Extroverts Have a Lot to Learn from Introvert Leaders

It’s a common assumption that extroverts are better suited for leadership roles.  Their ability to connect with people, high degree of empathy, and intuitiveness certainly do give them an edge when it comes to motivating and leading others.

But it’s plainly false to presume that introverts are any less effective at taking on management or leadership roles. Just look at renowned introvert leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, and Bill Gates.  In my experience, I’ve seen many an introvert take on and flourish in management roles.  What introverts lack in natural ability to connect with their staff, they make up for in awe-inspiring expertise and a concerted effort to learn how to properly lead teams.

Image graciously borrowed from Fast Company http://goo.gl/bSa4sZ

Image graciously borrowed from Fast Company http://goo.gl/bSa4sZ

So what is it about an introvert that helps them succeed in leadership and what can we extroverts learn from them to build our own leadership abilities? Full disclosure, on an extroversion scale of 1 to 10, I’m an 11.

Introverts tend to be deeply self-aware.  Introverts are more cognizant of their personalities and how they come across to others.  They know what they know and are accepting of what it is they need to learn to succeed at something.

Introverts recognize their weaknesses.  Introverts are much better than extroverts at owning their weaknesses and will work hard to develop the knowledge and skills they need to excel at what they’re doing.

Introverts follow the playbook.  Introverts are more apt to follow the training they receive, the rules and processes a company develops, and the coaching they get from HR.

Introverts inspire others through their deep technical expertise.  How many times have you heard employees complain about a manager who is “clueless” or doesn’t know what he or she is talking about?  Employees need to believe that their leaders know their subject areas.

Introverts aren’t egocentric.  Introverts tend to be much better at checking their egos and accepting what they don’t know.  They also tend to be more open to learning and self-improvement.

Introverts seek help.  Introverts, being rather self-aware, are more apt to seek the counsel of people who are experts in areas where they lack information or knowledge.

To me, that final point is the most important.  I’ve been in HR for 10 years and I’ve coached and trained more managers than I count.  More often than not, it’s the introverted manager who comes back to you for additional coaching or to work out a particular employee situation.

I recognize I’m doing a lot of generalizing in this post and not every introvert is management material, any more than every extrovert is.  The point is that there are natural strengths that come along with being an introvert – and for us extroverts – we definitely have something to learn from them.

On With His Head! Employee Action Saves the CEO

If you live outside of New England, you’ve probably never heard of Market Basket. But last week, something amazing happened in this family-owned regional supermarket chain with stores throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  In a way, they had a reverse “Arab Spring”, okay, well maybe not that significant, but you get what I mean – employees used social media to band together, engage their customers and communities, and save their CEO from the corporate guillotine.

Save Market Basket Facebook Page with nearly 12,500 likes

Save Market Basket Facebook Page with nearly 12,500 likes

After employees got word that several board members were proposing the ouster of CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, they took to social media in outrage at the thought.  They started an online petition which has reached almost 45,000 signatures, the Twitter hashtag #SaveArthurT, and a Facebook page that has grown to nearly 12,500 likes.  They used Facebook to organize rallies at stores throughout the region and they’ve attracted significant attention from the media and support from politicians, like US Rep Niki Tsongas (D-MA). For now anyway, their approach seems to have worked.  The board has made no further moves to remove Demoulas from his position.

What is it that caused employees to raise their pricing guns and dust mops in protest?  Was it a deep love for the CEO who grew up in this business?  Was it fear of losing their jobs?  Was it the ugly gray and maroon deli smocks?  No!  It was a business decision. 

Market Basket used their "Specials" board to thank their customers and employees

Market Basket used their “Specials” board to thank their customers and employees

You see, while competitors focused on replacing staff with self-checkouts, tracking purchases through key-chain cards, and raising prices, Market Basket has been experiencing unprecedented growth by building new stores, keeping customer costs low, and focusing on customer service.  Taken aback that the board would even consider removing Demoulas, after so much success under his leadership, employees stood up against a potential business decision that they believe will take the company in the wrong direction, resulting in higher costs for consumers.

As an HR guy, these are my favorite takeaways from this story:

  • Talk about engagement!  One of the most surprising parts of this story is the extent to which these employees went to have their voices heard within this company.
  • Employees instinctively want what’s best for the business!  The actions taken by Market Basket’s employees were fueled by their beliefs about how to operate the business and satisfy their customers, not how much they stood to personally gain.
  • Social media strikes again!  Once again, social media demonstrates that you can’t keep it out of the workplace.  Resistance is futile!

