From Reserved To Involved

Are you new to management and wondering why you left managing money and numbers to managing people?  Are you more comfortable doing your own thing instead of working to get a group to agree?  Does the group drain you emotionally and the alone time pump you up?  If so, you are probably an “I” instead of an “E” on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  This means that your preferred way of approaching your world is as an Introvert instead of as an Extrovert.

Introversion and Extraversion identifies one of the four dichotomies that the MBTI uses to describe personalities. The Extrovert is energized by being with people while the Introvert needs time alone for reflection.  The Extrovert likes to talk things out and say what she is thinking while the Introvert likes to think things through first and share once the internal decision is clear.  The Extrovert enjoys reaching out to others while the Introvert is more comfortable focusing on the inner world.

Often, when an Introvert is promoted to management, she is challenged to change to a new focus on team-building, frequent meetings and communication, and more group interactions.  These new responsibilities require more external focus and can challenge an Introvert’s need and balance for internal reflection and solitude. Often, the Introverted practitioner finds herself faced with the challenge to develop qualities more comfortable for the Extrovert. However, we often forget that to bridge that gap includes building on a skill set that is accessible but just not practiced or honed because it’s not an introverts preferred way of being.   If you find yourself faced with the challenge to develop these qualities, below are some strategies for making a successful transition:

  1. Remind yourself of your strengths as an Introvert --- and practice them! Continue to be a good listener, abstract thinker, effective collaborator in managing conflict, and willing to acknowledge the skills of others.
  2. Practice speaking up.  Find safe ways to share thoughts and feelings that you usually keep to yourself.  Practice on your family and friends.  Share one idea in each meeting you attend. Ask for support and feedback from your mentor or a trusted colleague.
  3. Join a community group where you are expected to speak as a representative of others.  This could be a church board, a PTA group at your child’s school, the homeowner’s association where you live, etc.
  4. Join a local public speaking club like Toastmasters International where you’ll learn public speaking techniques and get support and feedback while you do it. It’s a great networking opportunity, too!
  5. Schedule alone time. It’s critical for Introverts to have quiet time to reenergize and process information.  It may only be fifteen minutes in your office or stepping outside during the day or as you transition from work to home, but find ways to get it and ask for support from those closest to you to build empathy and help ensure you do.
  6. Find management literature or courses that teach assertiveness and confidence in communicating and collaborating with others.  For example, check out the ConvergenceCoaching e-book Straight-Talk Your Way to Success.

These are just a few of the practices that can help you move from feeling reserved to being involved.  Practice makes perfect.  Remember that most things that you are now successful at started with some degree of discomfort.  The longer you do it, the more it becomes a natural part of your way of being.  After all, you were chosen for management because someone recognized your strengths and your value to the organization.  One of the traits of an Introvert is that we tend to minimize our own value in favor of the greater good.  You stood out in the crowd and have been recognized for your value.  Learn to accept compliments with a simple “thank you” (and stop apologizing for your effectiveness)!  Now it’s time to embrace your new role and get comfortable being outstanding.

If you’re an Introvert, what have you done to shift from being reserved to being involved? If you’re an Extrovert, how have you supported your Introvert colleagues in developing this ability?  Please share!

Warm Regards From a Fellow Introvert,