Daniel Pink and the “Ambivert Advantage”

DanielPinkI’ve been reading Daniel Pink‘s latest book, To Sell is Human (Amazon affiliate link), and I like a lot of what he has to say.

I found his thesis intriguing that extroverts don’t necessarily have an inherent advantage over introverts in sales success – you can see a summary of his thinking in this Washington Post article (if you don’t have the book).

But, a couple of things set off some alarms bells in my head.

First, I think his use of the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” are somewhat imprecise. Pink reinforces some of the more behavioral notions of the two orientations (sociable/lively/assertive vs. soft-spoken) – you know those stereotypes about the gregarious extrovert and the retiring introvert. In fact, the essence of introversion is finding one’s energy source from within, while extroverts generally find their energy from other people. While it is usually true that extroverts may tend to favor being more often in larger groups of people, and introverts typically need more (quiet) alone time, to look at stereotypical extremes and label only those as introverts or extroverts is to miss the point (in fact, there are many introverts who can quite effectively project outgoing behaviors). The ” ___vert” wiring has to do with replenishment of energy; behaviors are somewhat elastic across the spectrum. One of the best treatments of this topic is Susan Cain‘s excellent book Quiet.

My sense is that most people lean toward one orientation or the other – there are degrees of introversion and extroversion, but I am ambivalent about the notion of ambiversion as presented by Pink. He depicts “ambiverts” as the majority of people on a bell curve, with introverts and extroverts as extremes. I’d argue that there may be very few (if any) true ambiverts – people who draw energy equally from within and without. If you think of introversion/extroversion as a linear scale, I theorize that we all natively lean in one direction or the other (according to our internal wiring), even if we have learned and adopted behaviors that are more outgoing or contemplative. See this blog post for a fuller muse on this point.

The other point of contention I have with Pink’s methodology is his over-reliance on a single study (by Adam Grant) correlating sales effectiveness with self-reported measures of extroversion. In this study, people at (either) extreme end of the introvert-extrovert scale did not sell as successfully as those in the middle (whom Pink labels as the ambiverts). This result is used to argue against the prevailing notion that extroverted people are (of course!) the most productive sales people. Instead, people who could be somewhat chameleon-ish in the middle were the most successful.

It’s an intriguing and suggestive result, but there is a serious limitation to keep in mind – this is a single study (300 people), and it involved only call center representatives. Generalizing from that sample is tenuous – this is, after all, only one type of selling, and it is via phone, not in person. We can safely conclude that extremely extroverted and extremely introverted people were less effective in this particular type of non-face-to-face selling than people who were less introverted/extroverted – but that’s about it. I’m not convinced that the data and extrapolated conclusions are as convincing as they at first appear.

To then call a large swath of the population “ambiverts” and imply that they’re going to be just fine at whatever-kind-of-selling may be a bit of a stretch.

I’m an introvert, and I have done a lot of selling. I don’t schmooze as naturally as my extroverted brethren, but I practice many outgoing behaviors (that doesn’t make me an ambivert; I’m just an outgoing introvert!). And I’m actually in sympathy with a lot of Pink’s message in this book, especially the notion that, in one form or another, we’re just about all in sales (of some type). I just think that the evidence for some of the conclusions being drawn seems a bit thin on this point.

If you’ve been reading To Sell is Human – what’s your take?

5 Books for Business-Starters

I’m about to hand over a book to someone I’m coaching on his career direction. This made me think: if someone was considering starting their own business, what books would I recommend as “required reading” before taking the plunge?

Here’s a handful:

BooksPurple Cow, by Seth GodinDifferentiate, or don’t bother

Enchantment, by Guy Kawasaki - Develop yourself and your people skills above all

The Entrepreneur Equation, by Carol RothDelineate how your idea will actually turn into a successful business

Amazing Things Will Happen, by C.C. ChapmanDream and then do

The $100 Startup, by Chris GuillebeauDon’t wait: opportunity surrounds you.

