Can introverts be successful entrepreneurs?
This question came from a recent Inc. article written by Erik Sherman: http://tinyurl.com/cuj7zy6 where he explained the strengths and limitations of an entrepreneur-introvert, centering around the question: Is shyness truly detrimental in the entrepreneurial world? Curious to hear your thoughts.
Best networkers and best entrepreneurs are the ones who are best listeners... If an introvert is a great listener, they can go far in everything...
In my opinion (and I did not read the article): YES. Introverts listen better-or at least give off that impression. This may sound harsh, but I believe that being shy is a mask designed for protection and survival. When you are talking about what you love, you will shine organically and people will feel at ease; you naturally have an edge over Type As who rue the moment the other takes a breath so they can get another word in edgewise. Crafting your approach based on your keen ability to listen without another agenda is a gift. If people think you are unfriendly because you are shy, that's another issue and you probably need a little confidence coaching or some therapy. But generally, shy works well especially with heavy-hitters who like to talk a lot. A slick attorney (who is not shy) told me that all she does is show a little interest in something someone values, asks them one or two open-ended questions about themselves, then she gets the whole story and more. And, in our world, building trust and relationships is everything. You go, Stephen!
SHYNESS is a label that somebody else placed on that person.
Oh, little Johnny, he is shy. That is repeated many many times in your life, you believe that you are shy.
Anybody that wants to be successful (however that may look to them) needs to be COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE!
I recently went from a storefront owner - to an independent - before - I was able to turn the stores OPEN sign on - and people would open the door and come in for our service. Now I am the OPEN sign - and at first I was deathly afraid, went to one event and was handed the MIC and I almost passed out. That feeling has not passed, I get it all of the time when I am in a new group of people. But I am not willing to stay where I am at financially because I AM SHY - I have to be comfortable putting myself in the positions that I am in front of other people making connections to grow my business.
I think like most personality characteristics, there are pros and cons with being an introverted entrepreneur. But I definitely think introverts can be successful entrepreneurs. Based on what I've read/heard, it doesn't seem like Bill Gates or Mack Zuckerberg were extroverts.
But ideally, I think you want a mix of introverts and extroverts. Just like you want a mix of other types of people.
I'd have to say it would depend on what market they were involved in too. Every business needs to have a "front" person and if that's not you there's nothing stopping you having someone else do that bit. It's that confidence and belief in what you do that makes your succesful.
Educative and productive communication would always lack a great deal of its needed efficiency when its inputs are one-sidedly sourced. Productive communication can best be achieved by applying a give-and-take approach, that would definitely keep provoking vital ideologies and diversed information from the other end of a communicating line, session, forum or entity. Keeping too quiet or being too secretive and selfish with information has hardly been a successful corporate strategy (except in conflicting or beligerent circumstances,where an introvert approach might proactively serve as a protective and/or peace-making tool). Excessive or logically inexplicable introverts can be considered as counter-productive or under-profitable Human Asserts.
On the other hand rationally giving an ear to another talking personality can tremendously boost our understanding of a topic or an issue, thereby giving us most of the needed initial abilities for diverse entrepreneurial solutions. This whole arguement brings us back to our corporate principle of the need for flexibility, when we, as Managers, apply our expertriate corporate behaviours and intellectual tools. The best thing to do concerning this is to adjust our Human Resource behavioural pattern to relocate somewhere between introvert and extrovert ends. Extreme introvert behaviour remains "a square peck" that should only be put in "a square hole" (in other words it should only be implimented when necessary) even in everyday life. This means, one should not forget that thousands of entrepreneurial problems exist, which demand a diversified array of moral and intellectual approaches, in other to more efficiently tailor their specific solutions.
Shyness is just for the under-aged, and for skeptics. In business, shyness merely displays prematureness as well as the lack of self-esteem and confidence. A shy entrepreneur would easily mar his reliability to partners, colleagues and stake-holders, even if they actually are not underqualified or inefficient personel. Shyness can be considered one of the most under-rating, degrading and unprofitable bahaviour of a prospective Entrepreneur.
Great article Stephen, I enjoyed it as an Introvert with Extrovert tendencies. As a psychologist though I can tell you that shyness is a common misperception and not a trait of Introversion - it is a separate phenomena.
