Make The Most Of Introvert Traits

Leadership really is about having the right skills. Those of us who are introverts often don’t recognize some of our personality traits as the “right” skills.

Many people don’t associate “introverts” with being “leaders.” In fact, a poll by USA Today once shared the results that 65 percent of executives believed being an introvert was a barrier to leadership (“Not All Successful CEOs Are Extroverts,” USATODAY.com).

But leadership really is about having the right skills. Those of us who are introverts often don’t recognize some of our personality traits as the “right” skills. Here are three examples:

  1. We prepare, prepare, and prepare. It doesn’t come naturally for introverts to speak in front of a group. So we tend to prepare beforehand. This is a key to success in any field.

I gave a few talks last year. Most of my audience was about twice my age, some had more years of work experience than I had being alive, some were seasoned business executives. Giving an hour talk in front of them was nerve-wracking. After all, what could a 20-something possibly teach them about business?

It was a terrifying thought. I tempered my expectations for myself, just hoping “not to screw up too bad.”

And I prepared, prepared, and prepared. “What do people want to hear in this discussion?” “How do I want people to feel?”

The talk turned out to be great. People took notes, asked lots of questions, and thanked me for sharing my knowledge.

All I did was to prepare. By preparing, you are ready to add value when you walk in front of a group.

  1. We listen and ask questions. Many people fail to connect with others genuinely. Instead, they think about what they are going to say, and never have time to listen or ask questions.

Personally, I find it’s extremely valuable to ask good questions. For one thing, you get your itch scratched by asking people how they’ve dealt with a similar situation. For another, you learn insights you wouldn’t otherwise.

For example, ask people about how they handle e-mails. We use e-mail at work all the time, and most of us often feel overwhelmed by the number of e-mails we receive. We spend so much time on it, wouldn’t it make sense to ask people how they handle e-mails more efficiently?

Of course, some questions are more important than others. But listening and asking good questions can pay off in a big way.

  1. We are comfortable working alone. Jason Fried, founder and CEO of Basecamp, once gave a talk on “why work doesn’t happen at work.” The point was that we need focused, uninterrupted time to get real work done. Constant interruption is the No. 1 killer of productivity.

In general, introverts are comfortable working alone, which is a good way to avoid interruption and get work done. Being comfortable working alone doesn’t mean being anti-social or avoiding face-to-face communication at all costs. But it’s an effective way to communicate on your own schedule.

For example, one day a week, I work from home instead of being in an office. Without someone knocking on my door, I can choose to not respond instantly. I can close my HipChat messages, or not check e-mails right away. I catch up with those messages when I’m ready.

You don’t have to be outgoing to be a leader. But you should make sure to get everything out of being an introvert!

Siwei Dodge is an analytical marketer for B2B Technology companies. She is proud to be an introvert and rants on her blog: www.siweidodge.com.

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