The Introvert in the Office

The Introvert in the Office

Corporate managers, including those in financial services, can heed author Susan Cain’s advice to unlock the power of office introverts by following these steps.

Being quiet can be a good thing

Susan Cain, bestselling author of The Power of Introverts In a World That Can't Stop Talking, explained at InBound marketing conference, organized by HubSpot, how dramatically our culture has come to misunderstand and undervalue introverts. When explaining how severe society favors those that are extroverted in so many ways, she claims “It is the world’s loss.”

Her presentation was about a quiet revolution from the introverts who make up a third to half of the population.  To better understand the potential of introverts, she pointed out some common characteristics:  They do better on their own, they think before they speak and, if the system will allow it to take place, they make great leaders.

Albert Einstein, after all, was an introvert and noted “it's not that I’m so smart , it’s just that I stay with problems longer .”

Cain explained that a team does better when using a mix of introverts and extroverts, but things like meetings get dominated by those that are more outspoken.  That’s where online communications, like email and social media can help, as these tools allow the quieter voice to be heard on an equal level, eliminating the most assertive or the most charismatic person from dominating.  Cain pointed out this is a good thing, as the most outspoken person is not always right.

Here are three tips from Cain to consider for your organization:

1.      Rethink meetings

By the time the meeting is over, that is when the introvert is just getting ready to share an idea.  To resolve this issue, she said for teams to brainstorm in solitude before coming to a meeting.  Then if attendees bring their thoughts in writing to the meeting, it allows the group to go around and share what they came up with one at a time.

Cain also recommended electronic brainstorming because it removes many of the dynamics that gum up group brainstorming meetings.  Thanks to technology advancements, introverts can now talk to people in new ways that they are more comfortable with.

2.     Consider scrapping the open floor plan

A trend in many offices is to create an open environment, as it is believed to lead to better teamwork and idea sharing.  Cain disagrees. 

She believes that the noise hurts both introverts and extroverts’ ability to think.  It really only leads to more trivial sharing of ideas and actually allows for germs to be shared much more easily.  If an open floor plan already exists, Cain recommends having lots of inviting nooks and crannies to allow employees to get away and think.  For many, the silence can help creativity.

3.     Make way for a different type of leader

It is not more important that leaders know how to say things, but more that they know where they are going, shared Cain.

She added, “It is the core idea that matters.  Not the ability to pontificate.”  Being humble, shy and modest are not what we think are normal traits of great leaders, but Cain said they should be.

“Organizations need to make room for these types of peoples to move up the ranks,” stated Cain.

A new form of discrimination

Although it might not be talked about much, society does often favor extroverts.  Cain said, “This is a great diversity issue of our time.” Teams will be better if individuals know their own personality types and styles and are sensitive to others that are different. 

In Cain’s words, “Think what it means to be quiet.”


Mike Byrnes founded Byrnes Consulting to provide consulting services to help advisors become even more successful. His expertise is in business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness, along with several other areas. Read more at ByrnesConsulting.comand follow @ByrnesConsultin.

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