The Introverted Manager

The business world is a web of interactions revolving around social events, social media, open office environments, work teams, and group activities. Extroverts dominate the business world and thrive in that environment. 

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Find a management style that is true to your temperament and natural strengths

If you are a lab manager, there is a good chance that you are an introvert, and there is a good chance that management may not view your introverted tendencies as positive contributors to your management skills.

You may feel pressured to fit in, and you learn quickly that it pays to conform and act extroverted. However, no matter how hard you try to act extroverted, you may still end up facing challenges stemming from your introverted tendencies.

Below is a road map that you can follow to utilize your introverted tendencies to thrive in an extroverted business world.

The introverted temperament

There are misconceptions that introverts are shy, poor public speakers, or less happy than extroverts. In fact, introversion and extroversion do not define personality types, but generally refer to personality traits relating to utilization of energy.

Extroverts are stimulated and recharge their energy by being with people and participating in high-energy events, while introverts draw energy from within and tend to embrace solitude. Introverts may suffer from people exhaustion and may react strongly to stimulus, and therefore need much less of it or they become overstimulated.

In her books The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength and Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference, Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PhD, lists and compares the natural tendencies of introverts and extroverts.

Because of the differences in these natural tendencies, introverted managers have different management styles than extroverted managers.

For example, an introverted manager can lead by example, focusing on the mission at hand and listening more intently to employees; an extroverted manager brings a different skill set and motivates people with his or her enthusiasm and talkative demeanor.

Extroverts

Introverts

Energized by people Energized by time alone
Talk first, think later Think first, talk later
Talk out their thoughts Process their thoughts in their heads
Enthusiastic Reserved
Transparent and easy to read Less demonstrative emotion in facial expression
Freely share personal data Share personal data with a select few
Prefer talking to writing Prefer writing to talking
Focus on breadth Focus on depth

In terms of completing projects, an introverted manager can be analytical to a fault, constantly trying to figure out whether something is working, and an extroverted manager can start something, pump it up, and then let it fail quickly and decisively.

Your challenges

Because of your introverted tendencies, you may encounter challenges—stress, perception gaps, career detractors, and invisibility—which may erode your ability to manage and achieve your career goals.

Stress

Stress can be a result of work overload and people exhaustion, and can translate into physical symptoms. Work overload can affect introverted and extroverted managers alike. However, introverted managers will be more prone to people exhaustion when forced to be with people constantly.

Perception gaps

Perception gaps are a result of key differences between how the introverted manager thinks his co-workers see him and how they actually do. Because of these perception gaps, the introverted manager has to face negative impressions such as being labeled a slow thinker and devoid of backbone.

Career detractors

It generally requires more than technical expertise to get people motivated, and interpersonal skills are key when an introverted manager takes a leadership role.

When you are achieving results for your company and developing relationships, career possibilities open up. If you do not attend to developing relationships, you inevitably hit a wall.

Invisibility

Invisibility can cause problems for introverted managers, and the key impacts of this invisibility are lost opportunities, ideas not heard, and lost personal power.

Dealing with your challenges

These challenges may appear daunting, and you can deal with them by first developing awareness of your natural tendencies and then taking action to use your natural tendencies to make an impact.

Developing awareness

Kahnweiler has identified areas of strengths— quiet time, focus on depth, focused listening, focused conversation, and writing—of which you should become aware.

Quiet time

Since introverts suffer from people exhaustion, they need quiet time to replenish their energy.

Although from an extroverted viewpoint taking quiet time seems like a waste of time, from an introverted standpoint it is time much needed to provide yourself with the energy needed to unleash your creativity and maintain your focus.

Therefore, you should make it a priority to schedule quiet time and protect it by reducing stimuli and going within yourself.

Focus on depth

Since you tend to focus on depth, one of your strengths is your ability to be well-prepared. The right amount of preparation sets you apart and increases your self-confidence.

Therefore, you should enhance this strength by putting together well-thought-out presentations and showcasing your expertise. This will help you make a strong case and prove the value of your proposal.

Few introverts achieve their goal alone, and most realize that they magnify their ability to make a difference when they strategize with others. Therefore, you should enhance your preparation by enlisting others to achieve your goals.

Focused listening

Since you tend to listen first and then talk, you will maximize your ability to manage when you maximize focused listening. Focused listening engenders empathy, establishes credibility, and builds engagement, all of which help form the relationships that are necessary for managers.

Preparation feeds the strength of focused listening and involves creating the right conditions to slow down and really listen so others will feel heard and verbalizing your idea or proposal so people know how to engage with you.

Focused listening can deplete your energy, and when it happens, you need to schedule your quiet time to recharge.

Focused conversation

Since you tend to feel more in your element in one-on-one conversations, having focused conversation maximizes your ability to manage. Focused conversations give you the opportunity to provide support and encouragement, spark learning, solve problems, and work through conflicts.

Preparation feeds the strength of focused conversation. It involves setting up space and time to talk, preparing questions ahead of time for more productive conversations, carving out opportunities for random conversations, and remaining authentic and flexible.

Focused conversations can also deplete your energy, so you need to schedule your quiet time to recharge.

Writing

Introverts tend to be skillful writers and use all kinds of writings to motivate others, advocate their positions, and connect with audiences.

Being well-prepared feeds your writing strength, and involves studying your audiences and adapting your style of writing to make your case.

Since practice makes perfect, continuous honing of your writing skills will improve your preparation and increase your persuasiveness.

Introverted managers can use their writing skills in a social media context to increase visibility and to develop and grow relationships.

Taking action

Kahnweiler proposes a four-step process—preparation, presence, pushing, and practice—to take action by leveraging your natural strengths in this process and closing the perception gap.

Preparation

Preparation involves getting yourself ready for a tough meeting and relying on your strength to focus on depth. Careful preparation increases your knowledge, and anticipating questions and being prepared to answer them will give you the confidence you need to handle yourself in the meeting.

To prepare, pull together what you know, conduct your due diligence, and strategize. Use your natural strength from taking quiet time to manage yourself. Give yourself some positive self-talk, and practice by rehearsing the questions and possible answers.

Presence

Being present is how you position yourself to close the perception gap with your listeners and show them that you are engaged in the here and now. It relies on your natural strengths of focused listening and conversation.

Pushing

After you have prepared and learned ways to be present, pushing involves stepping out of your comfort zone and developing and solidifying your skills.

Practice

Practice involves seizing and practicing new behaviors that may seem strange and unnatural at first, but you will become proficient at them. With repetition and practice, new behaviors will help you close the perception gap.

Getting along

The tendencies of introverted managers affect how they deal with their extroverted colleagues. In order to get along, you need to develop an awareness that your extroverted colleagues have an essential need to speak and that they have important things to say. You may want to test what you hear them say by asking questions and giving them face time.

In terms of managing your lab, you need to develop an awareness of each lab member's personality type. Based on this awareness, you need to delegate tasks in such a way as to highlight their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses.

In the event that you have introverts and extroverts on your team, it will be helpful to actively facilitate conversations from introverts and limit talking by extroverts so they do not dominate any group action.

Finally …

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that staying true to your temperament while utilizing your natural strengths is key to your credibility and to being an effective manager in a business world dominated by extroverts.

Published In

Safer Science Magazine Issue Cover
Safer Science

Published: June 11, 2015

Cover Story

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