A few years ago, I graduated with an MBA from one of the top schools in the US and transitioned to a Product Manager role from an Engineering role. I’m an introvert and as soon as I took up the Product Manager role, I realized what I had got myself into.
Life became an endless series of pointless meetings, with very few that were actually necessary. In all these meetings, I observed that people who spoke more and were very vocal about their ideas and touted what they had accomplished were thought to be smarter and won the most important projects.
The workplace often punishes people who are introverts and want quiet time. Introverts are often seen as followers, not leaders. More often than not, perception triumphs actual work. In my own case, in many instances, I had let people take credit for my ideas and for my work. Added to my misery, I was dealing with a boss from hell.
I often wondered if it was even possible to succeed as an introvert. I felt validated when I read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet and decided I had enough of being taken advantage of.
How can you succeed as an Introvert in the corporate world?
By taking the following steps I’ve been able to succeed as an introvert in the workplace and have ensured that my voice was heard when it mattered. Hope they help you as well!
1. Use the power of Email
When I thought of an idea or had a solution for a problem, I took the time to write down my thoughts before the meeting and share it with my coworkers through email. I found that this gave people a chance to review it and mull on it before they showed up to the meetings, as well as gave me credit for my ideas.
2. Cross check facts
Often times, extroverts are quick to speak before fully processing things and often don’t fully cross checking facts. As an introvert, I had to be 100% sure before I said something. I naturally thought (too much) before speaking, so I used it to my advantage. I made sure I cross checked facts and built my credibility.
3. Build personal relationships by listening
As an introvert, building relationships one on one was easier to me than building rapport with a crowd. One of my strengths was listening, so it was easy to build connections with people on my team and other teams. Speaking up in meetings became much easier when the crowd was a bunch of people who I knew well.
4. Reduce stimulations
I often found that when there was too much going on, emails, meetings, interruptions and escalations, it was draining my energy. However, this unfortunately is the life of a Product Manager, so I took a hard look at my priorities each day and ruthlessly cut off unimportant stuff that was wasting my time needlessly. Interestingly, I found that I could always get out of meetings saying I had a conflict. No one really cared what the conflict was, as long as you didn’t do it too often.
5. Find time to recharge
I made sure that I declined any back to back meetings and found some time in between meetings to stay quiet or just go on a walk and recharge. This way, I was energized before my next meeting and found it easier to work well with a crowd, at least for a short period of time.
6. Build on public speaking skills
As an introvert, my quietness was a mix of shyness and a reluctance to engage in pointless small talk. I made a concerted effort to expand my network and my public speaking skills by enrolling in a toastmasters club with a non work audience so that I could practice my public speaking. This helped me become comfortable with crowds to an extent.
Extroverts do get a fair share of the limelight, but with a little strategy and planning you can succeed as an introvert and achieve your goals in the workplace, while staying true to your nature and not getting burned out. Remember, it’s not a battle of Extroverts vs Introverts, but to find what works for you best and play to your strengths.