Thursday Keynote – Debbie Sterling

Debbie Sterling is the founder of an award-winning multimedia compnay that features the first girl engineer as a superhero.  She was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Moment.  She also received the 2015 Presidential Ambassador Award for Global Entrepreneurship.  She will be featured in the Women’s History Museum.  I agree  with the emcee, Ana, that she seems a little young for all this! (since she was featured in the Top 40 Under 40).  I have heard Debbie deliver the opening keynote at the 2014 Texas Conference for Women and was delighted at this opportunity to hear her inspire us again!

Disrupting the Pink Aisle

Debbie began by holding up a GHC 17 card.  She turned it around and read, “I am a pink aisle disruptor!”  The audience cheered.  Debbie then showed us a picture of herself as a little girl.  She was dressed in a Disney Princess outfit and a thought cloud showed her fantasizing about Snow White.  She was into dolls, dresses and princesses.  But she was also into other things.  The next photo showed her playing trains with her young male cousin (and forcibly taking his train track away from him, resulting in a physical squabble in which he was injured, requiring the family to rush to the emergency room!  But, as Debbie said, that is not the point of the story).  A thought cloud showed her cousing thinking about Thomas the Tank Engine in the same way that she fantasized about Snow White.  Her question was, “Why were those his trains?

Fast forward to Debbie’s high school years.  Her yearbook photos show that she was on the Science Olympiad and the Math Team.  She was also an “angel”, as the cherubic glow on her curly hair demonstrates.  The course of her life changed when she got accepted into Stanford University.  As someone who went to public school in a small town, this was a big deal!

When Debbie walked into her Mechanical Engineering 101 class, she saw that there were 4 women.  She almost turned around and walked out.  She stayed and found that she enjoyed problem-solving so much that she eventually declared Engineering as her major.  There were, however, challenges.  She had not taken engineering during her K-12 education.  This caused her to be behind the other (mostly male) students who had enjoyed a more privileged education.  As the only girl in all-guy groups, she often found herself steamrolled and talked over.  And although she pulled several all-nighters, she was only able to score C’s.  She felt that she was not good enough and not smart enough and there were times when she just wanted to quit.

The day I graduated was the proudest day of my life,” Debbie said, showing us her graduation photo beside her proudly-beaming mother.  “It was hard but I stuck it out.  I did it!  And as a result, I felt invincible!”  I recalled her using this same word at the 2014 Texas Conference for Women, with equal enthusiasm.  This experience and epithet are clearly dear to her heart.

Steve Jobs delivered his infamous Commencement Speech the day Debbie graduated from Stanford.  The two words she remembers most are Never Settle.

Debbie and her friends joined the workforce and started a tradition called the Idea Brunch.  She showed us a photo of them hanging out, a friendly, affable group of people surrounded by typical breakfast foods, such as bagels and donuts.  In addition to consuming food, they would also discuss the big ideas on their minds.  It was one such brunch that planted the seed out of which GoldieBlox would bloom.  Debbie’s friend, Christie, bemoaned the lack of women in her engineering classes, an experience that Debbie could certainly relate to.  Christie grew up with 3 older brothers and spent her formative years playing with their hand-me-down construction toys.  The question that was always in her mind was, “Why were those my brothers’ toys?”  The following thoughts exploded in Debbie’s brain:

  • “Oh my God, this is what Steve Jobs was talking about!”
  • “This is what I was born to do!”

This was accompanied by a slide that showed the woman stick figure with an idea light bulb over her head, a construction wrench in one hand and a wand with a star in her other hand.  It was an illuminative and illustrative depiction of Debbie’s state of mind.

After the brunch, Debbie raced up to Christie and delightedly explained that Christie’s comments had cemented Debbie’s life purpose.  She was going to create engineering toys for girls!  Would Christie want to come in on this idea?  Christie’s response was lukewarm.  “Yeah, maybe.”  In the excited throes of creation, Debbie did not pick up on this.  She woke up at 7 AM the next morning, incredibly eager to go to Toys R Us and disrupt the pink aisle.  She figured that since this was 2011, times would have changed since she was a kid and perhaps the toy selection for girls had improved.

