This blog is a follow-up to the last post where I reviewed Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in World That Can’t Stop Talking. It was twenty short years ago when we started working with the Jungian model that features personality differences along four scales, including Introversion and Extraversion. Principally, we have leveraged the genius of Jung to help salespeople customize messages by personality type with our SST®: Successful Selling to Type program.
We have also applied Jung to advancing teamwork and leadership development. Along the way, we have identified several simple practices that contradict conventional wisdom and empower Introverts.
The Open-Door Policy
While an open-door policy may work for Extraverts, who rarely mind interruptions, it drains energy from Introverts and denies them the opportunity to do their best thinking which requires quiet time. I have coached several Introverts who were reluctant to take on new leadership challenges because their Extraverted predecessors had an open door policy.
The solution is for Introverts to explain their needs for private reflection and to mark off “power hours” when they prefer not to be interrupted. The obvious caveat is that they will take urgent conversations any time, but favor appointments for routine business. This arrangement contributes to what every team member desires; energized leaders and team members able to do their best thinking on important issues.
This is an Extraverted exercise where the team leader encourages everyone to throw out ideas on a topic as quickly as possible. The emphasis is on quantity, not quality, and the hope is that brainstorming will generate creative solutions. Extraverts embrace brainstorming. Introverts hate it.
There is a simple solution. Get the topic out to team members in advance which allows Introverts to review it in their private space, once gain where they do their best thinking. In fact, this is a good practice in general to engage Introverts in team meetings. If the topic is important, get it out in advance.
I once worked with a leadership team of three assigned to a project I was facilitating. We would meet once a month and I would always get project updates out before our meetings. The lone Introvert would show up at our meetings with carefully crafted notes and questions on the material I had provided. She was very engaged and offered excellent insights. The two Extraverts would arrive, confess that they were too busy to read the materials, but were ready to “talk it through”. Had I not provided the material before the meeting the Extraverts would have dominated the conversation and the Introvert would have been disengaged. It is likely that we would not have benefitted from her compelling thoughts.
Selling is for Extraverts
It is not uncommon for me to facilitate team building exercises with product experts and salespeople who face clients. Routinely, the salespeople are disproportionately Extraverts. Once again, we see conventional wisdom at work with the prevailing view that selling is about “telling” and you need to be Extraverted to go out and meet and win new clients.
But, we have found something we consider quite interesting, even counter intuitive. When we look at the top sales performers from various projects over twenty-years, many of them are Introverted. Major and complex selling requires excellent listening skills that are often further developed by Introverts who practice them while we Extraverts are filling the air with noise. Winning major accounts also requires considerable planning and analysis that can be Introverted strengths.
I am not suggesting a preference toward hiring Introverts for selling positions. Indeed, there are many Extraverts who are top sales performers. But, if you have a bias against Introverts in selling, I am encouraging you to check it. They may become your best salespeople.
These are three simple practices that will empower Introverts to the benefit of every organization and team.