How Introverts Can Succeed and Be Leaders in the Workplace

Sep 20, 2013
9 Min Read

An Intuit Career Development for Introverts event brought together over 400 attendees (both introverts and extroverts) from throughout the company for a fascinating discussion on how introverts can succeed in the workplace. A panel of senior leaders, some who consider themselves introverts, provided insightful advice for introverts and their managers.

But first, let me remind you, no one is completely introvert or extrovert. You may fall somewhere in the middle, or what has been coined, an "ambivert." If you are unsure, try the short Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert 12-question quiz by Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

Our panelists of self-proclaimed introverts were asked a series of questions to learn what they do in order to gain more visibility for their ideas or themselves.

To be effective and gain ground professionally, introverts must understand their personal style and leverage their unique strengths in the workplace. In fact, introverts often excel at making one-on-one connections, developing meaningful relationships, and listening intently.

As an introvert, you may often tend to analyze and be thinking when conversations are going on around you, versus just speaking out loud to share the ideas spinning around in your head.

Garnering More Visibility for Your Ideas or Self

Question to Leaders: As an introverted leader, what are some ways that you gain more visibility for your ideas or yourself?

Panelist #1: This leader sets an expectation and creates an environment for active listening with his team. Interrupting, talking over or jumping into the conversation is not acceptable. He’ll try to role model active listening and be fully engaged in the conversation in that moment.

He shared how great it feels when he’s speaking, knowing he’ll have the full attention of the people around him. "When people start talking over one another, I stop them and play air traffic controller. I take note of who wants to contribute to a conversation and call on them. If my ideas are racing in my head during a larger conversation at a meeting, I write those ideas down so I don't forget them and remind myself there is always time to share those ideas. If I don't have time to share at the end of the meeting, I will send a short email immediately after." According to this panelist, people are often blown away that when he finally gets to an opportunity to speak, and says something to the effect, "I'd like to share 5 things," the others realize he was fully engaged in the conversation.

So don't lose your ideas – and find the right forum to be able to share them.

Panelist #2: According to this leader, if he makes a contribution early in a meeting that causes people to laugh or engage with him, he tends to be good for the whole hour. However, if he goes 5-10 minutes into a meeting without contributing, then the part of him that analyzes what everyone else is saying takes over.

He learned to treat in-person meetings as if they were remote meetings. He makes sure his extroverted coworkers are not dominating the meeting, too: Actively engaging with his more introverted coworkers by calling on them, much as he would on a conference call.

So try to be mindful about engaging early and take that energy with you.

Panelist #3: This leader finds it helpful to learn about the topic of the conversation or meeting, and prepare to share her personal thoughts ahead of time. That gives her an opportunity to have her point of view prepared before walking into a meeting. She already knows what she'd like to contribute at the right time, and is not taken aback by everything that is happening during the meeting. To help her team members, she learns who is attending a meeting ahead of time, and often meets with them one-on-one to help prepare them and get to know their point of view; as a result, during the appropriate time during the meeting she can call on the team member without any surprises. It also provides her introverted colleagues with an easy entry into the conversation.

Preparation is key to a successful meeting with introverts.

Panelist #4: To get this leader's ideas on the table, he’ll partake in some private brainstorming. He asks a couple of team members to help work through these thoughts to give the ideas some structure. "In my introverted nature, I'm constantly analyzing and thinking through things end to end. Sometimes I get to a solution in my head, and I need to take someone on the journey with me. One of the ways I do that is to have that private one-on-one meeting where my teammates help me get clarity on where I'm at."

Try private brainstorming with your team to help you get clarity around your ideas.

Panelist #5: One technique this leader uses is to just say where she is, out loud, in the process. For example, if someone asks for her point of view during a meeting, and she hasn’t yet developed a point of view because she was actively writing things down and processing things in her mind, she’ll say that's exactly what she was doing. "People appreciate the fact that you are working through it. And you can follow that up with a conclusion, if you have one, when you get to it. As introverts, if we remain quiet, people will assume we're (A) not interested (B) too shy, or (C) not passionate. The impression that we give by not saying anything is different than what we intend."

By just sharing where you are in that particular moment, in a brief and concise way, gives you a little bit of time to continue to collect your thoughts.

Next time I'll focus on the type of feedback introverts may receive from their manager and what you can do with it.

What are some ways that you gain more visibility for your ideas or yourself?

Photo Credit ©blanejr.blogspot

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