Life and Leadership as an Introvert

I am an introvert. I’m not ashamed of that fact, nor do I feel somehow inferior to those who are more naturally outgoing. We introverts in the business world often do feel that way, don’t we? Well, that’s bunk!

As an introvert, I have some particular strengths that make me effective (and some weaknesses that need to be compensated for). Just like, you know, everyone else!

That’s why I welcomed Lisa Petrilli‘s venture to write about how introverts can succeed in business. Her just-published eBook, with the title The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership, is a real winner.

Early blog reviews and Amazon comments have been most positive. Many people realize that this is an under-discussed issue in our people development efforts, and Lisa provides an excellent format for dialogue around leadership development that accounts for our varying personality types (which equals diverse and valuable strengths).

Personally, I struggled for many years in my professional development, trying to force myself to fill roles that were a mismatch for my makeup. It took a long time and lots of experience to realize that my greatest value is as an analyst-strategist – right in the sweet spot of my tendency toward introversion. And, in the book, Lisa tells the story about how the two of us (both introverts) came to know one another much better in a noisy public setting much more tailored to extroverts!

We’ll be celebrating the launch of Lisa’s eBook at LeadershipChat this week (Tuesday night, 8 pm ET on Twitter – use hashtag #LeadershipChat), where effective leadership (introvert-style!) will be the topic of conversation.

The book is NOW AVAILABLE for purchase for just $7.99!  Use code “Launch” to receive a 30% discount all week long when you DOWNLOAD it at www.TheIntrovertsGuide.net (or, here’s the direct Amazon link). It includes a special bonus section for extroverts on how to successfully lead introverts!

Oh, and Lisa? Congratulations. You know how proud I am of you, and what a pleasure it has been to collaborate with you these past 18 months. Thank you for this labor of love. I hope you sell a million of them…!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Finding Your DNA

>> The Privilege of Leadership

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

The Privilege of Leadership

I find it easy to fall into the pattern of thinking of leadership as a burden, a responsibility. It is that, of course – no leader will deny it – but we also need to remind ourselves that it is an immense privilege.

Nothing good gets done without effective leadership. And if we’re in a position of leadership, people above us or below us (ideally – both!) have seen something in us that is a cut above the ordinary.

That vote of confidence is a privilege.

By and large, we humans are wired to attain. And while some things are solo endeavors, much attainment in life is reserved for directed and motivated team effort. For people to validate our vision and ability, and then follow our lead, is a sacred trust not to be taken lightly.

Yes, we’re all flawed leaders. We know our own flaws better than everyone else, right? (And, we hope that someone doesn’t find out just how inadequate we really feel at times!)

But if someone, by following, implies that we have something good to offer, then let’s take a moment and be grateful for the privilege. You may well be shaping a life that will prove to be profoundly impact-full in the future. As an employer, a coach, or (especially) as a parent, we who lead get to touch the future through multiplication of influence.

What legacy could be better than that?

Be sure to join us Tuesday night, November 22 (8 pm ET) as we discuss Gratitude and Leadership during the weekly #LeadershipChat on Twitter. And please read this post (Gratitude in Leadership: When Gratefulness Fuels Giving) by my talented and much-appreciated co-host Lisa Petrilli. Hope to see you then!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Finding Your DNA

>> Out with Klout. In with Cannoli!

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Finding Your DNA

I really enjoy every aspect of my work, but there’s one thing that I find positively exhilarating.

Helping you discover your professional DNA.

Yesterday, I had a Brand Therapy session with a consultant launching his business, and it was thrilling to peel back the layers and uncover what was at the core of his skills and professional drives.

My only props for brand therapy are a notebook, and a bowl of M&Ms. See the red ones there? That’s his DNA.

Here’s what happens – after years in business (as a company) or workforce (as an individual), we get encrusted with a mix of roles, expectations, labels, competencies, annual evaluations – and, over time, we lose clarity on who we really are and what our optimal role is.

Does your company chase a whole bunch of projects and clients in the pursuit of revenue? Does your business message look like a jumble of bullet points? Exactly.

Eventually, we’re a jumbled bowl of M&Ms – the red ones are in there somewhere, but we need an outside analyst to gain clarity.

My job, as brand therapist, is to take a day with you and uncover your core offering and drive, your central message, your compelling story, and your go-to-market analogy and strategy. This need is as common for an individual professional re-evaluating career direction as it is for a small company looking to refine its brand.