Debbie showed us a picture of the “Pink Aisle”.  Things had not changed that much.  The shelves were still crammed with bright pink jars of playdough, dolls in gauzy pink dresses and other pink toys.  Debbie referred to the “Blue Aisle” as the aisle with interesting toys:  math, science and construction-related.  There were some toys that the aisles had in common but the creators felt they had to color the containers pink in order to make them appeal to girls.

Debbie said, “I knew that this is what I was meant to do but what if I fail?

Debbie held a full-time marketing job and decided to make this her side hustle.  On evenings and weekends, she read every pice of research on gender, play and toys that she could find.  Her conclusion:  the idea that “girls don’t want to build things” is not biological, but cultural.  She also observed young children at play.  Boys would enjoy building a huge block tower and then slamming it hard against the wall and watching it fall apart.  For them, this was a lot of fun!  Girls, on the other hand, used Legos to create scenes and tell stories.  This was Debbie’s big “Aha!” moment.

After 9 months of side-hustling, Debbie decided that “If I didn’t jump in and do it full-time, it wouldn’t happen.”  With a great deal of support from her family, friends and husband, she decided to quit her job and devote her full attention to making GoldieBlox a reality.  She had enough in her bank account to support her for a year.  Since she was living off her life savings, she didn’t have a lot of money to spend on creating expensive prototypes.  This turned out to be a good thing.  Her financial limitations enabled her to rapidly prototype GoldieBlox using thread spools and other around-the-house items.

Debbie packed up her prototype and went to the New York Toy Fair.  She thought it would be a lively and fun atmosphere.  It turned out to be “a lot of old, white guys in suits.”  They looked at her prototype in perplexity and then said, “You can’t fight nature.  Girls want to be princesses, not engineers.”

I heard the audience members behind me gasp in disbelief and say, “What?  What?” as if they couldn’t believe their ears.  This made me realize that we have come a long way.  When I first heard Debbie tell the above story at the 2014 Texas Conference for Women, there were no such reactions of disbelief.  The response was more of amusement, as in “Oh yeah, we’ve heard that before.  Ha ha.”  It may have been that the demographic may have been older and more used to hearing these ideas during their formative years.  The current generation finds such limitations unbelievable.  This is refreshing!

Although the New York Toy Fair did not work out the way Debbie hoped, she did receive interest from a group of young millenials, who formed a team behind GoldieBlox.  Debbie showed us a collage of familiar faces:

  • Hillary Clinton
  • Sheryl Sandberg
  • Mayim Bialik
  • Pharrell Williams
  • and many more

She explained that although she did not know any of these people, she wanted to get them behind GoldieBlox and she used social media to engage interest.  This worked and GoldieBlox made the final interview rounds of Y-Cominator (a toy design contest).  Even Christie came back on board, saying “Hey, I think I’m ready to be a part of GoldieBlox after all!

Then came the rejection letter.  Y-Cominator felt GoldieBlox was trying to do too much.  Debbie showed us a picture of the rejection letter.  “You have to choose one direction – you can’t have construction and story-telling,” the letter airily explained.  Debbie was devastated.  She felt as if she had let her entire team down.  They dissipated and Christie returned to her job.  Debbie was alone.  The timing could not have been worse.  Debbie was scheduled to meet with her investors the following week.  She had nothing in hand but her prototypes and a rejection letter from Y-Cominator.  No team and no co-founder.