What would you do if your employees took this approach to raising opposition to a change in your organization?

Leadership Lessons from Hillary Clinton

I’m in Chicago attending the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference.  Recently former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to an audience of roughly 15,000 HR professionals about the ties between the field of HR and the ability for our nation to succeed.  She talked about investing in education and training of workers, and drew parallels between the skills needed for international diplomacy and the diplomacy needed to be successful in HR.  TFH

Clinton also outlined 5 lessons she’s learned, the hard way, from her various roles and responsibilities:

  1. Good decisions are based on evidence, not ideology.  This speaks to the importance of data.  Whether you’re trying to convince your CEO to invest money in a certain program or you’re trying to pass a law that could change the world – evidence, data, research is key to no only making a good decision, but to convincing others that the decision is the right course of action to take.
  2. Leadership is a team sport.  No one leader has ever been successful without inspiring others to work with and help him/her implement their vision.  She referred to the transition of her relationship, with President Obama, post 2008 election, as moving from a team of rivals to an unrivaled team.  An effective leader is not afraid to bring other opinions, even contrary ones, into the conversation and to integrate the best ideas, no matter who came up with them.
  3. You can’t win if you don’t show up.  Clinton used an example of traveling to the tiny African nation of Togo in her role as secretary of state to back up this example.  While Togo may be tiny, Togo holds a rotating seat on the UN Security Council.  Being there, listening to Togo’s concerns, looking their leaders in eye and making those personal connections can help influence Togo’s decisions moving forward.  In HR, we need to be in the “room”, build relationships with leaders in other functions and with employees, and get out from behind our computers.
  4. A whisper can be louder than shout.  Making demands, yelling, screaming, and threatening hardly ever delivers the results you’d want.  Speaking to others calmly and rationally, listening, I mean really listening, to what people are saying, and being empathetic can create much better results.
  5. Follow the trendlines, not the headlines.  Another call for data and research.  Look for trends in your data to help decide what to do next.  Don’t be persuaded by national headlines or popular opinion if it’s contrary to what data is telling you.  Sometimes we have to make unpopular decisions.  If we’re using analysis that identifies trends, rather than whimsy, it will be easier to convince others that our decisions were necessary.

Regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, this talk was one worth listening to.  Her experience as a First Lady, a Senator, and as Secretary of State have taught Mrs. Clinton many important lessons on leadership and I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to learn a little from her.

How to Ruin Your Reputation in Human Resources

Human Resources (HR) is a field that I love. I chose to pursue a career path in HR because I found the function to be the intersection between being able to help people and growing a business, two things that I am passionate about.

But HR doesn’t always have a good reputation.  When I tell people I’m in HR, I’m greeted by story after story of ineffectual, mistrustful, and useless HR people.  It’s always disturbing to me to hear these HR horror stories about HR people ruining the reputation of my chosen field.

If you’d like to ruin your reputation in HR, follow these easy steps:

Be old school.  The field has changed maybe more than any other business function over the last few decades.  You can ruin your reputation by embracing the ways of the old “personnel department”, focusing on files and paperwork and forgetting about being an advocate for employees and management.

Act like a “Hall Monitor”.  Put on your HR police badge and start roaming the halls looking for evil doers. Discipline people for coming in late, taking a lunch that went a little too long, and checking their Facebook page.  Two demerits for them!

Ignore the business.  Hey, you’re in HR – you don’t need to know anything about how the business runs, the customers, the market, or other business functions like Finance and IT.  You just stay in your office processing payroll and filing your I-9s.

Be a corporate spy.  Watch your employees like a hawk and report to management on every move they make.  Don’t ever try to coach an employee through an issue – just go and tattle on them to their boss.This will go a long way in ensuring that you never have positive relationships with employees.

Plug your ears.  Don’t listen to people.  Just toe the corporate line and show no empathy to employees.  They’re just employees – it doesn’t matter what they have to say, right?

Keep your mouth shut. You weren’t hired to advise management as to how to have effective relationships with people, motivate their workforce, and improve their performance.  Never speak up to senior leadership about what you think is right.

Stay in your office all day. Never socialize with employees.  Show no interest in their careers, development, or comfort in the office.

And the list goes on…what other advice do you have for HR professionals on how they can ruin their reputation?  I’m sure you have an HR horror story…let’s hear it!

