Susan Cain's book, "Quiet" is an insightful book about introverts in a world thriving on self-promotion and interactions. Her book provoked ideas on how we can be more effective at managing introverts and how introverts manage.
Introduction to introverts and reserved DISC-styles
The book, "Quiet" states that one of every three people we know is an introvert. Author, Susan Cain, defines introverts as "ones who prefer listening to speaking.” In addition, introverts innovate and create, but dislike self-promotion. Introverts prefer working on their own over working in large teams. All sound familiar? Then she goes on to highlight famous and successful introverts such as Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Steve Wozniak of Apple. Some of the best leaders are introverted, including Larry Page of Google, military generals and other leaders of Fortune 500 companies.
Logically what Cain says makes sense, but often times we have created pre-conceived notions of how we view introverts and reserved DISC styles. Many may not naturally prefer to lead, but we also see examples of great leaders who are more reserved. Managing introverts and reserved styles well requires us to identify them and adjust accordingly. Do we need to redefine our perception of reserved DISC profiles and introverts? Cain’s book, “Quiet” definitely asks us to be more open and expand our views.
Living in an stimulation overload world
We live in a world of info overload that never seems to stop. Our laptops and cell phones ensure that we are never far away from work calls, emails, social media, virtual meetings, etc. We receive an overload of information stimulation. Couple that with open workplace concepts, projects, and meetings. There are those who thrive in this hectic and highly stimulating setting, but not all. For those managing introverts we need to recognize that this is not ideal for them.
While introverts and the reserved DISC profiles are not exactly the same, they do share similar behavioral styles. Introverts and reserved S-styles and C-styles typically prefer working in less stimulating settings with clear instructions and direction. They prefer to work with details while focused on the present. Quiet time to think, process, and progress are very important. They are also the “doers” of the DISC profiles.
What introverts are not
Introverts are not hermits and surprisingly, not all introverts are shy. Shyness is a fear of social censure whereas; introverts naturally prefer settings that are not overly stimulating. For example, in a meeting you may see quiet workers as shy because you think they have a fear of speaking up. However, those same workers may simply be listening in a calm and attentive manner. Often times the goal of introverts is to process information and avoid being overly stimulated. Managers may overlook the input and value of these workers. Since they aren’t speaking up it can come across as not wanting to join in. You are more likely to find success if you give these workers time to process and seek input later.
What introverts do well
Quiet leadership can be strong. It is not an oxymoron. Remember Eleanor Roosevelt? Introverts are thinkers and that's a good thing. Their ability to use quiet time to create and invent new ideas is also a strength. They excel at group decisions. One thing we forget when focusing on instant rewards is that things don’t always go well or as planned. Introverts plan and are more thoughtful. Risk taking and working fast often times brings great reward, but can also result in misdirection and errors.
They can pair well with Active DISC profiles and extroverted managers because they are not overly competitive or looking for rewards. They listen while managers speak. Results tend to be correct and higher quality since they take time to understand tasks and problems.
Introverts see the "what is" and extroverts see the "what if". Extroverts thrive on time or social pressures, barrage of social cues, and even info overload. They look for quick solutions to tasks which sometimes leads to moving on or making mistakes. However, introverts are more dogged, thorough, and more often correct. Many assume introverts don't excel at cold calls and selling products, but we need to think again. Sometimes flashy loses out to resolve. Introverts are naturally more persistent. As Einstein, another famous introvert, once said, "It's not that I'm so smart. It's that I stay with problems longer".
Managers may overlook the need to adjust their own styles when it comes to effectively managing introverts. For example, try to consider what reserved styles tend to prefer. They prefer things in writing, time alone to create and think, your support, and detailed direction. If you're more outgoing and active ask yourself what it is about your reserved employees that you find most challenging. What could they find difficult when interacting with you? Our view of behaviors are not the same for everyone. Think about adjustments when it comes to managing introverts who work for you. If we as managers create settings that motivate our reserved or introverted workers to do better then the results will pay off for everyone.
If your introverts are managers as well, the ideas are the same when managing introverts. Leadership styles all have strengths and areas of development. Introverts are effective leaders when it comes to one who listens and supports his or her workers. Since they are not as concerned about awards and spotlights, their workers tend to be more proactive and feel able to take initiatives. Introverts may not want to be the center of attention or alphas, but they can be role models. They will promote gradual progress while focusing on long-term goals. They will lead more by example rather than by charisma and power. Click here to read more about leadership styles.
How managing introverts reaps benefits
I appreciate the way Cain’s “Quiet” expanded my awareness of how we view managing introverts and how introverts manage. We constantly need to remind ourselves that our views of behaviors may differ according to our own DISC style. Being aware of differences is only part of the equation. Once we recognize workers have preferred ways of doing things, then we need to adjust own style to better match. The goal is to bring about the best interactions with our reserved workers.
The main take-away I got from “Quiet” for managing introverts is how we will manage all kinds of styles, We need to be open and flexible. Avoid labels and focus on the positives. Some are easier and others take energy and effort to manage. It is our job as managers to take steps to model adjustments and create more successful interactions. Therefore, if we can create the best setting and interactions then everyone succeeds.
"In a gentle way, you can shake the world."