October 21, 2015


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The introverted manager

I am at an interesting point in my career. In the past 5 years, I’ve moved from an individual design consultant, to individual contributor at a corporation, to manager at a corporation and back to an individual design consultant (within a corporation). It’s been a wild ride. During that time, I’ve had to learn a lot about myself to be the most helpful to others.

Coming to understand my introverted nature has been a critical part of that journey. Working with people is amazing. It can also be frustrating. It has brought me insights I would never have gotten alone. It has generated moments of connectedness that only collaboration can bring. It also wears me the heck out.

In my previous job, I was responsible for managing about 40 people across 3 cities. It took a great deal of time to maintain those relationships. It took time to give encouragement and develop accountability. Even more time to build culture. I started to realize that corporate management is almost exclusively geared toward the extroverted. The manner in which we interact. The amount of face time(or phone time). The running from meeting to meeting. Meeting culture as a whole. It has a lot of social interaction. It also makes it hard to get things done.

I found that I had to modulate my behaviors to leverage my strengths and mitigate my weaknesses. Some actions I took that helped:

1. I delegated responsibility as much as possible so that specific people would be empowered to make decisions on the work going out the door without needing me to see everything.

2. I worked to maintain a strong relationship with a smaller, core group of people and a looser relationship with the wider group of people.

3. I limited my meeting availability in order to protect some time for private thought and strategy.

4. I emphasized personal responsibility with everyone on the team—”Can you make this decision on your own?”

5. I did my best to be as transparent as possible and share both the good and the bad of our team and organization’s situations.

By setting clear boundaries and empowering as many people as possible, I was better able to lead in the way that felt most true to my nature—without compromising the quality of the work or the needs of my team.

Being introverted by nature can be an asset to those who want to manage and lead inside organizations of scale.

That starts with an understanding of yourself.

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