The Journey to #SHRM18: An Interview with Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D.


Our journey to the 2018 Annual SHRM Conference and Exposition continues in a truly exciting way! I’m thrilled to share with you another interview with an inspirational speaker that will be providing those in attendance with wisdom and insights on how we can focus our efforts to be impactful business leaders within our organizations. Again, I believe great HR starts with great leadership.

Full disclosure; I am an introvert. This has been one of the challenges I’ve personally worked on throughout my own ongoing journey towards effective leadership. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in this work is that it’s important for me to embrace my own personal strengths, and to leverage those strengths to establish my own personal style of leadership. Where I once thought being a naturally shy person was a barrier to becoming a capable business leader, instead I’ve found there’s incredible opportunity to provide genuine and impactful leadership to the people I’m serving. When I saw there was a session dedicated to helping introverts build upon their strengths to serve others and build influence, I instantly knew I wanted to interview the speaker that would be sharing her insights in this key area. In our work as HR professionals, it’s essential for all of us to leverage our own strengths to deliver for the people we’re serving across the globe.

Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D. is a globally recognized speaker and bestselling author known as the “Champion of Introverts.” I am absolutely ecstatic to attend Jennifer’s upcoming Mega Session in Chicago entitled The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, taking place Tuesday, June 19th at 7:00 AM - 8:15 AM. Here’s a quick preview of her session, courtesy of the SHRM 18 website:

In our extroverted business culture, it is easy for introverts to feel excluded, overlooked, or misunderstood. Did you know that introverts often make the best leaders? This session will draw upon stories and research to demonstrate how introverts succeed as leaders by building on their strengths, not by changing who they are. You will learn about the common challenges introverts face at work, such as people exhaustion and perception gaps, as well as a straightforward four-step process to master typical work situations such as coaching, managing up, public speaking and much more.

Here's awesome news; you don’t have to wait until Chicago to experience Jennifer’s wisdom and insights! Jennifer was so kind and gracious to answer a few questions to share with all of you, which you can read below:

If you could identify one of the most significant personal or professional challenges introverts face with regards to leadership, what would it be?

In a survey of 100 introverts done by my company, more than 90 percent said they suffered from “people exhaustion.” In working with thousands of introverts, I’ve seen a constant stream of data confirming this finding. It isn’t that introverts don’t like or can’t be with people. In fact, they enjoy people. But it’s a matter of degree. Their reserves of “outward” energy tend to get depleted more quickly in high-volume interactions. This is different from extroverts, who often report being depleted and fatigued when they don’t experience enough people time.

The “people time” threshold is different for everyone, but being outgoing, conversational, and highly engaged can be stressful for introverts. Part of a leader’s role is to connect with people, and without awareness and tools to manage their energy, introverts can become exhausted.

Fatigue, even a sense of dread, can set in before meetings and networking events. One introverted manager, tongue in cheek, said, “I would rather stay home with a bad book that I have already read than face one of those awful cocktail receptions.”

What approach do you use to help someone identify their own personal style of leadership?

I like the MBTI as an assessment to start off with. I also ask them to look at preferences in how they communicate and work with people, using a list of behaviors. For instance, "Are you energized by solitude or by other people?" Do you prefer writing or talking? or "Do you like small group or large group interaction?" We also talk about role models and mentors they admire to help us shape their leadership persona.

Can you tell us how your experience as a learning and development professional helped you gain an appreciation for introverts?

I found that when I was training and coaching in organizations, introverts tended to be reflective and thoughtful and not share their first responses. I had to learn creative ways to engage quieter people in classes. Knowing about introverts was also very helpful in designing courses to include many different types of activities.

The turning point came for me when a quiet engineer was taking one of my leadership classes. He said that he looked around in the company and didn't see people that acted like he did (introverted) so he was giving up on the idea of being a manager. I did my best to try and convince him that he had what it took to be an incredible leader, but I don’t think he was convinced. That is when I decided to write my book, The Introverted Leader: Building On Your Quiet Strength.

What are some of the most effective strategies you've discovered to help introverts break through their obstacles to leadership?

The 4 P’s Process is an easy-to-remember road map that builds on research done with thousands of introverted leaders. The 4 steps are preparation, presence, push, and practice and can apply to almost any leadership scenario. Preparation is the first step and plays to the introverted leader’s sweet spot by doing what comes naturally. Presence, the second step, refers to being present in a way that allows you to be with people. You are not thinking of what you could have done differently or worrying about the future outcome. Push, the third step, puts you out of your comfort zone, and Practice, the fourth step, helps you to seize opportunities to practice new behaviors.

If you could identify one key takeaway from your upcoming session for attendees, what would it be?

Introverts are leaders and they are most impactful when they stop trying to be extroverts and build on their natural strengths. 

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I’m humbled and grateful for the time Jennifer took to share her wisdom with all of us. You can also purchase Jennifer’s new book, The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, via Amazon. Feel free to grab a seat next to me front row in Chicago for Jennifer’s Mega Session! See you there!

This post originally appeared on the Create: Life and Leadership by Design blog.



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