It can be challenging to stand out as an introvert in the corporate world. Often, we see extroverts lauded for their exuberance and seemingly boundless desire to connect with new people, whilst introverts are faulted for being more reticent in social situations.
This can be discouraging for people who are not naturally outgoing. However, rest assured that many introverts also succeed in the business world.
This guide will outline introverts' strengths and how to harness these and avoid burning themselves out compared to their extroverted peers. Learning how to navigate virtual meetings as an introvert is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your unique value to the company as an introvert.
When it comes to business meetings, whether virtual or in-person, it is often the loudest and most talkative people who end up directing the discussion. As a result, introverts may feel cast aside and uncomfortable expressing their view as they struggle to find an appropriate time to interject.
Zoom meetings offer unique opportunities for introverts to contribute, however. Video conferencing platforms can help introverts harness their strengths and contribute effectively to the discussion in a manner intrinsic to their nature.
We will discuss how introverts can make the most of this digital shift in the industry.
A new direction
Creative collaboration is the buzzword of the future in our industry. The World Economic Forum reported in its Future of Jobs Report that we will continue to see the increased value placed on teamwork and adaptability. Collective innovation drastically overhauls the traditional form of leadership, distributing responsibilities rather than confining them to select individuals.
Moreover, automation is increasingly responsible for performing routine tasks in companies, meaning that human teams are free to focus on creativity and innovation. With these shifts in the industry, we are seeing a new understanding of leadership emerge. And lucky for introverts, this new environment is ripe with opportunity.
Introverts are generally more aware of their surroundings and sensitive to group dynamics than extroverts. As a result, they excel at evaluating diverse group perspectives and can bring their own point of view to bear on team decisions. Taking everyone's opinions into account when collaborating is a key aspect of risk management and effective leadership within a company.
Introverts on Zoom
Introverts play a key role in Zoom meetings: being attentive listeners. They do not have to fight the urge to constantly self-promote, getting the last word in edgewise. Rather, introverts are content to collect the opinions of the group and evaluate the team dynamic, reflecting on the overall message and goal at hand. This team-first attitude is an important attribute of business-world introverts.
Good leaders demonstrate humility and acknowledge when others on their team have better ideas than their own. Taking a diverse array of opinions into account and determining the best course of action is a hallmark ability of an introverted leader. Research points to introverts being more humble in disposition than extroverts; this can free them to make the decision that best benefits their team – even if it is not their own! – without regard to the calls of their ego.
Introversion = superpower
We discuss here how to harness your unique powers as an introvert in the business world and how to participate in Zoom meetings whilst making yourself heard. Practical strategies can be helpful in learning how to get your point across, even when you are not naturally exuberant and aggressive in your communication style.
Traditionally, extroverts have been classified as ideal business leaders. Assertive and confident, with an excitement for meeting new people, they are seen as typifying good leadership. They may enjoy the sound of their own voice and dominate group discussions at the expense of their introverted peers' voices being heard. Introverts, whilst hard workers, are less prone to voicing their opinions in a group setting.
The industry-wide shift towards virtual meeting environments such as Zoom has opened the door of opportunity for introverts. Now, they are equipped with new tools to help them harness their full potential as team meeting extraordinaire. In this blog, we will cover the top skills of introverts when it comes to virtual team meetings and offer practical strategies to implement these as a corporate, NFP or otherwise business-inclined introvert.
Joining forces for the future
The World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report designated creative collaboration as the workforce of the future. Leadership is increasingly changing in style towards a more team-forward approach. Collective innovation is now prized higher than the domineering leadership of one individual. Alongside this shift in how we conceptualise and practice leadership, automation is expanding to manage day-to-day business tasks. Humans operate in roles that involve following orders on a significantly smaller scale these days, as machines take up the slack. Human teams are instead being asked to bring their creativity to bear on collaborative business challenges. This new understanding of workplace dynamics and leadership opens the door to introverts.
Superpower #1: Listening
By nature, introverts prefer not to be the centre of attention. This means that in meetings, they excel at using their listening skills to dissect the team dynamic. Introverted team members can offer key insight into the problem at hand, having understood a diverse selection of perspectives without bias. In leadership positions, introverts tend to excel at leading vocal teams as they listen closely and are open to suggestions from their peers, in the words of the Harvard Business Review.
Introverts are known for actively listening and encouraging others to participate in the discussion, establishing a culture of collaboration that is key to team function. This personality trait of being open to collaboration and not dictated by ego is a valuable skill to bring to the table as employers move towards building dynamic and creative teams. Active listening can set you apart as an introverted candidate and give you a leg up on the team.
- While listening is an important part of meetings, be sure to contribute your own ideas as well
- Engage at your own pace to feel more comfortable in the group dynamic (The Science of People)
- Plan what you would like to say and how to say it, ahead of time to feel more confident and achieve your desired effect.