Debbie courageously got herself on a plane and headed to her investors’ meeting.  She found, much to her astonishment, that:

  • they had never heard of and could not care less about Y-Cominator and its opinion of GoldieBlox
  • they were utterly unconcerned about the absence of a co-founder and a team
  • they wanted to meet Debbie!  The brain behind GoldieBlox!  What convinced them was the hundreds of videos of little girls playing with GoldieBlox.  This alone convinced them that investing in Debbie was a good idea.  They welcomed her with open arms and followed through with venture capital

Debbie received the money she needed and GoldieBlox transformed from a thought in her mind to a reality on toy store shelves.  She received a call from the owner of Toys R Us.  He complained that her depiction of his pink aisle was making the company look bad.  Within weeks, GoldieBlox was on the shelves of Toys R Us.

There were still some challenges to overcome.  Toys R Us informed Debbie that GoldieBlox was not selling as fast as they hoped.  The toy was appealing to customers who were already in the store but more advertisting was required to get potential buyers to come to the store in the first place.  Debbie had no budget for advertising.  She appealed to the GoldieBlox following through crowdsourcing, engaging their votes to win GoldieBlox a commercial slot during the Super Bowl.  Out of 5000 entries, GoldieBlox won and was featured during the Super Bowl.  The ad played silently in the background while Debbie spoke.  She played it for us in its entirety at the 2014 Texas Conference for Women.  Young girls run through the streets with wagons and play construction equipment, to the astonishment of both young boys and passers-by.  The girls build rockets that blast off and work as a team to accomplish this goal.  It is a very uplifting advertisement.

Debbie said she wished she could tell the potential investors at the New York Toy Fair, “Boy, were you wrong!”  She said to us:

They’re mired in the past and it’s our job to build the future.

This received tremendous applause from the GHC 17 audience.

Today, GoldieBlox has grown to include:

  • RandomHouse Chapter Books
  • Girl Scout badges (troops can earn their STEM badges by completing GoldieBlox projects)

Debbie concluded:

  • This is the Makers generation
  • GoldieBlox is for all the young girls out there who don’t know that they are engineers yet
  • GHC 17 attendees can obtain a parting gift at http://goldieblox.com/gracehopper

Debbie’s closing request:  Ask yourself – how can I be the spark in a young girl’s life?  All it takes is one small act of kindness, such as the one Debbie’s math teacher gave her when she suggested that Debbie pursue a career in engineering.  This ripple effect is a beautiful idea.  As an American Women in Math mentor, I recently began mentoring a 7th-grade girl who is very enthusiastic about STEM.  It was good to feel that I have met Debbie’s closing request.

Hearing Debbie speak again was a terrific start to the second day of GHC!

 

 

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Demonstrating Value

Managing Up: Managing Your Manager with Compassion, Humor, and Data

Stephanie Parkin made us all laugh by warning us never to put the word “humor” in the title of our lectures.  “Why do I do that?  I am not funny!” she fretted, thus establishing a friendly rapport with her audience.

She explained that our manager is not necessarily smarter or more organized than we are, but s/he is definitely busier.  She used to think of her manager as a sort-of “parent” but not anymore.  When engaging her manager, she would go in with her checklist of things she wanted to discuss.  This did not go over well, because her manager had a million other priorities.  She learned to assess her manager’s mood and discuss her top 3 priorities if her manager was too time-starved to discuss the rest.

Stephanie showed some humorous quotes from videos to illustrate each point.  A server administrator complained that his servers would handle the load just fine if they were not carrying the additional overhead of a poorly-designed codebase.  This elicited a great deal of laughter from the audience.

For humor, Stephanie states that self-deprecation is always preferable to sarcasm.  She also cautions us not to take it personally if someone has a different sense of humor than we do.  Observe what works and move on.

 

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Five Ways to Tap Into Your Power: Take The Lead!

Presenter Mary Alice Callahan set the tone by introducing herself to our table.  When one of the attendees said she worked for IBM, Mary Alice said she herself was an IBM Systems Engineer many moons ago.  Her ability to connect with each attendee was very gracious.