 

This post originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog.

4 Ways to Use Your Annual Review to Build Your Brand

At this time of year, many companies are undergoing their annual performance review processes. While the value of performance reviews, as we’ve come to know them, can be debated, a review presents the perfect opportunity for you to enhance your brand with your boss, and with the company.

Dress Up – I used to manage someone who always dressed up for his performance reviews.  At first I thought it was funny, and said to him “you don’t need to dress up for this!”  He replied that he really valued his review and felt it was a good time to put his best foot forward. Dressing up is a great way to show your boss that you take the meeting seriously and value the time.

Be Open to Feedback – Go in to your review expecting that your boss has some constructive feedback for you. Don’t be defensive and start making excuses for things you need to work on. Even if you don’t agree, it won’t do your reputation any good to get into a debate.

Share Your Goals – Your annual review is a perfect opportunity for you to think and talk bigger picture. Let your boss know how you would like to grow over the next year. Maybe there are special projects you’d like to get involved with, take this chance to show your boss that you’re thinking about the future and how you can make a bigger impact at the company.

Give Thanks – Show appreciation to your boss for taking the time to have this kind of meeting with you.  Good bosses put a lot of effort into reviews – writing comments, ratings, and preparing for the conversation. Giving thanks will show your boss that you value their opinion and appreciate their time.

In the fast-paced world at which we all move, the opportunity to have a dedicated discussion with our boss about our own performance is rare. Take advantage of this opportunity, put your best foot forward and build that brand of yours!

What other ideas do readers have to improve their brand during their performance review?

This post originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog

Building Your Brand While Working Remotely

As the footprint of companies spreads geographically, today, more and more workers are working remotely, rather than in a corporate office.  While telecommuting can bring benefits, like flexible work hours, it can also prove challenging when it comes to building your personal brand internally at your company.

So how can remote workers enhance their brand?

  • Visit headquarters as much as possible.  Take advantage of opportunities to travel to corporate for meetings or training. Encourage your boss to advocate for this type of travel. When it comes down to it – positive face-to-face interactions are your number one way to build your brand. When visiting headquarters – do your best to make connections. Grab lunch with the head of marketing, or drinks after work with a VP of some sort.
  • Shine at company gatherings. Even for remote employees, there are typically some opportunities for in-person interactions. Whether it be a regional sales meeting or representing your company at a trade show with other employees. Use these opportunities to socialize and build connections.
  • Pick up the phone.  Don’t just send e-mails all the time. It can be difficult to build your network through e-mail alone. Instead of always sending e-mails, call people on the phone – and encourage people to call you.
  • Video conference.  Again, there’s nothing like looking someone in the eye when building solid connection. Better than a phone call – use tools like FaceTime or Skype to have video conferences instead.
  • Be active in company-driven social media. If your company is using social media tools like LinkedIn groups or Twitter to build their brand, see how you can get involved by participating. If your company is using internal social media tools like wikis, blogs, or Yammer – put yourself out there by sharing market or trend information.

While being a remote worker makes it a bit more challenging to build your brand within your company, it’s not a possible endeavor.  If you are, or have been, a remote worker – what are some of the strategies you’ve employed to build your reputation with your organization?

This post originally appeared on Personal Branding Blog.

5 Considerations Before Accepting the Job (Besides Salary!)

When deciding whether or not to accept a job offer, it’s important to look at more than just dollars and cents. Money is important, and we all obviously want as much as possible, but a job can and should bring with it many other benefits that matter to us, sometimes, more than money.

If you’ve received a job offer, make sure to take the following in to consideration:

  1. Traditional Benefits – What typical benefits come along with the position?  Do they offer health, dental and vision insurance? How about disability and life insurance?  401(K) or other retirement savings program? Look deeper than just whether they offer something or not.  Sure, they offer health insurance – but how much does it cost you?  Is there a high deductible? What are the co-pays?  Great they have a 401(K) – but do they contribute to it?
  2. Work/Life Balance – Does the company offer flexible hours?  Does the culture of the organization recognize the needs of working parents? Are there options to telecommute from time to time? Finding a flexible work environment can be one of the greatest non-financial benefits that exists.  A company that provides flexible hours and generous time off programs, tends to trust employees and respect that they have lives outside of the office.
  3. Culture – What is the culture of the office look like? Does it seem like co-workers like each other?  What’s the general aura of the office – upbeat or heads-down? It’s important to find a company culture that suits your personality, skills, and career goals.
  4. Perks – What perks does the company offer?  Many company offer lots of perks like free parking, fitness facilities, discounts at retailers, onsite cafeteria, etc.  While they may seem minor, company perks can have a positive impact on your quality of life.
  5. Room for Growth – Does the job and/or the company offer you the opportunity to grow professionally?  Is there a culture of promoting from within?  Does the company invest in training or tuition reimbursement?  If you find a company that is willing to invest in you – you will be able to grow your career – and your salary!