- Speak up and do not be afraid to take your time on the floor, regardless of the pace of the discussion
- Take a moment to process your thoughts when you are put on the spot by a colleague, whether this is in a complimentary or critical manner
- Ask for more time or state that you will circle back when you are prepared
- Be sure to not form a habit of only sharing your ideas after a meeting, away from the group pressure
- If you feel uninformed when asked to make a decision, share that you would like to do more research before sharing your opinion
- Responding with consideration demonstrates that you are thinking about the bigger picture and not getting caught up in reactionary team dynamics
- Active listening and reflection are key leadership qualities when utilised effectively
Superpower #2: Sensitivity
As an introvert, you can also put your natural sensitivity to work in team meetings. This characteristic, in combination with your active listening ability, is a valuable asset for the future of the industry. Sensitivity is being increasingly valued as workplace culture shifts to one of inclusivity and collaboration. As a sensitive individual, your awareness of your team can bring key insight into how to operate most effectively as a group.
The Science of People states that introverts are more sensitive than extroverts and, thus, are more likely to pick up on subtle group cues. Introverts can hold a range of viewpoints in equal regard, as "research shows that [they] have a fundamentally different way of perceiving the world – and [that] this is a huge advantage."
One experiment shown to demonstrate the increased sensitivity of introverted people is the 'lemon juice experiment.' Introverts have been shown to salivate more easily than extroverts when given a single drop of lemon juice. This experiment led to the belief that introverts are more in tune with their environment. This allows them to respond quickly to shifting team dynamics – a key trait of a business leader.
- Embrace your sensitivity
- Take notes and follow up with your peers post-Zoom. Continue down intriguing research avenues and share the results of your findings with the group if they present new, relevant opportunities or points of view
- Use your sensitivity in a collaborative manner to engage genuinely with your peers
- Show your dedication to the team and your group goals by your continued thought outside of meeting times
- Your sensitivity is apt to the collaborative, creative process as it allows you to practise receptiveness, reflection and authenticity
Superpower #3: Humility
Introverts are naturally disinclined towards self-centred boasting. This means that in Zoom meetings, you are sure to prioritise group objectives and not be misguided by your own ego or agenda.
This humility is a key strength in the business industry.
Being open to constructive criticism is an important part of collaborating in a creative group. Moreover, valuing the opinions of others equally alongside your own means that you are able to objectively pick the best course of action for the team.
Studies have shown introverts to be more humble than extroverts. Humility can take you far in the business world; if it comes naturally to you, be certain to embrace it as a strength. Introverts are more open to new ideas and opportunities, welcoming of others and tuned into the reality of the situation because they are not constantly thinking that they know best. They are sure to work for the benefit of the team rather than prioritising themselves.
Be sure not to confuse humility with being shy or timid. You can know your worth and value and equally recognise that in others without being boastful. Standing up for yourself does not mean that you are self-centred.
Introverts can harness their humility to act as stewards of the collaborative group's ideas, taking effective action and decisively setting a course towards success. Impactful and honest collaboration with the group's best interests in mind can skyrocket business success.
- Come to meetings on time and prepared
- Do your research and be ready to share your ideas, asking questions of your peers
- Instigate the conversation so that you can then relax into your listening role
- Serve a leadership role by acting as a guide through thoughtful questions that demonstrate your natural active listening skills
- Encourage others to share their ideas and allow their creativity to flourish
- Set a participation target ahead of time, covering what you want to get out of the meeting. Whether you aim to achieve one goal or twenty, your preparation will pay off
- Write down your thoughts and read your script over Zoom
- Approach meetings as opportunities rather than with dread. Try to reframe the event in your head. As an introvert, you never need to worry about dominating a conversation. Rather, ask yourself what it is you hope to achieve at the meeting. Prepare ahead of time and articulate what is on your mind
In the end, the meeting environment can still be an exhausting one for introverts, no matter how much we plan, prepare and reframe. So be sure to re-energise post-meeting to avoid burnout. The Harvard Business Review stresses the importance of taking time to re-energise in order to keep your capacity high. In "An Introvert's Guide to Networking," Lisa Petrilli shares that "[w]hile it can be tempting to go from a meeting right back to work, or from a networking event right to dinner, if you're an introvert and you do that you won't be able to bring your best self to your next commitment."
Recharge by spending some time alone (or with a rare re-energising person!) – you will feel better and thank yourself for it. "Take time to recharge, whether by walking from lunch back to work or by finding 30 minutes alone between cocktails and dinner," advises Petrilli.
The industry-wide shift towards creative collaboration is creating new opportunities for introverts in leadership positions. The Harvard Business Review shares in "The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses" that "[i]n a dynamic, unpredictable environment, introverts are often more effective leaders – particularly when workers are proactive, offering ideas for improving the business." Think of this the next time you are faced with a Zoom meeting, and take heart.
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