Do you sit in your leadership team meetings observing and reflecting as introverts do? Only speaking when you have something valuable to contribute? Not just speaking for speaking sake. Do people question why you are even there because they think you don't have much to say?
Unfortunately, the way that many leadership team meetings are held, doesn't play to the introverted leader's strengths. They are often a lot of buzz, lots of talk, with people firing off responses with very little reflective thought. And whilst these meetings may get results, they may have missed out on the valuable contributions of some of those present, all because they are not set up to engage with everyone in the best possible way.
If you are an introverted leader and can resonate with any of this, are you able to influence changing the style of your leadership meetings? If so, make suggestions to hold them in ways that play to both introverted and extroverted strengths. Just because your organization has held meetings the way they are held since time immemorial, doesn't mean that this the best way to have them and it doesn't mean that they have to continue to be held this way.
Be innovative and be bold for change. However, if you are not in a position to influence changing them, here are 5 tips that will help you to get your voice heard in ways that hopefully won't feel too alien to you.
1. Do your reflecting beforehand
As introverts, we tend to prefer observing and reflecting on what is being discussed and then coming forward with a valuable contribution. Unfortunately, the style of many leadership meetings does not allow for this reflection to take place, with responses expected there and then.
Go through the agenda beforehand reflecting on the agenda items that are listed. What are your thoughts about them? What views do you have about what is being suggested? Make notes on what your thoughts are, that way when the item is discussed at the meeting, you will already have formed some opinions and can put those forward.
2. Buy time
You may want to have a think about something before you fire away. If there is an issue of particular interest raised that you want to contribute a response to, but need to reflect on your thoughts before making a response, buy some time.
Say that there are some interesting points being raised and you have some thoughts on the issue and would like to come back to it. This will give you time to reflect and gather your thoughts together, enabling you to make a considered response.
3. Remember, you have something valuable to contribute
You got the position you have because you were deemed to be the best candidate for the role and you deserve to be in it. As such, you are valuable to the organization. If you weren't you wouldn't be in the role. Because you are valuable, you have something valuable to contribute. This includes your thoughts, ideas and suggestions.
Whilst you may have a different way of communicating your thoughts, ideas and suggestions to how your extroverted colleagues do, just because there may be more of them, it doesn't mean that your contribution is not as equal as theirs.
Accept that your style may be different to that of the extroverts in the room and that is OK.
4. Don't let the fear of speaking up consume your thoughts
Because firing off responses may not be your natural style, you may worry about having to give an immediate response, imagining all kinds of things going wrong. This will then cause you to feel anxious about it. Because you're worrying and feeling anxious, you are likely either to not speak up, or if you do speak up, because of how you feel, the words don't come out as you want them to.
When you notice that knot in your stomach, or the tension in your neck or shoulders building up (or wherever it shows up physiologically for you), catch the thoughts that are going through your mind. These thoughts are contributing to you feeling anxious and aren't helping you. Change your thoughts to something that is helpful, such as, whatever value your contribution will add to the conversation.
Tell yourself that you haven't got time to worry about speaking up now, right now the important thing for you to focus on is that the message you want to deliver is heard. Tell yourself that you will go through your worries at the end of the day at a particular time, but right now your focus is making your valuable input to this discussion.
Chances are by the end of the day, it will no longer be an issue because you did it, you spoke up and everything was OK.
5. Practice, practice, practice
As a leader, it is necessary to adapt leadership styles according to the situation in order to get the best possible outcome for the common good. This may require having to do things that do not play to your natural strengths, taking you out of your comfort zone.
If your leadership team meetings are held in a way that doesn't play to your strengths, unless you are able to change things up, or influence change, you will have to find ways to contribute in your own authentic way.
The more you do it, it may not necessarily get easier, but the better at doing it you will become.
We are all different for a reason. It would be a sad state of affairs if everybody was the same. When introverts and extroverts come together, they complement each other to give a grounded, whole thinking, balanced perspective on things. This can challenge thoughts and beliefs, allowing for collective creativity and innovative ideas.
Carol Stewart is The Coach for High Achieving Introverted Women, an Executive, Career and Business Coach. In 2015 she was named as one of Britain's top 50 Business Advisers. She helps women to be authentic, bold, confident leaders who excel in their careers and businesses. She also helps organizations to develop the female talent pipeline so that more women make it into senior management roles.