Presenter Rebecca Shambaugh is the author of It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor.  Elegantly attired in a pink dress, she was a powerful, engaging and energetic speaker with an admirable ability to instantly secure and maintain her audience’s attention.  “Are you women here to feel the power?” she asked.  The audience responded with enthusiastic cheers and applause.

Introduction

  • What is power?
  • Is it a bad word, indicating manipulation?
  • No!  This is about smart power – being present and intentional
  • In the end, it’s not really about you
  • It’s about the people you’re serving and how you can show up better to serve them
  • Power allows us to effectively influence those around us
  • Focus on creating your best self
  • Everything is in our reach
  • Anything is possible
  • But you have to take action!

Rebecca humorously dispelled the myth of Corporate Prince Charming, who would one day knock on our door and say, “Hi!  I’m here to take you where you want to go.”  This session is about taking a seat at the table and it’s how you fill that seat.  Women need to take the lead and empower ourselves, instead of waiting for Corporate Prince Charming.

This is tricky business because the invisible layer is inside.  Rebecca coined the term sticky floor to indicate the hardwired belief system within us.  She summarized seven sticky floors:

  1. Managing Work/Life Balance
  2. Striving for Excellence
  3. Continuous Learning – Taking Risks
  4. Capitalizing on Executive Presence / Political Savvy
  5. Making Your Words Count
  6. Building Strategic Relationships / Personal Brand
  7. Knowing and Asking for What You Want

If a job description states 10 criteria:

  • Men will apply if they can check 4 out of 10 boxes
  • Women will apply if they can check 9 out of 10 boxes

Women are skilled at talking ourselves out of opportunities.  But failure is good!  We become smarter and more confident.  New circuits are formed as we now know what not to do.  I recalled the anecdote about Thomas Edison inventing the light bulb on his 1000th attempt and informing an interviewer, “I didn’t fail!  I learned 999 ways not to do something!”

We began a worksheet titled Tapping Into Your Power:  Personal Action Planning.  The first question asked us to identify and re-frame a sabotaging narrative.  Mine was, “What if someone doesn’t like it?”  Rebecca’s narrative was “I don’t have anything important to say.”  This made her initially reluctant to pursue public speaking and writing.  She eventually realized, “do have something important to say!  And it’s not fair or right of me to hold it in.”  She identifies herself as an “off-the-scale introvert”, which added to the challenge in putting herself out there.  After a couple of “swift kicks” from her mentors, she began speaking and writing on a smaller scale and here she is, a published author and sought-after speaker at GHC 2017!

Rebecca mentioned that she is addicted to the show Shark Tank.  Building a personal brand is similar to this TV show.  Both require a good answer to “Why would they select you over the others?”  It’s how you show up.  When people show up to connect with you, what are they drawn to?  Is there a true connection and alignment to your brand?

How you make people feel is huge.  This put me in mind of Maya Angelou’s famous quote:

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.  

Rebecca stated:

  • What are you known for?
  • What do people need to really trust you?
  • Be able to listen, paraphrase and emotionally and intellectually connect

Rebecca shared an anecdote where she kept getting pulled into meetings and she didn’t know why.  A colleague told her, “It’s because you’re a great collaborator, you’re strategic, you connect the dots and remind us of why we’re here at the end of the day.”

Telepathy is not a strategy!  There is no app for mind-reading.

An important part of your personal brand is being aware of what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

Women are often asked to attend senior executive meetings and “report back”.  At the next meeting, don’t just “report back”.  Bring something back in.  Be that person.  This is the difference between being powerless and powerful.

Connect to people who can be your ambassadors.

If you’re on a panel at GHC, you are the “face” of your organization.

If you’re a remote employee, it’s not just about filling the phone with words.  Tonality of voice and inflection count.   On average:

  • Women utter 8K to 10K words per day
  • Men utter 4K to 6K words per day

Be a woman of few words. 

When people know you’re there to help them, they see you as a powerful individual.  Spread the power!

