How Introverts Succeed in an Extrovert World
Introverts succeed when they, “Stop trying to be like extroverts and tap into their strengths.” Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of, The Genius of Opposites.
- Listen and paraphrase. Give yourself time to reflect by paraphrasing what you’ve heard.
- Get quiet. Recharge yourself with quiet time.
- Have one-on-ones.
- Write. Look within with writing. Explore options, decompress, and find solutions with your pen.
4 ways leaders develop introverts:
- Preparation. Introverts need time to prepare. Don’t put them on the spot. Send the agenda ahead of time, for example. When I bring up an unplanned idea to my introvert team members, I relieve stress by saying we can decide next week.
- Presence. Don’t bring up unexpected items before a presentation, for example. Help introverts stay in the moment. Remove distractions don’t create them.
- Push. Introverts know how to push themselves. Encourage them to push and acknowledge their efforts. What are you pushing through? How are you pushing yourself?
- Practice. Refine skills with practice. Extroverts may feel OK just trying things, not introverts.
Tapping the genius of opposites*:
Don’t fix. Leverage the genius of introverts and extroverts. They aren’t broken.
- Accept the alien: You can’t change…you can understand.
- Bring on the battles: Better solutions are generated when introverts and extroverts find solutions together.
- Cast the character: Understand each other’s role and share the credit.
- Destroy the dislike: Talk openly about differences. Humor brings people together. Gently laugh about different perspectives.
- Each can’t offer everything: Celebrate diversity and generate the widest range of options.
*Adapted from, The Genius of Opposites.
Introvert friendly environments:
- Stop prejudging..
- Learn the strengths and weaknesses of both.
- Exploit strengths.
- Find solutions as teams.
- Give introverts emotional and physical space. Allow for pauses.
This post is based on my interview with Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of, The Genius of Opposites. I highly recommend her book.
How might leaders create introvert friendly environments?
What important about working with our opposite?
Great stuff Dan! For 28 years I’ve been regularly reminded during my performance reviews that I need to be more outgoing, visible, make more noise etc. I haven’t managed to do a good job at that, but I have managed pretty well by doing what I am best at. Jennifer’s book sounds like a great read. Also recommended is Susan Cain’s “Quiet”! Stay safe, Always Care, Paul
Thanks Paul. I’m glad you shared your story. It took me too long to respect the strengths of introverts. I suppose it natural for us to want others to be like us.
I like this a lot! I joke that I am an extroverted introvert.
Thanks Wisconsin. Once we know and accept the strengths and weaknesses of our team mates, we can laugh about them. Jennifer is right when she says that humor is useful. Frankly, I really enjoy working with introverts.
You have to admit it is very funny that as of 9:46 AM no one has responded to this post. I think it goes to show that most people who post their comments to this blog are not introverts and thus do not understand introverts and how they work at all. They can’t relate. As an introvert I can say that this was an outstanding post and Dan you definitely hit the nail right on the head in many areas.
I will say that the strengths of an introvert which include being a very hard worker, being extremely diligent, a self starter and having the ability to see a task to it’s finish are crucial and the backbone to the success of an organization.
I love Introvert friendly point #5 which says “Give introverts emotional and physical space. Allow for pauses”. I’ve always wondered why folks always feel the need to constantly talk and bounce between subjects without allowing time for things to resonate with a calm and intelligent resolution. But, I have come to realize that this is how extraverts are wired and this is how they excel. Their contribution to the onward forward movement to an organization is also so very vital.
In short, Introverts and Extraverts compliment each other well. If there could be a way to cure the animosity between the two that would be an amazing thing to see!
Thanks Steve. Well, I was a bit late in posting today. But, experience shows that posts that deal with this topic tend to do very well.
Your insights regarding the strengths of introverts is right on. I love having introverts on my team.
Introverts love blogs because we don’t have to make eye contact and it’s anonymous. You wouldn’t see me raise my hand to speak in a large room of people but online I feel safer. I’m introverted in that I gain my energy inwardly. However, I am more social than the stereo-typical introvert. Like anything else, there is a spectrum. I’m a social introvert meaning I like to interact with people and am not shy, but I find it draining, and therefore need to recharge by being alone.
Thanks Lucille. It’s great that you added your voice. I’m with you. I enjoy the privacy of writing and interacting via technology.
Thanks Steve. I am glad you related to this one. Take a look at the 5 Step process I developed based on the lessons learned from duos who make it work. Talking about how we are wired differently as you have is a great first step in Accepting the Alien!
Thanks for the meeting specific suggestions. You know what an agenda advocate I am and I’m glad to realize that my method is specifically helpful for introvert leaning individuals.
