Introvert Leadership: A Life Lesson in Speaking Up in Meetings

SpeakUpAs an Introvert Leader, I have found my path fairly challenging at times.  You have ambitions for yourself and yet are faced daily in your path by your own behavior.  Can you relate?  It turns out that our success or failure rarely comes from a “hard” skill but rather the “soft” skills related to our interactions with others.  That’s where the life and professional lessons are for us introverts.

Let me share some of my own story and why I do what I do:

When I was early in my career, it was easy to tell that there were “things” I had to do that would get me ahead in my career.  Those things were like talking up in meetings and not just talking but talking over others and even dominating the conversation in a group.

I can remember when I was in a performance ranking session that my boss was holding with my peers and me. He made a comment that stuck with me.  The essence of the comment was that I didn’t “defend” my direct reports because I wasn’t arguing over my peers.  He was reading my silence as simply allowing the others to bully me into agreeing with how my people were stacking up.  I realized in that moment that if I didn’t say something that his comment would be considered true.  I knew it wasn’t.

I very calmly said, “I don’t have to argue to get the results I think are appropriate.  I won’t let us leave this room if I think my people have been unfairly ranked, nor will I attempt to unfairly rank others under mine.  My responsibility right now is to look at the entire picture to ensure that everyone is treated fairly.  Don’t take my silence for a lack of strength.”  I’m not sure where all of this came from but it was true.  I was confident that if I needed to debate something that I thought was wrong, that I would.  I had learned that you didn’t always have to talk first or the most to get the right result.  That day I learned another valuable lesson.

People can take your silence wrong.  They can take it as weakness or compliance or said another way: “rolling over”.  Was that really the way I wanted to be perceived?  No.  I wanted to be perceived as strong and fair, thoughtful and respected.  Perhaps the actual perception is unfair but that is how the majority of people will “read” you when you don’t speak up.

I’ve also noticed that the minute someone believes you can be easily trampled on, they will.  It’s a nasty human tendency but perceiving weakness is a primitive instinct.  If part of the tribe is weak, then it puts the rest of us at risk.  You put a lot at risk yourself if you allow others to see you as weak.  You will not get respect and you will also set yourself for a form of bullying in the work place. You risk not being a “fit”. This is not a career enhancing personal brand.

Certainly, weakness shows up in other ways other than simply not speaking up but speaking is the first thing that happens between us humans.  That makes it the first impression and then continues to be reinforced to create what others will believe about us.  Speaking up is the stuff that leadership is made of.

As a leader, you have to inject your opinion, you have to command respect, you have to communicate a vision or direction, and you have to be stronger than your own tendencies.  Let’s face it – you have to speak up.

Let my life lesson be a your guidance so you don’t have to learn the same lesson the hard way.

I’ve gained great insight and wisdom that can ease your climb to the top, especially if you’re an introvert (or have those tendencies).  I’d like to share with you my tips and information for your career. You can access my newsletter for FREE – it’s full of ongoing information and tips you won’t see anywhere else. When you sign up, you will receive for FREE “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” eworkbook that will help you improve your situation at work today. Get your copy of “Should I Stay or Should I Go!”

This is brought to you by Dorothy Tannahill-Moran, Introvert Whisperer & Climbing Managers Champion at: www.nextchapternewlife.com.

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