Douglas Conant’s recent Harvard Business Review blogpost on being an introverted boss (Conant is the CEO of Campbell Soup) has generated some wonderful commentary in the blogosphere. Here is a very useful posting from Nancy Ancowitz, author of “Self-Promotion for Introverts.”
“If you’re having a hard time getting a word in edgewise at boisterous meetings,
interject by: 1) leaning forward and raising a finger; 2) saying the name of someone
actively contributing to the conversation to get her or his attention; and 3)
jumping right in with your best voice. Of course, prepare a few key points in
advance. Also chairing meetings is often a good role for some introverts who do well
in the role of a host or a moderator. Regardless, be sure you’re on the agenda.
Since as an introvert you prefer to think before you speak or act, tell your team
members the best way to manage up is to give you time to review their suggestions,
possibly in writing, before a meeting. As Douglas suggested, you do best when you
have time to process (alone!), as opposed to an extravert who prefers to process out
Do you find these kinds of tips helpful? Any others you’d like to share?
When I was promoted last spring, I told my colleagues at the interview that I was not adept at responding to new ideas quickly–I often prefer to think them over for a day or two before responding–and that it is sometimes helpful for me to see information in writing. They haven’t consistently made use of these strategies in dealing with me, but they did say that they appreciated hearing this. I wanted to establish these principles early on, so that if a particularly touchy issue arises, I can go back to them. I think it’s important, too, for colleagues to understand that if I initially meet a proposal with a blank face and cautious manner, that’s not a sign that I disapprove, but simply that I’m reflecting, putting the pieces together, and considering the long-term implications.
On chairing meetings: The best strategy I’ve found so far is to distribute a detailed agenda in advance. If a meeting starts to get out of control, I direct everyone’s attention to the agenda. I point out what we haven’t covered yet, what we seem to be spending a lot of time, ask if we need to return to certain topics at a later date, etc. I have also found that it’s useful to keep one or two pieces of information in my pocket (not on the agenda distributed in advance) so that I can begin each meeting by saying “You have the agenda in front of you and here’s a little background information” or “You have the agenda in front of you and here are two additional questions that Higher-Up Boss raised yesterday.” That establishes my role briefly and clearly at the beginning of the meeting. Make sure that meetings really are discussions, though, with the broadest possible participation. Participants zone out if you (or anyone else) lectures or if a couple people dominate the discussion.
interject by: 1) leaning forward and raising a finger
I have actually gone so far, as both an introvert and a woman working in a male-dominated profession (computer support), as to push my chair back and stand up during a meeting to make sure that what I was trying to say didn’t get overlooked. I don’t recommend getting frustrated enough to have to go to this extreme, but it does work.