A couple of months ago, I had the distinct pleasure of spending an evening listening to bestselling author Susan Cain. When reviewing Ms. Cain’s credentials, it would seem that what would jump out is the fact that she was educated as a lawyer at one of the most prestigious Ivy League universities in the nation. But, what is more compelling is her newest book, Quiet, the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. This sensational book is being discussed by educators and business leaders across the country.
It was very surprising when the warm and conversational Cain revealed to the audience that she was a life-long introvert. At the time, even more surprising was the number of hands that were raised in the room by the self-identified introverts in the crowd. When conducting the research for her book, Cain recognized that approximately fifty percent of the population displays the characteristics of introversion. This ratio not only exists in the United States of America but spans across all different cultures and continents.
While this is interesting statistical information, is it relevant? Since many workplaces and classrooms are designed as environments where the extroverts among us thrive it has a tremendous amount of significance. This forces introverts to try to survive in a business culture that embraces meetings, work groups and brainstorming sessions. They are constantly bombarded by outside stimulus and do not have the necessary opportunities to retreat within themselves to think and create and be in their most productive state.
As leaders, we need to be mindful of the characteristics and needs of those on our teams. Not everyone craves to work in an open office space. Employees who tend to be introverts will not be at their most creative when working on a team. By recognizing which of your followers tend to lean towards introversion and which are more extroverted you can provide the situation where the organization will best benefit from that person’s potential.
Cain goes on to discuss the concept of deliberate practice. Lately, many business authors have addressed the theory to become a master at anything it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice. For Michael Jordan to develop the level of skill that he had at playing basketball it took years of practice equivalent to those hours. For chess players to become a Grand Master does not happen in less than that amount of time either. However, what Cain points out is that while Michael Jordan practicing with his team was important, the hours committed to mastery were the ones that he spent honing his technical skills while practicing independently. The same can be said of a member of an orchestra who must practice their instrument individually. It is this deliberate practice that develops mastery.
In Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, the author is able to site numerous examples of well-known introverts that rose to the top of their respective industries. For anyone who has seemed frustrated or out of place because of their lack of desire to be extroverted their entire waking life this is a great read. It is a must for any leader who wants to get the most out of their team.
Would you identify yourself as an extrovert or an introvert?
Would those around you be surprised with your response?