I actually originally tested Introvert in high school and later in life shifted and now test more extrovert. Even without taking the test I was aware of the shift from introvert to extrovert. Perhaps it was partially due to the difficulty I felt in taking risks with my relationships and wanting to be someone different. Not a typical shift and not something I would necessarily recommend, but I think it helped me.
I think we all straddle both worlds to some degree and there are certainly dangers of being on one extreme or another.
Thanks James. Great seeing you here today. Trust you are well.
The shift is interesting. Both my wife and I have seen it. She was more introverted. Now she gets energy from being with people. I’m becoming more introverted and really enjoy my space and quiet time.
Great observations Dan and James. Actually Carl Jung, the granddaddy of introversion said they we shift over closer to the other side as we age. What is cool about that to me as they we become more fully human, able to use all of our potential!
One of my favorite topics to talk about.
I coach managers who don’t know how to approach an employee who is too quiet during meetings or who is overly anti-social with the team. I remind them to discuss perception with the employee. That is, when the employee doesn’t participate by offering thoughts, advice, or experience during meetings it has a perception to the team that they are not engaged.
Some specific language we’ve come up with is to say that the employee’s expertise is valuable to the success of the team and we need and want to hear their thoughts during the team meeting. I coach managers to talk through what that might look like. For example, maybe making eye contact while speaking isn’t a requirement if the employee is highly introverted. I’ve seen situations where the manager and employee have an agreement that manager will call on employee for input if not offered up.
Being anti-social with the team is another perception issue. When someone on the team is so isolated that they don’t acknowledge others as they come in the morning or as they pass them in the halls it can lead to hurt feelings. This gets back to managers from co-workers, as a negative. Again, reminding the employee of the perception they are leaving can help the employee in building positive relationships.
We’ve actually had agreements with extreme introverts that they didn’t have to attend all hands meetings in person or go to social gatherings with the team. Perhaps more a social anxiety than an introversion but nonetheless, don’t force those square pegs into the round holes. You can honor a person’s introversion while still requiring a level of engagement that supports the success of a team.
I used to think that quiet equaled resistance. As you indicate, it’s a perception issue.
Thanks for adding your insights and experience.
Thanks Lucille ( my mama’s name..love it)! Great that you coach and validate the preferences of introverts. I use a similar approach as you describe and call it the “Perception Gap”…Introverts get that they need to manage perceptions but not change who they are…it may be as simple as trying out some eye contact or coming early to that meeting so they can have a one-on-one with someone..their strength. Keep up the great work.
Thanks for putting this out there for contemplation Dan. For years I have promoted the value of the MBPT self-assessment. Understanding your own personality, and that of your teammates, is a great asset when working on a team.
Thanks Norman. You are so right. It’s easier to work with people if you understand their orientation, strengths, and values. 🙂
As a long time introverted leader, I have experienced many extroverted leaders who don’t quite understand how introverts work and how to help them maximize their contribution. I’ve admired more extroverted styles, but understand myself, my capabilities, limitations, and ultimately what I will likely accomplish and pursue my own path.
One of the reasons I stay in a leadership role (vs. back into a single contributor, technical role) is the desire of serving those on my team in a way that helps them feel comfortable being themselves by being the ‘mediator’ or broker with other teams, leadership, etc.
For those that have never gone through a personality assessment, I have found that having a full team (wider inclusion is best) go through an assessment is valuable by empowering everyone with a common language about types and individual needs, leading to more effective team collaboration.
Thanks Jim. I admire and share your passion to serve. It’s what life and leadership are all about.
Your suggestion to have teams do assessments and talk about the results is powerful. things go better when we understand each other.
Beautifully said Jim! We need more introverted leaders like you. Self-awareness and humility are obvious in your post. More introverts will be willing to step into leadership roles when they see examples like you.
In a world that absolutely reeks with prejudice it is refreshing to even hear about introverts, concidering they make much better leaders. Thank you for at least mentioning us
Thanks Harry. I’m guilty of prejudice! Understand others helps us rise above this.
Keep on keeping on.
There have been a number of great introvert / extrovert blog posts recently – including this one. A common thread suggests introverts prefer / (need?) time to consider things before engaging at any level – including re-energizing. I think the diversity of any group makes seeking working relationships worth pursuing. Much information is available and should be understood by all – especially by caring leaders.
Thanks John. Your reference to caring leaders hits the mark. I love the movement in leadership toward authenticity and compassion. This topic fits nicely into those ideas.
Sounds like you are one jcbjr! Thanks for confirming we all need to keep learning about I-E preferences.
I think this is very valuable, but I want to add that these rules should not be applied simply as introvert/extrovert, black/white. Leaders should consider these 5 ABCs as ways to see ALL their staff. You can have a staff of introverts entirely, but still there are areas of divergence, disagreement, strengths, weaknesses. By appreciating all the entire range of alien personalities, and seeing battles as opportunities to find better solutions, etc. we honor the grand spectrum of diversity and create dynamic highly-functioning teams.