For me, this is more than just a business offering. It’s a mission. I believe that we will re-invent work and realize success by tapping into our core abilities, and creating networks of great people all working at or near their optimal capacity.

But first, you have to have the desire – yes, even the courage – to uncover your DNA. And put you at the center of your business direction.

Let me know if I can help.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Out with Klout. In with Cannoli!

This post begins with Klout, and why (as of today) I’ve opted-out.

It ends with Cannoli.

One is more delicious than the other. Just saying.

My pal Sam Fiorella and I have had lots of tongue-in-cheek back-and-forth over the months about Klout, but the fact is, I agree with his reasoning here where he explains why he has pitched Klout overboard.

In brief, here’s why I’ve done the same:

1. I believe it is an artificial and inaccurate measure of true influence,

2. It reinforces behavior based on (apparent) reach rather than (real) depth,

3. It has no value to me, business or otherwise.

Instead of issuing Klout +K points to people, I prefer real network-building – like shared meals, shared laughs, shared life, and fruitful collaboration. Algorithms do not portray the type of influence that matters to me. And if you want to look at someone, first and foremost, through a Klout lens – well, we’re probably not going to get along anyway.

During #LeadershipChat on Tuesday nights, we have a habit of talking about cannoli – maybe it’s because a bunch of the participants are of Italian extraction, but I think it’s because a cannoli is simply, extravagantly, wonderful. We’ve even joked about awarding +K(annoli) points.

But forget the K – cannoli is all about the C. So, I’m just going to award people who mean a lot to me a nice, big, extravagant +C. Including an appropriate image, like this:

(btw, “cannoli” is the plural form – what you see above is a cannolo)

Meeting over a plate of cannoli (real or virtual) may not get you Klout perks, but I guarantee the benefits (and calories) are far greater!

Oh – and if you want to award someone the +Cannoli picture above, just copy-paste: http://bit.ly/Cannolo  Let’s #OccupyCannoli!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Maxim-izing Your Leadership

>> A Warning from (Un)Happy Valley

Maxim-izing Your Leadership

There are some books that you pick up, and you realize after 5 pages that it’s going to be a sacrificial labor of love to get through it.

Others, you sense immediately that your brainwaves are in sync with the author.

So it was (the latter) when I began reading One Piece of Paper by Mike Figliuolo (our guest host on LeadershipChat this week). Mike is the founder of thoughtLeaders and a prolific blogger on leadership topics.

Instead of giving a traditional book review (overview), I thought I’d share some immediate outputs. Mike begins the book by encouraging readers to identify their leadership maxims. Here is how he defines this foundational concept (p. 7):

A maxim by definition is a principle or rule of conduct…it is a short, personally meaningful, and easily explained statement that reflects one of your beliefs about leadership…your maxims will become your leadership conscience…maxims must be emotionally meaningful, so you need to delve into your personal experiences to find those phrases, images, and stories that stir you to your core.

Now, I will tell you that anyone that talks about distilled, clear, foundational principles is immediately my friend! Mike’s thesis is that an effective leader must define these personal maxims, and possess them top-of-mind so that they can guide behaviors (for you and your team) in the day-to-day process of leading.

Eschewing the use of buzzwords to define one’s purpose (note: another way to be my friend!), Mike writes that you must “find your passion and turn it into a leadership maxim by crafting a phrase or drawing on an image that evokes fulfillment and satisfaction.” His personal example: light bulbs – creating that moment of understanding in others. As he put it, “turning light bulbs on for people is why I am excited to go to work every day.”

At this point in the book, I decided to see if I could come up with something pithy and meaningful that pretty much was the reason to get up every day. And for me, it boils to down to three words:

Distill – Define – Connect

That is my passion, my maxim of purpose. Help others by distilling a mass of information, defining the core need or message, and connecting to the best resources. These verbs are, in fact, the foundational activities of my consulting practice. I’m a Connection Agent.

Now, there’s a whole lot more valuable stuff in this book, but this is your starting line. I’d encourage you to take 5-10 minutes, with one piece of paper, and just begin there – can you express the core motivators that drive you? Mike gives (p. 37) four helpful questions to get you rolling:

- Why do you get out of bed every morning?

- Why are you excited to go to work?

- When people ask you what you love to do, what is your response?

- What do you tell people you are really great at doing?

