My 20-year-old daughter was recently reading an article in the Wall Street Journal that was making a case for the introverted entrepreneur. She looked over at me and said, “Mom, this article is about you.”
“Me? I’m not an introvert,” I said to her somewhat dismissively. And then after a few minutes I said, “Wait, do you really think I’m an introvert?”
My daughter said, definitively, “Yes.”
I was shocked. I speak for a living in front of thousands, and do all sorts of things that I would think would be categorized as extrovert-like traits. But after looking at the article, and considering the definitions, my daughter is right.
Although I have written about introverts in the book, The Connectors, I still didn’t associate the trait with myself. I even interviewed surprising introverts like Ivan Misner, founder and CEO of BNI, the world’s largest networking organization, who shared a similar experience when his wife told him he was an introvert. But I didn’t make the connection. I think the issue is the populous negative association made about introverts. The myth is that introverts are shy and antisocial, quiet and don’t speak up, bookworms and nerds. And while they can be all of those things, there are also many outgoing introverts and, for that matter, lots of shy extroverts.
The WSJ article defines an introvert as someone who needs solitude to balance out social time, gains energy and processes information internally, and can focus on things for long periods of time. Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy from being with other people, process information externally-sometimes by talking through problems, and will promote and network.
I think great companies need a diverse workforce of both introverts and extroverts to be truly successful. The labels don’t limit our levels of success. Understanding our own nature, and really embracing our strengths can keep us on top of our game performing at our best. The article said that Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Marissa Mayer have many introvert qualities. So, I guess introverts like me are in some good company! What is the mix in your firm?