We are conditioned to value the traits of more extraverted individuals. As described in Quiet by Susan Cain, extraversion became the cultural ideal at the beginning of the 21st century. “Stunning,” “dominant,” “forceful,” “energetic” and “magnetic” quickly became the ideal characteristics as people sought to excel in the new workplace. Companies began to hire for extraverted personality characteristics; in fact, some organizations still administer personality tests, such as the Big Five, as part of their selection process. Introverts tend to understand that extraverted characteristics are valued, and they can certainly play the role of an extravert in the hiring or promotional process to promote themselves. Over time, however, introverts that act more extraverted are likely to experience stress and burnout.
At Talent Plus, we teach organizations and their leaders to value people for who they are and to not change them to fit a particular mold. To land a promotion that will add value to their lives, introverts must learn to celebrate who they are and the unique value they add to an organization. Introverts tend to be deep thinkers who can build powerful relationships, serve as outlets for advice and support and accomplish a great deal when allowed to work uninterrupted. It is important that introverts leverage these talents to build one-on-one relationships with their leaders or other key decision-makers. They may not be flashy about their talents, but the people who know them well will recognize what makes them great and why they should be promoted.
Leaders should strive to understand each person they lead, whether introverted or extraverted, as a unique person. They can meet with each person on their team and form a one-on-one, reciprocal relationship with them. Companies can communicate to introverts that they value them by investing in them on an individual level. The best way to show introverts you value them is the same way to show anyone you value them – treat them like a person with unique needs, desires and goals.
Introverts tend to be deep thinkers who can provide tremendous value when allowed to share their ideas and opinions. Unlike their extraverted colleagues, they are less likely to speak up in large group settings and make their voice heard. A leader should seek the opinion of their introverted employees privately– they will likely have a unique perspective that can add considerable value to the conversation. For those individuals who prefer to express themselves in writing, ask them to send with you their ideas or opinions via email or through an anonymous survey (open-ended feedback options on surveys can be a great outlet for introverts!). Before a big meeting, leaders should send an agenda to those on their teams of what to expect. Introverts will appreciate the opportunity to fully flesh out their thoughts. The better prepared they are, the more likely they are to feel comfortable enough to speak up in a larger group.
It is important to note that introvert does not mean “shy” or even “closed-off.” Introverts can be extremely friendly people who simply prefer a one-on-one conversation to small talk at a large networking event. They will likely form deep connections with their colleagues and clients, although at times these relationships may be slower to develop. Because they like to think before they speak, they can think deeply about a topic and consider all facets of an issue before drawing conclusions. When setting strategy, considering new solutions or implementing innovation, introverts may add unique perspectives others had not fully considered. Furthermore, introverted employees tend to be excellent written communicators and good listeners. They can excel in an independent setting because they enjoy working alone and “diving in” to their work.
Bekka Erks Byrne, M.S.
Bekka Erks Byrne, M.S., joined Talent Plus in 2017 as a member of the Leadership Consulting and Management Consulting teams. Her areas of expertise include selection and development of manager-level and senior-level leaders, with an emphasis on executive coaching, succession planning, performance management, employee engagement and retention. She also works closely with client partners to develop and implement strategies to help build Talent-Based Organizations.