Each of these books is practical, straightforward, and approachable. In combination, they provide an excellent mix of the idealism and realism that are both required for entrepreneurs.

>>Your turn – what would be on your recommended reading list for new entrepreneurs?

(note: links to book titles above are Amazon affiliate links – which means if you buy from Amazon through following this link, I might earn a few shekels!)

Live-Reviewing The Impact Equation (book review)

(I didn’t get all the way through on day 1, so I’m continuing for a second day. Simply scroll down to see the review unfold chapter by chapter)

It’s been sitting here for a few weeks, neglected. Chris Brogan and Julien Smith‘s new book, The Impact Equation. I have a pre-release copy and I’ve put off reading and reviewing it.

Until now. You see, this is the public release week for the book (you can use this link to order it). And I know the authors want as much exposure as possible – hey, who wouldn’t?

So I’m going to do something I’ve never attempted before. No, it’s not going over Niagara Falls in a parafoil made of recycled Diet Dr. Pepper cans. Something far more daring. Something with immense and incalculable risk.

I’m going to live-review the book. This morning. On this blog and on Twitter.

You thought jumping out of a capsule from 128,000 feet and breaking the sound barrier was daring?? Pffffft.

You might say that this is a link-baiting publicity stunt. You’d be partially correct. You might say that the Niagara Falls idea is actually more risky. Well, for me, maybe; but this chapter-by-chapter live-reviewing stuff is far more risky for Chris and Julien. And that’s the kind of risk I prefer!

So, here we go. It’s 7:30 am ET. I’m going to relieve my guilt over not reading this volume sooner by diving right in, and telling you what I think, hourly-ish. For better or for worse. Twitter hashtag: @impacteq.

Woodruff/Mystic. Brogan/Smith. It’s on!

(Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in this book, nor are any links affiliate links)

Part 1: Goals

This chapter has a few main themes:

- We live in a time when we can (and should) build our own channels

- This is not primarily about tech – it’s always about people

- Success comes from the long haul

The acronym CREATE* is used to explain how impact comes about. As it is presented, I see the word “equation” as a misnomer here – it’s more of a recipe.

Good content overall, but too many thoughts are presented – this chapter feels like a pinata of ideas. Like most business books, it feels verbose. Writing style is more informal; idea flow not particularly tight.

* Contrast / Reach / Exposure / Articulation / Trust / Echo  (the first and last terms feel a bit forced)

- (posted at 8:20 am) -

Part 2: Ideas (Contrast)

These section is all about differentiation. In the grab bag of ideas presented, we see the concepts of screening good ideas (out of the pool of bad/mediocre ones); the role of emotion in making an idea interesting/spreadable; the need for bravery to publish ideas that differ; and the role of extrapolation and metaphor (note: I am a huge advocate of using metaphor/analogy in the messaging process).

As a writer/creator, I find myself on familiar ground here – but I wonder if someone who is not a social media content-generator might not find this chapter overwhelming. Most people don’t, I suspect, have a flowing fountain of ideas (or an impetus to crowd-share them as a sifting mechanism). For the ones that are seeking to break new ground in the idea-realm, however, the principles are solid. The writing style, again, is very informal and breezy, with (lots of) (parenthetical) (statements) sprinkled throughout.

The concept of breaking through the human pattern-recognition screen is one of the more valuable take-away images of the chapter.

- (posted at 9:45 am) -

Part 2: Ideas (Articulation)

“Part of learning Articulation is learning which words to choose. Another is learning which words to lose.” That pretty much sums up what you need to know (and it’s great advice).

This chapter starts out well, but then wanders quite a bit about ideas, e-mail marketing, business viability, mind-mapping, and more. Good advice all, but themes are scattered around like disparate blog posts in a RSS feed. Some fierce editing was needed here. Loose links, productivity ideas, etc. – some nice stuff, solid thought-gems, but not finding a real clear flow here.

The snapshot below, however, is great advice:

- (posted at 10:35 am) -

Part 3: Platforms (Reach)

First you need ideas. Then you need a transmitter. That’s Platform. “Platform multiplies power. The vaster and more effective it is, the stronger you become.”

