How an introverted manager can step out of the shadows

Globe and Mail

Globe and Mail

COLLEEN CLARKE, From Friday’s Globe and Mail

The scenario:

I’ve recently been hired by a new company with a promotion to a managerial job. Because I am quite introverted, it’s going to be a challenge for me to get to know people and make a positive impression quickly. What can I do to heighten my visibility and instill respect without totally stepping out of my comfort zone?

The advice:

Breathe easy, I am not going to tell you to wear a pink boa! To become visible and gain respect you need to demonstrate to your team from the start that you are present and approachable.

Start with a smile. You don’t have to say a word to have people feel positive about you. Carole Cameron, in her enlightening book, Splash! An Introverts Guide to being Seen, Heard and Remembered says, “if you embrace a positive attitude and deliberately let it show, it will shine through to others the moment they meet you. A genuine positive attitude is attractive, infectious and memorable.”

Get out there. Start by incorporating “managing by walking around” into your daily routine. A couple of times a day, take the long way back to your desk. Be seen as being available even if you don’t have time to talk to people.

Get a trademark. I recommended to an introverted client that she buy something and carry it around that was unique and stood out and was representative of her taste and personality. It could be a colourful purse, a flashy coffee mug, a designer brief case or snazzy suspenders. “Bob always wears Hush Puppies.” Your trademark item should be an excellent conversation opener by you or others.

Engage informally. Select two or three different people every day who you purposely stop and chat with based on something informal such as an open-ended question about a picture on their desk or an award hanging on their wall. Keep the focus on what the person has to say. Keep in mind that the more you listen, the more people like you.

Get personal. It is much easier to be extroverted with others in a one-on-one than in a group meeting. Connect in a series of one-on-ones or coffee with everyone you will be managing. Ask each person about themselves and what they think they bring to the team and the company. Ask them if they possess any skills they don’t get to utilize that they would like to – which illustrates that you will be thinking about them after the meeting and are truly concerned about them and their contributions.

Open a chat line. Out of sight can be out of mind. Part of learning to be a more extroverted manager is looking for ways to take the initiative even if it is in an introverted manner. For those folks on the road, out of your office locale or travelling, keeping in touch by chatting online or with Skype makes people feel included, important and in the loop.

Use positive language. If your words are limited, be sure that the ones you do use are positive. For instance, don’t say “no problem” but “with pleasure” instead. People may not remember what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel, so use motivating, supportive words.

Give compliments. Giving compliments may not be easy at first, but they are necessary for employee feedback. If words don’t come easy to you, start with Post-it notes on a computer screen or a quick e-mail specifying that you have noticed what they have done and commend them for it.

You’ll be surprised at how quickly you feel more comfortable initiating contact and conversation by making it a regular part of your daily routine. By showing a genuine interest in people, they will feel good in your presence, they trust you more and will go the extra mile to please you and excel at their job.

Colleen Clarke is a Toronto-based workplace coach and corporate trainer.