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Introvert Leaders #5: The People Side
Addressing the traits of introversion in a leadership role
In the end, the main factor that makes introverts reluctant to step into greater leadership roles—having to deal with all of those people, like, ALL THE TIME.
They talk to you. They ask you to do stuff. They send hard-to-read nonverbal signals. Seriously, what was that eye thing? Did they mean that sarcastically? Are they being friendly, or flirting, or trying to manipulate me?
People create drama and chaos and touch our stuff. Just thinking about them makes me consider moving to a remote part of northern Canada, but then I think about how hard it would be to get good wifi and I put that plan aside for now.
If introverts step into leadership roles, they may need to build up their tolerance for the people-intensive portions of the role. But to keep from being burned-out and overwhelmed, they still need to recognize that they are, at heart, introverts. Introverts need calm, structure, and time to focus, and they need time away from people to recharge. So, rather than having a full-time “open-door” policy, consider having set, daily “office hours” times in which people can come to you to discuss non-time-critical issues (you still need to be available for emergencies).
Let your people know that you are blocking off a couple of hours for “please do not disturb unless the building is on fire” work time, but they can come talk to you at these other, posted-on-my-office-door-and-in-our-shared-work-calendar times each day.
And let them know WHY. “I need a set time to focus on getting work done, and repeated interruptions make me less productive.” Encourage your people to also schedule their own work-blocks, if they find they have the same need to focus without interruptions. Keep these blocks short (usually 2 hours max), so that you don’t make yourself inaccessible, and consider walking a loop around the office at the end of the time, so people can flag you down to ask questions or get your input.