Calling All Leaders: Learn To Touch Type

I’m not someone who likes to give productivity tips to others. I strongly believe that each of us is different and has a unique way how to get things done. What works for one person may not work for another one. There is though one productivity tip that I feel deserves some attention. It is something that is being largely ignored by education system in most professions and countries and is totally ignored by companies. The ability of knowledge workers to “touch type”. Just look around you. How many of your colleagues can type on a computer using all ten fingers without looking at the keyboard or the screen to verify what they are typing?

Why it matters?

This is one of the skills that always gave me an edge in my professional life, the ability to type while “being present”. Just imagine a typical situation. You sit on a meeting with several of your colleagues and you discuss the next steps on your project. You are not particularly fast when typing on computer so you usually bring a notepad and pen with the idea to transfer your notes to electronic form after the meeting. Or you are a bit better so you actually bring your laptop but because you need to shift your attention to your keyboard when making notes you miss half of the discussion.

What difference would it make if you could make your notes on your laptop automatically without thinking while you still follow the discussion? In professionally run meetings you can expect that there is someone who will take the notes and share them after the meeting, but let’s face it, that is not always the case and especially if you are not the one who organizes the meeting you have very little control over whether the notes will be taken. Unless you volunteer. And I guess you will volunteer only if you are comfortable enough to take the task. The ability to type can help a lot to get that comfort level.

And the same goes to writing emails, presentations or proposals. Instead of focusing on “how” you write it you would be able to focus on “what” you are writing. Do you drive? Are you using a car with manual transmission? And do you still remember your first attempts when you had to concentrate so much on what your hands are doing that you didn’t have time to pay attention to what is happening on the road around you? And then think how this changed when you were able to automate what your hands are doing and you didn’t even think about it. All your attention is on the traffic, the signs and the pedestrian who just decided to step in front of your car in an attempt to get himself faster to work or to hospital.

You see the benefits immediately. For professionals who spend their days glued to a computer typing is like a driving license. So why you never spent the effort to learn how to drive your computer? And it is so easy!

How to get there?

I never went to a professional training, I never had “touch typing” as a subject at school, but when I realized that my whole life will evolve around computers I decided to spend some time to get at least a decent proficiency in typing. It was when I was at university and all what it took was a disciplined 30-60 minutes a day over the period of two months. I’m not saying that I’m a professional typist and if I try to type as fast as someone dictates I get lost after couple of sentences. However, when writing this article I have no idea what my fingers are doing, I don’t really need to look at the screen and I can really think about the content and what I want to write. That is all what you need to make your professional life so much simpler and more efficient.

There are numerous courses and training material online so all what it takes is a bit of dedication and self-discipline. You will see that after couple of weeks you will start feeling really good about your newly build ability. The one thing that will make it really hard is to get rid of your old habits. Most of people working with computers found some ways how to write relatively fast using two, or four fingers and when you decide to type like a pro you need to be willing to stop the old habit. You will never learn how type properly if you will do it just during your training session but for the rest of the day you will continue in your old ways. You should work hard to practice even during your normal day. Yes, it will slow you down initially, but it will pay off in the long run.

So how do you get started? Just google it up or check for example this.

Twitter type summary: “Productivity tip: touch typing is one of the most useful and under-appreciated skills a knowledge worker needs.”

Can you type? How, when and why did you learn it? How many people around you can type?

Introverts: How To Be Happy

I have already talked about the difference between extroverts and introverts Introverts: Who Are They?”, about how introverts can act more extroverted and why it might be worth a try Introverts: It Is All A Game and how to be a good introverted leader Introverts: How To Be A Leader. Today I want to focus on the most important aspect. How do you live a happy and satisfying life when you are introvert in a world that awards extroversion? I mean aside of the obvious answer: “Just ignore what others think,” since you are probably doing it anyway.

It’s all about your core values

Most of the people who are happy with their lives are those who have been able to align their purpose on this world with their core values and adjusted their expectations accordingly. You may do it naturally (without thinking about it) or you may try to give it a thought (or to approach a life coach) and dig deep into your conscious and subconscious mind to find out what your core values are and what is really important to you. If you come up with answer like “money” then you didn’t dig deep enough. It is very unlikely that your core value is to make money. Most likely you feel that you need money to satisfy some other need and core value. For example, you may discover that money are important to you because you want to be able to provide for your family and family is important to you because you want to belong somewhere and you want to belong somewhere because you want to be loved. By digging deeper you got from money to love. So again, don’t get satisfied with obvious answers and spend the time to find your real core values.

