Extroverts love the spotlight and typically enjoy being in charge. So, it makes sense that many supervisors are extroverts. However, introverts have many desirable professional strengths of their own. In fact, according to a 2010 study conducted by Harvard Business Review, introverts are often more receptive to suggestions and perform well in a “dynamic, unpredictable environment.”
Some may see introverts and extroverts as opposed and consider their lack of similarities as a negative. However, their different skill sets can actually complement each other quite nicely and create a good team. Introverts usually are good listeners, reflective, strategic and open to new ideas. Extroverts typically are commanding, motivating and have good people skills. All of these skills are important, so hire an extrovert assistant or promote someone within your organization to take on new responsibilities. Have her answer and return phone calls as well as plan and speak at meetings and events -- all the things an extrovert enjoys and an introvert could easily go without.
Most introverts would rather not have long conversations with others or do any public speaking. Luckily, most of your communication is non-verbal anyway. According to BusinessWeek.com, only seven percent of communication is your actual spoken words, and 38 percent is how you use your voice, such as volume, tone, pitch and speed. The remaining 55 percent has to do with your body language, including posture, eye contact, facial expressions and gestures. So stand up straight, don’t cross your arms, look people in the eyes and smile. Use your body language to appear confident and your staff will be confident in you and your leadership abilities.
As an introvert, you’re probably detail-oriented, but face-to-face communication can drain you. So, communicate in writing to your staff when possible. Your natural strengths will make writing clear directions, memos and proposals a breeze. Just be sure to not go overboard. People who aren’t introverts don’t have your same zeal for details and can get overwhelmed with too much information. Also resist the temptation to solely communicate in writing. Your staff needs to see and hear from you in person on a regular basis.
Even with great written communication, there are many times when you’ll need to interact with your staff in one-on-one and group settings. Schedule time in your workday to think and reflect prior to these engagements. Also use this time to create detailed outlines and notes of what you want to cover. These techniques will help your nerves relax and increase your confidence. Also schedule specific meeting times or open office hours for your workers to come talk with you. This allows them to feel like you want to hear their ideas, and allows you to close your door the rest of the time without looking detached.
Sydney Neely has worked in the education arena for more than 10 years, teaching general education, the arts, communication and finance. She holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education degrees from Arizona State University. Neely also holds several state and federal financial licenses in life insurance and investments (Series 6 and 63).