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If you are an introvert, this does not mean that you do not have managerial potential. You must use your strengths. Career coach and entrepreneur Larry Cornett in his column on Medium told how it can be done.
We all know what to do to move up the career ladder: improve your skills, perform work in a high-quality and timely manner, be reliable and responsible, work in a team.
I have long adhered to this approach, and it worked well when I started my career with IBM, continued it with Apple and then plunged into the wild and uncharted world of technology startups. Being an introvert, I took the position of a leader in eBay, became an executive director at Yahoo and, ultimately, founded a start-up.
Once I realized that I need to stop pretending to be an extrovert and use my introversion in order to enjoy the work and move forward. In this article I will discuss how you can use introverted qualities to achieve high results.
There are many differences between introverts and extroverts, and some of them manifest themselves in the way they move up the career ladder. At the beginning of their career, introverted designers, introverted programmers and introverted researchers are also fast growing, like their extroverted colleagues.
However, some companies build a clear career path scheme with the possibility to grow to leading positions for ordinary employees, others – no. The career ladder leading to management is more common and may be the only option available to you.
I remember how we in the company discussed the work of our leading employees and decided what tasks they would be responsible for next year. The most common and obvious option is to raise them to the position of leader. Here and there were stereotypes and expectations that a good leader should be an extrovert. The main argument of the company’s management: “What are we going to do with them? I do not know how they can manage the team. “
“65% of the company’s directors considered introversion an obstacle to leadership,” – Harvard Business Review, Hidden advantages of quiet bosses.
Employees are aware of this prejudiced attitude. Most likely, many even heard from the boss that, in order to achieve an increase, they need to change their behavior. At this stage many hands dropped: “Well, apparently, leadership is not for me,” they thought. This is very sad, because many of the hidden strengths of introverts will help them in the future become a wonderful leader.
Under the phrase “change behavior,” managers often mean that you need to respond correctly in difficult situations, be more confident, take hard decisions in a short time and interact with the team.
Well, first, let’s figure out what introversion is.
For most of my career, I believed that I needed to behave like an extrovert. I watched the progress of my “open and sociable” colleagues and believed that in order to achieve the same results, I must change my behavior.
That’s exactly what I did. I took part in social networking events, learned to speak to the public and turned a blind eye to the discomfort that I felt. Many of my colleagues still do not believe that I’m an introvert.
Did it work? Yes, some time it was. I was promoted to the position of leader, and I began to climb up the career ladder. Did it last long? No. You can suppress your introversion for several years. However, you will constantly feel discomfort and stress.
I thought that my real qualities were weaknesses and weaknesses that I need to fight. What mistake! On the contrary, some hidden features of introverts help them achieve high results in their work. They need to be developed, not suppressed. For example:
Leaders-introverts work better than extroverted leaders when their team has more active employees.
Introverts can inspire and listen to employees.
Introverts can develop deep relationships with colleagues and form unions.
Introverts reflect on the problems, conduct an in-depth study and eventually find the right solution.
Many personal qualities of introverts can become powerful tools of the leader. Behavior patterns peculiar to introverts can help you redefine what leadership is to become a better leader.
To date, when many employees are unhappy with their work and most often drop it because of a bad boss, it becomes obvious that the standard extrovert model does not always work in leadership.
Below I gave seven examples of how you can use introversion as a strong tool for leadership.
The old style of management is already working poorly in modern companies. Leaders who adhere to this type require loyalty, respect and diligent work from their employees and appreciate the hard skills – that is, skills related to the technical side of the activity. Millenials, or the workforce of the future, have shown that they are not going to endure it. Of course, basic “solid” skills are necessary in every profession, but it is also important to have “soft” skills: they are not connected with a specific activity, but with communications for effective interaction with colleagues, clients and partners.
Empathy is considered a strong and valuable skill by which leaders can more effectively lead the team. Many employers are looking for this quality in candidates for work. Fortunately, the ability to listen, understand and sympathize is a typical feature of introverts.
At the beginning of my career, I actually tried to suppress any expression of empathy. Objectivity, professionalism and emotional detachment were needed in order to keep the distance between leaders and employees. My ability to find a common language with employees and build a deep relationship with them often derided the leadership: “They follow him from the company to the company because they like him.” Oh no, how awful!
I also tried to behave more aggressively and developed debate skills to learn how to “swim with sharks” in the boardroom. At that time I worked with a career coach. We discussed various approaches to this problem. Did I really want to suppress my nature to be like them?
Thanks to the coach, I realized that empathy is in fact a strong quality that helped me build a strong company with a healthy culture. Aggression was not the right approach to leadership development.
Today’s corporate climate finally recognizes the need for introverted leaders who can show empathy.
You most likely encountered leaders who rely heavily on their position and authority to carry out tasks. Such authoritarian leaders rely on a formal structure and strict policy to monitor and dictate the objectives of the team, their decisions and activities. Introverts find it difficult to work with such leaders. They want to be taught and instructed.
Daniel Goleman says in his book “Emotional Leadership” that “leadership-mentoring” is a more harmonious management style for introverts:
“An effective leader-mentor listens to the employees alone, builds personal relationships and trust, helps employees understand that their work is important, and explains where they can find additional information and resources … This type of leadership not only frees executives from having to do work for others, but promotes innovation and learning at all levels of the organization. “
Goleman also identifies three management styles that contribute to the effectiveness of the team: far-sighted, positive and democratic.
The ability to develop and find talent in employees is very appreciated by companies. Company Brandon Hall Group recently conducted a survey among executives of various companies. It turned out that “all participants called the” mentoring type of leadership “an important strategy for increasing the productivity and effectiveness of the team. About ⅔ of respondents (65%) admitted that teaching managers such skills is their most difficult task “.