This chapter is  more tightly written. It focuses on the need to continuously build a growing audience (over time), and how on-line tools have enabled this in a unique way. Some good case studies are included, including TED and Dollar Shave Club. Some good stuff on how/when to extract value (e.g., sell stuff and/or gain access) as you grow your Reach. Good emphasis on adding value. Anyone serious about writing a book, or growing an audience for any other purpose (including business networking), should read this. It’s not an exhaustive chapter full of steps, but it is suggestive and contains important perspectives.

- (posted at 12:55 pm) -

OK, I was too optimistic about getting this all done today. Will continue tomorrow…!

It’s tomorrow! —>

Part 3: Platforms (Exposure)

This chapter is very much about using social media for exposure. Don’t expect to see much about other avenues. And, at first, I found myself slightly annoyed that there were a whole lot more questions than answers – lots of generalities. Then I woke up and realized that that’s the point – gaining exposure through social channels is one big experiment, and there is no one-size-fits-all (as there is no one audience, and no single set of expectations). I’ve had to wrestle over the years with all of the same issues – frequency, media/channel types, formatting, length – and, if you’re seriously reaching out to a growing audience, it evolves.

Again, however – this chapter is for people serious about making content and building an audience. And it’s about long-term commitment. I’m completely down with that but it will seem difficult to reach for many people who have a different make-up or professional role. And that’s the challenge that must be addressed – individuals and companies are all becoming broadcast channels, like it or not. It’s time to embrace it and take the right steps.

- (posted at 8:30 am) -

Part 4: Network (Trust)

“Your idea may be genius, and it may be caught immediately imprinted on people’s brains. You may be differentiated from your industry and highly visible. But if you are not trusted, if you are not credible, you are nothing.”

Pulling on the (excellent) work of Maister, Green, and Galford (book: The Trusted Advisor) – this section discusses the Trust Equation. Four elements: Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy, Self-Interest.

This chapter started off with the sound of rockets on the launch pad, then ended with a whimper. It was supposed to be the clarification and capstone of the prior book by this pair, Trust Agents (which I read and recommend). It wasn’t. It was mainly self-evident principles and recycled bromides. Disappointing work. Vuvzelas, Pokemon, and blogging calendars didn’t cut it for me.

Just read the first few pages and skip the rest.

- (posted at 9:50 am) -

Part 4: Network (Echo, Echo)

Be human. Allow people to relate to you. Make a personal connection – reply. Package and own your quirks – you’ll always find a niche of interested sympathizers. Speak their language. Basic stuff. Good reminders, but nothing new here. And it seems to come too much from a place of outsized influence – how someone already influential should try to relate. This chapter seems to float a little bit above everyday life and business. And the section at the end about relating to critics seems out of place.

(end of book) – (posted at 10:30 am) -

My conclusion:

Here’s a great quote from the last chapter: “Distill your message. Whittle it down to the tightest, sharpest thing possible.”

I wholeheartedly agree with the principle, though I did not see it well-embodied in this book!

Make no mistake, there are a lot of good things said here. But instead of a crisp, expertly-guided tour (some authors are masterful at this, moving your mind sequentially and building a step-by-step case), this book felt like a meander in the field with a couple of smart guys. The authors are pointing out a nice vista here, picking up some rock samples there, naming the trees and birds, crossing back over the same areas a few times – a pleasant enough stroll, but not real tight. If you’re looking for research-driven content, this book won’t satisfy; and if you’re brand new to social media, it might be overwhelming. I think for those who are seeing the value of building a platform for influence, and who need a bunch of tips and perspectives based on experience – there’s value here.

Stylistically, the writing is casual and uneven – a given style isn’t necessarily good or bad, but just understand that if you’re into flights of new revelation through tightly-argued logic, this book won’t appeal. On the other hand, those who value the thought-snippets that come from blogging, and want to see them gathered under some type of more ordered framework, may well find this volume to be inspiring and enlightening.

