Along with many others in January, I’ve recently been taking time out of my day-to-day to consider my goals. Where would I like to be in six months, one year, three years? Not just what do I want to accomplish, but how do I want to be, how do I want to feel? Achievement isn’t just about ticking ambitions off a list, it means moulding who and how we are to make us happier and more fulfilled. This requires a good degree of self-awareness.
Ironically, self-awareness can be elusive in a focus group of one (yourself). So, knowing that I thrive on challenge and reflection from someone else, I sought the help of someone whose opinion I value: Joaquim Esteve. Joaquim is a fellow member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation and is on the same three-year Entrepreneurial Masters Program at MIT as me. Thankfully, he agreed to listen to and interrogate my musings.
I wasn’t expecting that!
After carefully considering what I had to say, Joaquim said something which stopped me in my tracks: “Well, that all sounds like very introverted behaviour to me!”. I was shocked. I have never considered myself to be an introvert, and all the personality profiling tools (MBTI, Insight Colours etc.) have always put me bang in the middle of introverted and extroverted, or slightly to the extrovert side. Yes, I have some introvert tendencies (don’t we all?), such as being very happy in a room on my own studying papers, but boy, do I love being thrown on a stage in front of 800 people!
And that’s when I had the killer insight. Is being ‘on my own’ on stage in front of an audience more extroverted or introverted behaviour? Am I getting energy from others or, in fact, energy from myself?
Feeling I wanted to pursue this line of enquiry further, I talked to my dad. He reflected that I haven’t really done much ‘team stuff’ in my life.
“What?” I spluttered. “What about all the rowing I did at school and beyond?”
From his perspective as a keen cricketer and footballer, rowing is simply a repeated task done alongside other people, rather than a team sport in the purest sense, where you’re working together doing slightly different things.
I had never seen it this way, but then I realised that even in a boat I was most often in the stroke seat, setting the rhythm and pace for others. I didn’t even have to fit in with anyone else as they were all following me!
Me, an introvert? Could they be right?
Over the ensuing days I turned this new perspective over in my mind. When I considered where I get my energy boosts from, a clear theme emerged: running (usually on my own), weight training (alone), reading, meditation, journaling, one-to-one chats with people.
What do I find energy-sapping? Walking into a room of 60-300 strangers and knowing I need to engage is exhausting. Yes, I can and do do it, and even enjoy it, but it is a draining experience. And what I love about it is hearing people’s stories and journeys, the person-to-person interaction.
Joaquim recommended this TED talk by Susan Cain to me and so much resonated. Is it time to embrace my inner authentic introvert more and understand the value that this brings to my business and my clients? Furthermore, what can I do to help others embrace their inner ‘me’?
As Susan Cain challenges in her talk, is the modern workplace designed for extroverts to succeed and the introvert to struggle? Is the agile workplace and urging of employees to move around and interact with lots of other people a fair and reasonable expectation? Is it even sensible or compatible with increasing productivity?
I’m loving this new insight and subsequent exploration and would love to hear your thoughts and challenges when embracing your authentic inner ME.
After all, iTS Leadership!