12 Most Powerful Recommendations for Introverts in Business

12 Most Powerful Recommendations for Introverts in Business

Confession: I’m a life-long introvert, exceedingly so.  Many of you who tune in for #LeadershipChat on Twitter every Tuesday evening, which I Co-Lead with my conspirator-in-crime Steve Woodruff, find this hard to believe.

But it’s true, and Steve and I actually bonded while hiding in a corner, suffering from “Introverts’ Exhaustion” in the midst of a high-powered SOBCon party last spring.

However, I never let it stop me!

Here are my top 12 recommendations on using your introversion to your advantage to be wildly successful in business:

1. Rethink introversion! Recognize and appreciate your quiet strengths.

Introverts love the world of ideas, we love to reflect and we thrive on deep relationships with a small number of people who become pillars in our life.

We have the power to change the world with our ideas and we have the power to change the lives of others’ through our quiet devotion and determined support and encouragement.

These are traits to be savored and celebrated and are the foundation of success in all of life’s endeavors.

2. Acknowledge the importance of networking if you want to succeed in business

Here’s where the rubber meets the road when it comes to introverts in business.

So many people (honestly, extroverts included) think of networking as attending meetings with people who are either looking for work or looking for clients, complete with bad coffee and uncomfortable name tags.

The truth is that relationships are critical in business and are the building blocks of opportunities.  It’s imperative that introverts not let the idea of “networking” intimidate them. Networking, at its soul, is all about creating relationships that grow over time and lead to personal growth, opportunity, and even lifelong friendships.

Commit to it as part of your road to success.

3. Adopt a “one-on-one” mindset and network on your own terms

Now that you’ve committed to networking, do it in a way that you’re most comfortable.  Specifically, one-on-one, as that is the environment in which introverts are most comfortable and create the most valuable connection with others.  Here’s how:

  • If you’re in a corporation, make a list of people who are a level to two above you that you do not get a lot of interaction with and who are considered respected leaders that you would like to meet.  If you’re running your own business or in a small business include people outside the organization and powerful peers.
  • Email or call (or tweet!) each of these individuals separately and ask if they’d be willing to “grab a quick cup of coffee with you.”  Try something along the lines of, “I am intrigued by what you’re doing in Project X and would love to see if I may be of help to you in some way…” Or let them know you have an idea you’d like to run by them, or that you’d like their advice on something…whatever is most comfortable for you and is a genuine reflection of you and your style.  Most of the people on your list will gladly accept if you ask for just a “quick cup” of their time, and it will give you the opportunity to get to know this person one-on-one, which is how you’re much more comfortable, right?!
  • Always end the coffee/meeting with, “how can I be of help to you?”  Most people are honored to be asked and it will stand out in their minds.
  • Have an answer prepared in the very likely event that the person directly asks you how they can be of help to you. Even if it’s just an introduction to someone else in the organization you’d like to meet or some advice on one of your key projects, be ready to respond if you are asked.
  • Thank them for their time.  Send a hand-written thank you note – again you’ll stand out and the note will be appreciated.  It may even stay on their desk for a while –keeping you top of mind.  I sent one recently and was told it was “the classiest gesture” the person had seen in a long time.

4. Avoid Avoidance

Tell the truth, introverts.  How many events have you decided not to go to because your introversion got in your way? Go.  Period. You have to show up in life and you have to show up in business.

5. Learn to stand out in a crowd – comfortably

Extroverts are generally much more comfortable being visible and attracting attention because they experience this as energizing.  Introverts, on the other hand, experience heightened visibility and focused attention as “draining” and sometimes uncomfortable because it takes us out of our comfort zone.

However, introverts must learn to embrace visibility and attention in order to get their ideas heard, have their leadership talents recognized and to advance in the organization.

Start by participating in small teams where you know you can make a very large impact, or through volunteer roles where you can learn to be comfortable getting visibility and attention without the discomfort of your peers and business leaders present.

Then, force yourself to jump unabashedly out of your comfort zone by joining a critically strategic team or initiative. Rock it, and then bask in the glow of the visibility and attention.

6. Respect, and ask others to respect, your need to withdraw to rejuvenate.

After basking in the glow of visibility and attention you will return home craving privacy and time to re-charge.  Actually, on virtually every day of your business life you will return home craving privacy and time to re-charge; some days more than others.

Respect this time and be clear with family, friends, colleagues and fellow conference attendees that you need to take this time for you.  Everyone will appreciate you for it because you’ll be bringing your best self to them and to your work.

7. Help other recognize and respect your decision making process

I have a client that is an extreme extrovert.  He thinks out loud, makes decisions as he talks and he talks a lot.  I’m the exact opposite.  In one pivotal conversation we had he commented, “I can always tell you hate an idea I have if you get extra quiet.”

