Introverts in Management

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

I’m mildly introverted — I tend to concentrate better when alone, and my energy for party engagement flags after about two hours, so I need to go somewhere else to recharge. That and a tendency to ADD made me a good individual contributor or independent business consultant, but a terrible manager. A workday of meetings — kill me now!

When I started my work life as a programmer, even lowly peons had offices with windows. Over time these were replaced by cubes, then carrels; some workers now get no permanent desk, but borrow an interchangeable desk and computer from a pool when they are onsite. It’s a good thing I got out of programming when I did — in the last conventional job I had, in 1999, I shared an office, which was distracting enough to cause problems.

Studies show multitasking leads to lost efficiency even for those who are good at it; for those who aren’t, like me, it can be deadly to productivity and increases stress. One minority not protected by corporate diversity campaigns is the introverted — they are viewed with suspicion and barely tolerated by many extroverted manager types. But of course introverts tend to be the ones who bring you perfect code fast, while extroverted meeting-goers are still BS-ing about specs and tools.

All managers who have trouble understanding their introverted team members could benefit from reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Understanding work conditions introverted staff require to shine will help managers avoid sabotaging their valuable introverts by overscheduling meetings or demanding people-oriented work from them that will exhaust them. Task your extroverts with outward-facing work and save your introverts for detail-oriented tasks requiring intense focus.

Life is more difficult for introverts as managers. Psychology Today has a good interview with introvert Doug Conant, founder and CEO of ConantLeadership, New York Times bestselling author, former CEO of Campbell Soup Company, and Chairman of Avon Products:

What have you said to yourself that could have held you back on your leadership journey? How did you silence that negative voice?

I never was a good interviewee but [career counsellor] Neil sensitized me to the fact that I needed to communicate my thoughts in a thoughtful and constructive way. He called it the concept of integrity-laden role play.

He said, “Doug, you are misleading people when they meet you, because you’re not telling them who you really are. You’re a professional athlete who is a ferocious competitor, who wants to win, and wants to do it in an honorable way. Nobody is ever going to have any idea that this is the case with you because you’re so damned polite. They have to see the fire that burns within you.”

I’ve carried that thought with me since the early days of losing my job. It was awkward for me to talk about myself but I started what I call “declaring myself.” The first hour of the first day I meet with someone I tell them everything about me — things I believe in, the way I work — in an incredibly explicit way, I declare myself to my bosses, my people I work with, and the people that work for me. I actually write it down. I go through it with people and then I invite them to come back and talk to me, take an hour with me on whatever they want to talk about.

My experience in the corporate world is you do this dance with new people for a couple of months. Both parties wonder, “what does he or she really want? How can I make this work?” That is why I take all the mystery out of it. I share with you on the first hour of the first day anything you could possibly want to know about me. And then I’m available to you to talk about anything you could possibly want to share with me. And then we get focused on moving forward together in a constructive way.

It clears the deck of all the dance. I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful. It’s particularly helpful to introverts like me, because it gives me a structured way to connect with people. I was almost afraid to tell people I was introverted. So I sort of came out of the closet on my introversion. I tell people when I meet them, “I’m an introvert.”

If you seeing me standing off at an event by myself your tendency might be to say, “Well, there’s a CEO. He’s being aloof.” But the real reason is I’m shy and I don’t know people. So I encourage people to come up to me and ask, “Doug, are you being shy and reserved again?” And I’ll say yes, and then we’ll start talking.

Just opening that up was so freeing for me as I got into jobs where I needed to be more public and more available to people. And so it went from just acknowledging my introversion to declaring myself in a proactive way.

Pretty renderings of a supposedly low-distraction office of the future.

“Big Bang Theory” — Aspergers and Emotional/Social Intelligence

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


More on Attachment and Personality Types:

What Attachment Type Are You?
Type: Secure
Type: Anxious-Preoccupied
Type: Dismissive-Avoidant
Type: Fearful-Avoidant (aka Anxious-Avoidant)
Avoidant: Emotions Repressed Beneath Conscious Level
Serial Monogamy: the Fearful-Avoidant Do It Faster
Anxious-Preoccupied: Stuck on the Dismissive?
Anxious-Preoccupied / Dismissive-Avoidant Couples: the Silent Treatment
nxious-Preoccupied: Clingy and Insecure Relationship Example
Domestic Violence: Ray and Janay Rice
Malignant Narcissists
Teaching Narcissists to Activate Empathy
Histrionic Personality: Seductive, Dramatic, Theatrical
Life Is Unfair! The Great Chain of Dysfunction Ends With You.
Love Songs of the Secure Attachment Type
On Addiction and the Urge to Rescue
Sale! Sale! Sale! – “Bad Boyfriends” for Kindle, $2.99
Controlling Your Inner Critic: Subpersonalities
Porn Addiction and NoFAP
Introverts in Management