I don’t, I’m not like a, you know, a CrossFit type person. I’ll actually like a yoga and swimming. Those are my
Brad Wolff 26:54
I would say that, yes.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 26:56
Brad Wolff 27:05
But if we had to do it over again, we would be different parents.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 27:09
I don’t know. I guess, yeah!
Brad Wolff 27:11
I would definitely, most people I know, including myself, if we did it because of what we learned, we would, parent a little differently. I’d be a better parent if I covered if I did it again.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 27:23
Right! And not in regulated to what you’re asking about regular practice. I try not, I try to be self-reflective and do have practices that really look at myself and journal and I meditate. I can’t say I’m perfect, you know, I don’t do either. I do it every day. But I’ve also learned about not allowing myself not to be perfect, you know, and reframing things in my head.
Brad Wolff 27:45
That’s a huge one is to accept our imperfections and the imperfections of other people. Cause getting lost in that. Yeah!
Jennifer Kahnweiler 27:55
It’s the harder one! And what that means is that if I’m not accepting, you know, the imperfections, that finger comes right back at me. Right. Brad? It means I’m not doing the work I need to be doing
Brad Wolff 28:05
Right! Because our imperfections and the imperfections of others can office throw us way
Jennifer Kahnweiler 28:17
Yeah! So I think practices having community of I have a couple of, really strong communities of both professional and personal, you know, connections and unique. We need people.
Brad Wolff 28:32
Jennifer Kahnweiler 28:33
And you know, so I think that’s really important and being more selective as we get older. Not to eliminate, but to put people in our lives who are nurturing and positive and not to spend so much energy. I don’t want to, I guess I can use the word toxic.
Brad Wolff 28:48
You can, you know what that’s on the list of approved words on this show.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 28:53
You don’t know any toxic situation people, right?
Brad Wolff 28:56
No, of course not.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 28:57
Not let that cloud my life, you know, and just not, right?
Brad Wolff 29:00
Absolutely! That’s a choice
Jennifer Kahnweiler 29:13
Yeah! I have a number of them. And this one is, this is interesting because this, it led to my own path in addition to a, so I talked to you about other personal story about what, what or personal influence about how I got interested in this work. I was teaching a group of engineers years ago and when I first had my antenna up about this, I saw this young man, Sean sitting in the back of the class. And he, it was a five day leadership class and I said, Sean, you’ve been really quiet. You know, you haven’t really been saying much. And he said, no. I said, is there something wrong? And he said, no, I’ve enjoyed the class. I’m learning a lot of tools. It’s fine. I said, well, well, what’s the matter? Why, why are you not it seem like you’re engaging much?
Jennifer Kahnweiler 30:00
And he said, well, Jennifer, here’s the deal. When I finished this class and I go back to my organization, there’s, you know, nobody there really moves like me. They don’t sounded like me. They’re all very type A, you know, very in your face interrupting people all the time. And I just don’t feel like there’s a place for me as a manager and this class is for becoming a manager and a leader and I just don’t think that’s going to happen. So I of course did my Jennifer pep talk, you know, Sean?
Yeah, I know you have so many skills and, and don’t give up. But I could see that that wasn’t making any difference. And so why would I say that was a success story? Because that really was the pivotal moment. That’s when I understood that I needed to go down the path of supporting people like Shawn to tap into their gifts. And I don’t really even know if he stayed at that company or if he a found a place for himself. But the important lesson for me was that I wanted to make this my mission. So that’s the story I think of when you, when you say success.
Brad Wolff 31:09
Yeah! And I think a big takeaway that I get from that is that we’ve been taught something’s wrong with us because we have this characteristic or that characteristic when in reality there’s nothing wrong with us at all. It’s just society told us this one characteristic is better than another, but it’s not true. And when people realize that all those characteristics have values and we don’t have to be stuck with always having to play that role, then real possibilities I think open up.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 31:36
Brad Wolff 31:37
Jennifer, I’d like to hear a little bit about, your books and your website because I think, people in the audience are going to have a real interest in checking it out.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 31:48
Yes! Of course! I’m always happy to talk about my books. So I have books and the best place to find out about me, Brad, and about my work is on my website, which is, I think you’ll have it in the show notes, but it’s Jennifer Kahnweiler. It’s one word, K A H N W E I L E R dot com. And they can, people can check out or look on Amazon any places, books are sold, “The Introverted Leader”, “Quiet Influence” and “The Genius of Opposites” all books around the topic of success in the workplace for introverts. And then look out for my new book coming out this year or in 2020 and I’m very excited about that one. It’s called “Creating Introvert Friendly Workplaces” and that’s unleashing everybody’s talent and performance and that will be out in 2020. So if you’re interested in finding out more, I do a very short monthly newsletter, give you updates on the latest research. Feel free to go on the website and sign up and we’ll send you a little gift for doing that. So thank you so much.
Brad Wolff 32:47
Absolutely! I believe after hearing what you have to say, that a lot of people will see some real value in learning more of the teachings and the philosophy that you bring out.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 32:57
Thank you! Brad, It’s been a great interviewer. I’m enjoyed it.
Brad Wolff 33:00
Thank you! I really appreciate you taking your time out of your busy day and I’m excited about the audience hearing your message cause I think there’s a lot of value.
Jennifer Kahnweiler 33:10
Well, thank you again for the honor of being on your podcast and best of luck with that.
Brad Wolff 33:14