If Alen Mayer had written this book about twenty-five years ago, it would have saved me a lot of time and trouble. That’s because, while I make a pretty good living by meeting new people and speaking to groups for hours at a time, I’m also an introvert. It has not always been an easy journey, as I’ve learned through trial and error how to suppress some tendencies on the one hand, and how to take full advantage of some strengths on the other. Introverts in Business: Being Quietly Successfulwould have boosted both my progress and my confidence if I had read it when I was first starting out in my training career.
It may seem unfair, but our business culture favors extroverts: you only need to look at qualities asked for in job descriptions, such as “team player, dynamic, people-oriented”, or track who gets all the air time in meetings. But your natural introversion does not have to be a handicap.
If you’re an introvert just starting in business, or a single contributor moving to a role that requires more teamwork, or are rising to a management role, this book can help you.
How can it help? First, it dispels myths that others—or you—may have about introverts, and that may be holding you back, such as the idea that introverted means being shy, or that introverts can’t succeed in professions such as sales that place a premium on relationship building.
That’s because some of your natural tendencies can actually be strengths. In sales, for example, the prototypical talkative, slap-them-on-the back-and tell-a-joke, professional “friend” is at a loss in many of today’s complex system sales, which require asking questions and listening, and thoughtful analysis about customer needs—both of which favor introverts. In fact, introverts excel at developing deeper relationships which helps with the patient building of influence in complicated decision processes over long sales cycles. By exploiting your strengths, you can “make your quiet presence felt, if not heard.”
That said, sometimes you do need to be heard: there are situations where it pays to step out of your comfort zone and act extroverted, to interrupt, socialize more, or to blow your own horn. Mayer provides useful ideas about how to fake it ‘til you make it in Chapter 3.
Finally, you can read the very detailed and specific suggestions that apply in your role as you move up the corporate ladder, whether you are a team member, manager, senior leader, or entrepreneur. This is where Mayer’s book excels. I’ve written before about Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, which is also excellent. At only 88 pages, Introverts in Business is a quick read, but it’s more of a field guide or handbook, so it’s much more applicable to specific situations you might face.
By the way, if you’re an extrovert, you probably haven’t read this far—but just in case—you can also profit from reading this book, particularly if you’re a manager who wants to get the most out of a mixed team.