What is a mission of your life?

When having your core values you can then easily figure out what your life mission might be. Let’s say that one of your core values is to “be useful” (which is by the way one of mine). You can then figure out various means to satisfy this value. You may decide to spend as much time as possible with your family and provide all the help and care you can muster. Or you can join a non-profit organization and keep helping in third world countries. Or you can decide to work with people and help them grow and be successful in professional life (which is the path I follow). Often, it will be combination of more than one path. Since there are usually many ways how to live your life in harmony with your core values you may consider taking into account your dreams to pick the right path.

What are your dreams?

What are your dreams and what is behind them? One of my dreams since I was a child (very curious one) was to see the world. I would dream of visiting far-away places, see the natural wonders and humanity’s biggest achievements. Being introverted I was able to satisfy my hunger for visiting these places just by reading about them and seeing pictures but at some level I really wanted to experience it in real. To achieve that I could again select several paths. If I would look at where is the intersection between my dreams and my life mission I would have concluded that working for a global non-profit organization to travel and help in various places might be a good path. However, that would mean meeting constantly too many new people. The path in management I follow allows me the same while working with relatively limited number of people that I can get to know pretty well and seeing them grow and succeed brings me great satisfaction.

How can you achieve your goals and be yourself?

If you follow this approach it may help you to achieve your goals and be happy even when the path leads you to more extroverted type of life. Just make sure you keep a way how to put a break on things and resupply your energy in situations when your passion for the life mission takes you too far from who you are. This may happen when one of your core values takes control over your life and over the other values. It is very likely that there are more than one thing that are important to you and you need to make sure these are well integrated and whatever you do needs to be “mentally ecological”. Meaning, it shouldn’t be at odds with any of the core values.

And what if your core values and mission of your life go well with your introversion? Even better. Just focus on what you love being it science, programming, writing or painting and ignore the surroundings that may want you to become someone you don’t want to be. I still remember one of the best software developers I ever met who worked for a small start-up for quarter the salary he could make elsewhere without much chance for any upside. When we talked about why he doesn’t follow money and go to sell his services for the real market value he answered that he could do that but he just loves working on this particular project as it will be used in railways and he just loves trains.

Twitter type summary: “To live a happy life make sure that what you do aligns with your core values, dreams and mission of your life.”

What are your recipes for happy introverted life? What is the mission of your life?

Introverts: How To Lead Them

This is the last article from my series about introverts. This time I want to summarize the key lessons and a form of simple user manual that can be packaged with every new baby introvert that comes to this world. Keep in mind that I’m myself introverted person so I just guess how extroverts would see us and in case I’m off mark let me know.

How to task them

When giving a task to introvert you just need to remember that he or she may not be comfortable to immediately ask for clarifications (especially when in bigger group). When you combine this with the fact that introverted person will be easily discouraged from asking if you are not approachable you can get into trouble. The best thing for you to do is to follow up regularly to create opportunities for questions.

Saying something like “if you have problem, my doors are always open,” may work for extroverts who will happily pop in, but may not work for introverts. You need to be the one who is proactive and who reaches out to his team.

How to provide and get feedback

In private. In general, introverts are able of introspection and are open to feedback as long as it is respectful and meant to help. You don’t need to sugar coat it, but at the same time you need to be able to provide well balanced communication. If all you do is just complain and provide negative input then you may destroy their self-confidence and ability to provide their feedback back to you. Just treating others with respect like adults usually does the trick.

And if you want to get feedback on your own performance then it all depends on the relationship you built. If there is enough trust then asking for feedback face to face is certainly possible. Just don’t expect they will just bluntly tell you all the things you need to change. Most likely it will be more subtle and you need to read between the lines. As a general rule you should assume that when they decide to speak there is some message incorporated in their statements. They don’t make small-talk unless pressured. With this in mind you should take seriously even the smallest issue they mentioned as most likely they played it down and it is probably bigger issue than they let you believe. And of course well crafted “anonymous” survey can also give you some insights though usually much less actionable.

