Early on in my corporate career, in which I went from new college hire to being responsible for a $750 million business in just 10 short years, there was a retirement party for one of the executives at my company. As an introvert, I was afraid to go.
I was afraid that I would walk into the party and no one would be interested in talking with me. I was afraid that I wouldn't know what to say to the executives who would undoubtedly be there, and I was afraid that I would be so uncomfortable at the party that I would spend the entire time wishing I could leave.
But I had great respect for the man who was retiring and I wanted to tell him so; I wanted him to know the impact he had on me as a young employee. So I asked a few of my colleagues if they were planning to attend the party, thinking that if I had a few people to walk into the event with it would make the experience less difficult. None of them were attending -- they all had the same fears I had.
In the end, I put my fears aside and went to that party -- alone. You know what I found when I got there? The top executives of the business were there supporting the man they had worked with for years, but that was it. Even though the entire organization had been invited, employees left and right had all decided they either wouldn't fit in, or they let their fear of being uncomfortable prevent them from attending.
To say I was a bit daunted when I realized this upon walking in the room would be an understatement! But it turned out to be a blessing and perhaps a catalyst for my rapid rise in the organization. I had the pleasure of telling the man who was retiring how much I respected him and I know he genuinely appreciated it; I could tell my words made an impact. And I had the opportunity to spend time in one-on-one conversation with the other top executives, a tremendous advantage that would bear fruit during the next, critical years of my career.
As an introvert, I learned a valuable lesson that night: I was going to have to make sure my introversion did not get in the way of my career success. Instead, I was going to have to leverage it and use it to my advantage, and I was going to have to move beyond its comfort zone when necessary to become visible and open exciting new doors.
You see, we introverts get our energy from our inner world of ideas and are most comfortable alone or in small groups with just one or two other people. Large events drain us of our energy, and thus we have a tendency to avoid them. For introverts in business and leadership, avoiding networking events such as business gatherings, association events, and even conferences, can have a significantly detrimental impact on our career success.
This is because being visible within an organization is one of the three most critical career advancement strategies for introverts to master in order to be promoted upward in an organization. The three include being visible in an organization, making your ideas visible within an organization, and asking for the job you want.
For introverts to be successful in these three areas requires an approach tailored to their unique strengths and that leverages the power of their ideas:
1. Becoming visible in your organization involves a strategic approach to networking in a one-on-one fashion with influential leaders in the company, asking the right questions of executives who are committed to talent management and advancement in the organization, and being prepared to speak confidently about the impact you are making in the organization. It also involves a genuine willingness to reach out and help others, and to volunteer for ad hoc roles with increased visibility.
2. Making your ideas visible within the organization involves communicating them in writing wherever and whenever possible, as this is much more comfortable for introverts and allows us time to thoroughly hone our ideas. It also involves knowing how to leverage meeting follow up, both as a participant and as the leader, and volunteering for strategic teams that are created specifically to garner ideas.
3. Asking for the job you want can be done in two different ways, directly and by "planting seeds." Both involve moving beyond our introverted comfort zone of thinking and reflecting to "actively asking," which is essential for being promoted and one of the areas introverts need to work on most. We must be our own advocates!
I wrote about this unique approach in a blog post entitled, "The Introvert's Guide to Getting Promoted." It was one of the first blog posts I wrote when I launched my Visionary Leadership business blog a year ago, and it followed my post called, "The Introvert's Guide to Attending a Conference," which received more than 100 comments and was tweeted like crazy. For a new blogger this was both phenomenal and unheard of! I knew I had struck a chord...
I went on to write, "The Introvert's Guide to Leadership," which addressed how introverts can successfully approach decision making, motivating others and communications strategies, and "The Extrovert's Guide to Leading Introverts," which was designed to cultivate more effective teams. The response was consistently overwhelming.
Not only was I receiving comments from introverts saying they were relieved to know others felt the same way they did, but people were emailing me and confiding that their introversion was getting in the way of both their corporate success and their happiness. It was then I knew I needed to delve deeper and share my experiences more broadly. After all, being an introvert can truly be an advantage in business, leadership and in life if you know how to leverage it, and if you remain true to yourself!
The Introvert's Guide to Success in Business and Leadership eBook is now available and is the result of the requests I received to write more extensively about how introverts can be abundantly successful in business and leadership. In it, I share career-boosting lessons
I learned as an introvert in the business world. It's a pleasure for me to share these lessons with introverts who want to use their introversion to their advantage in business, and with extroverts who lead introverts and wish to be more effective leaders.
The eBook is available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.TheIntrovertsGuide.net. Cheers to your abundant success!
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