Recently I was listening to an excellent podcast (link here) in which Michael Kitces was interviewing Manisha Thakor (founder of Money Zen) about building your own media brand in an authentic way. Yes, that is a buzzword-filled subject, but I was curious. For at least the first 30 minutes or so, they talked at length about being introverts, surprising given that they make their living speaking in front of people and both have huge relationship networks. This conversation spoke to me, as I am an introvert, so I thought I would share a few observations and recommend some followup reading. Enjoy.
During my junior year at Wake Forest University, I took a Psychology class and one of the only things I recall is that the Myers Briggs test informed me that I was an introvert. During the following 20 or so years I never really understood what this meant for me personally. However, what I did know is that serving as a highly visible executive most of those years, I spent significant time engaging in intensely extroverted activities. In particular, I found that when I was in front of a large audience, I was very anxious ahead of the event, and physically wiped out after. About 15 years ago, my executive coach helped me realize that for an introvert, anxiety and the resulting adrenaline rush surrounding the extroverted activity was like a poison to my body. Ultimately, I developed routines and structures around which I could plan for these events without as much negative fallout.
So what is the point?According to research, at least 40% of the population is introverted, yet our culture assumes extroversion is required to be successful in many important roles, in both business and life. One study showed that at least 65 percent of senior corporate executives saw introversion as a "barrier" to leadership. Many assume leaders, like me, are naturally extroverted. They also assume that because I am blessed with a large national relationship network that I like to be out and about in large groups of people all the time. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Know Yourself!I am what Susan Cain refers to in her book Quiet as an ambivert, which means I can easily cross over to the other side for an event or interaction, but it also means I will be exhausted for a period afterwards. I then cope by having down time and alone time. My wife is wired the same way, and we can sit for hours together and not say a word. The key is we understand how God made us, and we manage our time and rest accordingly. Try this quiz to find out how you are wired!
Advisors and LeadersMany also assume that to be a successful financial advisor or business leader, you have to be extroverted. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. It is very likely that some of the folks with whom you interact and admire are introverts at some level who have determined how to cope in environments requiring extroversion. I would suggest that introverts would be preferred as advisors as they are naturally better listeners and generally calmer and more patient (I am not the latter by the way…exceptions exist everywhere!).
Emotional IntelligenceI recommend that both introverts and extroverts read Susan Cain’s book and watch her TED talk. I have shared this information dozens of times, and given away countless copies of the book. Everyone who has absorbed the information has been grateful and felt better armed to work with a diverse community.
Self-awareness(EQ) is an essential skill to have. Awareness and understanding of those not like you is equally useful and particularly powerful.
I welcome any feedback or comments you may have at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more thoughts on ways to invest in an emotionally intelligent strategy, visit www.blueprintip.com.
Susan Cain, Ted Talk February 2012
Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
Personality Quiz – www.quietrev.com