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There's Chatty Kathy (And Knowing When To Keep Your Mouth Shut)

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So I'm an extrovert - pretty much always have been. For those of you who are also extroverts, I bet you immediately thought of me as engaging, energetic and talkative gal who might be fun to meet for a glass of wine. For all you introverts out there (including the one I married), I heard your loud groan from here and bet you were thinking - 'Ah geez - here comes another Chatty Kathy who is going to talk my ear off and sap all of the energy right out of me'. But even us Chatty Kathy's know when to keep our mouths shut.  Or - at least we are working on it.

chatty kathy

So before we get to the debate around who makes a better leader - extroverts or introverts - let's talk Chatty Cathy as I am sure you are dying to know her history.  Chatty Cathy was a pull string 'talkative' doll manufactured by the Mattel toy company from 1959 to 1965. The doll was first released in stores and then appeared in TV commercials starting in 1960. Chatty Cathy was the most popular doll of the 1960's after Barbie, and "spoke" phrases at random when the "chatty ring" protruding from her upper back was pulled. Chatty Cathy's original repertoire included 11 phrases like, "I love you", and an additional 7 phrases were added in 1963 to include such compelling asks as "May I have a cookie?"  Hmmmm....wouldn't it be interesting if all off-the-chart extroverts were restricted to just 18 phrases during any meeting. Wonder how that might change the flow of discussions.

Because extroverts tend to be outgoing, charismatic, socially confident and communicative - we fit right into the Chatty Cathy persona. Introverts, on the other hand, are typically deemed as shy, quiet, modest and cautious - someone who needs time alone at the end of a long day to recharge and who is less likely to dominate a conversation or have to be the center of attention. As I expect you know, there is a ton of research out there on who makes a better leader between extroverts and introverts which I find just fascinating (although sometimes contradictory). And of course the answer is neither.....or both.

Extroverts tend to command the center of attention and be the head of a discussion, which makes leaders with that profile very effective at invigorating others around them and managing people who like to follow.  Introverts, on the other hand, have a predisposition to listen to and consider the suggestions of others which makes them great at leading highly proactive employees who wish to have a say in what gets done and how. Extroverts are great at providing vision. Introverts are calm in a crisis. Extroverts typically have a huge network of friends and colleagues that a business can access. Introverts are typically excellent written communicators and highly effective in building one-on-one relationships both inside and outside your organization. 

So which is better? Guess you'll have to pull my Chatty Kathy string to hear my answer this time.  But I know we all agree that diversity yields better results and to be effective as a leader you must surround yourself with people who bring different skills and competencies to your team. But for all of us extroverts who naturally tend to dominate a room and who JUST WON'T STOP talking, some words of advice: two ears, one mouth, use proportionately.

At Creatis, we use the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) to run our business (www.eosworldwide.com). I mentioned before one EOS publication I use quite often is a book by Gino Wickman and Rene Boer entitled How To Be A Great Boss. In it, they lay out several great ways to improve the effectiveness of your communciation with employees regardless of your extroversion/introversion 'bent".  These are:

great boss
  1. Two Emotions - when unsure about what someone is thinking and feeling, ask: "If you could share two emotions about how you are feeling right now - one positive and one negative - what would they be?" This is a great way to open up a dialogue and find out what's going on with both of you.

  2. Question to Statement Ratio - typical managers (expecially us extroverts) do most of the talking when engaging with a direct report, so the trick is to ensure you maintain an 80/20 ratio where your direct report does 80% of the talking. Do this by asking "why, who, what, where and when'" questions rather than making statements (and then - of course - LISTEN to the answers you get)

  3. Echoing - if you are unsure if something has been understood, ask the following question: "Just to make sure that I am communicating well, could you please tell me what I just told you?"  It allows you to restate your message and ensure you are both in sync going forward.

So I'll end with a shout out to all Chatty (Your Name Here)'s who are out there, because without us the world would be a boring (albeit much quieter) place. To be effective as a leader and communicator, I plan to not only honor my natural extroversion - but also channel my inner introversion to know when to keep my mouth shut. Something I'll need to keep focusing on - and working hard on every day.

So given all of my hard work - "May I have a cookie?"

Tags: Creatis , Passion, team

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