Updated: Nov 17
How we can all be change agents
The Introversion Wave
I believe that as the diversity, equity, and inclusion wave widens and deepens its reach, introversion can and should be a natural part of that movement. In this next phase of the introvert revolution, there is a groundswell of interest from introverts and their allies about how to create cultures where introverts thrive – and everyone benefits.
I have witnessed much change at the individual level in embracing introversion and acknowledging the value of introverts. But it is going to take a lot more to change the direction of an entire work culture. There is still so much work to be done to get our type A, extrovert-centric workplaces to be more inclusive of introverts. People need a roadmap to help guide their organizations on this transition toward tangible systemic change.
I am thrilled to welcome Jennifer Kahnweiler as our guest contributor this week. Her books have been so powerful in my own personal journey.
Jennifer is renowned as one of the top global leadership speakers on introversion. Some of her previous work, including The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strengths, focuses on empowering introverts to be strong, confident leaders. Her latest gem, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces, provides the tools to create a workplace that values and encourages contributions of introverts worldwide.
This guest blog is excerpted from her new book. I hope you will be inspired by her guidance and wisdom today.
Seven Areas Organizations Should Address to Become More Introvert-Friendly
In my book, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces, we identify seven key functions that organizations should address to create more introvert-inclusive cultures and work practices. They are where the pain points are for introverts and where organizations are unintentionally limiting introverts from contributing more fully:
1. Bringing on great introvert talent: Shallow first impressions and personality biases that favor extroverts often play too large a role in hiring and promotion decisions.
2. Leading introverts: Leaders must open up the conversation around introversion, including checking their unconscious biases about their quieter team members.
3. Communicating with introverts: Given the time and space to communicate on their own terms, introverts have much more than you think to contribute to the conversation.
4. Designing workplace settings: Office plans must allow for the smooth flow of collaborating, socializing, and doing the focused work that introverts thrive on.
5. Creating remote work that works: Remote working can offer the increased autonomy and distraction-free solo time introverts require to do their best work.
6. Building teams: Teams should be made up of diverse members and allow for all to contribute, not just the loudest voices.
7. Enhancing learning and development: Adapting training design to accommodate introvert preferences like breaks for reflection will increase its effectiveness for all employee groups.
As someone who has been tracking and championing introverts for over 15 years, I believe that now, more than ever, is the time to create introvert-friendly workplaces that will unleash everyone’s talents and performance – and addressing these key areas is the way to do it.
My hope for you is that the solutions and ideas in this book will help you to spark the seeds of change no matter what level of the organization you find yourself in.
Anyone Can Be a Change Agent
Whether you are an introvert, extrovert, senior leader, or someone just starting out in your career, you can take on a role as a change agent. My book, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces, will present you with many examples of how introverts are overlooked so that you can be conscious of when this happens. You will also learn about pockets of inclusion that can serve as powerful benchmarks. There are five key ways you can create an introvert-friendly workplace:
1. Be a voice for the quiet: Raise the issue of introvert awareness and inclusion in meetings, training sessions, and other conversations.
2. Intentionally address the needs of introverts: Thoughtfully examine your practices in the seven key functions above to ensure that introverts' concerns are addressed.
3. Involve introverts in your research: Ask them how to create more inclusive workplaces.
4. Encourage teams to address introversion: Facilitate discussions about individual team members’ work preferences.
5. Bring senior leadership into the conversation: This will ensure that introvert inclusion becomes an organizational priority.
The beauty of being a change agent for introvert inclusion is that it’s a win-win proposition. Introverts win by gaining a sense of belonging at places where they can perform at their best. Organizations win by creating environments that harness the potential of all of their employees – not just the squeaky wheels. The bottom line is that when you strive to create an introvert-friendly workplace, you are setting your organization up for long-term success. That is a vision we all can get behind.
I know the tides are turning. I see how work cultures are already moving toward greater inclusion. We need to continue that positive momentum around creating introvert-friendly workplaces. As you move forward, keep in mind some ways you can help make that happen. One place to start is by taking this Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces quiz. See what is working already and where you can focus your change efforts.
If you believe, as I do, that introversion is to be valued and nurtured, you can be the catalyst for change and move your organization toward a workplace where introverts feel like they belong.
About Jennifer B. Kahnweiler
Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D., is an author, Certified Speaking Professional, and one of the top global leadership speakers on introverts. She helps organizations harness the power of introverts. Her new book is Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces: How to Unleash Everyone's Talent and Performance (BK Publishers, June 16, 2020). Her best-selling previous books include The Introverted Leader, Quiet Influence, and The Genius of Opposites. Her books have been translated into 18 languages. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Fortune.
Every time I see the online thesaurus synonyms for introvert, I steam..."recluse, hermit, loner, shrinking violet!" So I've decided to do something about it. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, join me in petitioning the online thesaurus to update their listing for introvert. Click the button to leave your name today. I will be submitting our petition on January 2, 2021 - World Introvert Day! I hope you will join me in righting this wrong!
When did you discover you were an introvert?
Why did it take so long?
What are the factors to discovering earlier?