Michael asks: I was just named CEO of a small software startup company. I have a fairly introverted personality and realize this new role will require me to move more out of my comfort zone. Any tips?
Therese Tong, PCC, Executive Leadership Coach, responds:
Let’s start with a few assumptions around how your introversion might be showing up:
- Telling yourself you cannot handle certain situations or leadership roles as well as an extrovert
- Wanting to say something but not finding the words in the moment
- Feeling that you need to be more at ease with all the networking and external conversations that come with being CEO
Reasons For and Motivation
Remember the reasons that motivated you to take this role. To make a bigger impact in the company’s success? In the industry? In people’s lives? Every time you catch yourself hesitating or worrying about stepping ‘out of my comfort zone’ – shift your thinking from ‘my comfort zone’ to these motivations and to the ‘others’ involved. See your desired outcome and take the step.
What you are doing here is observing your interpretation [thinking, head] about an action, retraining your mind to focus differently and also getting in touch with the motivation [feeling, heart] that propels action [will, body].
Use the Gifts of Introverts
As an introvert, you have insight and have thought through issues with clarity and depth. Perhaps you are not as gregarious as the extrovert in selling your idea but you care about others and have great support with close friends and colleagues. From this foundation of insight and care, give voice to your thoughts and what you believe can happen. You can also use your gift of curiosity – when struggling for something to say in a social situation, just get curious and ask a question.
Return to Now
In a room full of too many people – imagine yourself talking to one person in the room, feel the connection you have with this one person; gently and slowly include two, three, four … other people in your dialogue. If you notice any discomfort or anxiety arising, take a deep breath, wiggle your toes. Return to the here and now – your body and the one person you want to share this idea with. Returning to the sense you have in your body, for example, your breath or wiggling your toes can be practiced anytime, especially when stepping out of your comfort zone.
Set Expectations and Allow Quiet Time
As CEO you will have a schedule full of conversations, big and small. For your sanity, you will need to protect adequate quiet time to decompress and reflect. Be clear with your administrative assistant, your direct reports and/or family at home that you must carve out alone time in order to thrive.
Give the above a try and let us know how it has helped you be more courageous to step into some different actions.