I was thrilled he said that because it couldn’t have been further from the truth!  I corrected him saying, “When I get extra quiet I’m just thinking hard about what you said.  I’m an introvert, I think inside my head.”

It really did change the level of understanding between us; so much so that he recently exclaimed, “I love those pauses I hear when you’re thinking!”

8. Be open with your boss about what enables you to perform best

Having recognized your need to think through decisions and not simply respond outright to questions, talk with your boss, peers and important stakeholders about this.

If they put you “on the spot” in a meeting don’t panic, simply make it clear that you need to give the issue further thought, and why.

Ask for one-on-one meetings with your boss or small meetings with peers to work through decisions, and always try to do this prior to major (more visible) meetings to prevent being put on the spot in the first place.

9. Embrace the world beyond ideas

I met with a CEO who was dealing with a troubling situation.  Her customers were very unsatisfied with one of their company processes and the C-Level executive in charge refused to meet with customers to understand why and to find opportunities for improvement.

When I asked why she remarked, “He’s an introvert, he’s not comfortable going beyond his own world. He’s otherwise great at his job; I don’t know what to do.”

This executive is holding himself back.  Don’t let the same happen to you!

As much as the world within our heads can be a truly magical place, it’s imperative to embrace and understand the outside world in order to thoroughly understand our customers, competitors and industry trends.  An inability to do so will prevent talented individuals from reaching their true potential. And it will make it very difficult to take your vision and bring it to life.

10. Reach out to others and watch the magic occur

Something I wish I’d realized much earlier in my career is that virtually everyone is introverted to some degree and that most people are uncomfortable in a new situation and with people they’ve never met.

You are not alone.

Many people have a hard time being the one to extend themself because they either don’t know what to say or are afraid the other person will have no interest in talking with them.

Once I realized that if I extended myself – made the first effort to extend my hand, introduce myself and offer a very genuine smile, 90% of the time I was actually helping the other person out immeasurably! I was putting others at ease.

When I learned to enthusiastically make that first, warm, genuine introduction of myself, what I received back was invariably a warm, genuine “it’s so nice to meet you” in response! It was like magic I had never known about and wished I’d found sooner!

11. Learn to motivate others by being fully present, connecting and leading from within

Sometimes as a leader you motivate individuals one-on-one and sometimes you’re in a position of “rallying the troops.”  Regardless of the size of the group you are communicating with, motivation only comes when you genuinely connect with people as individuals.  Remember, this is something introverts excel at!

I love the example of Saint Joan of Arc to remind us of the unique motivational power that simply being visibly present with our teams can have.  This is something introverts must understand and commit to.

We can connect with others most genuinely by looking them in the eyes and by bringing our true selves to the table.  Even when speaking to a large group, I work to connect with people one-on-one by meeting their eyes and holding their gaze.

By doing so, your team will see that you believe in what you’re saying and that you care that they understand and are receiving your message.  Looking directly at your team members is the only way to fully understand if your message is being truly heard.

This again, can be difficult for introverts because it really requires that we push ourselves outside that inner world we love so much and connect – completely – with the world of our teams and audience.

Finally, by leading from within – by knowing who we truly are at our core and bringing this true self, without any walls or masks, to the table – people will be so much more likely to trust us and to allow themselves to be motivated by our words and deeds.

12. Own Your Power

Introversion is a powerful force, and the only thing stopping you from succeeding is you.  As I said at the beginning, “Rethink introversion!”

Recognize the strengths that being an introvert empowers you with and go out confidently in the world to make the difference you are meant to make on your terms!

~

For more advice see Lisa Petrilli’s The Introvert’s Guide to Business and Leadership Series, which includes advice for Extroverts as well!

Featured image courtesy of h.koppdelaney licensed via creative commons.

Lisa Petrilli

http://lisapetrilli.com

Lisa Petrilli is Chief Executive Officer of C-Level Strategies, Inc. and is passionate about visionary leadership. She empowers C-suite executives and emerging leaders to create clear, compelling, inspiring visions for their companies and teams in order to transform them and grow them exponentially. She works with CEO Connection as Chief Relationship Officer, and is the Chief Operating and Marketing Officer for the To Be a Woman global platform. She is the author of the new eBook, "The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership," which can be found at www.TheIntrovertsGuide.net and on her Visionary Leadership blog at www.LisaPetrilli.com (12 Most readers can use code “12 Most” to get 30% off!). Her eBook can also be found on Amazon. She is Co-Founder and Co-Host of #LeadershipChat every Tuesday evening at 8:00 pm EST on Twitter and would love to see you there!