Next post:  Part 2 with Mary Alice

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Gearing up for GHC 2017

‘Twas the night before GHC and all through the house,

Several items were stacking, plus a computer mouse.

The suitcases were placed by the front door with care,

In the hopes that all contents would arrive safely there.


As you can tell, I’m looking forward to GHC 2017!  I’ll be volunteering as a Blogger and Note-Taker for 6 presentations.  My AWM (American Women in Math) mentees are eager to hear about my experiences when I get back.  I’m particularly looking forward to the following:

  • Thursday Keynote featuring Debbie Sterling, founder and CTO of GoldieBlox.  I had the pleasure of hearing Debbie deliver the morning keynote at the 2014 Texas Conference for Women.  She was an inspiration.  Her anecdote about her high school guidance counselor’s career recommendation was delightful.  The counselor recommended that Debbie study engineering; her reaction to this suggestion was, “Is this woman crazy?  Why would I want to be a train driver?!”  Debbie went on to explain how the lack of female role models in STEM fields had given her a limited perspective on what engineers do.  She founded GoldieBlox to encourage young girls to perceive building things as “something girls can do and enjoy”.  It will be great to hear her again.
  • Seeing my alma mater, the University of Waterloo (proud export of Canada, eh?) at the Expo Hall.  I display the Waterloo Alumni sticker on my car’s windshield and here in the U.S., not many people recognize it!  It will be great to see Waterloo at GHC so that more Americans can become familiar with it.  When I applied, Waterloo took the average of 6 grades – 5 from regular high school courses (Finite Math, Algebra, Calculus, Computer Science, etc.) and the 6th from a 3-hour Math Contest:  the Descartes.  Imagine a 3-hour Math Contest carrying the same admissions weight as a 4-month course!  How’s that for pressure?  Despite this, the Math Contests are some of my fondest memories from high school, so much so that I still take pleasure in matching names to grade levels (as you can see they were all named after famous mathematicians):
    • Grade 9 | Pascal
    • Grade 10 | Cayley
    • Grade 11 | Fermat (the elusive proof to Fermat’s Last Theorem was finally achieved by Dr. Andrew Wiles and made headlines around the mathematical community while I was a student at Waterloo.  So exciting!)
    • Grade 12 | Euclid
    • Grade 13 (we had this in Canada until the 21st century) | Descartes

I attended GHC for the first time last year in my home city of Houston.  At GHC 2016, I greatly enjoyed Susan Cain’s lecture on Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  This topic resonated with me and I got some great mileage out of the book as well.  I loved Susan’s anecdotes about visiting Harvard Business University and attending Tony Bennett’s motivational seminars.  Her reactions as an introvert often mirrored my own!

I’ll continue with my preparation now and blog more upon arrival!  I’m looking forward to seeing all the other 18,000 attendees (in my own introverted way!).

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Retaining High Tech Women Once They’re In The Door – Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

Our experience is formed by how we interpret the world.  We look through a lens and decide that these are things that affect my happiness and quality of life at work.  The survey measures how people are experiencing their world through their framework.  “People know everything about what they do,” Karen explained.  “We just can’t tell you.”

“I can’t count how many women have told me, ‘I left for my kids,'” Karen continued.  “It was never for the kids.  It was just a good excuse.”  She related a story of a woman who said, “I left work to be with my daughter.  I had grown so bored with everything we were doing.  The work was mundane and routine, there was never going to be any advancement … oh, wait, I didn’t really leave for my daughter, did I?”  “No!” Karen agreed.

Women need a psychological sense of community.  Karen calls this the “Push” (being thrown into the ring) and the “Support” (encouraging and aiding you once you’re there).  The most important thing for women is a tightly-knit cohesive team.  I remember identifying this as one of my key requirements when working with a career counselor.  This could also explain why book series such as “The Baby-Sitters Club” by Ann M. Martin and “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” by Ann Brashares have held such staying power with adolescent girls.  The central theme of these books is the unity between 4 or more girls and the way they help each other overcome difficulties and accomplish goals.  The female need for a tightly-knit cohesive team seems to manifest itself at a young age.

“When women feel a part of things, they stand,” Karen stated.  “Men feel the same way; however, they’re already a part of things.  Since this need has already been met, it is not as evident in men.”

What do people need to feel successful?  Everyone know the rules of engagement, i.e. how to be part of a team.  Yet, Karen is asked, “How do you walk into a room full of guys?”  What this question is really saying is, “I don’t know how to be a part of it.”  Karen’s team conducted a poll on what women need to feel successful.  These were the results:

  • I’m learning – 74.7%
  • Stimulating work – 71.5%
  • Influential projects – 58.9%
  • Solving social issues – 21.5%

These results show that the project needs to be compelling, not socially relevant.  “Women want challenge.  They want to be interested,” Karen re-iterated.  “They don’t need anything special!”

We returned to the Push and Support.  Women must find their set of managers and colleagues.  “If women are thrown into a challenge, they will rise … if they have support,” Karen explained.  “Everyone is tossed into the ring at some point.  Some women throw themselves into the ring.  Some women do better if the Push comes from parents or spouses.”  In addition to being pushed, women need someone to talk to when the going gets rough.  The “Push” and “Support” can be different sets of people.

To be continued …

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Part 7: Quiet – Q&A – a GHC2016 Lecture by Susan Cain

Continued from Part 6: Quiet – Next Steps

A lively Q&A session followed Cain’s lecture; her answers were consistently thoughtful and well crafted, demonstrating the solidity of the research behind her book.

How can we improve or tailor the interview process for introverts?

Let them know in advance what questions you’ll be asking so that they have sufficient time to process and prepare.

Can introvert/extrovert tendencies change over time?

Most of us tend to get more introverted with time.  The “babies and sugar water” experiment shows that we do have an underlying temperament and a set of behavioral preferences at birth.  The underlying kernel of introversion stays in the person but over time can become barely recognizable.

As an introvert, what kind of work environment should I seek out?

The key is becoming self-aware – understanding what energizes you and evaluating whether you’re happy in your environment.  This is 75% of the game.  With this self-awareness, you can optimize any environment to better suit your needs.

What do Quiet Ambassadors do?  How can I get involved?

They train in our methodology and provide personal coaching in the workplace.  This is essential since the vast majority of people think introverts can be leaders.  QuietRev.com provides details on how to get involved.

How can I honor my introverted nature without being rude to others?

When someone asks to meet, suggest a 10-minute coffee instead of a 2-hour lunch.  Having a language or framework, such as the one provided in Cain’s book, helps bring these differences between extroverts and introverts to the forefront, where we can talk and joke about them, instead of languishing behind silence and presumed slights.  For example, an introvert enters Cain’s workplace in a deep state of flow* and doesn’t greet anybody.  No one gets upset.  It is easy to get past this when you have the language to converse.  It becomes “no big deal”.

Do you have any tips on dealing with the discomfort that arises when expanding one’s comfort zone?

Involve someone else.  Discomfort is easier to bear when you know you’re doing it for other people.

The questions would have continued but the moderator informed the audience that we needed to wrap up.  Cain’s lecture was an enlightening and invigorating start to GHC2016!

* Flow:  the Psychology of Optimal Experience” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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Part 6: Quiet – Next Steps – a GHC2016 Lecture by Susan Cain

Continued from Part 5: Quiet – The Best Leaders

Cain provided the following next steps:

Rethink networking

Networking is the universal bugaboo of introverts.  The admonition to “exchange as many business cards as you can and drop off as many resumes as you can” requires meeting as many people as you can in as short a time as you can (with apologies to John Wesley).  This is exactly what depletes an introvert’s batteries.  “She who collected the most business cards wins” is not an effective modus operandi for introverts.

