Can Introverts Succeed in Business?
I was raised by two women. My Mother and my Grandma. My mom was the most introverted person I’ve ever known. On the other hand, my grandma was the polar opposite. She always seemed to be cheerful which explains why her nickname was ‘gay’ (as in happy, not queer).
But she wasn’t just your garden-variety extrovert. She was eccentric too. An example: When I was a kid she would take me shopping with a budgie on her shoulder. Being a shy kid who didn’t want any attention, this experience was excruciating. ‘Nice budgie you’ve got on your shoulder, ma’am,’ said the butcher; ‘I hope that thing talks, Mrs. Baker’, said the dress shop manager. On it went.
The reason why I’m telling you this is to make a simple point.
You can be successful irrespective of your background, your upbringing, your handicaps.
Two kooky women raised me, and I never knew my dad. So what?
We’re charged with the responsibility of making the most of our God-given talents and gifts. Meandering through life – like the tumbling tumbleweed – is not an option.
So, I decided to investigate the topic of introversion and see if it has an adverse impact on the introvert’s ability to succeed in business. My discoveries will shock you.
I also delved deeper and learned more about introverts and extroverts, and discovered that there is another group of people called Ambiverts. Read about all this and more with today’s blog posy. Enjoy.
Successful Introverts in Business
Yes, it is true – some of the most successful people on the planet are introverts.
Many people who pursue artistic pursuits are introverts. Think of these actors: Audrey Hepburn, Glenn Close, Richard Gere, Courtney Cox, JK Rowling, Christine Aguilera, Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood, and Julia Roberts.
Think of personal growth and the human potential gurus who strut around the stage like show ponies such as Bob Proctor and Tony Robbins.
But what about business people? Aren’t entrepreneurs naturally extroverted? Try these for size:
Bill Gates Is An Introvert
Gates is awkward socially – hardly the life of the party.
Warren Buffet Is an Introvert
Buffet is a quiet guy who likes having plenty of alone time.
Mark Zuckerberg Is An Introvert
What can I say? A brilliant entrepreneurial nerd with a talent for making money, but a died in the wool introvert, nevertheless.
Steve Jobs Was An Introvert
Despite his public profile Steve Jobs was essentially an introvert – an anti-social guy who did very little socializing away from his business.
But being the driven, obsessive and complex personality that he was, he did whatever it took to make his business an astonishing success.
What Is Introversion?
According to Mr Self Development introverts and extroverts gets their energy in different ways:
“The introvert charges his battery privately from the inside out, while the extrovert charges her battery publicly from the outside in.”
The classic extrovert displays different behavioral patterns compared to introverts. For instance, introverts tend to be great listeners when compared to extroverts.
Introverts are different in other ways……
Introverts love deep and meaningful conversations while the extrovert often has the attention span of a gnat.
Introverts also will have a small and close circle of friends whereas the extrovert usually has loads of friends and looks forward to making new friendships every day.
Some say that the extrovert is better at talking and communicating, but this is not necessarily the case. Introverted New Yorker journalist Malcolm Gladwell observes that speaking on stage “has nothing to do with extroversion. It’s a performance, and many performers are hugely introverted.”
Because many introverts are great actors they can project very well when they are ‘on.’ But once the task has been completed they’ll typically go into their shell so they can recharge their batteries once again.
In the business context, the successful entrepreneurial introvert is often very good at masking their real personality. Many of their colleagues and customers are completely unaware of the real state of affairs with their business associate.
Myths About Entrepreneurial Introverts
At the risk of contradicting the sub-headline for this article, it is a fact that some mistakenly think that an introverted business person is by definition a shy, retiring type who lacks assertiveness.
On the contrary, the most successful entrepreneurial introverts have loads of drive which in turn gives them the fuel to assert themselves so they can get the results they crave.
Remember, these people only want one thing: results. The result is the only thing that counts for them, and they will do whatever it takes to get it, even if they are fundamentally introverted.
The Winning Edge For Entrepreneurial Introverts
Here is where this folk shine:
They Are Good Listeners. Introverts are invariably great listeners. By contrast, the extrovert often gets impatient with too much listening – a cynic would say it’s because listening to others takes the focus from them. In the business context, this can be a boon for introverted entrepreneurs and sales people. Customers love it when someone listens to their problems and tries to solve them.
Introspection Gives Them Greater Awareness and Insights. Introverts score an A for introspection, which in turn can provide them with an edge. They will often have a better understanding of the critical issues facing their business. It also helps with the formulation of new strategies designed to move the business to higher ground.
Introverts are often good at lateral thinking, and because they often do spend a fair amount of time thinking, they can come up with interesting left field ideas and ways to solve a problem or exploit a new or untapped opportunity.
Vocationally Extroverted, But Socially Introverted
I well remember something that one of my early sales mentors told me about himself. He said ‘I am extroverted vocationally but shy socially.’ This guy was a brilliant salesman and coach, but away from the work environment, he retreated into his shell, seeking the company of his wife and one or two friends.
