Leading a startup can be a daunting task, especially for introverted folks. I know these challenges introverts face in the startup world firsthand as I am one too!
From long hours that leave little time alone, to countless daily interactions required to keep the company running, it appears it’s a world made for extroverts. You know, those folks that love networking events, can’t wait to talk to everyone they meet, and are sad when a party is cancelled.
But, that old assumption is FALSE.
Your introverted traits add to the larger picture of your company and play an important role as you work with your team.
Introversion vs Shyness
There’s a common misconception that introverts are shy people which isn’t necessarily true. The trait of introversion means that one has a low desire for social interaction. Introverts need alone time to recharge whereas extroverts are charged from being social.
Shyness is rated by how comfortable/uncomfortable social situations make you. So, if social interaction makes you uncomfortable you may not necessarily be an introvert, you could just be a bit shy. Shyness is something you can work on whereas introversion is more of a hardwired trait.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to break out of your shell and harness your introverted powers to the advantage of your company.
The first step is embracing who you are.
If you try to be an extrovert when you aren’t one just makes for a bad experience for everyone. Plus, playing the role of an extrovert is exhausting and can make you feel like a fake.
We introverts prefer one-on-one interactions, so instead of hitting up a group event where you’re having lots of brief interactions, schedule one-on-one meetings to create stronger connections.
These stronger connections will create a reliable core network for you to reach out to when you need them. It would be a waste to spend a lot of stressful time at a big event where your networking skills are weak.
Key takeaway: Be Yourself!
Embrace Your Traits
Leveraging your traits will help you go even farther. Building your network by embracing your excellent one-on-one ability is an example. There are many ways in which you can take your introverted qualities and use them to your advantage.
Listening skills is one trait of an introvert that will help your company in the long run. Most introverts wait to speak and observe before making a comment which means that their contributions to the conversation are more thoughtful and meaningful.
Find a way to work your traits into your daily schedule to reduce stress and keep your energy level high.
Diversify Your Team
Think back to the big event (that you probably want nothing to do with) that I talked about earlier. This would be an excellent opportunity to send in an extrovert from your group as your “wing man”. The social anxiety at a large event can cripple an introvert’s spirit without backup.
Diversifying your team means that the skillset of the startup widens. Not only can you use your traits to the advantage of your startup, you can harness the strengths of your team members to benefit the company as well (which is kind of the point).
Hire a team with different job skills as well as with different social skills. Together, everyone’s differences make for a stronger company.
Gain More Skills
So, maybe it’s a little more than introversion that’s holding you back from attending that big networking event (or any big event for that matter) and you do find yourself feeling shy. Whether your social anxiety is high or low, there are things you can do to hone your social skills. If making eye contact is difficult practice making eye contact with the checkout clerk at the store or the waiter at the restaurant. Slowly introduce yourself to the thing that is making you uncomfortable. But don’t overwhelm yourself. Doing that will only make your social anxiety worse.
DON’T try to cure yourself of social anxiety in one fell swoop by attending the huge event. Try hanging out with two friends at a time instead of one to start.
In the world of startups there will be times where you must lean towards an extrovert’s personality. It’s not fun but essential. Don’t try to change who you are but remember that people need to know about you and your startup, so get out there.
Being a jack of all trades isn’t required but gaining more skills will only help you see the bigger picture and help your company grow. Pick one thing you’d like to get better at, be it social interaction or new marketing tactics and learn more about it. The more skills you gain, the more you can help your company.
In conclusion, your introverted traits are important. They’re an uncommon vantage point in the startup world which allows you to see things differently.
You can use your strengths to your advantage, be yourself, make connections at an introvert’s pace, and lead your company to success!
I’m always available to discuss this further or help with any startup struggles. Yes, we don’t have to talk on the phone.