A World That Can’t Stop Talking

I am reading the book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, by Susan Cain.   It is an important book that took the author seven years to write.  I am halfway through the book, but could not wait to recommend it to you.  My focus here is leadership and yea, teamwork too.  This book is a powerful statement on where we are today in our society (mainly speaking of United States).

Leaders need to read this book.  First to understand more of own self, as an introvert or extrovert.  Second though, to know better those we work with and interact with every day.  I believe along with Susan that we are not fully tapping into the strength and creativity of introverts around us.   The world has simple become too loud.

First of all, a confession … I am an Introvert.   Should I feel bad for admitting that fact?  In today’s society 1/3 to 1/2 of folks are introverts.  Society though favors the majority of extroverts.  This focus on extroverts has molded our schools and workplaces to a point where we all lose by not fully realizing the power and creativity of the introvert.

Introversion is not being shy.  It is how we respond to stimulation.  Introverts want and need more quiet time and solitude.  Extroverts draw energy from more social stimulation.  As the book points out (lots of research) there are no absolutes here and no one is a pure introvert or extrovert.  Such a person would end up in a mental institution.

I urge you to read the book.  For now here are a few points to get you thinking about introverts as a leader.

  1. As I mentioned above, you first need to understand who you are: Introvert or Extrovert.   From Susan’s website here is a quiz if you are not sure.  Also the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator rates this scale.
  2. Understand and respect your own needs for energy and stimulation.  If an introvert allow for quiet time.
  3. Understand and respect your team members need for energy and stimulation.  Who are the introverts on your team?
  4. How is your workplace designed, both physically and business process?   Modern businesses are set up for an open and shared workplace.  There is a difference though on encouraging casual interactions vs. everything is group based.

Research has shown that the loudest speaker in the business meetings does not always have the best ideas, but too often we all go along with these “loud ideas”.  At the same time the most creative and effective answer may sit in the head of the quiet guy at the end of the table.  It is just not the right forum to hear him and introverts generally do not want to compete with the loudest voice.

So as leaders how can we expand the conversation to include the best thinking from everyone?   Encourage one-on-one discussions and more casual interactions.  This is where email instant messages can work to their advantage.  The answer lies in the variety of communication we allow for, and encourage, as leaders.

An observation from the book … a great combination is the introverted boss with a group of proactive employees.  Interestingly the best CEOs are often introverts who focus on what is best for the company and not their own egos.   They listen to and work best with their proactive staff.   Alas this is not the norm these days.  There is a new “Group Think” alive today and I will dive into that topic in future posts.

Introversion is not more important than extroversion, but we need to at least level the playing field.  As leaders we have the power to assure we tap into the quiet power of the introvert.

More to say on all this … future posts.

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