Does the thought of speaking up in a meeting give you jitters? Maybe you feel awkward or out of place in large groups, or the last thing you ever want to do is find a way to stand out in a crowd.
If so, you are not alone. Not everyone likes the limelight. It’s estimated that one-third to one-half of the American population feel introverted at times.
Introverts are not energized by intense interaction with other people. Rather than gregariously striking up conversations with strangers, they prefer individual work, reflection in their own space, and they need time and sometimes privacy in order to express their opinions. For introverts, the stimulus to act comes from within.
When you are prone to be more introspective and self-conscious in front of others, you might be less amenable to broadcasting your accomplishments, which can complicate your aspirations at work. It can often seem like the world is run by extroverts, and this perception makes it difficult for introverts to shine when they don’t find it natural or comfortable to talk about their work, their ideas, or their achievements.
But introverts can have strong narratives to share and valuable perspectives to offer. And you should not have to be loud, dramatic, or attention-craving to be able to contribute. Research shows that introverts socialize well, albeit in different ways than extroverts, and they often demonstrate more empathy to others. Introverted leaders are often likable and effective in situations that demand high levels of self-awareness, thoughtfulness and empathy, self-understanding and detail-orientation.
So how can you achieve recognition and success as an introvert when everyone is competing to be seen as experts, and it appears that promotions only go to those who build their reputations?
Last year, a self-avowed introverted friend of mine was given a high-profile assignment that required working across a diverse, talented, and geographically dispersed team of country managers, reporting back to the global heads of sales. Although leading such a visible project may have been a dream come true for someone who wanted to impose their views on others, the assignment was difficult for my friend, who only got lukewarm response from their first efforts.
They had an arduous task at hand to get people to collaborate. Cheerleading and building enthusiasm in town halls and monthly presentations was clearly not going to be a winning strategy for them. My friend needed solutions that could help them establish credibility on the project and deliver exceptional results. They had to find ways to leverage their strengths, rather than trying to follow other people’s strategies that didn’t necessarily fit their working style.
Here are some of those strategies that my friend considered, and that you can use if you’re ever caught in similar situations:
- Limit what you have to talk about. You can always start by cutting down the amount of communication and influence that you need to exert. If you’re promoting yourself, edit your personal brand story to just the basic facts and your compelling points of differentiation. Narrow the scope of what you have to talk about and draw out the most concise narrative possible to get your message across.
- Limit how many people you talk to at one time, and give yourself rest breaks between them. It can be draining for introverts to build rapport with a lot of people at one time, but they can still build powerful connections with people if they limit their interactions and give themselves a chance to recharge.
- Work on a team. Rather than shoulder all the burden of the spotlight, you can use your sphere of influence to form a small team that you’re confident in. Work within the group to communicate your ideas more privately, and then have them help you in spreading the ideas to the wider organization or industry. You can protect yourself from excessive networking, while still playing to your strengths and getting the word out about your work.
- Work with a partner. If a team is too intense, you can pick a strong partner who can be responsible for bringing energy and excitement. Proudly stand beside them to present your case or findings, leveraging their skills to supplement your own influence.
- Do a video blog or podcast. Maybe live presentations are just too much for you. You can still get your message out through videocasting or podcasting your rich and thoughtful content. You can build powerful connections with your audience by contemplating and sharing issues close to your heart – bringing your authentic point of view from the privacy of your own home or studio. Just be sure you can get the content in front of the right people.
- Write, don’t talk. If you can’t or won’t record yourself, then consider that writing and blogging can help you articulate your ideas and thought leadership, without the need for face-to-face confrontation.
- Stay in the shadows. For introverts, being contemplative comes naturally. You may decide that you’d rather use your solitude to come up innovative thinking and work behind the scenes. Do your best to remain engaged with your management, however, and continue to make progress towards your goals.
My friend used a combination of #2 and #3 above, limiting the group size and leveraging the team. They appealed to the most influential country managers in one-on-one meetings, building close relationships and trust with them. Eventually they offered these affiliate managers chances to present reports to the sales heads in the headquarters, giving the managers much desired visibility and credit, while showcasing my friend’s ability to lead and persuade their peers across the network. All of which built up my friends reputation and showed the HQ leaders how they could break through silos and align the wider organization behind the initiative.
Career success and building your personal brand doesn’t have to be about loud, brassy showmanship. If you can be authentic and understand how to put your strengths to work for you, introverts can make a great name for themselves, like my friend.
So take a chance. There’s no better time than the present for making your mark. Don’t leave it to the extroverts alone — jump in! Just be sure to do it in your own way.
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- Why Struggle to Fit In When You Were Born to Stand Out?
- Focusing On What Matters Most: Gathering Insights About Yourself
Yooniko (a brand of Metamorph Corporation) is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.