Many highly effective quiet influencers are introverts who use their natural strengths to make a big difference without making a lot of noise. In this article, six natural strengths have been indentified through observations and interviews, which are powerful levers of influence.
WHAT do Apple chief executive officer Mr Tim Cook, Mr Warren Buffet, Mrs Hillary Clinton, and Mr Steven Spielberg have in common? They are all highly effective quiet influencers—introverts who use their natural strengths to make a big difference without making a lot of noise. Finally, we are realising that there is more than one way to have some sway in today’s shifting workplace. In fact, four key trends indicate the introvert’s time has come:
- Complex Relationships. Today, decisions in the workplace are not a simple matter of convincing the boss. There are lots of pathways to follow with vendors, suppliers, and customers. This opens up all kinds of space for different kinds of influence—including the quiet kind.
- Global business. Traditional extroverted approaches may work well in American organisational cultures, but more reflective, low-key influencing styles will be increasingly effective in Singapore and other regions of the world.
- Virtual activity. The growth of social media has opened up the opportunity to communicate with thousands of people worldwide. Consider the 2011 “Arab Spring” which began in Egypt with an anonymous Facebook page. Social media sets the stage for quiet influencers in organisations to systematise their ideas at their own speed and be selective about when and where they place them.
- Heightened competition. Companies are seeking suppliers and employees who bring fresh, innovative approaches. The truth is, high-strung “Type A” self-promotion and loud persuasion are outdated. Managers today, who take the time to listen, allow a space for innovative ideas to emerge. A study in the Academy of Management demonstrated that higher performance resulted when introverted leaders listened to proactive employees.
Despite the overwhelming case to be made for quiet influence, the reality is that introverts are continually asked to adapt to an extrovert-centric workplace that rewards being out there and on stage. Organisational cultures reward those who talk about their accomplishments and spend more time out and about networking instead of alone deep in thought.
The loudest idea is not always the best idea and influence is not about convincing people to see things your way. It is about learning from others and coming to a solution together. This approach is well-suited to the introvert temperament. Why? Because it involves patience, planning, and perseverance.
Introverts can be highly effective influencers when they stop trying to act like extroverts and instead make the most of their natural, quiet strengths. Through observation and interviews with numerous quiet influencers I have identified six natural strengths that are powerful levers of influence. I call this The Quiet Influence Process:
- Take quiet time. Introverts prioritise periods of solitude that can provide them with a powerful source of creativity and self-awareness. They schedule and protect quiet times on their calendar and engage in “communal solitude” where they gather with others in a group setting, but work quietly on their own.
- Preparation. Introverts develop their confidence to influence others by increasing their knowledge, creating a strategy, and rehearsing. They take the time to become experts and engage in research. Mr Jody, a salesman spends a great deal of time analysing his customer and the competition.
- Listening. This innate introvert talent helps Quiet Influencers to establish rapport and mutual understanding—especially when they observe body language, ask questions, and serve as a sounding board for others. They use silence to get people to open up and reveal their thoughts. Mr Ben, a store manager uses this technique in hiring interviews.
- Focused conversations. Introverts excel at the serious, purpose-driven, one-on-one or small group interactions vital for problem-solving, working through conflicts, and winning people over. They make time for face-time and are open to ideas that emerge from chance encounters. Mr John Maeda, Dean of the Rhode Island School of Design in the United States, decided to get off his computer and connect with real people to win back the confidence of his faculty.
- Writing. Introverts use this skill to influence others through deep, authentic, and well-developed arguments that motivate others to action. It can also be simple written communication. Mr Doug Conant, non-executive chairman of Avon Products, Inc. is known for taking the time to send handwritten notes to employees and others who he wants to recognise.
- Thoughtful use of social media. Introverts naturally use social media in a thoughtful and more effective way to develop and grow relationships, achieve visibility, and mobilise people—even those far away. Mr Salman Khan founded Khan Academy, a free online video learning platform that has reached millions worldwide.
If you are open to building on your strengths and expanding your influencing approach, you will perfect core skills, develop heightened sensibilities, and bump up your confidence to influence all kinds of people and situations. Consequently, you will greatly enhance your influencing success rate by embracing this quiet approach to leadership. So why not take a walk on the quiet side and lead the new wave of business?
Copyright © 2013 Singapore Institute of Management