Running with Scissors and Playing Well with Others

By Professor Michaela White, Editor and Advisor of the NACTT Academy

I grew up in the era of individual academic achievement and happily settled on a career that allows me to work largely alone. A recent article in the Sunday New York Times, “The Rise of the New Groupthink,” by Susan Cain, articulates the frustration I experienced as a parent while my son and daughter attended grammar school and high school. It also makes me grateful for my career as a law school professor.  It validated my own observations of what has become fashionable in education and in business: the group project for kids and endless business meeting and group projects for grown-ups.

It’s been my observation that extroverts are more highly admired and even more valued than introverts both at play and at work. Before we go on, it is important to make sure we are all on the same page on a working definition of introvert and extrovert.  The best distinction I have been able to come up with is that introverts recharge their batteries by being alone and extroverts by being with others. Shyness has nothing to do with it.  Many introverts are at least as highly skilled at social interaction as extroverts. Introverts need alone time to do their best work. Extroverts formulate their best ideas in a group.  Introverts like privacy and by that I mean real offices with doors!  They need quiet time to be creative and find brainstorming sessions to be less than helpful, in fact rather exhausting. Working in an open office space arrangement and constant noise and interruption is my version of death by a thousand paper cuts.

As bankruptcy professionals, it is important to reflect on the nature of our co-workers and ourselves.  We should consider the best way to harness our co-workers’ skill sets and avoid the assumption that our style is necessarily that of others. Is there a way to give your introverts some alone time and privacy?  Is there a way to capture the extroverts’ gift of thinking out loud and in groups?

Susan Cain’s article is an easy way to start. Ms. Cain also has a new book coming out called, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” I will let you know when it is available for purchase.  This leads to my next plea: support the Academy by using our website to purchase ANYTHING through  The Academy receives a small percentage from each sale, but only if you access Amazon through the Academy’s link.

Professor of Law, Michaela White received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1976, and her Juris Doctor degree, magna cum laude, in 1979 from Creighton University, where she was on the Creighton Law Review Editorial Staff and a member of the Moot Court Honors Board. She was law clerk to The Honorable Donald R. Ross of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and for The Honorable Fallon Kelly of the Minnesota Supreme Court. She practiced law in Minnesota from 1980-1983, and then served as the Assistant Attorney General for the Nebraska Department of Justice. Prof. White joined Creighton after serving for six years as a Professor of Law at McGeorge School of Law. Most recently, Prof. White authored the book, When Worlds Collide: Bankruptcy and Domestic Relations Law, 4th Ed. (American Bankruptcy Institute, 2010).

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