For introverted skeptics, working from home all or part of the time can be bliss – long stretches of solitude and uninterrupted time to focus, to amass and analyze all the relevant information, and to polish their work to a glossy sheen. In this energizing and productive nirvana, there is a temptation to avoid activities that are draining or frustrating. Ultimately, these same activities are essential to success. They include seeking feedback and buy-in from team members and stakeholders, testing assumptions, delegating effectively, and managing up, down, and sideways.
For introverted skeptics who are leaders within an organization, the temptation to hole up in their happy place is particularly risky. Leaders, after all, need to lead – to set the course, direct, advocate, solve, assess, and share. They need to be available and accessible, to engage proactively, to be out there.
So, for introverted skeptics to be successful leaders in a work from home (WFH) world means giving up some of their glorious alone time to make sure everyone has what they need to succeed. (Sorry.)
Advocacy in Moderation
Wherever and however work gets done, you still need to promote your team’s agenda, efforts, and accomplishments. As an introverted skeptic, you may not be super excited about having to constantly advocate for yourself or your team. How much is enough?
Imagine you have 10 chips to use over the course of a month. Each chip represents an act of advocacy. (You decide how big the advocacy needs to be for a chip to be used. At first, just wing it.) As a month’s worth of chips are spent, you start on next month’s pile or step back and refuel your energy before doing it again next month. Using fewer than 10 chips puts you at risk of not being heard. Using more than 10 drains your energy for sharing your progress.
In WFH and hybrid work environments, leaders want to be sure they are staying connected with and supporting team members and stakeholders – so they may go overboard with check-in calls and touch-base meetings. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, revisit your calendar and decide how you will spend your time in the most meaningful way. You are not obligated to attend every meeting you are invited to (that’s why they call them invitations).
If the meeting won’t bring you value and you won’t bring value to others – don’t go. Additionally, identify opportunities to combine connections into group calls so you aren’t stretched across scads of 1:1 calls repeating the same messages. The bonus is that these calls will promote connections between and among group members. We all get into patterns and are vulnerable to calendar creep. Don’t hesitate to disrupt the pattern to reserve your time and energy and be sustainably productive.
Who often are you feeling like you aren’t heard by peers or senior leaders? It’s hard to read the room and calibrate your communications when the room is Zoom and people aren’t fully engaged. Spend the effort pinpointing and packaging your message so they are compelled to to read or hear your updates. Focus intently on what they really need and want to hear.
Switch up your delivery method. If verbal presentations on live calls are not working, send the key takeaways in a short email in advance and use the call to solicit and respond to feedback and questions. It can be easy to fall into sharing all the details and the pros and cons you’ve considered, and lose people before you get to the key message or recommendation. Simplify, level up the message, and be clear with what you want in response.
Working from home gives introverted-skeptic leaders the solitude they crave and allows them to sidestep the office interruptions and politics they loathe. To lead effectively, however, they must engage effectively and consistently to have a meaningful impact.