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Are extroverts really better at stakeholder engagement?

Are extroverts really better at stakeholder engagement?​

Last week I gave a presentation on our research into positive outliers to a group of public sector project managers. It included the finding that all these high-performing project managers had this leaning to people. I explained how this lead me on the journey first to write my book Practical People Engagement and then to develop the online coaching programme Exploring People Engagement.


During the Q&A, one manager asked me how many of the high performers were extroverts, and whether the Positive Outliers all had the advantage of their personality style. Well, we didn't actually test for extroversion in our research. But there are some reasons why I would not agree with the general assumption that extroverts are better equipped to engage with stakeholders, and so would be distinguished by a leaning to people.


The positive outliers, high performing project managers are #learners

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First, the positive outliers were all learners. They demonstrated in their language and by their explanations that they were self-aware, self-reflective, and to some extent experimented with different approaches. They had learned that spending a significant amount of their discretionary time moving towards key stakeholders around their projects and programmes paid off, seemed to pay off handsomely.

It turns out extroverts do not necessarily make the best sales people.

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Then I quoted another research study from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania which looked at introversion-extraversion in a sales environment, specifically a call centre where they made outgoing sales calls. The people who were the most successful, as measured in terms of revenue generated, were those who were neither extreme extroverts nor extreme introverts. What emerged was that these ambiverts, people who score somewhere towards the middle of the range between introvert and extrovert, performed better. It seemed that they were better placed to Influence people, in this case to buy.

Graph from paper by Adam M. Grant, Wharton School


Also it is clear that there are certain aspects in this call centre workflow where the extroverts have a clear advantage: the decision to make a cold call, for example, is something perhaps that is easier for an extrovert to make than an introvert. That much is obvious. The introvert would need to establish this as a learned behaviour, say by establishing a routine habit or discipline, whereas it might be seen as energising and attractive to the extrovert.

But then, during the sales conversation itself, a key part of influencing is the paradox of being a good listener. And it's here with introverts tend to have an advantage. It seems that the ability to reflect and match the person you're speaking with, to adjust to their style, their tempo, their language, is a skill that is very persuasive. Whereas the extroverts might tend to ignore these clues.

In some areas of #stakeholderengagement introverts have an advantage

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I explore in both my book and the online coaching programme this whole idea that engaging with people is a multifaceted skill. When we engage with people, when we identify the stakeholders, when we study them, when we talk with them, when we make our pitch to them, there's all different aspects of social skill in operation, but really across the whole spectrum of introversion and extraversion.


So is it a disadvantage to be an introvert? Well no. I would plead that in my own case, I have consistently scored as an introvert in MBTI assessments.


So is there something deeper at stake in this? It is possible whether or not people bring a growth mindset to this whole subject, or whether they bring self-limiting beliefs such as, “I could never do this people thing as I’m an Introvert.” In my paper, The Seven Traits of High Performers, I identify the growth mindset, as set out by Carol Dweck, as a key attribute of the Positive Outliers.


Whether introvert, extrovert or ambivert, the Positive Outlier will bring a growth mindset to the challenge of leading and influencing people, will reflect, learn, and expect to grow in effectiveness. And it seems they do.

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5 Keys to How People will Respond to Your Change

If you have ever led a change, you will be familiar with this experience:

You make your pitch to someone affected. You pitch your change proposition with passion and enthusiasm.

However, as you talk, the other person does not mirror your enthusiasm. In fact, you feel a huge yebbut coming ("Yeah, but..."). Your enthusiasm begins oozing out of your feet as you listen to them explain why it won't or shouldn't work.

I thought I'd share the video below. It forms part of our new Exploring People Engagement online coaching programme. In this video, I rehearse the 5 TONIC ​responses that cover most of the sources of objection to our change.

So, what's the point? Simply this: the TONIC list helps me prepare before I present a change proposition. If I'm giving a formal presentation to a larger group, I might include some of these objections in my presentation, such as the organisation's recent history and the type of change I'm proposing, and deal with those concerns as part of my presentation.

Most responses to change can be explained from five core areas.

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If I'm meeting a key individual, one-to-one, I might sensitively study how they might react from what I know about them, their role, their style of working and what I know they hold as their operating values. This helps me avoid causing unnecessary anxiety or offence.

Finally, I'd like to attribute the original list to the work of Esther Cameron and Mike Green, as it appears in their Making Sense of Change Management. MSCM, as it was known, was for a number of years the core reference for APMG's qualification in Change Management. 'TONIC' was the acronym one of the pearcemayfield delegates on the  Change Management Practitioner course came up with and it stuck for John Edmonds and me.

