Women leading women

Getting the introvert, extrovert balance right in your business

We all sit somewhere on the introvert – extrovert spectrum, and getting the balance right can be a critical factor in achieving the success that you want.

Unfortunately for most of us, this just won’t be a factor we’ve had time to consider.

When we work for other people we have little choice about our office environment, interactions or our work hours. It’s the reason why most of us have decided (or want) to get out of the corporate world and start our own businesses. The corporate job doesn’t care if you are generally an introvert or an extrovert, you either put up with it and get the job done or get fired.

But when setting up on our own we have so many pressing things to focus on, such as managing the business and earning money, that it’s all too easy to forget to pay attention to how our energy flows.

And that’s a real shame because you will be shocked at the spectacular results getting it right will produce and just how much happier you, and the team, will feel at work.

This is exactly why I want to show you what you can do to get the balance right and to provide some practical tips that will dramatically improve your business…

A product of our environment

I’m guessing you already have a fairly good idea of where you are on the spectrum.

If you’re an extrovert, you get your energy from being with people, you come away from large gatherings energised and alive.

If you’re an introvert, you probably try to avoid these meetings. You get your energy from being on your own. You hate small talk and prefer to have intense one to one conversations about ideas.

Me, I’m an introvert.

Open plan offices are my idea of hell, all those people and all that idle chatter when I want to focus.

I can’t think with noise, so the radio has to be off and ideally I like my work space to be devoid of all living things. If I’m making phone calls, I either make them in the office (if I need to take notes), or I go for a ‘walk and talk’ if we’re creating, as walking gets my imagination going.

My extrovert co-worker is the complete opposite.

She loves the radio on, she’s always on the phone and she’s great at front of house, going and meeting new clients and building relationships.

Her energy is endless and she is still bouncy even at the end of a day filled with people. She is charming and chatty for more hours in one day than I can manage in a week.

Maybe you can recognise your preference to one of those descriptions?

Understanding your preferences and aligning these with the way you work will make a stunning difference to your performance.

Ask yourself these questions to explore if you could improve your work environment.

  • Do you have the right work environment for you?
  • Can you shut the world out when you need to if you’re an introvert or do you have enough opportunity to meet with people and engage with them if you’re more extrovert.
  • Do you have enough noise, enough silence, enough solitude or enough sociability to make your work day a pleasure?

It’s not what you do it’s the way that you do it…

It’s not just where we spend our time; how we spend our time is critical too.

This year I’ve really changed the direction of my business.

I’ve been earning a lot of my income from training, mentoring and coaching, all of which I love, but I was doing too much of it and was exhausted.

I was going from one lot of people to the next and however lovely they were (and they all were) there was just too much time with people and not enough time alone for me to thrive.

So this year I’ve cut back on face to face work and am looking at more passive products.

In contrast, a marketing friend was spending so much time researching, writing copy, emailing and designing campaigns that she felt isolated and lonely and the buzz went out of her business.

She’s much more extrovert than her work was allowing her to be so she’s changed.

She has 2 ‘people days’ for her meetings, webinars, and lunches and then 2 ‘head working days’ where she works alone. The 5th day she tries to leave free for ‘spontaneity days’ which she loves.

So look at what you’re doing to see if you’ve got the right balance.

  • Does anything need to change in the work that you do or the time you spend doing it?
  • Are you working all the hours you can but still feel you are making no progress?
  • Can you employ someone to do the bits that don’t suit you (your extra productivity doing what you love will more than balance what you are paying to out-source)?

Interacting with yourself and the team

The final element to consider is how your business interacts and how you interact with yourself.

What helps you to think, be creative and solve challenges?

I know a lot of companies where brainstorming or meetings are common but it doesn’t mean that this is necessarily the best way for you and your business. In fact there are many times when the time, effort and money it costs to have meetings is a complete waste in comparison with the outputs and value that they actually achieve.

So it’s worth really challenging yourself to stand back and consider the following.

  • How do you think best?
  • Do you think better alone or with one other thinking partner?
  • Do you actually get your best ideas when you are hanging out with people by the coffee machine, just chatting?
  • How can you create more high quality thinking time that suits you?
  • How do your team like to work and how can you accommodate their different needs?

Taking your work home

Finally, how do you balance your needs with the people in your personal life?

If you have kids and you’re an introvert who’s had a day full of meetings and people, it’s going to be tough going home to more people who need you. Think about how you can take some quiet time before you get home, so that you have some energy left for those nearest and dearest to you?

Similarly, if you’re an extrovert who has had a day of spreadsheets and invoicing and then you’re going home to an empty flat; your needs for social contacts are going to be unmet, so could you arrange to meet friends for dinner at the end of days when you’ve been on your own too much?

How can you get the balance right?

Ultimately you need to remember that this is your business and your rules.

It’s all too easy to fall in to the trap of chasing after deadlines and doing what we think we should be doing, but this isn’t always the most effective way to work.

Sometimes you need to step back and look at how you can make your business work for you, rather than you working for your business.

You need to assess your working environment, what you are spending your time doing, how you are interacting with others and whether you have the work life balance you need.

We went into business on our own so we could thrive, succeed and enjoy our work more, so let’s pay attention to what we need and make sure we create work that suits us.

Recognize yourself in this post? Let me know in the comments!

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto

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2 Comments
  1. Angela Watt says

    Thanks for this great article Julie. As I have got older, I’ve started to listen to my inner needs much more than when I was younger. I recognise that I am somewhat introverted. I love to be with people for a while but then also need at least a couple of days each week to work on my own and to refuel my energy. I have been reading the book Quiet recently and have found it so interesting and with so many – ‘Oh, that’s me moments.’

    I’m sure you’ve probably read it yourself but if not check it out.

    I do think that some workplaces are missing a trick, particularly those that have gone with the open plan layout. It simply does not suit everyone, nor will it enable maximum performance from those of us who do our best work shut away from others on our own with time to think and reflect. We get people to undertake profiling to gain an indication of their preferences in the workplace and yet we don’t always consider the needs of the introvert and how to get the best from them.

    Very interesting and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Julie Leoni says

    Hi Angela,

    Thanks for your comment…I’ve been and read the book…I love it..it makes so much sense…I love the fact that she is so honest about what being an introvert has meant for her.

    I’ve worked with great people who have been beyond stressed because they work in an open plan environment when they are in need of privacy and peace…they are less productive and more irritable..it seems like such a silly and avoidable situation when all they need is some walls and a door that shuts!

    The older I get…the more I know what works for me and what doesn’t…(oh to have known it younger!!). One size really doesn’t fit all … wonder how more homeworking will change our day to day experience of our careers/

    Thanks again for getting in touch
    Julie

    I think the older