Introverted entrepreneurs who are successful have two sides to their personalities. Vocationally they are extroverted because they HAVE to be – the results they crave will not materialize unless they are influencing stakeholders, including customers, to see things THEIR WAY.
But away from the business spotlight, they will retreat into their shell, happy with their company and perhaps the company of a few close friends and family.
Are You An Introvert?
Take the mini test! Is this you?
- You Love to Spend Time Alone
- You Feel Awkward in Groups
- Going to a Party or Other Social Event Is Like Water Torture
- You Avoid Small Talk and Rarely Initiate It
- Your Best Ideas Flow When You’re Alone
How did you go? If you answered YES to two or more of the above points then congratulations – you’re officially an introvert! So move on and discover some simple ideas to help you prosper and grow as an introverted entrepreneur.
Maybe You’re An Ambivert
Many people are a combination of both introvert and extrovert. They exhibit patterns of behavior that indicate they have what might be termed a blended personality. The Ambiverts oscillate between needing his/her company, to being social and outgoing depending on the situation and circumstance.
These people are fortunate in that they can draw on a wider range of skills which often gives them a solid and valuable advantage in the marketplace.
How to tell if you’re an ambivert? Ask yourself this question: where do you get your energy? People or solitude? If the answer is ‘a bit of both’ you’re probably an ambivert.
Which Personality Type Are You?
In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the writer quotes speaker, author, and coach, Beth Buelow. Buelow has become somewhat of an authority on Introverted Entrepreneurship and has developed a quick checklist for the different behavioral types:
— Socially flexible — comfortable in social situations or being alone.
— Skilled at communicating — intuits when to listen or to talk.
— Moderate in mood — not overly expressive or reserved.
— Adaptable — no default mode, so they change their approach to fit the situation
— Energized by external stimulation — with people, environment, activity
— Processes thoughts while talking
— Motivated by external rewards, recognition, and feedback
— Outgoing — easy to get to know
— Energized internally, while being alone
— Craves solitude to balance out social time
— Speaks only when they have something to say
— Thinks before speaking, processing thoughts internally
How to Crush It As An Introverted Entrepreneur
Network As An Introvert. Rather than pretend to be the life of the party, do what you do best – connecting with people one person at a time. Take a long term approach and build strong, deep relationships with the people who count. Of course, many introverts are uncomfortable initiating a conversation (although once the conversation begins, you will probably be fine). If this is you, grab a cup of coffee and make a physical movement towards one or two people who are doing the same. Natural conversation will usually flow from there.
Polish Your One On One Skills. Even though you’re a great listener, you should put extra emphasis on your problem-solving skills. Doing business is all about identifying problems and solving them. Therefore you are probably perfectly placed to hone your skills further.
Maximize Your Leadership Skills. An introvert will typically feel quite comfortable with creating a space and encouraging his employees to fill it with their ideas and initiatives. This can create a great working environment by bringing out the best in people. In Hollywood introverted actor/director Clint Eastwood is known as a director that actors love to work with. He deliberately creates a collaborative environment which fosters creativity at a high level.
Sadly, not all introverted entrepreneurs are collaborative. Some are tyrants who lack empathy – they can have a nasty anti-social streak which comes to the fore when they are under pressure.
Speak to Groups. Contrary to popular opinion introverts can be quite useful when talking to groups. (In fact, it is a paradox that many introverts feel more comfortable speaking on stage than they do speaking one on one with people they don’t know.) Treat it only as a performance, nothing more. Actors have mastered this ability to project a persona that is often at odds with their real personality.
Even if you don’t relate well to people one on one, by talking to groups, you’ll be leveraging your time and also enjoying the added benefits of having people look up to you, who in turn will perceive you as an authority – a respected person who is worth doing business with. Your enhanced posture will encourage prospects to reach out and approach you about your product or business.
Take Regular Time Out. Recharge the batteries when you need to – take time out away from people on a regular basis. Keep this point in mind: extroverts get energy from people, while introverts get energy from alone time.
Leverage the Internet. Introverts are often good at writing and content creation (which could include video and audio content); therefore it makes sense to leverage the internet by creating a blog for instance. Another option is to create content for other blog owners (guest posting) which in turn will expand your reach and marketplace posture.
Partner With An Extrovert. Introverts often work very well with extroverts and vice versa. The extrovert instinctively knows that the introvert can provide balance to a business by introducing a different slant to the fundamental problems the business faces.
Popular perceptions are that successful entrepreneurs, marketers, and salespeople are always extroverts. But as you have discovered, this is not necessarily the case. Indeed around forty percent of business folk tend to be introverts.
Irrespective of whether you are an over the top extrovert or an awkward introvert, the fact remains that the key determinants of success will always revolve around passion, work ethic, drive, and business acumen.