I have to confess: I’m an introvert. Big time.
I’m also a successful evangelist, company spokesperson, people manager and leader amongst extroverts. So how does that work? You guessed wrong, the answer is not schizophrenia.
Let’s first look a little closer to what it means to be an introvert. If you are an extrovert you probably want to stop reading now, this is secret stuff (chances are you’re already bored anyway). If you are an introvert this is for you!
First of all, there’s a broad misconception that introversion / extraversion describes what you CAN do. It does NOT! It’s merely an expression of your natural subconscious preference. It describes where you pull your energy from. Let me repeat: introversion/extroversion does NOT limit what you CAN do! And introversion comes with a lot of superpowers.
Having a preference for introversion usually means that you tend to think before you speak (versus forming your thoughts by conversing with others). By the way, I’m not saying that extroverts don’t think, their thought process just tends to work more through expression, exchange and refinement of thoughts while they discuss.
You also have a tendency to think deeply about things and consider all details and implications. You can do this because you don’t get distracted in your thought process by competing ideas from others, while you are still forming your own opinion.
Both are superpowers if used correctly. They can also be severe limitations if not managed properly.
Because you like to think really deeply about things before sharing, there’s a great risk that you will repeatedly come up with brilliant solutions only to find out that ‘the train has already left the station’.
Most of us introverts think that we can’t share a plan until we have it nailed 100%. That’s wrong. Having 80% is great! Having even only 60% to get a conversation started and begin enrolling everyone else is just fine too. Remember, the extroverts in your team need to see the plan evolving through discussion or they are likely to reject it and start a verbal thought process from scratch (there goes your brilliant plan).
Trying to get everything nailed down 100% will also make many of us fearful of speaking up in larger groups or even giving presentations at meetings or events. Drop that fear. In fact introverts are awesome speakers! Accept that you have only mastered 80% of your area of expertise. Guess what, everyone else likely only has a shallow 40% or so – that’s the reason why you were asked to be the speaker in the first place.
The last big weakness is that most introverts believe that others will actively look for and naturally discover their greatness. Bad news: that won’t happen. There’s a career problem here. The good news is: We can fix it.
How you can shine (more)
So what do we do to become even (more) impactful? Let’s go from easy to hard (at least that was my personal experience).
Good news is you’re a natural for this.
Having introvert preferences, you likely spend time reading, researching and thinking. You have very valuable thoughts, share them! You also tend to get to the point quick, to be concise and to leave out all the fluff. Readers love that.
Start engaging, start re-sharing and commenting. Then get into expressing and sharing your own genuine thoughts. Social media is a powerful way of sharing your thoughts and networking broadly without all that small talk stuff (yikes!). It empowers you to consistently build up and hone your personal brand.
It’s easy and natural for you. Just do it, don’t be lazy.
Presentations and events
You probably have already noticed that speaking isn’t actually hard for you either, once you choose to do it (and once you overcome your initial fears).
Your biggest concern typically is whether what you have to say is really worth sharing. Drop that. You’re the expert, that’s why someone chose you as the speaker. You might not know everything, but you do know so much more than your audience. Go for it, share what you know!
People will perceive you as a great speaker for the same reasons that they will like your social media writing. You don’t talk for talking’s sake. You also don’t think as you talk, instead you have a clearly thought out map in your mind which you will follow and unfold together with your audience. In short, you don’t waste their time.
You are detail focused, which can be a little lengthy at times. Be conscious of this and find the right balance to not bore and lose your audience.
Getting some solid speaker training is great advice for everyone. If you get an opportunity to present, go for it!
Meetings and decision-making
I already touched on an introvert’s tendency to have everything nailed down and polished 100% before showing it to the broader world. Scratch that approach right now and here. Unless everyone around you is an introvert too, it’s a recipe for failure.
Share early, share broadly, share frequently. If you have it 40% down, you’re ready to get thoughts and feedbacks towards the direction in your plan. When you have it 60% down, it’s time to evangelize everyone on your plan and get active buy-in. When you’re at 80%, ship it! You can still drive it to 100% if your plan turns out to become a huge success and is being widely implemented. Yes, I’m serious about this!
When sharing and evangelizing your plan to a new set of peers, sometimes it’s more effective to pretend you don’t have a grand master plan yet (even if you do) and rather let the new folks come to the same conclusions that you reached earlier. Gently guide the discussion, so that the team can get to the same place where you are. That’s not always the right strategy. Often you are just meant to present what the plan is. But sometimes it works wonders to get folks on board quicker. “Here’s the problem. Here’s the data. Here are some thoughts we heard. What do you think? Ah great, how about this?” – Sold.
In meetings make yourself heard. Yes this might sound cruel, but you actually have to speak up. In brainstorming sessions go first, so you don’t have to fight for the loudest voice once everyone else chimes in. Then go again last, to make the point that turns everything around and sticks in people’s minds. You will notice that often more extrovert groups will need some time for ‘vocal thinking’ before they are ready to listen to and consider your well thought through conclusions.
If you’re like me, this is the hardest one and the one that we need to manage most consciously. You just don’t like to talk about the things you achieved. Those should be obvious right!?
Celebrating success of others or writing down accomplishments of folks in my team comes easy to me. I can effortlessly talk all day about the great things my direct reports accomplish every day. Writing my own performance review, résumé or LinkedIn profile is the hardest thing ever.
There is a saying in Germany that luckily one of my colleagues told me early in my days with Microsoft: “Do good things and talk about them!” I wish I could remember who gave me that advice, it was the best career advice ever (for an introvert – if there are still some extroverts around reading this, please DON’T try to talk more about your achievements)!
Don’t force it though, or you will feel eternally bad and corrupted. Find your personal way that feels authentic and doesn’t violate your values. If you’re a manager it’s easier, just talk about the great stuff your team achieved. If you’re an individual contributor talk about the progress that your v-team has made or talk about how you learned that your customers used your work to become more effective. If you’re working all alone in your cubicle, update your LinkedIn profile and find a better job.
If you don’t like talking about how great you are, shift your focus and share how customers, partners or team members were able to be more successful because of what you did. Don’t forget to call out, how what you did contributed to that amazing outcome. Start by giving credit but don’t understate your contributions.
“I became a martial artist in spite of my limitations.”
Best advice ever. Perceived limitations (or boxes we put ourselves into) don’t limit what we can do – our mental model does. Understand your
limitations preferences and turn them into an advantage!
Did you like this article? Want to read more?
I will keep posting articles here and I have them lined up way into summer 2020. However if you want to get it all in one comprehensive, structured, and grammar-checked (!) view, check out our new book:
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