How to appreciate them

It might be just me, but based on my experience most of the introverted people are internally referenced and thus can find the internal motivators and don’t expect too much from others. It doesn’t mean that they are not happy if they get recognition, it is just that they don’t really expect it. Giving recognition to such an individual must be done in way that won’t be stressful for the person. Marching him in front of the whole company and asking him to say few words is definitely not the right thing to do. Sending out an email to everyone is a bit better. And a simple heartfelt thank you and pat on the back in a small circle of his team mates is probably the best. Just don’t make a big deal of it.

How to befriend them

Being open and honest, humble and non-judgmental, listening and showing empathy, taking interest in them and not talking about yourself all the time, meeting in places that are less public than a stadium of fifty thousand people but at the same time more public than your bed room should do the trick.

It doesn’t mean that introverts like to mingle just with other introverts. In fact, it might be the exact opposite. Being around more extroverted people brings a sense of inclusiveness and belonging that all of us need. It is at the point when being forced to actively participate in mingling and talking to people when the introvert won’t feel at home.

And please, don’t start your conversation about profoundly private topics until you know them really well and ideally let them first volunteer some intimate details by themselves first before you try to pry for more.

How to party with them

Don’t. As mentioned above introverts (there are always exceptions) actually like being around more extroverted people who keep the social engine humming if they are not forced to participate too much. I’m a great example. I love to sit down with my friends and just listen their talking and joking. I may try to say something from time to time but I have no need to lead the conversation and I get pushed out of my comfort zone when being asked to share stories. Usually I try to be as brief as possible just to satisfy their curiosity and then get back to more comfortable position of attentive listener.

How to make them angry

This has nothing to do whether you are an introvert or extrovert. There are other personality traits responsible for these. The only thing to keep in mind is that it is likely that introverted person won’t show it externally when he or she is angry. And even if yes, then chances are it will be just a short outburst and then try to control it again.

How to make them happy

Just leave them alone. No, seriously, again happiness is not something that depends on one being introverted or extroverted. Each of us is different and what to do to make us happy is strictly individual. Not to mention the fact that each of us is responsible for his or her own feelings and other people cannot “make” us feel something we are not willing to feel. I may write a post on this topic as part of a series about coaching and NLP. For the time being you may want to consult this post Positive Approach To Life.

Twitter type summary: “Leading introverts is easy. Just be respectful, ask, listen and use empathy to let them find a way how to follow you.”

Are you living with introverts? Why? What are your experiences? What is good and not so good on your relationship?

Introverts: How To Be A Leader

At the very beginning of this series about introverts I described the basic difference between introvert and extrovert “Introverts: Who Are They?”. Last week I talked about how introverts survive in today’s corporate environment “Introverts: It Is All A Game”. Today, I would like to dig deeper into how to lead a team of people comprised of both introverts and extroverts (as is usually the case) and how to do it when you are an introvert yourself. At the beginning, I strongly believe that it is easier for introverted person to lead these mixed teams than it would be for extroverted person. You as an introvert have one advantage, one skill that is not easy to learn: you know how to listen and you can adapt your strategies based on the feedback you are hearing or seeing more easily. And since leadership is a rather broad topic let me focus just on the basics.

Setting the goals and following up

The very first difference in how to handle introverts and extroverts comes as early as in setting the tasks and following up. While the actual task may be described the same way chances are that extrovert will ask for clarifications immediately on the spot while introvert may need some time to think it over in quiet and will have questions later on. This is especially applicable when it is being done in a group setting. When you combine this with the fact that introverted person will be easily discouraged from asking if you are not approachable, you can get into trouble. The best thing for you to do is to follow up regularly to create opportunities for questions.

One-on-one follow up is anyway a great way how to manage your team. If it is difficult for you to talk to bigger teams then create opportunities for you to meet the members individually or in smaller groups. This will give you a chance to act more naturally in introvert-friendly settings.

