It's no secret that business culture tends to reward extroversion. Those with boundless social energy and a desire for conversation and contact tend to thrive in the corporate world, specifically during tasks that involve persuasion, presentation, sales, teaching, argument, and collaboration. While extroverts tend to gain energy during these tasks, coming out feeling even stronger and more engaged than they did when they went in, introverts experience the opposite. These activities tend to leave introverted employees and managers exhausted and drained, which can make a day on the job feel like a year, and a year feel like an eternity.
But the job must be done. So if you're stepping into a management role or leadership position, how can you make your introversion work for you? Or at the very least, how can you keep it from standing in your way? Here are a few moves that can help.
1. Don't hide it.
In our modern world, most people are at least somewhat familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality model and the terms introversion and extroversion. We all lean towards one of these worlds, and there are no specific stigmas attached to one arena or the other. In fact, when successful communication is a shared goal, most people appreciate knowing as much as possible about your position on the spectrum, your preferences, and your orientation, since this knowledge can help them make themselves understood. If you're an introvert, saying so will help move the dialogue forward, so just say so.
2. Take the time you need.
Again, don't hide your introversion. If you need to take a brief break in order to restore your energy or process a conversation, don't make excuses; just do it. Everyone will benefit from your simple act of self-care.
3. Be flexible.
You may be an introvert, but some of your direct reports and the members of your team may not be. Respect this fact. If they need your constant, cheerful engagement in order to feel connected with you and tuned into their jobs, do your best to understand this need and meet them halfway.
4. Work on your presentation skills.
The act of giving a speech to a large crowd may exhaust you, but some practical attention to gestures, language, and fundamentals can help you compensate for this. For example, work to keep your natural introversion from de-railing your eye contact, causing your shoulders to slump, or taking the ring and projection out of your voice.
5. Use your gifts.
Half of any successful communication comes from strong listening skills, and introverts can be exceptional listeners. Be the person in the room who picks up on more nuance and remembers more detail than anyone else. Make this your thing. For those in leadership roles, introversion can be a gift as well as a challenge.
6. Don't be afraid.
A large part of leadership involves approaching employees rather than waiting to be approached, checking in and providing help and guidance without being asked, issuing non-negotiable instructions, stepping into conflicts and brokering peace without being invited, and correcting off-course behavior when corrections may be unwelcome. Introverts tend to avoid these kinds of tasks. But not you. Flip the script and tackle these challenges head-on. Don't be limited or fenced in by your comfort zones.
—For more on how to survive and thrive in your management role, no matter where your starting point may be, explore the career development resources on MyPerfectResume.