Sunday, November 16, 2014

Introversion, Analytics, Storytelling

As part of my position as Vice Dean of Education I get to meet a lot of students who have a lot of issues.  This year, I made it a point to also meet students who don't have big issues but who are, in fact, doing great things for the School at which I work.  So, I arranged a series of lunches with leaders of student organizations.  There were many interesting and fun outcomes of the series of four lunches I had a couple weeks back.

One lunch was notable for discussions of introversion, analytics, and storytelling.  You may wonder how those fit together.  Here is how that came about.

First, introversion.  At this particular lunch there were four students.  Some of the lunches I had were largely student driven around issues that applied either to the specific student organizations or around generic student issues.  Two of the lunches were more driven by discussing issues about research or career interests or personal stories.  In this particular lunch, the fourth of the week, the students all knew that I am a runner.  At some point the discussion transitioned to be about management style and personality types.  As I had been leading the conversation, I started with, "Many people don't believe this, but I tested strongly as an introvert on the Myers-Briggs test.  One of the students looked at me quizzically as I said this--body language that said, "Why would people not believe you?"  This student has a keen understanding of what the MBTI really gets at.  I've heard it described as not whether you like crowds but where you go for "recharging" or where you draw your strength.  Many long distance runners--particularly those who are willing to do the longest workouts on their own-are great candidates to guess they would be pretty strong introverts.  Using that time away to think and recharge.  So, that was interesting point number one.

The other two came when the same student, inquisitive about my change from a faculty member at the School of Public Health to a largely administrative role at the business school asked, "Do you still use any of the skills?  And how do they help?"

I gave two answers.

First, I talked about analytics.  While it is certainly the case that I am interested in different data as an administrator and the types of analyses are different, I still need to be analytic.  That is a skill that dates back to my days as a faculty member.  In fact, I would suggest that it is a pretty fundamental part of my personality and dates at least as far back as the future problem solving exercises that I was asked to participate in as part of the academic enrichment program provided by my school district when I was growing up.

Second, I talked about storytelling.  As someone who writes a blog, I'm sure that readers are not surprised to hear that I would focus on storytelling.  The key is how to link that to both research and administration.  While my research reports were never as gripping as a best selling Tom Clancy novel, good research reports tell stories.  Non-fiction, of course.  But stories nonetheless.  And, as a leader, I have to get other people to move in a direction I want them to.  How best to do that?  By telling stories that illustrate the vision of what I want to achieve.  So, maybe I could have called it communication rather than story telling, but the idea is clearly there.

So, that is how I managed to talk about introversion, analytics, and storytelling all as part of an hour long conversation with four students at the Business School.  And I look forward to continuing to have opportunities to share wonderful and interesting stories about my view of the world with as well as about learning from the students who come to the Carey Business School.  

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