I read a book a few years back called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Cain argues that, we live in a culture that is biased against introverts. Instead of embracing their serious, often quiet and reflective style, they are encouraged to act like extroverts—those assertive, outgoing types that love teamwork, brainstorming, networking and thinking out loud. This, she says, leads to a “colossal waste of talent, energy and happiness.” As an introvert and business leader who’s spent over 25 years in the corporate world, I know how challenging it is for introverts when we seemingly live in a world where the loudest voice wins.
Introverts and extroverts have a great many strengths and positive personality traits, however within business, the power of introversion is often overlooked and those strengths go underutilized, limiting the health and potential of the broader organization. I’ve collected what I consider the 4 super powers of an introvert in business. If you are introverted, these should resonate and be embraced. If you are extroverted, you should take note and support your introverted colleagues to help unlock their potential and drive the business to new heights. There are numerous strengths I could call out on introversion but I’m going to highlight these 4 as they are key to success in business.
- Listening & Speaking – Introverts listen first, and then speak. Being the person who says the least in a meeting is ok, contrary to popular culture where getting noticed is paramount. Introverts sit back and absorb instead of talking over people or trying to be the loudest voice. They actively listen and observe where others are focused on what they are going to say next.
- Deep Relationships – Most agree that successful business is relationship driven. Introverts have an innate gift for developing deep, long lasting relationships and this a great asset in business. A few genuine connections are better than a mountain of business cards and LinkedIn connections that lack depth and trust. Making fewer, deeper relationships actually yields higher quality business and more satisfied and loyal customers.
- Leadership – Introverted leaders tend to create and lead businesses from a place of focus. Their love of solitude and uninterrupted time has led to some of the most creative and innovative sustainable businesses. Introverts tend to be motivated, not by ego, but by dedication to their larger goal. The impressive list of transformative business leaders in history attest to this; Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Larry Page to name a few. These are distinctive gifts that introverts can tap into to be successful business leaders.
- Preparation – Introverts tend to speak from a place of knowledge. They intently research and typically have data to support their position, they increase their confidence to influence others by increasing their understanding, creating a strategy and rehearsing.
At Blueprint we encourage each employee to understand and leverage their strengths to the fullest. This doesn’t mean we don’t want people to stretch themselves and continue to grow personally and professionally. In fact, it is a well-known mantra here to “be comfortable being uncomfortable”. However, introverts and extroverts can be out of their comfort zone and push themselves to greater accomplishments while still being true to who they are. Balance is the key to sustaining high performance. I like to apply the 80/20 rule where 80% of my time is spent on energy producing activities and 20% on activities that are important but tend to deplete my energy. The most successful leaders and highest performing businesses create a culture where introverts and extroverts can be themselves and make best use of their innate gifts and strengths.