Hi, friends! I am going to share something with you that many of you probably do not realize. Despite my bubbly personality and leadership skills, I am actually very much an introvert. I used to think that this was going to set me back in the corporate world, but I have discovered that is not the case. In fact, studies have shown that introverts can actually become some of the best leaders. Today, I am going to share a guide that introverts can use, especially if you are in or striving to be in a leadership role.
I do not enjoy public speaking, I despise large, social settings and am often awkward when it comes to small-talk. To add insult to injury, at the slightest embarrassment I turn bright red. If I am really uncomfortable, I will break out in blotchy hives on my neck and chest. Yes, pretty embarrassing! Despite my body not cooperating, I am a very determined woman and have big dreams. I know that sitting in the corner is not going to get me where I want to be in life. As a result, I have worked really hard to step outside my comfort zone. Below are some tips that I have picked up along the years that have helped me cope with my introvert tendencies.
I was recently having a conversation with a young professional about public speaking and she was shocked when I told her that I have not always been comfortable speaking in groups. In my current role, I train and present quite a bit. To many, I probably seem like a natural. The truth is, I really struggled with public speaking early on in my career.
The trick to successful public speaking is to be comfortable with what you are presenting. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am quite the perfectionist. When we are put on the spot to present something that we know nothing about, that only adds to the pressure. As a result, it is important to prepare and have a general idea as to what you are going to speak about. Yes, this sound cliche, but speaking in front of a mirror is a great idea.
Whenever I have to present in front of other people, I always make sure I have a general outline. I am one of those people that tend to ramble on when I get nervous. Clearly that is not going to get you any Emmy Awards! If you have a solid outline, it will be much easier to stick to what you should be discussing versus rambling on about something completely unrelated. It is also a good idea to anticipate questions the the audience may have and be prepared to answer them.
While I still get nervous from time to time, I can tell you that it gets much easier with practice. I still can’t say that I enjoy public speaking, but no one would ever know it. In fact, I am often asked to mentor others on their public speaking skills.
This is a part of developing as a leader that I wish I did not have to do. I am one of those people that is really not all that social. I have always had a relatively small group of friends and I tend to keep to myself. That is one of the reasons why it took me so long to start this blog. However, if you want to get promoted or land that dream job you have to get out there and network. You never know what opportunities are out there if you do not step outside your comfort zone.
When I am put in a situation in which there are going to be a lot of people I don’t know, I tend to bring a friend. When I have someone with me that I know, that tends to soften my nerves. I like to bring someone who is typically more outgoing than me because they can help with conversations and introductions.
One of the tips I learned early on is that networking is about building relationships and not selling your skills to someone you just met. It can be very tempting to cut to the chase so you can exit stage right, but save the “selling” for another time. Focus on getting to know others and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. You can exchange contact information and work on the “selling” aspect at a later time.
When I am attending meetings and conferences, I typically want to get right to business. However, that is not the best game plan. Chances are, there are probably many extroverts in the room that want and need to take the time for some social interactions. If I am leading a meeting, I will always plan some type of icebreaker activity prior to jumping into the agenda.
If I am a participant in the meeting, I have to make a conscience effort to really listen. There are times when I have a question or a statement and I will be formulating it in my head to ensure that it is perfect before opening my mouth. The reality is if I am focused on what I am going to say next, I am not focused on what is being presented. To overcome this, I will write down a word or small statement that will remind me of what I want to say. For me, this allows that thought to exit from my brain so I can focus on the facilitator.
Toot Your Own Horn
I saved this for last because I still have a hard time with this one. In addition to being an introvert, I am also a very humble person. I often find that if I talk too much about my accomplishments, it comes across as bragging. The truth is, to really get recognized as a leader, it is essential to toot your own horn. I am not saying to that you have to go on an ego trip and become boastful. However, you should not be afraid to celebrate your successes.
It would be a good idea to keep notes on your accomplishments, whether electronically or in a notebook, so that you can share them with your manager during regular meetings. Do not wait until you annual review because by then it is too late. If you tend to be one that is self-motivated, chances are good that your manager may not be aware of all that you are doing behind the scenes.
Also, do not be afraid to ask others to sing your praises to your manager. I am often getting kudos and accolades from others, but until recently was not asking those individuals to follow up with my manager. While your manager appreciates hearing about your accomplishments from you, it is even more impactful when overs reach out directly.
For more information on this topic, I recommend reading Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It.
The Introvert Leader
Despite being an introvert, I am a successful leader within my organization. There are some days in which I still struggle with stepping outside my comfort zone, but these tips have definitely helped develop me into who I am today. I hope you embrace the challenge to step outside your comfort zone and embrace the leader that I know you can be.