Are you a secret introvert? By this I mean is it beneficial in your position to be an extrovert, but instead you find yourself trying to get out of situations involving smalltalk as quickly as possible, avoiding it altogether if possible, you never volunteer to give presentations, you clock watch during team dinners when you are supposed to be having fun, you like to have your own office – not to display your power in the office, but simply to be left alone. Perhaps from completing a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test you realize you have slight introverted tendencies. Does this sound like you? If you are an introverted manager or leader then you are not alone, but you must work to develop your behaviors to make yourself more approachable.
If your default most comfortable behavior is strong introversion, then to be a successful leader the bad news is that you will probably need to work at becoming a more approachable, more social leader, for the entire duration of your career. The good news, however, is that this learned behaviour, like all acquired skills, gets easier with time and practice.
With that, here are some suggestions to get you out there and into the world, transforming you into a more sociable, approachable leader.
1. Start Saying Yes
Instead of going with your gut reaction and immediately saying no to invitations to events where you’re going to have to engage in smalltalk with strangers, start to say yes. This will be difficult and possibly even uncomfortable, but remember that with practice these situations will get easier, and take pride in the fact that you are doing something which many others would not, in attempting to change your innate bahavior.
2. Improve your Presentation Skills
If you feel you give great presentations, and you enjoy doing them then great, but if you’re not so great or worse, you avoid them, then you may be holding back your career. There are very few people in today’s organization who can progress their career to the highest levels (entrepreneurs excluded) without being able to give confident presentations. One of the easiest ways to improve your presentations skills is to join a Toastmasters group near you. This will provide you with a safe atmosphere in which to practice your presentations. It will also give you the opportunity to practice improvised speches and to practice your smalltalk.
This is something that either comes naturally or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t then you should try to smile more. This might feel very unnatural at first, but after a few days it gets easier, especially when you observe how effective a simple smile can be at relaxing people and making you more approachable.
4. Open Up
Don’t keep your work thoughts and your personal thoughts totally separate, open up a little and share something personal about yourself – what you like to do, where you like to go, something funny you saw at the weekend. This won’t be interpreted as weakness by your colleagues, instead it will help to build trust and strengthen your relationship with them.
5. Increase Interactions
Set yourself a quota to speak to 10 – 15 people per week. This will improve your insights on key issues, and strengthen your office relationships. Why not try to have lunch one per week with a colleague just to catch-up.
6. Improve your Listening Skills
I know from experience that my listening skills are not the best. As an example, not too long ago a colleague visited our office from another country whom I’d been working with closely with via email and telephone for 12 months. Another colleague of mine took him out for dinner simply to network whilst he was in town and discovered more about that person over that one dinner than I had in 12 months. This caused me to think more about my interactions with people and to practice improving my listening skills. Perhaps you need to do the same?