Introverts or Extroverts as Continuous Improvement Leaders
Today’s post is from a guest blogger. Connie Tolman has a career that has spanned the aerospace, military, medical device and biotechnology industries in Southern California. Her career has been in Manufacturing Engineering until last year. She implemented lean manufacturing practices in the 80’s, moved to Six Sigma with GE Healthcare in the 90’s, Lean Sigma in the early 2000’s and was introduced to Toyota Production System Lean in 2007 which is her current passion. Connie is currently working as a Continuous Improvement Manager at a biotechnology company in San Diego.
A friend of mind just got a job at Simpler, a very well thought of Lean Consultant Company. To get the job he had to go through a very thorough and intense process which included Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment personality tests, giving a speech to a group of professionals and review of his technical knowledge.
A brief summary of Myers-Briggs personality test is that it looks at these different aspects of the personality:
- Extraverted (E) vs. Introverted (I),
- Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N),
- Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
- Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)
He scored high on the extrovert aspect. She said “if you had scored as an introvert, I don’t think you’d be good at continuous improvement”. This struck me hard since right now I’m in the middle of evaluating those qualities in myself which started with reading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. She now has a revolution on her hands after her TED talk by the same name – here is her website if interested http://www.quietrev.com/. To determine where you are in the continuum, the most basic question is “How do you get energized? From being alone in nature/reading a book or being with a group of people at a party?”
It turns out that there is a bias towards extroverts in our society. I have found that I am mixed between the two – that is what my Meyers Briggs score says and my astrology chart also (if that means anything to any of you science types). So, I felt inferior right off the bat. If I can’t go in there and be aggressive and forward with people, maybe I’m not good at continuous improvement, operations excellence, whatever you call it. If I can’t lead a kaizen with flair and good old fashioned pushiness, maybe I’m not good at lean.
Susan Cain says we are all a combination of both, but those who take a little time and think things through have great value. It is important to be able to be the big, noticeable person but as or maybe more important to listen to others, to think things through and come up with the brainstorm that changes the way things are looked at. We emphasize empowerment in lean which requires listening and giving away power, not taking the spotlight all to yourself. All of these things are the qualities of an introvert.
So I think that both are needed and it is our goal as lean professionals to stretch the side that isn’t our natural strength. Extraverts need to listen more. Introverts need to be more of a cheerleader and be able to energize groups.