One of the first things that Erin and I connected over was "introverts and leadership." As we move along in our explorations here at Constructive Summer, the ways that we (us introverts) want to make change is all about relationships and caring about people, about dreaming big and making a path to get there. Introverts and introversion have become a real popular topic recently, and there is a lot of research that I haven't read on the subject of introverts and leadership, and relationships, etc etc etc.
That all puts me in mind of personality tests as management tools. When the myriad of different personality tests are administered as some sort of management tactic or team building effort, the real goal of such an effort isn't so much to have people reflect on themselves. The real goal (which I have not ever seen fully implemented) is to provide a framework for understanding ourselves in relation to our coworkers. The goal is to facilitate a discussion of our work dynamics.
Attention to others is, for me, the foundation of what exhausts me about being around other people. I spend a great deal of energy trying to figure out where people are coming from, what their likely moves are, that I am truly understanding what they are saying, and so forth. Additionally, I spend a lot of energy considering the interactions I have had specifically, in addition to just generally doing a great deal of reflection, which I will discuss later.
I don't think that being introverted is the root of what I feel I am good at, but I do think that my introversion is deeply connected with the way I am in the world and the practices that do make me good at what I do. I'd love to hear from you (especially extroverts) if you have the same experience. The tools that make me good at what I do, the ones that make me a good leader and effective professional are: attention to detail with an ability to scope out to a systems view; the ability, desire and openness to understand other perspectives and the assumptions underlying those views; and the sum of the two -- an attention to how I and the messages I am sending will be received by different audiences.
It seems all very Machiavellian when I lay it out like that, and maybe it is. For me, operating in a social world has always been about trying to figure out the rules and, because I operate fueled entirely by the approval of others, follow them very carefully for the advancement of my chosen causes. I don't think I'm all that different from a lot of people. Which all goes to say the kind of reflection that management may try to get at through team building personality tests may already be baked in to how many library employees operate. Tapping into that may be more efficient than trying to recreate it from scratch.
The kind of understanding we build when we reflect on ourselves and our relationships with our work colleagues is the first building block of a successful............. strategic plan. Tune in next week for building block number two!