Jennifer Kahnweiler is a workplace and careers expert, an international speaker and executive coach whose clients include the General Electric Co., AT&T, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NASA. Her new book, “Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference” further establishes her as a “champion for introverts” and follows on from her 2009 hit, “The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength.”
What do Apple CEO Tim Cook, Warren Buffet, Condoleezza Rice and Steven Spielberg have in common?
They are all highly effective Quiet Influencers: introverts who use their natural strengths to make a big difference without making a lot of noise. Finally, we’re realizing that there’s more than one way to have some sway in today’s shifting workplace. In fact, these trends indicate that the introvert’s time has come:
- Flattened organizations: Gone are the days when decisions were passed up the hierarchical ladder. Now, there are lots of paths to a decision and it’s not a simple matter of convincing your boss. That opens up all kinds of space for different kinds of influence – including the quiet kind.
- Global businesses: Traditional extroverted approaches may work well in US-centric organizational cultures, but more reflective, low-key influencing styles will be much more effective in Asia and many other regions of the world.
- Virtual activity: Introverts have been drawn to social media because it lets them use their strengths and better manage their communication. Quiet Influencers who have already invested in learning and using social media are poised to effect tomorrow’s change more quickly than influencers who have ignored these technologies.
- Heightened competition: Companies are seeking suppliers and employees who bring fresh, innovative approaches. The truth is, extrovert-centric self-promotion and loud persuasion are passé. Today, you will stand out from the crowd if you have a knack for building up others and are committed to listening instead of talking.
Yet the reality is that introverts are indeed continually asked to adapt to an extrovert-centric workplace that rewards being out there and on stage. Organizational cultures support those who talk about their accomplishments, who spend more time out and about networking instead of alone deep in thought, and who make sure they are the first to get their ideas heard.
The truth is, influence is not about getting people to come to see things your way but about learning from others and negotiating a shared solution. This approach is well suited to the introvert temperament. It involves patience, planning and perseverance. If we all think that the only way to get things done is to shout louder and louder and take up more center-stage space, we’ll miss the opportunities to listen, learn and respond thoughtfully.
It’s time for introverts to stop listening to rehashed advice and start listening to themselves. I am convinced that introverts can be highly effective influencers when they stop trying to act like extroverts and instead make the most of their natural, quiet strengths. These six strengths are:
- Take quiet time: Introverts prioritize periods of solitude that provides them with a powerful source of creativity and self-awareness.
- Preparation: Introverts increase their confidence to influence others by increasing their knowledge, creating a strategy and rehearsing.
- Listening: This innate introvert talent helps Quiet Introverts establish rapport and mutual understanding—especially when they observe body language, ask questions and serve as a sounding board for others.
- Focused conversations: Introverts excel at the serious, purpose-driven, one-on-one or small group interactions vital for problem solving, working through conflicts, and winning people over.
- Writing: Introverts use this skill to influence others through deep, authentic, well-developed arguments that motivate others to action.
- Thoughtful use of social media: Introverts naturally use social media in a thoughtful and more effective way to develop and grow relationships, achieve visibility, and mobilize people—even those far across the globe.
If you are open to building your influencing toolbox through conscious practice, you will perfect core skills, develop heightened sensibilities, and bump up your confidence to influence all kinds of people and situations. As a result, you will greatly enhance your influencing success rate by embracing an alternative to traditionally western “Type A” view of interactions. So why not take a walk on the quiet side and be the new face of business?
Interested in learning more about what kind of influencer you are? Go to JenniferKahnweiler.com and take a quiz to determine your tendency towards Quiet Influence.