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Coach's Corner--March 17, 2008

Introverts Can Thrive Building One Relationship At A Time

The Client
Name: Craig
Age: 42
Title: Finance Manager
Time at company: Six months 
Industry: Manufacturing
Issue: Succeeding as an introvert in an extroverted organization
Q. I’m an introvert who has taken a job in a new, extroverted company. I’ve been successful in past positions, but now I’m getting feedback that my style isn’t effective and that I’m not fitting in with the team. I’d like to make this position work. What steps should I take?

A. Introverts are a minority in the United States, and their workplace style is often undervalued. In an organization where extroverts are dominant, it can be challenging for introverts to establish themselves. Focus on understanding your contributions, making your style more flexible and establishing relationships with key people.

The inner game
First, rebuild whatever confidence you’ve lost because of the messages you’ve received. List the positive attributes that you bring to the workplace. Consider all the ways you contribute. What unique skills do you have compared to your more extroverted counterparts, such as depth rather than breadth, ability to see the long-range perspective, or intense focus? Also, include values that you offer, such as kindness or compassion. Gaining clarity on your strengths will also help you reach out more effectively to others.

Once you’ve reminded yourself of the assets you bring, plan how you’ll establish your value in your new organization. Analyze the company culture. What characteristics are rewarded? What gaps exist in terms of things getting done successfully? Then compare yourself to the culture. Notice where your strengths can fill gaps.

Finally, look at how you use your less-dominant characteristics. Everyone has both extroverted and introverted sides; in some situations, you may need to use your extroverted side more than may be natural to you. If so, plan how you’ll manage your personal energy supply so you don’t get depleted. Even brief breaks will help, but you may have to be assertive to make them happen. Get people in the habit of hearing, “I’ll be there in a minute.” Then take that time to get re-energized.

The outer game
It’s up to you to demonstrate that you’re a valuable part of the team. However, interactions, especially with groups, can be draining for introverts. The sweet spot between introvert and extrovert will be building successful one-on-one relationships. Here’s how to start. 

Step 1: Select your targets. Pick one or two people with whom you need to work effectively. Hint: Your boss will be one of them. 

Step 2: Ask for their time. Schedule one-on-one meetings where you control the agenda. In these meetings, showcase your professional skills, such as active listening and analysis. Discuss ways that your style can benefit the group (maybe share the resources from this column). Most importantly, display your sense of humor and share some information about your personal life; this is what extroverts crave. This probably won’t come naturally, so plan it, practice it, and congratulate yourself when you’re done.

Step 3: Select new targets and repeat. Pace yourself; you’ll risk wearing yourself out if you try to do too much at once.

The last word
Introverts bring irreplaceable gifts to the organizations they serve. With self-awareness, planning and strategically selected action, you’ll become a valued member of the team.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted March 17, 2008
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  [below viewing threshold (-38.5), show comment]Cynthia Schultz (June 3, 2008 11:12:04 AM)