Thanks Ann. Well said!
Right Ann! Let’s not typecast. I see I-E descriptions as guidelines and one pair of glasses to look through.
You are so right Ann! We need to look at many dimensions of diversity and the more aware we are the more effective we can be. We also need to check out assumptions with our teams. Thanks for your astute comment!
Thanks for your astute comments and observations Ajay. I love the idea of introverts having “immense power.” They absolutely do!
Great tips! I notice many people don’t know the meaning of introvert vs. extrovert, and these are tips that speak to the true definition.
Thanks Bold. Yes, it sure helps when we elevate our awareness of this important reality.
Dan, I agree that introverts and extroverts are opposites, but they are not enemies.
Unfortunately some managers think they must overcome their apprehensions of working with introverts before they can do their job. Most leaders, though, realize there is no such thing as a fearless or dread-free environment, and simply handle their job as it presents itself— irrespective of who’s what. After all, both extrovert and introvert travel the same road of creativity, anxiety, performance, and professionalism together.
I don’t see that being an introvert is a handicap and should not be treated so, or any different than any other person—especially extroverts. In fact, at the Jack Welch Management Institute, a 1999 study showed that extroverts can go too far with customers and often turn exhilaration into mistrust. Yet, this does not mean an extroverted personality is not a high-quality and highly-sought asset: It merely means it must be utilized effectively.
Yes, introverts—like all others staff members—may have to accomplish against a backdrop of some kind or level of performance-angst. And it’s up to leaders to use the techniques, tactics and counsel suggested by Dan and Jennifer Kahnweiler above.
At the same time, leaders should rest easy. Introverts will get the job done. Things may not spill out of their mouths, yet leaders can rest assured to get all the answers, solutions, ideas, reasons, thoughts, actions–and deadlines and reports will be met. Introverts will do what they are asked and more. And they feel good and fulfilled…all without the hoopla.
And, introverts may even proffer an idea that may upset extroverts. After all, an idea that is not a bit upsetting is not worthy of being called an idea at all.
I love your comments here. Thanks for the GE study reference too. As we all become more familiar with these preferences greater results will emerge. Thank you!
It’s so important to exploit strengths! Thanks for your post.
Thank you Dan! As an introvert, I was always frustrated when my supervisors tried to fit me into the extrovert mold. A huge part of being a successful leader is is understanding your team members and leading them in the way that fits their strengths. Don’t try to fit them into your mold.
I appreciate and accept that introverts leaders have immense power. Only we need to create the environment where they can do wonder. And you have rightly suggested about it – prepare, push and practice. It is true that introverts need time to prepare. So, anything urgent, some immediate deadlines can deviate them. Secondly, leaders need to have maturity in understanding people behaviour. It is quite interesting that generally who interact with others frequently are viewed favourably. And it is the challenge for leaders. They need to create practices that recognises content, character than interactions alone. Introverts are driven by sincere appreciation. So, it is important to appreciate them publicly.
Extroverts have their locus on control outside. So, they derive energy from outside. When introverts are surrounded by extroverts, leaders should do assign the task keeping their potential in mind. For example, hosting events, marketing, and making contact should be given to extroverts and making strategy, devising concepts should be given to introverts etc. Proper understanding about their capability and source of energy is very much important.
Thanks for your great, concise and clear thoughts. You highlighted many of the things I often emphasize as critical for getting the best feedback from introverts on the team (give heads up, no surprises, leave room for decision, etc.). Thanks for adding such great insight to the conversation about opposites.
As a definite introvert, I struggle with being recognized as a leader. When I was much younger many perceived me as a leader, which in turn enabled me to see myself in that role. As a fifty-three year old leader wanna-be, I’m very frustrated, depressed and discouraged. I could try to “put myself out there” but that is difficult for me. It takes an emotionally intelligent person to see my strengths in the area of leadership…you don’t meet that too often, and I am running out of time. Advice anyone?
I can relate in many ways to your concerns, Melissa (I am a similar age to you, an introvert, and previously was in a more prominent leadership role compared to now). I think two things strike me from your comment and lead to two thoughts: 1) to take your desire for continued leadership in bite sized pieces. You don’t have to be a CEO to be a leader – you can influence a co-worker, your team, or your peers and 2) frustration, depression, and discouragement can so easily turn into a vicious cycle (again, speaking from experience). Do what you need to do (work with a trusted mentor, therapy, prayer, whatever works for you) to try to reverse those three things. I know it sounds counter intuitive and cliche to say “act the way you want to be” but people do pick up on these types of emotions. Good luck!!