Come up with  your maxim (or at least start!), and share your results with us as we interact with Mike during #LeadershipChat on Twitter, Tuesday November 15th, 8 pm ET. And be sure to read the blog post of my lovely co-host, Lisa Petrilli, with her take on Mike’s book (How to Discover and Live your Leadership Philosophy). We’re looking forward to another lively discussion at the LeadershipChat table!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Follow Your Lead? WIIFM??

>> Feeling Like a Leader

A Warning from (Un)Happy Valley

“Steve, we have found cancer in your body. It’s bad, it has the potential to spread, but the good news is that we caught it early. We want to operate right away, cut out the tumor, and follow-up with chemo and radiation to try to eradicate the disease and prevent it from spreading.”

“Doc, that sounds painful. How about we just wait and let it metastasize?”

You’d think I was nuts to give an answer like that. Fortunately, the fictional conversation above hasn’t happened. I would hope I’d have the sanity to choose early intervention instead of certain disaster.

Apparently, that didn’t happen at Penn State. Now Joe Paterno, one of the most respected coaches ever in college football, is out the door with a dark cloud over his head, as is the president of the university.

Many words will be written about this unfolding scandal in the coming days, but let us immediately take one crucial leadership lesson from this.

Get rid of the cancer. Early and thoroughly.

If you have a results-producing employee who is dishonest, don’t hesitate to fire him or her. If you have an executive who is unethical, escort them to the exit door. A coach named Sandusky was a tumor in the Penn State system. He should have been removed immediately.

Now it’s metastatic, affecting children, careers, an entire university. Look at the shame that has accrued to church organizations when similar evils have been unreported – even covered up. The evil doesn’t go away. It spreads. It goes from Stage 1 to Stage 4.

Enron. Lehman Brothers. Watergate. John Edwards. From high-flyers to Hall of Shame.

(and hellooooo, pharma executives)

We need more of what Dan Rockwell calls courageous candor. If you are a leader in an organization, and you’ve been hesitating to remove the tumor you know is there, consider the consequences downstream. Let the mess at Penn State be a warning.

A good leader, at times, has to be a good surgeon. Cut now.

(Feel free to join us every Tuesday night for LeadershipChat on Twitter, where we have no-holds-barred discussions on the practice of leadership in today’s world)

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Follow Your Lead? WIIFM??

>> Feeling Like a Leader

“Follow Your Lead? What’s In It For Me??”

We all know the expression (where did it come from, anyway? Anybody know??) – “Let’s not go there!”

If a topic for potential discussion touches a painfully raw nerve, we’d just as soon bypass that destination. Don’t go there! Why? Because we see only pain, no gain.

To “go there,” we need a compelling WWIFM (What’s In It For Me). And it’s the same with leadership of others. People will follow a leader – if the destination looks like gain that will outweigh any anticipated pain.

I hate to go all non-idealistic on you, but my buy-in to any vision and direction is correlated to my sense, my agreement, that the goal, and the leader, are aligned with my best interests.

However skillfully we paint the picture and seek to rally support, if those that are to follow us don’t want to “go there,” we’re not going to lead them there.

Now, if know me, you know I’m an idealist. And I firmly believe that people operate best when they are involved in a cause, a mission, much bigger than themselves. But I also know that, whatever the cause – however grand and sweeping and even sacrificial it may be – the engine that will drive a group of people to follow is alignment of interests that includes a clear WIIFM.

So – how do we get others to follow our lead? Bluntly put, it’s sales – not slimy, sleazy, lying sales, but selling nonetheless. It’s selling the vision – AND selling the benefits to the customer. If you’re a leader, you’re in sales – simple as that.

What was Steve Jobs of Apple, if not a consummate salesperson? He had to sell his entire organization on his vision of supremely great user experience – and, when it was time to step down, he also had to achieve buy-in that the next leader would carry on the vision. No small task!

Take everything my LeadershipChat co-host Lisa Petrilli wrote in her prep post for our discussion this week (Leadership Advice – Getting Others to Follow Your Lead). Package together Vision, Trust, Communication, and Energy, and what do you have? Effective selling (the kind that exists with integrity).

What do you think? How do you enable others to follow you? Join us for the discussion on LeadershipChat (#LeadershipChat on Twitter) at 8 pm ET Tuesday night, November 8th as we tackle this topic. You’ll find a group of warm, smart, and motivated friends who will welcome you to our weekly chat at the leadership table!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Selling You

>> Choose Your Lane

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