In fact, introverts have a lot of skills necessary to be a good mentor.
I realized that I like to develop the careers of others and build mentoring relationships that go beyond the company. I was a coach-mentor, and it helped me not only to develop the talent of my employees, but also to build strong relationships with talented people who lasted for decades.
A true leader must have the ability to create and communicate a strategic vision. We all watched how the companies failed, which failed to motivate their employees with a convincing and inspiring vision. Introverts can find ways to create this vision.
Of course, it is important not only to have this vision, but also to implement it. This is just one of the most difficult tasks for introverted managers.
For example, it was very difficult for me to constantly participate in operational meetings. I imagined hell: get stuck in a small room, listen to other people’s conversations, communicate with colleagues during breaks, participate in disputes and discussions.
I spent hours looking out the window at the trees, dreaming of getting out of the room and taking a walk. I needed a break, time to recharge – at least a few minutes.
I advise you to clearly define your role and spend more time creating a strategic vision for your product. However, you still need to fulfill your job duties. How?
Trust and delegate. Hire smart people and send them to such meetings. You must abandon the traditional style of command and control.
“Employees today are not interested in leaders who adhere to the style of” command and control. ” They will not work, because I said so. They will work, because they want, “- Irene Rosenfeld.
Good leaders must perform a wide range of duties for the company. However, they can not cope with everything themselves. Invest in your introverted strong qualities to inspire and motivate people. Delegate cases to smart people you hired and motivated.
If you want to move up the career ladder, you need to demonstrate the ability to come up with new ideas for improving the product or service, organizational structure or workflow. To do this, you need to spend some time thinking and searching for new solutions. Often it is very difficult to come up with new brilliant ideas in the group.
For a 23-year career, I never saw how during a brainstorm at least one brilliant idea was born. Still, companies will continue to believe in the myth that group work and open-type offices are the key to innovation. Unfortunately, such a culture prevents introverts from inventing innovative and creative ideas.
In one of my companies, we adhere to a different approach: we tell employees about the problem, leave them alone and let them do anything. This is a paradise for introverts.
“Science has already proven that brainstorming is a bad way to come up with ideas. If you have talented people working in a team, they should work alone “, – Dr. Adam Fournem.
I’m not saying that group meetings are ineffective. I think that they help to delve into the details of the assessment of the idea and the planning of execution. However, brilliant and breakthrough ideas are not born in group sessions.
The study, published in 2012 in the journal “Journal of Neuroscience”, points to physical differences between the brain of introverts and extroverts. In particular, in the brain of introverts, thicker areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with abstract thinking and decision making are observed. This partly explains why introverts prefer to carefully think through the problem, and extroverts live for today.
Introverts need more time to come to their own conclusions. They should think hard about the problem, do a little research, evaluate possible options. It is difficult for them to make a decision right here and right now. Unfortunately, this is what many companies require of them. The need to make decisions quickly will arise in telephone conversations and at meetings.
I still do not like this type of pressure, so I refused to make decisions without thinking it through thoroughly. If you are in the same situation, firmly state that you need more time to think.
I know that this is contrary to the culture of Silicon Valley companies who prefer “to move forward quickly and break everything in their path.” However, at some point you begin to understand that you need to think about yourself and work in such a way that you feel comfortable. If your boss refuses to accept it, it may be time to change jobs.
As I mentioned earlier, I like to conduct tete-a-tete meetings with team members. So I can give them advice and instruct them in my career. I know that relations with talented people go beyond the company. I have maintained friendships with some colleagues for more than 20 years.
I was always against managing people as “resources”. I do not agree with the approach that the work should be done at a certain moment, and the team is a resource in order to make it all possible. Many managers are very tactful and rarely give long-term instructions to their employees.
Some companies in which I once worked claim that the manager must have the skills of mentoring and training. However, let’s be honest, how many of our superiors were excellent mentors?
The ability to teach and give instructions will help you achieve high results in the position of leader. As an introvert you will try to avoid group discussions, but deep conversations face to face will seem to you natural and comfortable.
Use your strengths and strengths, and do not act as if you are running some amorphous team – and that will be good for your career.
What do extroverts and introverts have in common? They are afraid of public speaking. Nevertheless, a large number of well-known introverts were excellent speakers (for example, Barack Obama).
I often talk about the importance of public speaking for a career, but I understand how difficult it is to overcome this fear. This requires a lot of work and practice. Mastering this skill will have a huge impact on your career growth.
Some of your introverted qualities can actually help you become a good speaker. Introverts can safely spend a long time exploring, preparing and practicing to master at some point the right skill. They also focus their speech on a key message, not on themselves.
Like many others, I myself was afraid for a long time to speak in front of the audience. However, one day I realized that in fact it was the fear of two completely different and at the same time related problems.
First, I was afraid of failure. Nobody wants to make a fool of himself in front of a huge group of people. However, the fear of failure can be easily overcome through practice and preparation, which is quite possible for an introvert.
The second problem was my fear of networking and casual conversations. I always associated public speeches with group discussions. After I took part in such events, I realized that they have nothing in common with what gave me discomfort.
I focused on a carefully prepared message and information that I wanted to share with the audience. This helped me overcome fear and enjoy the process. It’s much easier to tell something to the audience, and not try to participate in a group discussion with other people.
Accept your introversion
Do not pretend to be someone else. This will not help you achieve high results in your career. Fortunately, modern companies are beginning to recognize the fact that successful teams are made up of different people, and introverts can become excellent leaders that employees need.
Think about how you can use your hidden introverted qualities in your career. Are there any companies that see what unique value you can bring to their organizations?
Ultimately, we all want to spend our time and energy on things that we like. Take full control of your career ladder, and you will be able to shape your future and apply the strong qualities of introversion to make it happen.
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