When having a meeting with your team you may find it difficult to “be in charge” and talk all the time. One of the tricks here is to make a virtue of your ability to listen and give others opportunity to learn and lead. You can, for example, decide to have a rotating meeting moderator who will be forced to speak more and keep the structure of the meeting while you can listen more and have more time to prepare for your contributions.

Providing feedback

Any corrective or developmental feedback is better provided in private regardless of personality type. For most introverts the difficult part is figuring out how to start a difficult discussion and the body language they exhibit. You may know what you want to say, but it is equally important, if not more, the way you say it and how you behave while saying it. You need to project confidence and be firm in your assessment and the next steps. I love the 3F acronym (Fair, Firm, Focused). You need to be fair in your dealings to keep open mind and ability to listen. You need to be focused, again trait that should come naturally to introverts. And you need to be firm. Good rehearsal would help you polish your talk and feedback from a trusted friend, some role-play, or practicing on video can help you identify quirks in your body language that may betray the message. Make sure you focus on what you want to say, you look the other person in the eyes, you keep your voice leveled, you don’t fiddle with your hands, and you sit straight but comfortable. These are the basics that should get you through. And if the other guy gets emotional and aggressive? Have one or two sentences ready for this eventuality as a way how to end the meeting gracefully and quickly. You want to treat people with respect and dignity and you expect them to do the same. The moment someone starts shouting you need to calm him down before continuing and if you know that you cannot handle it then have a way out.

If you want more tips and tricks on how to provide feedback and build some confidence you may check out “Now, How May I Help You?” and “Confidence – The Basis Of A Strong Leadership”.

Recognizing achievements

Curiously enough this might be sometimes even more difficult than providing corrective feedback. If you are an introverted leader you need to recognize that people need different levels of encouragement. In my experience introverts prefer more individual and private recognitions while extroverts want to bask in the spotlight on the big stage (exaggerating here a bit). Getting people stand up on company meetings and list all their achievements and even ask them to say something witty is a great way to recognize extroverts, but it would traumatize introverted person. And vice versa, heartfelt thank you in a small round of closest team mates is a great way to recognize achievement of introverted person while it would feel rather an empty gesture to his extroverted friend.

Leading by example

For a manager it is important to being heard. When you say something you want to make sure the message is received. I have met many people who seemed really quiet at the first glance but when they spoke everyone listened. Why? Because they spoke only when they had something to say. Everyone knew that and so everyone listened as there was a piece of wisdom coming. The lesson here is that don’t force yourself to speak for hours when you have content for minutes and when you know you don’t have the skills for long speeches.

And what is the shortest way to be seen as a leader even when you are not the loudest person in the room? You lead by example. No need for many words and being in the spotlight. Just get in the trenches with your team, be one of them and the leadership won’t feel so out of your realm of comfort. And luckily enough it will be seen as a sign of strength of your leadership. You show that you are not afraid to get your hands dirty with the actual work.

Dealing with the chatty ones

How do you find your voice when chatting with a fast talking extrovert? How do you ensure he doesn’t run you over with a fast talk and animated body language? You reset the rules of the game. You demonstrate that it is ok to pause and be quiet for a minute. A simple pause followed by a short statement with question that needs the others to think can get the discussion to a pace you can cope with. Of course your body language and tone of voice needs to send the same message. You need to look like there is no rush to finish the whole conversation in thirty seconds.

And what if you encounter the endless orators who never know when to stop their story? Again, for an introvert it may be rather difficult to stop other people from talking and so you can use a simple time management trick. Keep reminding them what time it is. “Let us discuss this topic, I have 15 minutes to do it.” and as you go through it bring it up again and again “OK, so here we are, we have 10 more minutes, how do you want to use them?” In these situations it is completely acceptable to interrupt the person if he starts moving to unrelated and irrelevant topics and put him back on the right track. If he is your direct report you probably want to make this very explicit and define this as a development need for that person. You define that the person needs to be able to go more to the point, don’t get distracted by side-topics and focus on the point he is training to make.

What is the key lesson? Keep in mind that most of the things you perceive as weaknesses and obstacles for you to become a strong leader can be nicely turned around to become your strengths. Just spend some time to think about it and try it out.

Twitter type summary: “Introverts make great leaders. It is all about confidence and relying on your strengths while finding workarounds for your weaknesses.”