Then APMG moved to The Effective Change Manager's Handbook as the core reference for this qualification, a tome which I had a hand in writing one of the chapters. And, sadly, TONIC didn't make the transition to the new curriculum, which I think is a shame.

So I've kept it in my writing and training. I hope you agree it's a valuable framework.

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A New Emergent Idea ….

In this video, I’m in my garden in Oxfordshire. It’s spring and so much new life is coming up. I love this time of year. There is a riot of noise each morning from birds that have recently migrated to Northern Europe. And new plants are beginning to emerge.

But this post is about another kind of new life that is beginning to emerge.

For over a year now, I’ve been writing and working on what is that ‘X Factor’ in high performers, particularly in the arena of change. How do these high performers get their extraordinary results?

In the early part of this year, I was really encouraged by the Leading Yourself online workshop. Over about six weeks, we worked through some core material in my recent book, meeting weekly online to explore what the implications were for each of the group.

By the end of that time we had bonded as a group. The class didn’t want it to end and asked to keep a monthly webinar going.

So I did some research and sought your opinions. If you are a subscriber to this site , you will know about the survey I have been running.

I asked about what you want, your challenges, and so on. Although results are still coming in, what is emerging is really interesting…

First, you are a wide-ranging group. Not many of you have job titles like ‘project manager’ or ‘change leader’. We have journalists and cyber-security experts, church workers and government officials. It seems that the secrets of great change leaders are applicable to us all.

Also, very few people have a single full-time job. Most of us have a portfolio of jobs. The 21st century is upon us. This is the new normal.

Nearly everyone has a portfolio of jobs. The 21st century is upon us. It's the new normal.

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However, what you want from me is fascinating, and caused me a little concern. It seems that you want two things:

  1. Yes, you do want Community - a place to share and connect with like-minded individuals
  2. Quick Wins - short, sharp ‘how-to’ guides. People want me to 'cut to the chase' and give them a condensed explanation, something that they can absorb in five or ten minutes.

Now, how to I do this?

After researching into this, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should offer you a private site, a place where people can access member’s only discussions and forums, as well as exclusive content.

This is not something I set out to do. I was happy with writing, producing learning solutions and coaching one-to-one. But I am committed to your success, and offering you what you want.

So, I’ve been busy building the site. I'm not yet ready to launch it.

If you would like early notice of this launch, then please click the link below and I will put you on a waiting list.

I’m excited. You are taking me an unexpected direction, and I’m already forming a vision of what this community will look like. I think it will be very powerful for us all.

As always, leave your comments below, or complete my online survey.

Better still, ​join the waiting list for the launch of this exciting new community.

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The Relational Bank Account

I think I first came across this concept in the writings of Stephen Covey about twenty years ago. It struck me then as a powerful metaphor. I've used it many times since. It changed the way I looked at requesting people to change for me and my reasons. It is still as powerful as ever.

Relational Bank Account Video

The Relational Bank Account  is thinking about the relationship with another person, a stakeholder, as the equivalent of a bank account. You 'deposit' into the account by acts of helpfulness and so on.

You make withdrawals, positively by asking that stakeholder to do something for you, something they wouldn't do otherwise.And you should only attempt to make a positive withdrawal if you know there is something in that account.

You can make more negative, rapid withdrawals by disappointing them or not meeting their expectations of you. You can even make withdrawals by neglecting them. Relational bank accounts leak.

I've found this to be a powerful concept. It makes me take stock of the relational capital with key stakeholders before I proceed with making a request or any kind of demand on them.​ 

The Relational Bank Account is a powerful influencing strategy particularly when it is done with the right values.

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To some people this can appear at first a little cynical, crude, even somewhat calculated and manipulative. I suppose people could use it that way. However, it all depends on the values you bring to bear on this technique.

If you have a grasping, selfish, self-serving set of values, then it could be used manipulatively. But I very much doubt it would work as well, quite apart of the ethics of the matter.

Whereas, if you approach the relational bank account as a strategy to express your values of generosity, service and empathy, along with an abundance mind set, then you are much more likely to get positive results and the relationships will be enhanced over the long-term as well.​

There are at least 10 different ways we can make positive deposits into key relationships around us.

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I've published a short 13-page guidance that you can download here. In all, I identify 10 different ways we can make 'deposits' into the relationships around us. You can download it below.

As always, please let me know how you get on. Maybe leave me a comment below, particularly if it helps you achieve some kind of breakthrough in relationships.​

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