We kick off October with a guest post from HBG Senior Researcher Kenneth Tavares. Like EF Hutton, when normally-quiet Kenny offers a comment at one of our staff meetings, the rest of the team listens. Kenny always has something insightful to say. Here he guides office introverts in the ways of getting ahead and getting heard. Enjoy!
When I entered the field of prospect research more than 10 years ago, I was admittedly intrigued by the opportunity to not only provide appropriate intelligence, but also to do it with a certain amount of autonomy.
You see, I tend to be introverted, especially at work.
I prefer to take on assignments that I can manage myself and I derive a certain amount of energy from working alone. I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to take on a necessary role in an organization that was uniquely my own.
As I learned more about the profession and began to be exposed to the larger community of professionals through organizations like APRA and NEDRA, it became clear to me that my sense of prospect research was not entirely accurate.
Researchers are becoming more dynamic members of the fundraising team, earning a more prominent seat at the table of their institution’s strategy sessions.
In order to grow as a field, researchers must continue to occupy an important position in any organization’s development activities.
But what if you’re an introvert? Is your work style undervalued in your organization? Does the open-office concept leave you feeling uncomfortable and unable to focus? Are you overshadowed by extroverted colleagues? Do you sit quietly during team meetings and feel uneasy about speaking extemporaneously?
Do you wonder how and if you’ll be able advance in your organization?
According to Susan Cain, author of QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, one-third to one half of the population are introverts.
In contrast, research by Adam Grant of The University of Pennsylvania, Francesca Gino of Harvard University, and David Hofman of the University of North Carolina determined that 96% of managers exhibit extroverted traits.
Despite the sense that extroverts are more natural leaders, studies have shown that introverts are more valuable members of a team environment, according to Anita Bruzzese, syndicated columnist and author of the book 45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy. Introverts are more collaborative, better listeners, and are more focused on completing their work. They are also more concerned with contributing their share to team assignments.
I could go on and on naming the positive qualities of introverts but the truth is, in most work environments, extroverts get more attention.
So what can an introvert do to gain traction at the office?
Does one have to change who he or she is in order to be noticed? Not at all. In fact, several successful leaders identify themselves as introverts, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Mark Zuckerberg – and even President Barack Obama, Mohandas K. Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt!
So it’s possible to maximize the strengths of introverts – but how does that happen?
Find a balance between being one’s self and moving from one’s comfort zone.
According to Beth Buelow, founder of The Introvert Entrepreneur, there are many steps introverts can take to promote themselves, including:
- Becoming more comfortable discussing how their contributions were part of their team’s past success
- Being willing to glow in the success spotlight when it shines on them and colleagues.
- Learning to recognize and promote personal strengths, like listening and viewing all sides of problem before acting.
These are skills that are valuable to any organization!
Now, about working with those extroverts…
Working with others can be stressful, no matter whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. Here are some tips for managing from performance consultant Sherrie Haynie:
- Identify activities that drain your energy, such as meetings, and allow for decompression time to recharge your batteries and maintain productivity.
- Breathe and count to 10: taking a brief “time out” in stressful situations is also helpful, allowing you to avoid uncharacteristic outbursts.
- Before you go into a meeting, try to anticipate questions to avoid being put on the spot. Or, if you are asked a question you don’t know the answer to, explain to your colleagues that you’ll be happy to get back to them with the answer as soon as possible.
- Communicating with your supervisor how you work best can go a long way toward establishing a strong working relationship between you, and with others on your team.
I hope that the ideas here will help you adapt to your work environment. While I will continue to face my own challenges, it is helpful to know that there are many resources available about introverts in the workplace. I have included some links below. I would love to hear about your experience as an introvert or working with an introvert.
Please feel free to share your comments below. I look forward to being part of a bigger conversation.