It’s been a while since life and work have offered up the type of pattern that has prompted me to write a blog, but this last month there has been a theme in a number of areas of my life that I wanted to share with you.

Extrovert IntrovertIt has come to my attention that society from schooling through to adult working life has fallen into a trap of thinking that there are those who are naturally confident and loud and those that “need to be fixed”. Let me give you a couple of examples and then offer my thoughts on this.

Management Team Training

A coaching client has been struggling recently due to their work being insistent on “bringing the management team together” via a series of away days and training sessions which all include ice-breakers and team games. The client in question is an introvert. They are not shy but their nature is such that the performing, acting and general silliness of some of these activities makes them wish to be anywhere else. To the point that they feel so uncomfortable they at times question their entire job. They have been made to feel that their unwillingness to jump around with a post-it note on their head pretending to be a wild animal means they need to “come out of their shell” and are not actively supporting the business. Yet this person is a confident, intelligent and valuable part of their management team so why are the company getting it so wrong?

Parents Evening

Year in year out we dutifully go along to Parents Evening to be told my, now 9 year old, son is “too quiet” and that they are working on techniques to make him more confident and loud and be one of the children jumping out of their seats to be chosen to give an answer or volunteer to take part in a performance. My son is not this type of child, and in the same way his Dad and I were also not this type of child, he never will be. He is confident in comfortable surroundings, at ease talking to new people quietly, has lots of friends and does very well academically, yet the school have lead him to believe that he is a problem and needs to be fixed. A great confidence boost, hey?!

So given that we are all of different nature and teams work best when there is a blend of personality types, why is it still being drummed into both adults and children that those who are quiet by nature need help / training / guidance in order to try and be something they’re not? Why are we not happy to shape our classrooms and workplaces so that we recognise and benefit from the different types of people, and so that people are encouraged to be the best they can be without having to all work towards some kind of idyllic extrovert type?

I am an Introvert

Introvert tshirtEven for someone who is confident and happy to be an introvert I still sense the connotations surrounding this word leaving some thinking that I am perhaps shy and awkward and unsocial. Whereas an extrovert may be seen to be loud, confident, successful. We are even getting it wrong right at the very start. For the record, an extrovert is someone who thrives on social situations and strong stimulation whereas an introvert requires time alone to recharge and avoid feeling drained.

According to the excellent book “Quiet” by Susan Cain, other attributes of Introverts may include:

  • A preference for one on one conversations rather than group activities
  • An enjoyment of work that allows time to dive in with few interruptions
  • A dislike of discussing or showing work to others until it’s finished
  • Good listening skills and an ability to think before they speak
  • A preference for lectures rather than seminars
  • Ability to easily concentrate and an aversion to taking big risks

In life, and in business these are not attributes to be frowned upon, rather recognised and understood. As a good manager, you will not be working to give all of your team the same skills and personality. Instead you will be listening and working with the team members to understand how best they like to work and forming your team outputs around the skills and personalities of the people you have. As I have discussed in previous blogs, being a good manager is not easy!

And if we are to get it right at management level to ensure our individuals and teams are thriving then we need to go right back to the classroom and start getting it right with our kids too. Enhance the traits they have. Offer a blend of stimulation and quiet time to engage all types of children, and ensure that while behaviour and educational skills are things to be shaped and taught, no child is left feeling that their natural personality type leaves them needing to “be fixed”.



May 16, 2014

This week I have introduced you to the 13 Guideposts strategy used by Consumer Intelligence to set out their way of working and shared with you some of the activity behind this through the eyes of their Head of Talent Jane Ginnever. Today in Part 3 of this blog I look at what they’ve achieved, […]

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May 15, 2014

In Part 1 on this series of 3 blogs on Flexible Working, I introduced you to the 13 Guideposts at a Bristol business that shape their way of working. Last week I was invited to interview Jane Ginnever, the Head of Talent at Consumer Intelligence and I share with you here some of the main […]

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May 13, 2014

As clients and regular readers of my blog will know, I am a big fan of working opportunities that allow for a more flexible, people-friendly way of working, while still achieving results. I have spoken before about my belief that there should be more consideration of part-time as an option, and a need to look […]

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March 11, 2014

It’s a simple statement isn’t it? “Say what you mean”. After all what else would you say? Why would you intentionally say something different to what you mean? That takes effort to engineer and the person hearing it might misunderstand. In fact if the person listening is employing a simple approach they will take what […]

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February 25, 2014

However much you try to remove yourself from stress in your life, the chances are that at times it will find you. We live in a world of deadlines and promises and an increasing pressure to provide products and services quicker, at higher quality and lower cost. In the world of work there is pressure […]

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January 23, 2014

Those of you who know me or who follow me on Twitter will notice that I am becoming increasingly aware of, and interested in, a lifestyle that can be summed up as “Quality not Quantity”. Not with goods. I am a rare shopper and not a fan of clutter & stuff. But in time, relationships, […]

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January 3, 2014

One of my current clients owns, among other businesses, a property lettings company in Bristol. Over the period of bad weather the phone in the office has been constantly ringing with tenants requiring emergency support to leaks or failing boilers and I’ve been impressed by the turnaround of the business in getting plumbers / roofers […]

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October 22, 2013

I’ve always been a strong believer in two things:- There is no such thing as the perfect job, relationship, house, child, life…those that are happy are the ones who are able to see the good in the situation they are in. If a job, relationship, house, child, life is making you miserable more than 50% […]

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October 8, 2013

PROACTIVE – Forward thinking, planning in advance, preparation. REACTIVE – Acting after the event, action prompted by specific activity, working with facts. The words have come up a number of times recently in my work and home life and as such I ask, “Is one better than the other?”  “Are people naturally one or the […]

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