Mystic, it turns out, was more interested in The Milk Bone Equation!

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Related posts on Connection Agent:

>> My Career Fragmentation Story

>> The Seven Shortcuts to Creating Trust

Book Review: Fierce Loyalty

There are any number of books – thousands, really – that will give you advice on how to build a business. But nowadays, that’s not enough. How do you build a community?

That’s the topic Sarah Robinson is addressing in a brief but meaty e-book called Fierce Loyalty. I talk a lot about professional DNA at the individual level – Sarah scales up to examine something equally vital: the DNA of successful communities.

From a summary of the book:

Building and sustaining a fiercely loyal community of clients, customers and raving fans is critical for success in today’s turbulent marketplace. Organizations, both corporate and non-profit, that are thriving have discovered a secret – the underlying DNA shared by all wildly successful communities. Fierce Loyalty unlocks this secret DNA and lays out a clear model that any organization of any size can follow.

Business strategist Sarah Robinson helps you break down the process and gives you clear, specific steps for a fiercely loyal community squarely in the center of your business plan. Drawing on her own extensive experience as well as her research into the inner working of some of the most successful communities around, Sarah de-mystifies the process and gives an actionable model along with real-world case studies and action steps designed to make Fierce Loyal happen in your organization.

This is not a dry, drawn-out business book. It has a more personal and informal tone, and is more suggestive (demonstrating a framework of community-building) than exhaustive (300 pages of mind-numbing research, quotes, examples, and fluff – you know that drill!)

Speaking of practical and down-to-earth, I particularly like this perspective, right up front on page 10: I learned one very important lesson as I took on the challenges of my first job. It’s a lesson that will help you face your own challenges as you build Fierce Loyalty. Once you grasp it, you’ll use it again and again and it will propel you forward no matter what stands in your path. That lesson was and is: make a decision. Every day, decide that a fiercely loyal community is your goal, no matter what.

Sarah outlines the details of fiercely loyal community creation into these 5 building blocks:

  1. A Captivating Common Interest
  2. People Who Share this Common Interest
  3. A Set of Compelling Needs
  4. A Specific Organizational Structure
  5. Advanced Evolution of the Community

I won’t give any more away, but if you need an excerpt to whet your appetite – well, click right here!

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in this book, nor are any links above affiliate links. I do think highly of Sarah and her work, however! And, she did provide me with a free copy of the e-book to review.

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Discovering Your Professional DNA

>> Publishing on a Diet – SlimBooks

How I Manage My Introversion

I’m happy to be an introvert. Maybe I wasn’t always so sanguine about this aspect of my internal wiring – in fact, most of my life, I guess I felt somewhat inferior to my more extroverted earth-dwellers – but not any more!

(What is, and isn’t, introversion? Read this excellent summary post by Lisa Petrilli – also, Lisa’s e-book on the subject is extremely helpful: The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership).

A tendency toward introversion is quite common – anywhere from a third to a half of the population tends toward the “Quiet Side.” While extroverts tend to gain energy from being around other people, introverts recharge through being alone with their thoughts. The introvert is usually not the life of the party, but the person having an earnest one-on-one conversation in the corner (and secretly wishing to be away from the noise and chaos). Extroverts will tend to speak first, and organize their thoughts later; introverts often pause to carefully consider their words.

It’s not easy being an introvert in a world that tends to value extroversion (the theme of a superb book on introversion by Susan CainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking).

So, how have I worked with and worked around this tendency over the years? A few thoughts:

