One of the latest buzzwords within organisations is “executive presence.” Apparently, you need to have it to succeed — of course, no one really gives you much advice on what that means. You just might receive some vague feedback that you have it!
This is particularly problematic for those of us who are more introverted. Companies so often seem to value and promote the loud and confident – not recognising the focused, thoughtful and wise.
The quiet voices in the room
It was a lively meeting. Lots of discussion – an hour of give and take.
Some people have dominated the conversation. Others remain mostly quiet, listening carefully. The leader says, “It’s important to hear from everyone,” so in closing every person is asked for a final comment. Some have energetic responses, others make some thoughtful, general comments.
But when everyone has left, did we really capture the best from all the participants?
So often our meetings usually favour the strengths of extraverts. Those who are introverted find it hard to break through the subtle, deep rooted bias that favours those who are loud and confident.
Finding your voice, being heard
In many ways, executive presence is about inspiring the confidence of those around you. They feel that you are capable, courageous and collaborative. This can be a struggle for some introverts to be heard and shine professionally and relationally. The challenge is obvious:
Interaction is the extravert’s strength whereas reflection is the strength of introverts.
Extraverts love the rapid give-and-take of meetings. Introverts love to think about things first, so meetings can interfere with their reflection.
Extraverts prefer to think out loud, speaking to shape their thinking. Introverts work the other way round, thinking first before having something worth saying. While extraverts get clarity by speaking, introverts get clarity by writing.
This all means that generally introverts don’t do their best thinking in groups. But after the meeting, upon reflection, their insights can be priceless. The real wisdom in a team may be tucked away, inside the quiet voices.
At The Colloquium Group we have developed executive learning circles for introverts. These are small group experiences designed to help introverts survive and thrive as professional leaders.