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67 comments
highballsport
highballsport

:-) Love this article even though it says more or less "become and extrovert already"

davidmdye
davidmdye

Awesome list, Lisa,

As a strong introvert I would second so many of your items. If anything really stands out, it's to embrace what makes us effective in the world and use it as a foundation for engaging the rest of the world on terms that work for us. I still have to "cave" before or after 800 person banquets and conferences, but I've learned to seek out people during those events and really get to know them. It can actually be fun once you push through the natural reluctance :)

Thanks for this list and for your awesome site!

Martin D Redmond
Martin D Redmond

Great post Lisa! I especially like the first 3. You've given me some actionable ideas for how I can continue to improve myself! Thanks.

letmemoveyou
letmemoveyou

Great post! Ever point is easy to identify with and very relevant. I guess the one tip that especially resounds for me is "Avoid Avoidance. I never thought I was introverted, perhpas i am what Kat Caverly calls an occasionally shy extrovert. When I find my myself uncomfortable in a given situation, I have often found that thanking those that have elicited the most discomfort Is very effective. It hasalso contributed the most to my growth.

KatCaverly
KatCaverly

As another proud introvert, I long ago recognized the Introvert Advantage. Poor extroverts; how do they ever write? It is all an energy issue, not about shyness. I have met more shy extroverts! Looking forward to devouring your whole series on the topic Lisa.

ibrowej
ibrowej

Very encouraging words for the introvert. I guess it is a matter of understanding your strengths and utilizing them in the networking scenario. We don't need to be the "life of the party" or the ''center of attention" in order to get what we need from the networking experience. We just need to know how to use the tools we already have. I found some other good tips your readers might like from: http://relationshipcapital.co/op/?utm_src=bl

StevenCheek
StevenCheek

I found this JIT. I have attended meetings that have completely energized me- literally jump-started my enthusiasm and creative flow sparked ~ and someone would ask me, is everything ok, is there something wrong? Thank you for this insightful and liberating thinking! I am excited to read more.

Truly, thank you. (( I can be very animated and participative in meetings,but, man is it exhausting for me and sometimes I don't feel like I communicate my thoughts clearly enough because I am working so hard just being verbally participative. I do listen very well, and am not afraid to ask for clarification. Receiving referrals is really the only way for me to grow my business. I try to give as many as I can, too.

gudnygudmundsdottir
gudnygudmundsdottir

Loved this. So many things here that I recognize, and have come to realize for myself. I've always known that I was an introvert, but I think this is the first time I've seen anything positive written about being introverted, it is like someone said here in the comments, spoken of like a disease, something that you should fix in order to get better. This is a reminder that there is nothing wrong with being who you are, that you should simply embrace it. I'm will save this and must remember to read, and reread again.

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

Lisa, as I mentioned on Twitter, I've really appreciated your posts about introversion. From comments people have made to be about introverts, to blog posts I read about introverts, there is a lot of misunderstanding about introversion. I'd think it was an illness if I didn't know better! "How to get over being an introvert." "I'm a recovered introvert."

So, thank you for respecting introverts (which not all introverts themselves do!) and celebrating our strengths! I also pass on your tips to my friends who are even more introverted than I.

jenrolles
jenrolles

Love, love, love this! From one introvert to another, great advice!! I'm sharing this with my network as I agree with other comments here that it really applies to everyone.

JeanneMale
JeanneMale

Superb suggestions, Lisa!. Numbers 2, 3 and 10 were especially important reminders for me as an introverted extrovert. I'm thinking that I should enlarge and cut out #3 to serve as a reminder and to steel my resolve to do it. Thanks for the needed push!

@JeanneMale

P.S. Such a helpful post, I plan to share on my LinkedIn groups and FaceBook pages.

CristerDelaCruz
CristerDelaCruz

This is a TERRIFIC post. Even as an extrovert, I was not only reminded of a few things *I* need to do, but it gave me further insight into introverts - including my boyfriend. I shared the post with him yesterday and his response: "This is really good"... which from him, says A LOT :)

SteveWoodruff
SteveWoodruff

I'm exhausted by this conversation. Time to go to a corner and recharge! ;>}

Josepf
Josepf

@LisaPetrilli wow, what a great post. I especially like this line: “I love those pauses I hear when you’re thinking!” I laughed out loud when I read that. Extreme Extroverts will often "fill in the gap" when you're not talking. Getting us, oops, them, to appreciate your silence is an accomplishment. Well done. :-) Love the way you ended this post: #10, reaching out is so vital, critical, and we each have that "response ability". #11 Leading from within I believe is the secret to life itself. And #12, we all need to find and stand in our own Power. Namaste Lisa _/|\_

westfallonline
westfallonline

Thanks for these insights! As an extrovert married to an introvert, this information provides valuable advice on multiple levels. ;-) I've had some success with helping introverts to "come out of the shell", by understanding that new viewpoints are key to different perspectives. Yours was most valuable to me!

