Saturday, December 30, 2017

An Introvert’s Nightmare, True Leadership, A Pre-Announcement Announcement

In the interest of increasing my efficiency at work, I recently decided to experiment with group interviews for a specific subset of volunteer applicants. I’ve been resistant to the idea in the past, but I’m going to do a trial run and see how it goes. Seeking some tips, I entered “group interviews” into a Google search, which led me to a nightmarish slog through numerous articles extolling their so-called “virtues.” I discovered to my horror that in most group interviews, candidates are pitted against each other gladiator-style, as the smug gatekeepers of employment delight in watching domineering, psychopathically competitive blowhards bulldoze over their more timid challengers, who may have superior ideas but aren’t equipped for verbal battle in an artificial test arena.  This draconian style of interviewing is thought to reveal the “natural leaders” and “courageous communicators” (read: loudmouths) and weed out the weak, undesirable hanger-backers.

Fortunately, I’ve never had to endure a group interview, but as a notorious hanger-backer myself, I take umbrage with these methods. The notion that extroversion is always a virtue still maintains overarching dominance in the American work place, despite introversion having a brief fifteen minutes of fame a few years ago with the release of Susan Cain's book "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking." Corporate America still insists on clinging to the quasi-religious belief that extraverts are natural leaders and risk-takers simply because they’re charismatic and put on a good show. One employer, quoted in an article in Fortune, says of group interviews: “Right away you see who’s taking a leadership position, who’s taking over, who’s not contributing, who’s coming with solutions. It’s great stuff to watch and really tells us a lot.”

No, it doesn’t “tell you a lot.” The problem with this approach is many-fold. First of all, no group is going work effectively if every member is constantly vying for dominance. You need a mix of different strengths on a team, and despite popular opinion, strength is not always equivalent to volume. Secondly, “natural” leaders are not necessarily the best leaders. The may be the most confident and the most effective at asserting themselves, but some of the best leaders are those for whom it does not come naturally; those who have never seen themselves as leaders but nonetheless find themselves in leadership positions through the vagaries of corporate fickleness. The “non-natural” leader’s reluctance often means they are willing to put their egos aside, shut up, and listen deeply. Their humility allows them to step out of the spotlight so their team members can truly shine. And because they are not attached to being right, they are not afraid to make mistakes and admit it when they do. So, corporate America, overlook those “weak” hanger-backers at your own peril. You’re missing out on some real gems if all you’re hearing is the loudest voice in the room.

Now that I have completed my yearly lecture on the over-valuation of extraversion in American society, I have a pre-announcement announcement! Starting in early 2018, I’ll be working towards the self-publication of my novel, “Day Job Blues.” My goal is to have the book available in e-format by mid-summer. Watch this space for more information—and for the inevitable entertaining emotional breakdowns to come as I weed-whack my way through the process.

Oh, and before I sign off, it occurs to me I should note that my group interviews will not involve competitive shenanigans such as designing a vessel that will protect an egg from breaking when dropped at twenty feet. I’m a nice lady. They will be mutually supportive and hand-holdy, and shy people will not get points off.

Finally, here are some links to my general grousing about the trials of living as an introvert:

--Kristen McHenry

No comments: