To build on what I wrote about last week, (how introverts can make changes to make themselves more effective), this week I will address the issue of managing a group of introverts, specifically how to manage introverts so that they are more effective in an environment in which their effectiveness is judged by their ability to interact.
To start, let’s look at this as if it were a marketing problem – and it is- we need to market Corporate Marketing Research to increase its perception of providing value!
First, what are your product characteristics? Take an inventory. Who are the people you have – not just market skill levels but personality types and skill at interacting with others. Next assess what your department and individual standard operating procedures are.
Second, customer attitudes: What are the attitudes of brand management and top management towards your group and towards the individual players.
Third: Analyze. Using the above, do a swot analysis for your department. Where is the congruence between the inventory of characteristics and the image? Where is there a disconnect? Why is that?
Depending on the disconnects you find, the basic suggestions I have are to focus on the key elements to support increasing effectiveness in interactions:
Negotiation and Persuasion for Market Researchers– while a regular negotiation course could probably help, it would be great to help people develop skills at dealing with brand managers with real issues. We can clue in our staff on the usual agenda of brand managers (to make their mark and be noticed so they can get their next promotion), what their personality type usually is (extroverted, unlike our staff) and some successful ways to build a good relationship (such as convince them that you will help them look smarter in front of their boss). There’s lots more, but you get the idea.
Presentation skills for Market Researchers– An off the shelf presentation skills class or commitment to something like a Toastmasters program would be useful. But there are some different issues in presenting lots of data. For example, there are two different ways to build a slide deck – start with the conclusions or build to the conclusions. Which is better in which situation? How much time should you allot per slide depending on the audience and the density of the data? And by the way, how do you present data? On a very practical level, setting expectations for a practice session with their direct superior is another easy way to raise the standards.
Being effective in meetings– A true introvert’s weakest point is probably his or her effectiveness in meetings. You can help by setting clear expectations of behavior in meetings, with coaching and cheer leading from the side. Another way to help is to set up non-threatening situations so they can practice meeting behavior – such as a role playing session between peers or any practice in meetings.
But beyond support, you need to be clear that these interactive elements will be included in an evaluation. It doesn’t matter if the study they shepherded through the system was elegantly designed, using cutting edge techniques and came in thick binders with lots of findings and recommendations if those findings don’t make a difference. A key element of an individual’s performance has got to be is how much difference their work made.
I’ll close with a snippet from Steve Job’s biographer. In recounting the story behind the movie “Toy Story” he says that the key belief that Steve Jobs and John Lasseter of Pixar had that “products have an essence to them, a purpose for which they were made. If an object were to have feelings, these would be based on its desire to fulfill its essence. …. if (a glass of water) had feelings, it would be happy when full and sad when empty.” (“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, page 418).
I believe that market researchers essence is to make an impact on business decisions. Although they will have to stretch themselves, the more decisions they make an impact on, the happier they will be. And the better off our companies will be if Market Researchers start becoming the catalyst for smarter and smarter decisions.