by Jennie Moore VP Group Creative Director/writer at WONGDOODY
Let’s hear it for all the introverts out there! (SFX: Golf claps.) I count myself as one, and despite the flashy nature of advertising, I’ve met many others like me in this business, especially on the creative side. And this is good news because, thanks to traits that come more naturally to us than they do to many extroverts, we are a huge asset.
Now why would so many people who prefer the quiet company of, um, ourselves, get into a business that’s all about attracting attention?
My theory is that our industry draws in those of us who want to make a big impact — who crave the thrill of creating something influential and highly visible, without having to put our physical selves on display. And according to Forbes’ article, Why Introverts Make Successful Entrepreneurs, we are creative thinkers, passionate about ideas, great listeners, and think before we act.
The article also says we also make better bosses, even though, as leaders, it gets a little harder to simply create the work and hide in the shadows.
We can and do thrive in positions that demand us to interact more, share more and take charge more. We just need to reframe the way we think about our introverted-ness.
In “The Little Known Advantage of Introverts in Business” successful entrepreneur and self-professed introvert Mathew Pollard claims that “if you identify as an introvert, there is a high likelihood you have a bias against yourself when it comes to business or negotiation.” But that’s the old story. The reality is that introverted leaders can have a hugely positive effect on their teams and company – thanks to inherent strengths like planning ahead, listening and weighing the feelings of the group. These qualities also help others feel valued and supported – hallmarks of empathetic, inclusive leadership.
Recently, I had the awesome opportunity to host a round table on introverted leadership at the 3% Conference. (After which I curled up in a ball for nearly a year before writing this. Kidding! Introvert humor.)
During that session, the participants shared some useful techniques to help balance our naturally shy tendencies with our desire to bring out the best in ourselves and everyone we work with.
And while the discussion was focused on introverted leaders, I find this advice helpful for anyone who’s ever wanted to disappear into the shrubbery, Homer Simpson-style, in any work environment.
Here are four tips that rose to the top:
Use the Buddy System. Finding a support person who understands your unique communication style is invaluable.
This person could be another introvert, or someone who can talk the ear off a can of corn. Who it is doesn’t matter, so long as you understand each other, can tag team on projects, present together, or simply rely on one another as accountability partners.
Make It About Them. When you feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable, or awkward in a situation (heart beating in your throat, anyone?), shift your focus away from yourself. Instead, focus on those you’re helping or serving, and what they’re trying to achieve.
Eyes Ahead. Thinking about the end goal and the change we want to create drives passion, helps overcome any temporary discomfort, and brings out a multitude of strengths. When we’re fired up about something, no amount of large group brainstorming exercises or uncomfortably loud room ambience can keep us down.
And finally …
Rewrite Your Self-Talk Track. Introverts, by definition, spend more time alone. Or in that comfy place in the corner of our minds. And the things we tell ourselves there affect the energy with which we approach everything.
So, embrace your introverted-ness while also giving yourself a pep talk. You ARE bold and confident. You CAN step into positions that challenge you. After all, if you survived your friend’s affiliate marketing skincare party, you can do anything.
I hope these tips offer a sense of strength, support and belonging to our not-so-small community of introverts.
As Timi Majek, Director of Visual Merchandising at 1888 Mills – and a round table attendee – said: “Knowing I’m not alone helps me better use my voice and advocate for myself and my team”.
It’s so important to remember that as introverted leaders, we’re not overcoming a deficiency. Or, as Steve Friedman, author of ‘The Corporate Introvert, How to Lead and Thrive’ says: “Introversion is a force, not an obstacle.”
Instead, we’re tapping into our quiet thoughtfulness to forge our own way ahead, for ourselves, and all those we lead.
Give us your trust, your support, and a little space, and we will shine.
(P.S. After we shine, especially in public, we may need to nap. Alone. In a very quiet room. But after that, look out! We’ll be totally unstoppable again.)
Jennie Moore is a VP Group Creative Director/writer at WONGDOODY … and an introvert who loves presenting and public speaking, followed by some light antisocial behavior.