  1. Above all else, the primary step is to embrace it. We can’t change our fundamental wiring, and why should we? A tendency to walk on the quiet side often leads to fountains of creativity, richness of perspective, and relational depth. In Lisa’s book referenced above, she tells the story of how our friendship and professional collaboration blossomed on the foundation of shared introversion. I can remember way back to my high school days feeling an aversion to loud groups and superficial chatter, and wondering what my problem was. Actually, there was no problem. My style is different – and goes deep instead of wide. AND THAT’S A GOOD THING!
  2. Also, I’ve learned to have realistic expectations. I can only take so much people-time before I have to back away, and I now give myself permission to retreat. I have learned to become outgoing and pro-active, but I’ll never feel at home in a loud, crowded schmooze-setting. I’ll always look for the quiet corner and try to find an individual or small group.
  3. I use social media extensively as my relationship-building bridge. I have “pre-met” so many wonderful people using on-line networking, which removes the awkward stage when we finally meet face-to-face. Nowadays, first-time in-real-life meetings are like reunions, because on-line networking has allowed me to get through the first layer of introduction. Lately, I’ve been doing more and more video Skype calls to move past introduction and start getting in-depth with people in ways that could never happen randomly at a party or a conference. I think digital social networking was created for introverts!
  4. I ask a lot of questions. Introverts tend to be better at this. By focusing on the other person and trying to understand, you often can bring a surprisingly amount of value and kindred-ness to a person who drowns in the sea of surrounding superficiality. Sometimes, by playing this very natural role, you can bring surprising levels of comfort and healing and wisdom, even in a brand-new relationship.
  5. I’ve disciplined myself to be outgoing. Not extroverted – outgoing. Introverts can seem (or be) anti-social at times, and I’ve made a lifelong commitment to be pro-active to the point that, now, it’s pretty natural. I still have a hard time making small talk with seatmates on airplane flights, however. My default setting there is to retreat into my own reading and my own thoughts. That’s a tough one!

As with any other tendency, there can be a dark side to introversion. Tendencies to insecurity, analysis-paralysis, or depression. All of these things need to be seen clearly and managed, sometimes with the help of both introverted and extroverted friends. But my main point in all this is to state unequivocally: Introversion is not a curse. It is not a problem. It is not a weakness. Introverts can lead, and can speak effectively in public. It’s actually pretty wonderful to be introvert-ish, noisy parties notwithstanding. And if you see me in a crowded social setting, looking around a bit awkwardly, then pull me off to a corner and let’s talk about it…!

For further reading (and aren’t these a couple of beautiful introvert-authors?):

(affiliate links to these books on Amazon: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking | The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership).

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Following Your Passion: A Story

>> In Six Words, Some of the Best Business Advice Ever

A Case of Simple

A while back, one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Drew McLellan, asked me (and others) if we’d be interested in receiving some newly-designed cases, custom-designed for smartphones, tablets, and ultralight laptops (like Macbook Air).

No cost. No obligation. No financial anything (there’s my disclaimer – OK?).

Well, I’ve been playing with these cases from a company called Casesmpl (casesimple.com), and I’m pretty impressed. They come in several sizes, in ballistic nylon and leatherette versions (Henry Ford would be proud – you can have them in any color, as long as it’s black!). They’re manufactured here in the United States (Chicago, in fact).

What’s especially cool about the design is that you can carry your primary digital communications device, plus other stuff, in one handy package with a (removable) divider. These puppies are roomy and flexible, while still being relatively compact. The fact that there is one which is iPhone-sized is a great plus – put your smartphone and a smaller moleskin in there, and you’re good to go.

Worth a look, folks, if you’re interested in this kind of handy accessory!

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Interview: Becky Carroll on Rockin’ Customer Service

If you don’t yet know Becky Carroll, you definitely should. She is one of the first bloggers I discovered 4-5 years ago in the marketing/social media space, and her Customers Rock! blog is well-known as a destination for all things customer service.

She’s also a really nice gal. We’ve collaborated on projects, spoken at an event together – I even had lunch with Becky and her family while staring at the Pacific Ocean in southern California (where she resides).

Becky’s just-released book, The Hidden Power of Customers, is a guidebook for any business that wants to put customers – especially existing customers – front-and-center in their business growth plan. And that should be – well, EVERY business.

Pardon the minor hiccup in 2/3 of the way through the interview when we had a connectivity blip. You’ll see a rather abrupt lighting change…!

Be sure to pick up a copy of Becky’s book today! (note: not an affiliate link. I have no financial interest in sales of this book).

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