Introverts prefer to process information internally, keep personal matters private and avoid showing emotion. They may struggle to say 'no', and equally find it difficult to ask for or accept help. They may also suffer from 'people exhaustion' and prefer to have time alone.
People often think introverts are shy or lack confidence - however these traits are product of anxiety. Introverts prefer to avoid social occasions where they do no know anyone or feel they do not belong. However, introversion is not the same as shyness or lack of confidence, and indeed introverts can mix in social situations - it is merely a preference, and a preference that can be managed.
In a work situation, the author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, Dr. Jennifer Kahnweiler's research suggests that introverts struggle with multiple challenges at work, regularly undersell themselves, refrain from voicing their ideas, and lack social networks that can help them get ahead. The result is that introverts feel ignored, marginalised and misunderstood, with 40% saying they wish they were extroverts. However, personality preferences are hardwired and hence every time you complete a Myers-Briggs personality test you will get much the same result.
So, if you can't change your personality preferences how can your introversion be managed for success in business or the workplace?
Managing your introversion for success
- Choose a business model that works for you to be heard
Choose a business model that suits your introvert preferences. You probably prefer not to go to a large networking function, and especially when you have to leave the comfort of an office, traipse across town with crowded streets in the rain to attend! So, network online and if - like many introverts - you love writing, try joining online networks such as LinkedIn or Facebook groups and contributing or use email marketing. If you don't want to be on stage speaking or on videos, then try podcasts or blogs or try making a webinar - you don't have to mingle with a marauding crowd then.
- Outsource and partner strategically
Introverts have difficulty saying no or to ask for help or direction. Consequently, they will beaver away and start to feel overloaded and overwhelmed. As a result, they will spend a lot of time doing thing they are not that good at which they find draining and exhausting. Introverts need to develop the skill of outsourcing and partnering in the areas that drain them. Author of Lucky Bitch, Denise Duffield-Thomas suggests finding an extrovert to hang out with at a conference - so they can introduce you to the connectors. Work out what you dislike or are less able at the most and start there to outsource or find partners.
- Embrace downtime
Introverts love their boundaries and own space. Don't put an introvert in an open-plan office environment unless you want to see an anxiety attack. They also take longer to switch between tasks or ideas and work better if there is some buffer time between finishing one task and starting another. Introverts are very focused on the task at hand so taking a little downtime will increase rather than decrease overall productivity.
Find an activity you can do by yourself that disengages you from the world for a while, like fishing. Disengaging however can have a negative impact on your business, and if you only work when you feel like it you won't have a business. Set up systems that automate as many tasks as possible, or document (or record a video) your processes so that others can complete the task for you. This might be as simple as setting up automatic monthly invoicing in your accounting software or grabbing your smartphone and taking a video of how you like the phone answered. The idea is to keep your business working even when you're feeling particularly introverted.
- Come out of the cave
Working from home is prevalent these days. However, it is too easy or can seem like a real effort for introverts to leave their home, but you need to come out of the cave and interact with the rest of the human race. This way you will make more connections and grow your business just by being around people or accessible, so a half hour coffee doesn’t take a whole morning.
- Be lazy
Work out the path to least resistance. This might be by developing passive income - my book Run Your Business Better is sold via a distributor and online as an example. You may consider outsourcing or partnering. A business model utilising consultants that are experts in their particular areas that you can draw on at the right time and the right place can be effective. This way your clients can get a superior result and you can get to be lazy (sort of). But by being lazy as an introvert really means just setting things up in your business to work the best for you.