“Your job should be to look for the kindred spirits, not work the room,” Cain clarified.  Kindred spirits!  This familiar phrase instantly sent my mind racing back to the nostalgic era of the 1990’s, when I was first introduced to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables”.  Anne is continually on the lookout for kindred spirits, also referred to as “the race that knows Joseph”.  Talkative Anne initially seems to be a bubbly extrovert but she also loves spending hours communing with nature and says, “You know it’s lovely to be alone once in a while.”  Montgomery and her alter ego, Emily Starr, are clearly defined introverts.  Montgomery bemoaned her social circle’s lack of understanding on the need for solitude when she caustically noted, “People who wanted to be alone could only want to be alone for some sinister purpose.” After a boisterous visit with cousins, Emily returns home “to her own dear room” and writes in her diary (another feature of introverts!) that she “revelled in solitude”.  Both Emily and Anne have been known to say, “I had a lovely time with myself today.”

These books and characters took up most of the mental space of my formative years.  This led me to wonder whether introversion could be a learned behavior.  However, I also remember exhibiting introverted tendencies as a younger child.  I liked to read in rooms by myself at social gatherings and was continually in search of a friendly book when my parents and I visited other families.

Back to networking.  Cain advises setting yourself a quota of kindred spirits to meet at your next networking event.  After you’ve met this quota, you are free to retreat back to your cocoon – taking a warm bath in your hotel room, watching TV in your sleepwear or curling up with a good book.  This approach will result in an even richer network than the one you had before because it is intrinsically motivated and not as mechanistic.

Step outside your comfort zone

Expanding your comfort zone is uncomfortable for everyone, but especially for introverts.  It is therefore essential to pick your battles.  Select those core personal projects that are important to you in work and life.  Be uncomfortable for something that matters deeply to you and the reward will be worth the temporary feelings of discomfort.  Ensure the time frame for your chosen activity is finite; once it is over, you can relax with the statement, “That’s done and now I’m back to being me.”

Regular periods of downtime are essential for introverts to be their best self.  Schedule your calendar differently; tweak it to incorporate the very necessary solitude.

Cain cited herself as an example of venturing outside of one’s comfort zone.  “I’m here, giving this lecture.  Otherwise, I’d be in a library with my laptop.”  The audience certainly appreciated Cain’s expansion of her comfort zone!

Groom an “unlikely” leader

Pay what you have learned forward.  Leaders come in all shapes and sizes.  Locate that person in your life who does not fit the traditional mold of “leader” and consider what you could do to help them expand their own comfort zone.  This doesn’t mean turning them into someone else.  Draw on the amazing strengths they already have.

Cain has successfully used her platform to start a Quiet Revolution.  Members of this team are known as Quiet Ambassadors.  They go to different companies and observe how to optimize the work environment for introverts whose needs may not be currently served.  Cain showed us a photo of Quiet Ambassadors at LinkedIn in 2016.  The Quiet Revolution is grooming unlikely leaders on a large scale.

Know what’s in your suitcase

Remember Cain’s suitcase full of books that she took to camp?  Consider the contents of your own metaphorical suitcase.  For me, it’s a notebook and pen.  Reflect on the following questions (I’ve included my own answers):

  • Why do you carry these things wherever you go?

I want to observe, remember and record.

  • Why do they matter to you?

They are part of my identity.  I’m a writer and these are my tools.

  • Why did you put them there?

I love using them.  Just seeing them makes me feel happy and I never know when I will need them.

Extroverts find it natural and easy to share their answers with others.  Cain encourages her fellow introverts to “share once in a while with the people around you, because the world needs you and it needs the things you carry”.

Cain graciously closed her lecture with the following benedictions:

  • I wish you the best of all possible journeys
  • Make you have the courage to speak softly

She received thunderous applause.  The Q&A portion showed the audience’s eagerness to engage with her.

Continued in Part 7: Quiet – Q&A

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