How do you lead others if you are introverted person? Do you distinguish between leading introverts and extroverts? What are your strategies?

Introverts: It Is All A Game

Last week I started a series of articles about introverts. Being one myself, this topic is very close to my heart. When you look at popular media you always see famous movies stars, musicians, politicians, athletes who by the definition of their role are very visible, performing in front of crowds, always talking, always being in the middle of everything, beautiful and smiling all the time. In other words they appear to be, most part, very extroverted personalities. However, the chances are that many of them are in fact very introverted. They dread the public performance and try to get out of the open as soon as they can. They simply play a role as required by their job or mission.

Should I try to act differently?

I strongly believe that one can and should try to change his personality traits or habits to be aligned with his or her life mission. Let me illustrate it on a story of my life.

When I was a child I was a prototype introvert. I preferred to play alone, I liked reading and I dreaded interaction with others. I enjoyed being part of the collective, but not in the center of attention. I was completely comfortable just sitting at the table with others and listen. It gave me all the joy I needed. As I grew older I was forced to interact more with my surroundings, I went to university, studied technical subjects and had a side job as a software developer. Then I spent half a year living abroad in very alien environment (well it was in Australia) and found myself meeting lots of people from many different countries. I studied English, essentially communicating all day long and to my surprise I enjoyed being in the center of many activities and often volunteering for various role plays. I was one of few Europeans in mostly Asian collective and I felt very comfortable there.

After I returned to Europe and started to work for Siemens I quickly moved from individual contributor role to leadership and management roles and again to my surprise I discovered I like it and I’m pretty good at it. Something has changed. I was always the first one to step up and speak, I was always having an opinion and didn’t hesitate to present it, I would always be the first one to volunteer for new initiatives and I would enjoy leading others and helping them grow.

So here I was, introverted person acting all the time in a very extroverted manner. And not just that, I was very happy doing it. What has changed? I found something that I’m really passionate about. I found that I like helping others to grow and become better. I found that I love building things and that I can have bigger impact on lives of others in leadership roles. My mission in life spurred from my core values and my mind decided that the best way to live my values and do what I’m passionate about is to act as an extrovert. This act is a way to reach my life goals. And after a while it wasn’t really an act at all but it became part of myself. Deep down I’m still introverted person who loves to relax in some secluded space reading books, writing articles and when being in a group of friends I would still sit in the corner and just listen. However, when it comes to achieving my professional and life goals I seamlessly transform into a more extroverted actor.

How will others seem me when I act out of character?

Many people who know me just professionally would never guess that I’m in fact a rather introverted person. Even when they realize that in the office I’m essentially an actor playing his role of a leader they will accept when they will believe that I’m open and transparent in the way I lead.

I strongly believe that as a leader you need to have several traits that will make you believable to others so they would follow you. You need to be open and honest (thus I have never tried to hide my introversion when it came to discussion). You need to be transparent about your weaknesses (when there is something you don’t know just admit it and learn from others). The most importantly you need to be authentic. This one seems to be at odds with “the acting as extrovert” idea. In fact it is not.

What does authentic means? It means that your words and actions are aligned with your internal values. You have your set of values that you follow and you walk your talk. That makes you authentic. It has nothing to do whether you are introverted or extroverted. Also remember that even when acting a bit more extroverted you shouldn’t take it to the extreme. The moment an introvert starts jumping up and down and yelling at everyone it will look phony and people will immediately see that it is not him. People will always see when you do something that is extremely uncomfortable for you and that is the moment the authenticity comes into question. Unless you remedy it by openly acknowledging that this is not you.

How will I feel when trying to be someone I’m not?

It is impossible to predict how others will feel about something. In fact when you think about it we are all responsible for our own feelings. So how will you feel about “acting” as an extrovert (or vice versa for that matter) really depends on you and how you want to feel about it. From my own experience, as long as there is an underlying principle, a bigger mission and a set of values that guide your actions you will feel pretty good about yourself.

Twitter type summary: “To feel good about yourself when acting out of character make sure the act is aligned with your values and passions.”

Are you introverted person who sometimes fakes it and acts extroverted? Or the other way around are you extrovert who sometimes try to be more introverted? Why do you do it?