If there is one area where I think extraverts actually do have a leg-up on introverts in business it’s this: they are much more comfortable being visible and attracting attention.

Whereas introverts generally prefer to be alone or in groups of two or three people with whom they are very comfortable, extraverts get their energy from being around others, by participating in activities and events with others, and even from energizing others.

(For a full review of the formal definition of the difference between introversion and extraversion by The Myers and Briggs Foundation, please see my Introvert’s Guide to Leadership blog post).

So here’s the crux of the challenge for introverts who are looking to lead and to ascend to high-level leadership roles: being visible in an organization is critical to

  • getting your ideas heard
  • having your leadership talents recognized
  • communicating effectively, through words and actions
  • getting promoted and moving upward in your career
  • attracting leadership opportunities

And once you’re leading from the C-suite, being visible in the industry and with your peers is critical to

  • making connections that can lead to profitable partnerships and collaborations
  • defining the imprint your company is making in its industry
  • getting your message to investors, the broader market and “the street”

As an introvert, I understand that you cannot simply tell an introvert to go do these things and expect them to be comfortable and effective.  Rather, introverts need strategies to help them take these steps in ways that are comfortable for them.

Here’s what I recommend to become visible in business in a way most comfortable to introverts: a “One-on-One” mindset

Get outside of your comfort zone – comfortably – by approaching each step knowing that important business connections get made one-to-one; you do not need to be an extravert to be successful!  Your innate ability to connect one-on-one is actually to your advantage.

1. Learn to network, which is essentially about developing these important relationships, by designing your own personal strategy of one-on-one meetings

I can’t stress the importance of this enough.  Relationships are critical in business and are the building blocks of opportunities.  Please don’t let the idea of “networking” intimidate you. Networking, at its soul, is all about creating relationships that grow over time and lead to personal growth, opportunity, and even lifelong friendships.

To be seen as a leader in an organization you must first be visible within that organization.

I put together a list of 9 steps to doing this comfortably within an organization in my Introvert’s Guide to Getting Promoted: Step One blog post.  The essence of these steps? Lay out your own plan for meeting people at all levels of the company in a one-to-one setting and bring your brilliantly introverted self to those meetings.  Ask others about themselves in these meetings, really get to know them, thank them for their time, and you will stand out in their minds.

After all, standing out – comfortably – is the first step.

2. Avoid avoidance

I work with an executive who is on the cusp of being in the C-suite, but hasn’t yet been given the opportunity.  He has a stellar track record, but told me the other day as we were discussing a rather intimate upcoming event with his peers that he “wasn’t outgoing enough to get value from events.”

Honestly, I was shocked to hear this from someone at that level in a large corporation.  And then I remembered hearing from a CEO about an executive in his organization who was uncomfortable meeting with groups of clients.  And it all clicked.

These executives have not yet found strategies to address their introversion, even at their levels, and it was holding them back!

It’s vital for leaders to attend events and to participate with customers, especially at the C-level, representing the company.  Attending events keeps the company and its message visible and opens up opportunities to connect with potential partners and clients.  And the value of meeting with customers – and listening to them – well, is obvious.

So why would some executives avoid these situations?  They are letting the idea of “so many people” in the room overwhelm them rather than going into these situations with a “one-on-one” mindset.

By reminding ourselves how we excel as introverts when we relate one-on-one with others, and how strong we are at creating deep relationships, we can go into these situations planning to simply take them one person at a time.

  • Schedule one-on-one meetings in advance with participants that will take place before and during the event
  • Invite those people to then join you at a lecture or to sit with you during a portion of the event (they’ll appreciate it!)
  • Remind yourself (over and over if you have to) that you’re building relationships one person at a time.  So, if you are suddenly in a large group and you find yourself uncomfortable, find the closest person to you who looks to be in the same situation and introduce yourself.  Then give your full attention to the person you’re talking with and give no concern to the number of people swarming around you.  You will stand out to that person, and you never know who it might be!
  • Schedule down time to recharge

3. Seek out opportunities to speak in front of others

Remember last week’s post that talked about genuinely connecting with your audience – regardless of its size – when you speak?  That’s the one-on-one mindset at work.  Seek out opportunities to get in front of others but to connect with them one at a time.  You’ll be increasing your visibility, but in a way we introverts are much more comfortable with.

4. Do what you do best – put your ideas into words

I saved this for last because I wanted to be sure to recognize that our love of ideas and our keen ability to express our ideas through the written word is most definitely an important strategy for becoming visible in an organization.  I encourage all introverts to communicate their ideas widely – to “seize the microphone” and express themselves through written word.

At the same time, it is too easy for introverts to take only this step and to avoid the first three – keeping us safely within our comfort zones.

Please don’t do this.  When it comes to business it will get you far, but only so far, and you’ll miss out on some of the most significant opportunities, experiences and relationships of your life.


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You can find me on Twitter at @LisaPetrilli and on LinkedIn.

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Photo is Peacock @ Panaewa by fsteele770.