The “Door of Success” Opens Both Outward and Inward

I came across a success quote on Twitter invoking a door metaphor that I couldn’t, um, “unlock” the point of.

Fellow Bentley University alum and sales operations blogger Marci Reynolds re-tweeted the quote in question:

I like quotes but I just didn’t get this one: Why would the “door(way) to success” swing only outward and not inward? Does it matter? As long as it opens, right?

Is the point of the quote that being extroverted that is, outwardly focused – is essential to succeed? I hope not, because, as author and TED 2012 speaker Susan Cain compellingly argues, that’s simply not true.

I urge you to listen to Susan Cain’s entire TED talk, but the gist of her presentation is that too often our schools and workplaces are seemingly structured based on the assumption that the best students and workers are extroverts – outgoing types who are in their element working in teams and being “productive.” Unfortunately, few breakthroughs in technology, research or other areas of endeavor have been created by committee.

Our most important institutions, our schools and our workplaces, are designed mostly for extroverts and for extroverts’ need for lots of stimulation…Even in subjects like math and creative writing, which you think would depend on solo flights of thought, kids are now expected to act as committee members…

And when it comes to leadership, introverts are routinely passed over for leadership positions, even though introverts tend to be very careful, much less likely to take outsized risks — which is something we might all favor nowadays…(I)nteresting research by Adam Grant at the Wharton School has found that introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes than extroverts do, because when they are managing proactive employees, they’re much more likely to let those employees run with their ideas…

And groups famously follow the opinions of the most dominant or charismatic person in the room, even though there’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.

Susan Cain’s points are well supported by scads of research; Jim Collins’ Good to Great insights into the personality traits of the top “level 5” leaders immediately come to mind: level 5 leaders are often unassuming, self-effacing and display introverted tendencies – the opposite of what Collins calls the “corrosive celebrity CEO.” Yes, introverts can make excellent leaders. It is a serious mistake for extroverts to believe that introverts merely work in a vacuum without input from others.

Susan Cain also goes out of her way to make clear that she does not disparage extroverted people in any way (she mentions that she’s married to an extrovert). Doing so would be plain dumb. Rather, Susan Cain’s key point is that it’s critical for institutions to set up both extraverts and introverts for success by equipping them with the differing environments they need for success.

By helping to ensure the organization’s “door of success” does indeed open both outward and inward, the organization’s will significantly expand its potential for extraordinary “Good to Great” levels of success. Organizations that don’t get this will find its collective door of success frustratingly difficult to open indeed…

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Introverts: Not Networking is Not an Option! (A Brief Interview with Holland-Mark CEO Chris Colbert)

Point/Counterpoint: Two Polar Opposite Managerial Styles & Personal Brands

Buy this Book and Read it Now: The Leader as a Mensch (Book Review)

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Introverts: Not Networking is Not an Option! (A Brief Interview with Holland-Mark CEO Chris Colbert)

I am happy to report that I successfully bounced back from a surprise April 2009 layoff from a former employer and landed a great new job two months later.  Networking made all the difference in the world.  In fact, in terms of what really worked in my job search, networking was the world.

Just to be clear, this is NOT effective networking! (Source: University of Melbourne, Australia)

Just to be clear, this is NOT effective networking! (Source: University of Melbourne, Australia)

Without networking, I never would have found this job, or for that matter, another good offer for an appealing extended consulting opportunity. I was not one of hundreds of resumes in someone’s email inbox. Neither opportunity was advertised anywhere. In fact, the opportunities were not even fully defined yet when I first explored them.

If I did not have my network which I initiated before I was laid off, if I had not cultivated my network with new contacts after I was laid off, I would still be unemployed.  It’s that critical.

Holland-Mark CEO Chris Colbert led a thought-provoking presentation at last week’s Bentley University Success Network meeting which I believe inspired attendees to build and nurture their networks.  Effective networking is made possible by your personal brand (Brand U); who you are and what makes you unique (what Chris refers to as your One Simple Thing).  Chris’ presentation was recorded and should be available on the Bentley University website soon (stay tuned).

I spoke yesterday with Chris about his presentation and dug a little deeper on how job searchers predisposed to introverted behavior might be at a disadvantage, as they might be more reticient or even shy about approaching others and developing a network to succeed in their job search.  The bottom line is clear: Not networking is not an option.  But introverts out there who bristle at the thought of getting out there and networking should take heart: Networking is not about winning a popularity contest or using phony flattery to manipulate others to help you.  At its core, networking is all about being authentic.

Read on for my chat with Chris Colbert.  I hope you find it helpful.

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