Updated: May 9
Introverts are Leaders Too! Critical Turning Point - Wrong Turn
In the early 2000s, I was leading an amazing team at Shell. One of those teams a manager dreams of but rarely, if ever, might have the fortune to be part of in a career. Each team member was skilled at their specialty - marketing, trading, operations, analytics. But even more importantly, we were a team. Everyone communicated and supported each other selflessly. That is rare indeed!
Perhaps this culture developed from the team's auspicious beginnings. The business was struggling in its infancy to make lofty financial targets. However, soon the team bonded, learned from mistakes, and gained confidence. We became more than a work group but family. We spent time together after work. We celebrated successes with dinners and themed parties as a team and with spouses and kids. We eclipsed our targets and began to shake up the industry. We had become a premiere destination for staff across our trading organization. Yet we recognized at one team holiday party that all good things eventually do come to an end.
That "end" occurred in 2004. One of our most talented and beloved team members was charged by a third party company of unscrupulous business dealings - specifically not trading with that particular company. After a thorough investigation by our Compliance Department, our trader was cleared of all allegations. However, during the investigation they found that he had accepted some free baseball tickets from a vendor and another "minor" email infraction. These activities were certainly neither heinous nor uncommon across Shell or the industry. However, in the aftermath of Enron and other energy giant scandals, it appeared an example was to be made by Shell's Compliance group.
So in rather short order, our teammate was fired and the team was dismantled. One team member was transferred to our Singapore office, another to Rotterdam, and I myself was salvaged with a move to London. Everyone found a landing spot, but the team...the family, was destroyed forever. And during the process it appeared our newest team member saw this as an opportunity to undermine the team which he had struggled to integrate into. Honestly, I can't even remember what this guy may have done. Yet myself and team members became suspicious of his allegiance and his true aspirations. He became our Voldemort.
As I settled my family into London, I reflected on my deep anger directed at the new teammate who appeared to aid the investigation. I was also frustrated with Shell who made such a life-altering choice in the blink of any eye. It was personal.
It would take fifteen years before I would realize that the blame for the demise of my team lay squarely on my shoulders. It was my responsibility to ensure each team member understood the rules and abided by them. It was Shell's "license to operate" and my team's as well. How could I fault a teammate who may have supported a corporate investigation rather than jeopardize his own standing? My sense of right and wrong had been compromised by the team camaraderie and my own self-preservation.
After that time I struggled through many leadership roles. I was still working with some very talented people, but the rapport that had oozed from that team in the early 2000s was never replicated. I tried it in London but we never quite struck the right chord. Because the team culture was not as tight knit, my own nervousness in corporate pressure-packed and social situations resurrected my own addictive behaviors. I tried to squelch my trepidation through drinking and overeating, both of which only exacerbated my problems. My attempts to build bridges through company-sponsored drinking actually boomeranged, distancing me from some and possibly contributing to my early repatriation.
And upon return to the States, I discovered I was actually fearful of crossing any line between work and personal. Hosting team parties and especially drinking after hours with teammates seemed to push both lines. So, I maintained a very professional and stoic approach in order to avoid violating any compliance rules and to avoid repeating my dangerous alcoholic binges which had found me aimlessly wandering the East End of London and blacking out alone in Singapore.
Our teams worked hard but never quite became family...or at least I never became part of the family. I was now much more removed from others - unable to rely on alcohol as a tranquilizer and too afraid to put myself out there to build rapport through open, revealing conversation. I was fearful I could not discern the line so I avoided it altogether.
In the latter part of my career, as I learned about my own introversion, I realized I'd tried to cope throughout my career by reverting to an inherent pattern of addictive behaviors (see my recent post Age Eleven: Addict ).
Only in my last role before retirement was I able to deal with my own introversion in more constructive ways and bond with the team through more conventional means - support, care, mentoring. Fortunately, my leader recognized my introversion (perhaps more than I did at the time) and understood the support I needed in order to function best and contribute to the team in a healthy way.
Yet I had wasted 15 years blaming others for my own leadership mistakes and distancing myself from my teams due to compliance fears and my struggles to reconcile with my own introversion. Sometimes, hard fought lessons come too late.
I offer these points of advice for today's introverted leaders
Know all the rules and ensure you and your team follow them always
Know your own strengths - for introverts that often includes empathy, small group discussions, less small talk and more substantive sharing
Focus on team rapport first, strategy and customers second and third
Take risk to be open and authentic
Find healthy ways to cope with discomfort
Stretch out of your comfort zone with moderation
Block out time on your calendar for self-reflection
Look Inward- as the team leader, learn, own, correct, and move on
Recognize you can't please all the people - remain humble yet confident
If these steps appear overwhelming or aren't welcome in your organization, perhaps it's time to find a new job, group, or company
Our Day: saluting a nationally recognized day that celebrates an aspect important to us introverts. September is Better Breakfast Month!
INTROVERTLink: a weekly link to insightful news and views for Introverts. This week's link shares a 10 Pains Of Being An Introvert At Work That No One Seems To Understand.
Climbing KILI: an update on my journey with my daughter in preparing to climb Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, in 2020 =THIRD WEEK OF THE MONTH=
Aspects in Art: an introvert’s perspective on a new piece of inspirational art each month. THIS MONTH'S IS MY FAVORITE COLLAGE...THE TRAVELER!
September is BETTER BREAKFAST MONTH!
Breakfast! How would we start our day without it? Did you know that over a hundred years ago (1917) Good Health Magazine first declared breakfast was the most important meal of the day? Furthermore, in 2013 a study determined that men who skipped breakfast were 25% more likely to suffer coronary heart disease.
I too grew up on breakfast. I was never a milk fan so I rarely indulged in cereals during school days. But I managed to (happily) grabbed a chocolate pop tart (or two) most days. However, on Sundays my dad always mixed up a scrumptious breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes or corned beef hash or scratch biscuits or occasionally matzah brei, a traditional Jewish breakfast of matzah crackers softened in boiling water and smothered with eggs before heating on a griddle. Sausage, (non-traditionally Jewish) bacon, and other accouterments filled out the plate. Dad would always come to the stairs to holler "Come and get it or I'll eat it myself" to draw the crew out of bed for breakfast around 9am.
I've proudly maintained the tradition for years.
What's on your favorite breakfast?
by Iylia Aziz / Vulcan Post
Feature Image Credit: staywithhappiness.com
I wish I'd seen this list years ago. This week's INTROVERTLink aptly describes many of the challenges we introverts have in the workplace. Just recognizing our own nature as introversion allows us to then discover what works for us and what pushes our buttons. Only then can we begin to break out of our bubble and foster supportive and more comfortable environments.
ASPECTS IN ART: The Traveler
I hope this added content provides you with some insights, inspiration, and perhaps a chuckle too! If you enjoyed...please SHARE!
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WEDNESDAY BLOG THEMES EACH MONTH
1st LEISURE LEARNING - 2nd INTROVERTS ARE LEADERS TOO!
3rd HAPPY & HEALTHY - 4th WRITE ON, DUDE!
5th GUEST BLOGGER!
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