“Baby, let me sleep on it. I’ll give you an answer in the morning,” sang Meatloaf in the 1977 chart-topper, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” Was he commitment-shy, or merely an introvert needing some processing time?
The pressure to make quick decisions at work is among six roadblocks faced by introverts, identified by Jennifer Kahnweiler in Quiet Influence (2013, Berrett-Koehler). Other roadblocks arising in an extrovert-focused environment are: team focus, talking about ideas, pressure to act extroverted, differing privacy boundaries, and being talked over.
Roadblock, or detour?
Faris Khalifeh is an introvert, and confidently owns this trait. He left his extrovert-cultured workplace behind, and now coaches introverts to build their strengths as quiet leaders. The former marketing consultant shared some of his experiences at Smart Savvy + Associates’ February LeaderLounge, The Introverted Leader. We caught up with Faris for some more insight to share with other introverts striving to perform to their full potential in an extroverted world.
SS: What are some common issues faced by introverts in the workplace?
FK: A common challenge I hear from clients is the pressure to “perform” at endless meetings and brainstorming sessions. We introverts feel great duress to think on the spot, because we need time to process new information and reflect on it before sharing our thoughts and ideas. Our extroverted colleagues are more likely to think out loud to process the information, and we can feel pressure to contribute to the conversation without feeling we’re ready to respond.
The physical environment can also affect performance. For example, the trend towards open office spaces, with shared work areas or cubicle design are great for extroverts—the ability to constantly talk ideas out and instantly collaborate feeds their energy. Conversely, this same space is draining for introverts, who regenerate their energy from time alone and having the quiet space to think.
SS: Short of calling in sick on meeting days, how can introverts not only make it through their day, but be a high performer?
FK: First thing is not to hide the fact that you’re an introvert: it’s a trait, not a weakness. Be open with colleagues, and let them know that you’ll get back to them (with a timeframe) on an issue, or will put some notes together in an email. Request agendas ahead of meetings to allow for advance preparation. When booking meetings, avoid back-to-back timeslots, and work in quiet/solitude time, which could be a few minutes of mindful meditation, or a walk around the block.
Introverts benefit from being mindful of how they spend their energy—what are the drains, and what brings the boosts? Awareness supports successful energy management. When you understand your needs, you can start to accommodate them within your daily schedule. When your schedule is working well, then so are you.
SS: How can introverts excel as leaders in their workplace?
FK: Be a proud introvert. An introverted leader provides a different style of leadership than an extrovert, not a lesser style. Embrace the strengths of introversion: deep listening and asking questions; taking time to gather information and create sound strategies; using writing to communicate with clarity and persuasion.
Don’t try to be an extrovert – that’s akin to a lefty trying to be a right-hander. Recent stats show that 40 percent of CEOs are introverts, so you’re in good company!
Faris Khalifeh offers one-on-one coaching, corporate training, and workshops to coach introverts to build their strengths as quiet leaders. Contact Faris through Quiet Leadership.
Other Introverted Superpowers
Kahnweiler’s book also reveals some “Introvert Superpowers” that introverts can use to their advantage in the workplace: develop thoughtful strategies during quiet time; contribute relevant research and data by preparing ahead for meetings; avoid impulse decision-making by listening and asking thoughtful questions; bring focus to issues through facilitated conversations; keep others on track through written summaries with clear objectives and expectations; and create strong network connections by sharing thoughtful social media posts.
Bottom line for the Introverted Leader: embrace your introverted nature, and use your strengths to #standapart in your workplace. And, unless it’s a barista waiting for your coffee order, when someone demands “I gotta know right now!”, it’s perfectly fine to let them know you need to sleep on it.