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Are you an introvert and stew about how extroverts dominate? Do you know introverts and would like to help them succeed? As someone who lives on the cusp of being an introvert and an extrovert, I’ve grappled with these issues personally and with the organizations I’ve led. Here are insights and proven tools to bring forth the value of introverts.

How do you identify introverts?

There’s a simple behavioral observation to identify introverts. Introverts find engaging with other people takes energy away from them. In contrast, extroverts gain energy from interacting with others.

What challenges do introverts face in the workplace?

The biggest challenge is to get their ideas and contributions appreciated when extroverts are jamming the airwaves.

How can introverts overcome challenges and thrive?

Introverts need tools to leverage their contributions. An analogy is I can’t lift 500 pounds. If I need to lift 500 pounds, I need to use tools (pulley, lever, etc.) or get friends to help.

The same is true for introverts. They need tools and friends. Here are some solutions.

  •  On important issues:
    Establish a clear process for everyone to get their ideas out before others start to advocate or push for action. The research shows that this is the best practice. The problem is that extraverts often drive ahead and leave the introverts in the dust. A well-supported process overcomes these difficulties. [See Step #4 on pages 72-80 of How Great Decisions Get Made: 10 Easy Steps for Reaching Agreement on Even the Toughest Issues.]
  • On recognition:
    Here’s where friends are important. Introverts need a “posse” — people who see their value and support them and their work. There’s the rub. Introverts don’t readily form such relationships.

Again, a tool can help. This one is “Making Effective Requests.” It’s a structured way for anyone to ask anything of anyone else. It’s in the following form: state a clear intention that connects with the other person, provide non-judgmental observations of the situation, make a specific request, and confirm the agreement. Introverts need to practice how to ask for what they need. [See pages 100-103 of Take Charge of Your Talent: Three Keys to Thriving in Your Career, Organization, and Life.]

If you’re an introvert, don’t miss out on the opportunities to share your talent. If you know introverts, don’t let them sit on the sidelines. Great teams engage everyone thoughtfully and efficiently.

About Don Maruska

As a founder and CEO of three Silicon Valley companies, venture investor, and recipient of the National Innovators Award, Don writes, speaks, and coaches from a broad base of experience » Learn More

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