Introversion/Extroversion is a scale of how humans process energy fields around them. Introverts are drained by crowds and juiced by alone time. Extroverts are jazzed by crowds and wilt when alone. I am not at all shy and am very open about nearly every facet of my life. And I do find that the shyness misperception is a distinct disadvantage in business because people will make assumptions based on this misperception that consistently cost me missed opportunities.
As an example, I am a professional speaker and greatly enjoy addressing groups of all sizes. I've been passed over more times than I care to think about to speak to groups or represent groups as a spokesperson because they assume I am shy. Far from it!
Once people actually get to know me they realize I am quite personable and at ease with groups in appropriate context, and such misperceptions fade. But at the cost of how many missed opportunities? In hiring, HR will say "we want a go-getter, a people person, someone who takes charge/takes the initiative and will fire up the team". This is not a description of an Introvert, though often a person with an Introverted tendencies would fit the job description much better.
In short, yes, the Introvert is definitely discriminated against in business. And no, it's not something we can change "if we really want to". It's an inborn tendency, just like blue eyes or curly hair. We can fake the Extrovert for a short time (job interviews, to screw up the courage to talk to a prospective date, etc) when called for, but it's never going to be a for-real, full-time thing.
Businesses need to learn to respect and leverage the talents of the Introvert without expecting them to turn into Extroverts once the employment contract has been signed.
I hope this has been helpful.
Sure they can. But one needs to be an assertive introvert. As long as one is not passive and can convey clearly the desired outcome/tasks to the people & the world he/she will be fine.
I always thought John Lilly (former CEO of Mozilla's) interview with Fast Company was a wonderful look at this topic. The subject of the interview is "How An Introverted Engineer Came Out Of His Shell To Lead Mozilla"
Interestingly enough, I heard a definition of an introvert the other day that was different from the normal wisdom. ( I just see that this was covered above) It defined an introvert as a person that is drained of energy by contact with others (but not necessarily shy). An extrovert would be charged up energy wise from contact with other people (although they could also be shy). In that respect it probably helps to be an extrovert, but is not something that cannot be overcome by managing the contact that you have with others carefully.
Introverts prefer alone time, where they can think. This is why they are typically deep thinkers.
I think it's inappropriate to equate introversion with shyness. An introvert, in my view, is not necessarily "shy", but is simply more selective about when, how and to how many people he expresses himself. But yes, being an introvert may be a roadblock for an entrepreneur wannabe, depending on which stage he is at, in his business venture. Obviously the more successful he is, the less his need may be, to be an extrovert. Being an introvert is one thing, but shutting yourself out completely from the world at large, can spell doom.
Being introvert is NOT equal tot shyness, as stated in the article. I know many extroverts who have hard time to meet new people. Successful business is, above all, listening the customer. Many extroverts have a strong need to speak aloud their thinking, taking time and space from the customer's need.
For me it's not being in- or extrovert. A successful and effective entrepreneur is able to translate the client needs into his product or service. Bringing it to the client is maybe easier for an extrovert (selling to the client). On the other hand an introvert could be better in making the client want to buy. It's the combination of client, product/service and entrepreneur what makes business successful.
Forget labels. Remember all of your successes. Recall all of your accomplishments. Then you will see how you can succeed at anything you commit to doing.
I like to think of introvert and extrovert as the way a person focuses and regains energy.
Introverts like to be quiet, have private time to ponder, ask questions, read, watch, etc. to reenergize and grow. Less is more in public.
Extraverts are the opposite, they like interaction, groups, making things happen, figure it out as they go, etc. to reenergize and grow. More is more in public.
My brother and I are introverts, yet people mistake us for being extroverted, because building a large business calls for it sometimes.
Just be yourself, step out of your comfort zone sometimes and you will succeed.
Of course if you have a specific direction and you take constant action towards your goals.
Everyone Succeeds by Being Their True Self
Introversion is proven by research to get the most creative work out of an individual. Listen to this TED talk by Susan Cain. http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html
I tend to agree because for all the hype that brainstorming meetings receive, they suffer from one major flaw - group think. So if you are an introvert, get to the drawing board and don't curse yourself for not being an extrovert. The better the Intellectual Property you create, the easier it will be to sell. Don't worry too much about speaking about the product, think about how to make your product speak for itself and hence how to make other people speak about your product.