In the Silicon Valley, many senior leaders are introverted—in fact, many more than in most other industries we’ve studied in our research of over 200 C-Suite Executives. There are some great lessons that we can learn about introverts from the Valley.
Rajeev Behera has worked in the Silicon Valley for the past seven years, running marketing teams in various start-ups. He now heads up Reflektive, a communication platform that enables employees to send and receive continual, real-time feedback. He provided me with three key tips for introverts to shine bright next to their louder, extroverted peers.
One of the most important goals introverted employees need to keep in mind is to be intentional about having one-on-ones with their managers. Extroverts, as natural talkers, are comfortable discussing what they’re working on, what their goals are, and what progress they’ve made. Because they speak so freely, openly, and with such ease, peers and managers often hear of their progress and productivity at work. Extroverts’ more expressive nature can make silent introverts appear less productive.
What Behera suggests, then, is to play to one of the strengths of introverts—that of having deeper, more detailed conversations. People with quieter presences should intentionally converse daily with their managers, even for five minutes, to update them. Because introverts are not always talking, it’s important for them to set aside time to consciously inform and update their supervisors on their progress. This not only enables introverts to properly share their insights but also forms strong relationships. For introverts, it’s often easier to speak up one-on-one than in front of peers, so this tactic also gives them the opportunity to gain visibility in the eyes of their managers.
Behera put it well: “That’s probably the biggest key: letting them know how insightful you are and being very clear about what you’re doing in those one-on-ones, and making sure you develop that one-on-one relationship with your manager—outside of group meetings and team meetings.”
The next point Behera makes is similar to a point often made in the discussion about introverts and networking. Networking can be perceived as daunting and uncomfortable for many introverts. Rather than work a room the same way an extrovert would (speaking to many people for little time), introverts often speak to fewer people but have longer, more detailed conversations. Those conversations easily go beyond the superficial and can lead to relationships that last several years after the event, long beyond the more typical duration of a mere follow-up e-mail.
Within a company, the same tactic can be used to foster deeper relationships among employees. Once you reach a certain level at an organization, you have a tight-knit set of peers and co-workers; still, it’s often beneficial to maintain relationships with employees within various sectors of an organization.
The same way introverts would speak to fewer people at a networking event but sustain a deeper conversation, they could establish good relationships with employees across the company. This enables introverts to be known—not superficially by everyone at the company, but in-depth by quite a few.
A final point is that it’s always helpful to be a second ear to your boss. Behera noticed the manifestation of this stemming from the one-on-one relationships he had with some of his employees. These employees would go off to their meetings or work in peer groups, listen intently to conversations, synthesize the information they’d heard, and report back to him in a thoughtful manner.
The ability to synthesize a lot of information is a key skill of introverts. Instead of talking a lot in meetings, they listen closely and share important takeaways from the meetings with their managers later on. The level of insight this skill provides is a great quality of introverts—one they should capitalize on.
Though introverts are quiet, they can shine just as brightly as their extroverted peers. Establishing one-on-one conversations with a manager, fostering deeper relationships with fewer employees across the company, and synthesizing information are all gateways for introverts to spotlight their talents and productive efforts.
Introverts deserve to be heard, and being quiet should not get in the way of that.
Karl Moore, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor, Desautels Faculty of Management; Associate Professor, Dept. of Neurology & Neurosurgery, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University; and an Associate Fellow, Green Templeton College, Oxford University. He is doing a major research project on quiet leaders: Introverts in the Executive Suite. He is also an Associate of the Quiet Leadership Institute. Karl’s co-writer, Aya Schechner, is a recent McGill BCom grad who is working with Karl as a producer on his radio show, the CEO Series, until she begins law school in fall 2017.