Embracing Your Extrovert in Business

April 30, 2012
By Rhea Drysdale in Online Marketing

Extrovert[This is part one in a five-part series charting Outspoken Media’s operational development process.]
This week, you’re going to hear a lot from Outspoken Media. Each day, we will feature a new post that is both personal and professional from each of us. We’re opening up about recent changes in the company and the broader business applications from our discovery. I’ll be the first to kick things off, but check back daily to get to know the team and benefit from our journey.

This all started back in February when we began a process of strategic planning, team building, and organizational development with Shem Cohen of Change Events, Inc. Shem has been incredible in helping me focus on the vision for Outspoken Media, our services, our clients, and our team. While there have been so many lessons I could write a book series, I want to personally take a moment to discuss what I’ve learned about myself in the hope that it can help you as well.

I am an extrovert.

You might be as well. And, if you’re not an extrovert, you probably have to communicate with one in business and in life. What follows is a deeper understanding of this gift of gab in the hope that extroverts can find the focus we need to accomplish great things, and introverts can learn to manage your expectations when faced with communicating with one of us.

There are a lot of misconceptions about extroverts, namely that we love huge groups and being the center of attention. What it truly means to be an extrovert is that:

“an extrovert will talk with someone else rather than sit alone and think. In fact, extroverts tend to think as they speak, unlike introverts who are far more likely to think before they speak. Extroverts often think best when they are talking. Concepts just don’t seem real to them unless they can talk about them; reflecting on them isn’t enough.”

I’ve always been scared of my mouth. I have this need to communicate with others, and it often leads to awkward moments or places where I’ve gone too far and said too much. Over the years, I’ve gotten this under control, but now, as a leader and a business owner, it’s even more important to recognize when to talk, to whom, about what, and how. I have followers that I can’t let down.

Here are the lessons I’ve learned through the team development process to more effectively manage my super power:

1. Respect style differences.

When the team took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test, I realized just how unique each person is at Outspoken Media. This was awesome. Not only did we have unique professional backgrounds and experiences, we saw the world from different perspectives. In the past, I was quick to judge someone different as weak or lacking ideas and initiative, because I was always so eager to take the lead. By hearing more about the unique style differences on our team, I recognized how their traits simply need time to shine and my extrovert nature (if left unchecked) will overshadow others. As a leader, I have to manage these different communication styles to fit the situational demands of the business and empower the team. Suddenly, I got it.

Business application: In taking the MBTI, more than half of our team turned out to be introverts. This meant they needed time to think through their problems whereas I wanted immediate conversations to solve mine. This killed productivity in moments where the boss wanted an audience to think, but they needed the opposite!

We decided to move everyone into their own office with a door. Now, they could work independently until they were prepared to work as a team or we had a meeting. Because two of us are extroverts, we recognized that we would quickly lose our energy if locked away. The next step was to make the larger open office into an area that anyone could work in with others if they chose to.

The final problem was that most of the team had desktops. We quickly purchased laptops, and now everyone has the flexibility they need to work successfully in an environment that best suits their unique work style.

2. Find an outlet/support network.

As an extrovert, I have to talk through things, especially the big picture, complicated stuff. In the past, I would talk to my team—a lot. My team doesn’t need full disclosure on every topic. What they truly need is structure, clear roles and responsibilities, and feedback. Now I understand that this means I have to get my conversation fix elsewhere.

Business application: If you’re an extrovert, find like-minded professionals in your area to grab coffee or lunches with. Sign an NDA if you have to, but designate this time as a space where the two of you can openly discuss situations you’re facing at work, and how best to handle them. Sometimes these situations are super sexy like the most effective time-tracking tool, or different models for tracking profitability. Other times we talk about work-life balance and what that looks like when we love our company so much.

Whatever the problem, I now have a network of professionals I can turn to for the tough talks. This saves my friends, family, and my team from my extroverted nature because they have different needs and shouldn’t be used as my business sounding board.

3. Create a system.

Introverts need time to process information, and extroverts need time to talk to someone. Either way, we may both need time to get to a point of greater understanding. We may face this when dealing with a client situation, a complicated algorithm update, or an interpersonal situation at work. Whatever the problem, build a system of accountability within your business or your own position.

Business application: If you are in a managerial position (or can advise someone who is), set a clear expectation that everyone involved is going to take X time to process, but then you will come back together and reach a point of unified action. Focus on the action you need to achieve, and let go of personal affronts or emotion. By creating a system of respect and accountability, everyone knows the work that needs to be done and the goal they need to achieve. Give different styles the space they need to process fully and then get back to work.

This may also take the form of letting introverts write out their answer while extroverts discuss theirs. As a manager, reward ideas, not talkers. Good ideas keep the business afloat, not just the enthusiastic extroverts!

Have you had to balance your extroversion or battle an extrovert before? What did you do? Embrace your extrovert and speak up below in the comments!

Check out the other posts in this five-part series:
Three Lessons for Business and Life
Aligning Keyword Strategy with Corporate Goals
Corporate Culture for Introverts

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