Ted Talk of the Week – The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

I was instantly attracted to this new Ted Talk because I feel like I have often fallen into this habit of urging my students to be bold and get out there and put themselves forward. Be noticed!

Parindra – The Extrovert

I have often held up my extroverted students as examples. I’ve celebrated Parindra the confident, gregarious student who somehow made me his best friend in the breaks with his deft social skills and see-through flattery, which, I hate to admit, somehow worked on me. You must think I’m shallow…

I guess I constantly see people like Parindra get ahead. They get their foot in the door by being charming and endlessly putting themselves forward for opportunities even when there don’t seem to be any.

The Extrovert in Australia

But I guess what this Ted Talk made me see was that extroverts are supremely celebrated across America, and I would say Australia too, and maybe unjustly. I suspect, however, this isn’t the case in many cultures, where being predominantly a quiet, independent worker is much more respected and rewarded. I imagine a leader also looks different in this culture.

Leadership in Australia

Parindra will do well in Australia – I have no doubt. However, I would like to see Australia become less focused on the lion and start to celebrate the owl. Sharing the leadership between extroverts and introverts is also in line with embracing a more diverse workforce – a more diverse Australia. We need to stop seeing just the Richard Bransons as the quintessential leaders.

Back to teaching – my promise to my students

I will make more of an effort in my classes in the future to nurture the more introverted students and diversify my activities to accommodate the quiet thinkers, those that need quiet time to reflect and come up with potentially more well-thought out plans and solutions to problems and ultimately and hopefully I will nurture a quietly confident leader or two that will embrace a more diverse and thoughtful workforce. Optimistic, maybe… or maybe not?

So, in the words of Susan Cain:

  1. Stop the madness for constant group work…just stop it!
  2. Go to the wilderness…be like Buddha…have your own revelations!
  3. Take a good look at what’s inside your own suitcase and why you put it there!

And have the courage to speak softly!

Yes, I meant my LinkedIn profile to look like that…

Over the years, I have been asked about my LinkedIn profile as I have been told that it ‘seems a bit disjointed’. Recently, one of my corporate teachers subtly said to me, ‘you know, there are a lot of theatre references on your profile?’ with another colleague from the education sector telling me that it didn’t ‘look professional enough for the companies we’re dealing with’.

I have taken these comments on board and seriously considered them over the last few years. I even thought about splitting myself in two and having two profiles – one creative, one professional. It seems that there is an expectation out there to be wedded to one single objective and to follow one single path in order to achieve it but, somehow, this contradicts the era into which I was born. With parents of the Builder/Silent Generation, they had little opportunity to follow their dreams and therefore, encouraged me to be whoever I wanted to be.

So, I travelled, lived abroad in France and The Netherlands, taught English to business people, studied the Arts (French, English Literature and Theatre with some disturbing moments of diving deep into the cultural realities around the First Peoples of Australia, Feminisms and Post-Colonialism) and after an attack of being responsible, I studied to become a high school teacher, which I never practiced but used to become a Director of Studies and now a small business owner of E4B | English for Business.

Along the way I have consistently loved and worked in the arts. I love culture and I am particularly interested in the miscommunications that occur when different cultures come together. In fact, as I look back over the theatre work I have done, it has been in new Australian writing, new voices and new stories that we don’t always see represented in our media or on our stages.

So, it seems that the stories I’m interested in hearing have the same objective as the culturally and linguistically diverse people I’m interested in working with and with the ultimate goal of bringing together a unified and diverse community. I yearn to see more representative numbers in high levels of management and I yearn to hear more stories that represent the whole Australia I see around me.

Is it possible that there is room for these stories in corporate Australia? They could help bridge the gap between the older, dominant, migrant culture and the newer, minority, migrant cultures (not to mention indigenous cultures) that always seem to have to go through their period of initiation or submission into leaving behind parts of themselves in order to fit the dominant, western mould.

Is it possible that we are just tolerating our diverse makeup rather than celebrating it? And what would happen if we seriously invested in celebrating who we really are: ethnically, creatively, professionally or even sexually? Your own diversity is because of your special mix of any of these elements and many more that place you in your unique position. Fitting the mould with a perceivably professional profile that ticks all the boxes is not always going to be what gets you the job.

My interest in storytelling, whether on theatre stages, with corporate clients or in classrooms, makes me more open to listening and looking for the differences. It might even help me open my eyes to different ways of communicating, problem solving and just being in the world. So, by bringing the two fragmented sides of my LinkedIn profile together and being a whole person, it might just make me a better communicator and storyteller as the two sides nourishes each other giving me my specialised niche.

So yes, I meant my LinkedIn profile to look like that…