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Building the Business 101: Beyond Gender

Communicate effectively with both introverts and extroverts.

Veena A. Kutler and Annette F. Simon, 09/25/2008

This monthly series of articles describes the many steps and occasional missteps we have taken in building our financial advisory business, Garnet Group LLC. Currently, Garnet has eight staff members, more than 90 clients, more than $300 million in client net worth under advisement, and offices in Bethesda, Md., and Boston. Veena Kutler, CFA, and Annette Simon, CFP, are the managing principals in the Garnet office in Bethesda.

In our previous two columns we've discussed whether and how an advisor's gender affects interactions with staff members and clients. This month we asked an expert in personal and organizational development to share some of her observations on other factors that can create misunderstandings and tension between advisors and their employees, clients, and prospects.

Our Expert
Devora Zack is the founder of Only Connect Consulting in Potomac, Md. Since 1996, OCC has provided clients with tools and systems to strengthen effectiveness and morale. We first met Devora when she ran a preconference workshop at a NAPFA conference a few years ago, and Annette invited her to lead the attendees of this year's NAPFA advanced planners conference in a variety of exercises designed to enhance communication and leadership skills.

The Interview:
Garnet: Devora, you've told us that while gender is one factor, it is not the only, nor even the most important determinant of communication style. Can you expand on that?

Devora Zack: Let's start with the comments your expert provided last month. She (Olivia Mellon) mentioned the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and that most men are "thinkers" (prefer to use facts and data in assessing problems and making decisions), while most women are "feelers" (relying more on their emotional responses). Statistically this is true--65% of men are "thinkers"; 35% "feelers." Women are split in the same proportions, but 65% of them are "feelers," while only 35% are "thinkers."

In my own work, I've observed that introversion and extroversion, another MBTI dimension, has an enormous impact on how people talk to and interact with others in all types of environments. Further, I think this dimension is very often misunderstood. People tend to believe that introverts are shy, quiet individuals who avoid public speaking. They assume that extroverts are talkative, good at networking, and comfortable presenting to a group.

While these characterizations might be true for some introverts and extroverts, they are not the factors that distinguish the two groups. There are self-confident introverts who enjoy public speaking just as there are shy extroverts who avoid the limelight. And, for example, a self-assured introvert who is comfortable with public speaking can be misinterpreted as a rude extrovert.

This has actually happened to me. Although I am an introvert, in my workshops I am "on" for hours at a time, leading and interacting with groups of all sizes. I enjoy my work tremendously, but at the same time it's very draining because of my introverted nature. Between sessions I need to isolate myself in order to recharge and prepare for upcoming sessions. At times participants have noticed that I'm not hanging around to chit-chat with the group during breaks, and have commented that I must be a little cold or standoffish. In fact, I'm very talkative and outgoing in one-on-one conversations.

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