JohnFeskorn
JohnFeskorn

I thought long and hard before I joined in on this conversation, I mean, look at all the people here...uggh! :) I'm not exactly an introvert but not really an extrovert either. I particularly appreciated #3, your "one-on-one" mindset, this could really help! Enjoyed them all, Lisa. Thanks! John

allegna
allegna

@lisapetrilli Being an introverted entrepreneur can make things more difficult at times. I'm in good company :) Thnxs for posting this!!!

jeanniecw
jeanniecw

Awesome post, Lisa. I think we all hold ourselves back in some ways, regardless of if we're introverted or extroverted. This is a great list of ways to own who you are and appreciate the gifts we all bring to the table. Thanks!

mckra1g
mckra1g

I loved #7 because I've seen it in action. I know I've referred to this previously, but I'll never forget the Give Back Session for SOBCon10. A group of about 8 people were gathered around a table, energetically brainstorming for the best ideas to help the four nonprofits selected for the day's events. While most of us were practically vibrating with ideas, gesticulating like cheerleaders, you were quietly observing. At a crucial moment, you put forth your summation and introduced a few concepts that incorporated the voices of those around the table.

Bam. No fuss, just results.

I was so impressed, Lisa ( @LisaPetrilli ). Still waters do indeed run deep. You are proof positive that leaders don't have to be (and aren't necessarily) extroverts.

LisaPetrilli
LisaPetrilli

David,

Just the fact that you GO to 800 person events - when many would avoid them - is huge. Congrats on learning how to have rich conversations with the people who are there and having fun along the way. And you said it so eloquently - "Embrace what makes us effective in the world and use it as a foundation." Thanks so much for your thoughtful words!

LisaPetrilli
LisaPetrilli

@jennwhinnem Thanks, Jenn! I appreciate that perspective...it bothers me as well that others look at it as something that somehow holds us back! I think it makes us powerful in our own way! Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your insights!

LisaPetrilli
LisaPetrilli

@jenrolles Thank you, Jen - I'm honored to know you'll be sharing it and that it has truly resonated with you. Thanks for taking the time to read and to let me know; it means a lot to me!

LisaPetrilli
LisaPetrilli

@JeanneMale @JeanneMale Jeanne, It's fascinating for me to learn which points resonate with different individuals. Thanks so much for letting me know what stood out to you as an introverted extrovert. I genuinely appreciate that feedback and that you took the time to comment and share with your network! All the best to you!

LisaPetrilli
LisaPetrilli

@CristerDelaCruz Thank you so much - this means a lot to me coming from *both* of you! So glad it was helpful and I hope the insights prove to be very valuable for you over time. All the best and thank you for taking the time to comment!

LisaPetrilli
LisaPetrilli

@Josepf Thank you, Josepf - and it's a true story! You're right, resist the need to fill the gaps and find the beauty and inspiration in the pauses! :) And I agree with you, leading from within is the secret - and is powering a very unique personal journey I am on! Honored to have you here reading and commenting - thank you so much!

LisaPetrilli
LisaPetrilli

@westfallonline You're welcome! Honestly, I think it's critical when an introvert and extrovert are married for the extrovert to fully understand the introvert's need to recharge every, single day. My brother is married to an extrovert, and she comes from a very extroverted family. For many years they would come home at night after being out with friends or her family and he would want to "withdraw." She took it as, "he doesn't love me or want to be around me," without realizing that he truly needed to recharge, and it had nothing to do with her.

He actually started to think there was something wrong with him! The reality is we get our energy from spending time alone with our ideas or in small groups of people who are also energized by ideas. Extroverts get their energy in a much different way. Understanding this, from both perspectives, and being respectful of our unique needs is critical.

So glad to know the post was valuable to you. :)

LisaPetrilli
LisaPetrilli

@JohnFeskorn LOL, I know...all the people, run to a corner! :) Thanks for taking the time to comment and I'm thrilled to know that the one-on-one mindset may come in handy for you. All the best, John!

LisaPetrilli
LisaPetrilli

@jeanniecw Jeannie, that's an excellent point. We really do hold ourselves back - each of us in our own unique way - when we should all be "owning our power!" Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment - I really appreciate it!

JeanneMale
JeanneMale

@mckra1g @LisaPetrilli Molly, your comment echoed my observation and feelings exactly. Wish I had a videotape to show as a model of being true to oneself (introversion) and highly effective.

LisaPetrilli
LisaPetrilli

@mckra1g Aw, thanks so much for that, Molly. I appreciate that you genuinely valued the discussion that morning, and I simply can't imagine what it would have been like if we hadn't had the chance to meet! I am awed and inspired by how you are changing the world, and how you're doing it in your very own way. Thanks for this beautiful comment, it means the world to me.

jeanniecw
jeanniecw

@sean McGinnis ah, thank you, Master Yoda. :-) so true!

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