Developing Our Inner Introversion
…..the art of questioning becomes more difficult as status increases. Our culture emphasizes that leaders must be wiser, set direction and articulate values, all of which predisposes them to tell rather than ask”.
Edgar Schein in Humble Inquiry (2013, p.5)
I attended a ‘thinking group’ meeting last week with a new group of people that I hadn’t met before. While I was reflecting on the gathering afterwards, one thing that occurred to me was that among the people that I was with, I was the last to introduce myself. In fact, I didn’t speak at all (aside from a short “Hi, I’m Rob) for the first 15 minutes or so. There were new people to meet and I was interested in ‘their stories’. We had a great chat and I got to know some interesting new people.
Wind the clock back a couple of years however, and given the same setting, I would have been busting at the bit to be the first to speak, to be the center of attention in the meeting and generally being the extroverted and energetic guy I had been known for.
I have observed this often from my peers in risk and safety where being extroverted and energetic is often seen as critical for success. To be described as ‘passionate’, ‘engaging’, and ‘energetic’ seems to be a sign of preeminence. It seems that being an ‘extrovert’ is synonymous with being passionate about, caring for and to be frank, being ‘good’ at safety. But is this right? To be successful in risk and safety do we need to come across as outgoing, passionate and engaging? If this is our style, if our preference is to ‘engage first’ rather than ‘ask and listen’, what does this mean for our relationships with others?
I wonder if there is a need for those of is working in risk and safety to take time out to think about how we go about things? What benefit would come from more listening, inquiring and understanding rather than jumping in with answers, solutions, and instructions?