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Rise of The Introverts

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Dr. Jennifer Kahnweiler

Every office has several members of the team who don’t speak up during meetings but often have the best ideas. They’re good listeners and naturally patient.

At best, they’re labeled as shy, quiet or reserved. At worst, they’re ostracized.

Dr. Jennifer Kahnweiler said the failure to tap into these introverted employees’ strengths means organizations miss out on approximately half the talent and wisdom at their disposal.

“If we’re having meetings and not hearing from everyone, we’re missing out on innovation and cost-saving ideas that could shift the culture of our organizations,” Kahnweiler said during a recent lecture at the University of West Georgia. “Worse than that, we’re devaluing members of our very own team.”

Kahnweiler, author of several books – including “The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength” – visited UWG recently for the next enlightening installment in the BB&T Lectures in Free Enterprise series, hosted by the Richards College of Business.

Celebrating its ninth year, the series – forged by a partnership between the Richards College of Business and the BB&T Foundation – generates a dialogue about the ethical foundation of capitalism and free enterprise.

Preston Etheridge, BB&T’s market president for the West Georgia region, introduced Kahnweiler, saying the lecture series connects well to the bank’s mission.

During her lecture, Kahnweiler explored how some introverts have already taken on leadership roles in their organizations by leveraging their natural strengths.

“We aim to create a place where our associates can grow and learn, as well as make their communities a better place to live,” Etheridge said. “Being associated with UWG – and the Richards College of Business specifically – helps us fulfill our purpose as we reach out to the next generation of business and community leaders.”

Kahnweiler was inspired to write her most well-known book after examining her relationship with her husband, a natural-born introvert. In her job as a leadership coach, she also found numerous introverted clients who were becoming frustrated in their jobs.

“These clients said they felt like their workplaces were asking them to be someone they weren’t,” Kahnweiler said. “As a bona fide extrovert, I became interested in trying to figure out what makes these introverts tick. I couldn’t find the right resources, so I decided to conduct an extensive amount of research and write the book myself.”

Kahnweiler listed some of the strengths introverts have that can make for strong leaders, noting they are patient, thoughtful, observant and terrific listeners.

“Studies show that four out of every 10 top executives test to be introverts,” Kahnweiler said. “I’ve found that the calm leader is the one who’s shown respect, and introverts thrive on being calm and humble.”

Kahnweiler’s lecture centered around her model for introverts to leverage their strengths – what she calls “the four Ps” – encouraging introverts to prepare, be present in the moment, push themselves out of their comfort zones and practice being more engaged.

“Introverts make the most effective leaders when they stop trying to act like extroverts and rely on their own natural strengths,” Kahnweiler said. “Before they take on any task, I urge introverts to carefully design a game plan, be focused on the present moment, go beyond their comfort zones and sharpen their expertise. Own who you are, and use your strengths to a maximum.”

Kahnweiler is a certified speaking professional and has written three books that have been translated into 16 different languages. She’s consulted with hundreds of organizations – including General Electric Company, NASA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and has developed and run leadership programs from Singapore to Spain.

She received her doctorate and organizational development from Florida State University and majored in sociology as an undergraduate at Washington University, St. Louis. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Time Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. A native New Yorker, she now calls Atlanta home.

The BB&T Lectures in Free Enterprise focuses on core values and ethical foundations of free enterprise and issues facing business management and policy-makers. Two select speakers a year are invited to UWG’s campus to provide a talk on these topics. Events are free and open to students and the general public.

“We’re always excited to offer the next installment in this exciting and pertinent lecture series,” said Dr. Faye McIntyre, dean of the Richards College of Business and Sewell Chair of Private Enterprise. “Dr. Kahnweiler presented an insightful, eye-opening message to the UWG community, and I’m thankful for BB&T’s support in bringing speakers of this caliber to campus. We’re always striving to attract great opportunities like this to enrich our students’ educational journeys, and Dr. Kahnweiler’s perceptive lecture on how introverts can build on their natural strengths is a testament to what our partnership with BB&T provides.”

Past speakers in the BB&T Lecture series have included Stu Thorn, David Daniels and Dr. Jody Foster.

For more information on Kahnweiler, visit www.JenniferKahnweiler.com.

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Born and raised in Carrollton, Ga., Colton Campbell has always been a writer. After graduating with a degree in journalism from Auburn University in 2011, he served for more than five years in the trenches of print journalism before starting a career as communications specialist in higher education. In his current role at the University of West Georgia, Colton covers the Richards College of Business, facilitates presidential communication and manages media relations. In his spare time, he enjoys working through Stephen King’s bibliography, playing board games with his wife and taking care of their two dogs.