Deciding whether or not to take a job offer is a big decision, one that should not be made lightly. But salary isn’t the only thing to consider. Make sure to look at the total picture before you sign on the dotted line.

What other aspects of a job offer should be considered before accepting?

This post originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog

No Matter the Job, You Can Build Your Brand

Some people have a tendency by some to look down upon more entry-level jobs; jobs like retail, food service, cleaning or landscaping. Most of us have held these types of jobs at some point in our careers. While these jobs are not renowned for being high paying resume builders – they do pose an opportunity for those in these jobs to build their brands.

A couple of examples…

Almost daily, I grab lunch at the Whole Foods Market near my office. Every time I go in, there’s a gentleman who bags groceries and collects the carts in the parking lot. He is always smiling, laughing and having fun with the kids who come through; joking around with them or giving them little treats. This guy obviously loves his job and many of the shoppers greet him by name. Many of the kids go looking for him specifically. While one could argue that a job bagging groceries lacks challenge and earning potential, this gentleman makes the best of it.  He shows people he interacts with that he is passionate about what he does, is great with customers, and has fun at work.

The next example is that of a landscaper I’ve hired. He’s a young guy trying to build his own business. While mowing lawns may seem like a basic service, it’s the little touches he adds that draw people to his service. He has a perfectionist mentality with a very keen attention to detail. His finished product is impeccable, so much so that neighbors stop by the house to find out who this guy is! Through his hard work, focus, and attention to detail he’s building a reputation as the kind of person you want to hire.

Regardless of the job you may be in right now, make the best of it. Through positive interactions that leave your customers impressed you will be able to build your brand, and who knows what opportunities that can lead to.

 

This post originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog.

Job Search Tips for International Students

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According to the Institute of International Education (www.iie.org), there were almost 725,000 international students studying in the United States in 2011, a 32 percent increase compared to a decade ago.  While it can be relatively easy for international student to find a school to attend in the U.S., getting a job here is a very different story.

Each year, the U.S. government sets a cap on the number of H1-B visas it issues, the most recent cap for the 2013 fiscal year (FY) was 85,000 (65,000 regular, 20,000 advanced degree); and every year the limit is reached rather quickly, after opening the process April 1, the FY 2013 cap  was reached in early June.

Besides the limited amount of visas, international students wanting to stay and work in the U.S. face other barriers – most difficult is finding companies that are open to hiring foreign workers, given the convoluted process and additional expenses involved.

What can an international student seeking employment in the U.S. do to improve his or her chances of finding a job here?

  1. Be open about your visa status upon getting an interview opportunity.  You shouldn’t include your visa status on your resume.  The best time in the process to bring it up is when you get the chance to actually talk to someone – so either during a phone screen or face-to-face interview.
  2. Target companies with the reputation for hiring H1-Bs.  The website MyVisaJobs.com (www.myvisajobs.com) is a great resource for finding companies that hire H1-Bs.
  3. Target global or multi-national companies.  Companies with an international footprint are going to have more experience and openness to hiring foreign workers.
  4. Target global or multi-national companies that are headquartered in your home country.  The opportunity to work for the U.S. operations of a company based in your home nation can create excellent career paths for you should you want to transfer home.
  5. Pay for application and legal fees. If you can afford the fees involved in the H1-B visa application process, let potential employers know that you are willing and able to pay part or all of the fees.  This will make companies with less financial resources, or less experience with this process, more willing to hire an H1-B.
  6. Use Career Services.  Make your university’s career services department your new best friend.  These folks are best-positioned to help you with your job search.  They know which companies are willing to hire H1-Bs and can often connect you directly with recruiters.

Finding a job in the U.S. is not the easiest thing to do, but it’s absolutely doable.  If you target your search and utilize resources like Career Services, you’ll greatly improve your chances of finding a job here.  Good luck!

 

This post originally appeared on Personal Branding Blog.

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