Some of my favorite people are introverts. Like me, introverts need a good
bit of alone time, which my staff calls my "cone time." About half the time
my nature cries out what Greta Garbo famously drawled (if Germans can
drawl), "I want to be alone." I like cone time, but I can go a few weeks in
the glory of high contact environments: conferences, teaching, developing
programs with my team, (and shopping pretty much anywhere).
The introvert NEEDS alone time, like flowers need the sun. Introversion is
not a preference or an affectation.
Being a born introvert is a fate, if you will. Maybe a destiny. But,
introversion is not a disability. It's just a fact of life, along with lots
of other dimensions in human nature.
Sometimes there is just too much noise for anyone to function well. When any
employees are over-engaged in the hub-bub, whether or not they are
introverts, productivity suffers. You see extraverts losing precious work
time when they are driven to gab instead of buckling down. The easily
distracted (ADD seems to be way over-used, but you know who I mean), lose
focus and working time when they are surrounded by distraction.
In other words, everyone has their "thing," Each of us has a best way of
working and it goes downhill from there. Everyone does better with some
quiet time away form the madding crowd.
So why are introverts an especial problem in the workplace, whether your
company is together in one office or distributed in places around the world?
Introverts by definition are not at their best when they are with other
people. A lot of veteran introverts can use a raft of tricks to get by when
they MUST engage, but in general they are depleted by every interaction.
It¹s a lot like decision fatigue for the rest of the population. No matter
who you are, each decision you make during the day depletes your attention
and cognitive flexibility for the remaining decisions you¹ll face.
That¹s why one habit of leadership is to not make any decisions except those
necessary. Most exceptional leaders eat pretty much the same thing for
breakfast every workday, set out their clothes for the week on Sunday night,
and have a routine for anything that can be routinized. In other words, to
be a highly functional leader, you have to sacrifice the small choices in
life to be able to make the great big ones with all your brain power.
Introverts cannot easily routinize their introversion. They cannot choose to
charge into a crowd and feel alive with the buzz, when their mind needs to
be recharged with quiet time.
The introversion dilemma stems from our need for everyone to be like
everyone. We want everyone to work in teams. We want everyone¹s input on a
project. And, that's not simply the fault of management or large
organizations, as we seek to develop our human assets. Even introverts often
put themselves in positions where too much interaction is demanded and a
gregarious personality is essential to a job they sought and landed.
When we all get good about being who we are yes: when your personal brand
is developed around your authentic qualities as well as your aspirational
ones, we will function better as individuals and organizations. As we say in
personal branding: be yourself, because everyone else is taken. If
introversion is a dimension of your personal brand, let it be.
Do you feel being an introvert is getting in your way of a fast-track or
successful career? Let me know your story, and I will send back my Tip Sheet
for Introverts. Email Nance@NanceRosen.com. Subject line: Introvert.