What makes a successful entrepreneur? There are specific characteristics that every entrepreneur needs: vision, passion, business savvy, commitment, focus, and self-confidence. Entrepreneurs also have to be leaders, which requires good communications skills, and when you are an introvert those do not come naturally. However, successful introverted entrepreneurs have their own approach and their own leadership and communications style, which is often more effective than charismatic entrepreneurs who have big personalities. We wanted to share some tips for entrepreneurs that can help turn introverts into successful business leaders.
How Do You Score?
The first step is to understand your personality traits and whether you are an introvert or extrovert. There are different types of introverts and each personality type has specific characteristics and strengths that can apply to running a business.
The Myers-Briggs personality model defines eight types of introverts, each with their primary cognitive functions. Some apply more intuition, others more feeling, some rely more on logic, and some are risk-takers. The Myers-Briggs personality test has been around for some time and some organizations use it as part of employee training. It can be a good tool to help you assess your personality type, although there are others as well.
While an independent assessment of your personality type can help identify your strengths and your weaknesses, you probably have a basic understanding of your management approach and leadership style. In general, introverts tend to be more thoughtful and reserved, being more cautious in their approach and decision-making. Introverts tend to recharge in quieter environments while extroverts are charged by a lot of external stimulation. Introverts can be extremely brilliant, but often are bad communicators and team leaders because they find it difficult to share their inner vision.
Some of the Most Successful Entrepreneurs Are Introverts
Being an introvert does not keep entrepreneurs from success. Some of today’s more prominent CEOs are introverts, and they are successful because they have found their own leadership and communications style:
- Bill Gates – Gates is a billionaire today but he also is an introvert. What Gates realized early on was that he needed brilliant extroverts to complement his introversion, articulate his vision, and take that vision to reality.
- Elon Musk – Musk has transformed himself from being an introverted engineer to become an outspoken entrepreneur and business leader. Musk has learned how to wield communications to make Tesla a market innovator with a social impact.
- Mark Zuckerberg – Zuckerberg is a classic example of the introvert who is more comfortable with machines than people. By surrounding himself with good communicators and team leaders, Zuckerberg has been able to build his own cult following as he continues to build Facebook.
- Warren Buffett – Buffett is the founder of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the wealthiest men in finance. Buffett’s introversion manifests itself in his level-headed decision-making and his ability to bring critical thinking and intelligence to his communications style.
Tapping the Power of Communications
These CEOs share some common tools and techniques that can help the introvert entrepreneur communicate his or her vision:
- Exercise caution – Whereas extroverts love to jump in with both feet, introverts tend to be more prudent and use a more studied approach. The extrovert’s battle cry is “Let’s do it!” while the introvert will ask “Is this the best course?” Risk-taking is part of building any business, but the introvert will pause to ask the right questions first.
- Practice active listening – Effective communication requires an engaged listener as well as a communicator. Introverts tend to be better listeners. They internalize and analyze information rather than interrupting to share their next ideas. Active listening is a valuable skill that comes more naturally to introverts.
- Watch the quiet ones – Good communication is as much about what you don’t say as what you do say. Many introverts learn how to use the power of presence; they sit quietly, listen, absorb, and on those few occasions they do speak, people tend to really listen. They learn to command the moment when they want to be heard.
- Be comfortable with uncertainty – Introverts understand how to manage problems. Because they are not seeking immediate external rewards, they can sit with an issue longer, and therefore find a solution. Introverts are better with uncertainty because they are more confident they can ultimately solve the problem.
- Practice humility – Introverts often have a better sense of their capabilities. As a result, they are more likely to acknowledge mistakes and limitations, which is why it is easier for them to seek out ways to complement their shortcomings. Being able to identify and articulate weaknesses can be a huge business advantage.
- Better communications infrastructure – Just as introverts compensate for their shortcomings by finding others with complementary skills, they also tend to build a communications infrastructure that makes collaboration easier. Hiring the right team only works when there is effective internal communication, and the right infrastructure makes it easier to share information.
There are many ways to keep channels of internal communications open, including holding regular meetings, email, and project management software. However, one of the most effective collaboration tools is still the telephone. Smart entrepreneurs are keeping their teams in constant contact using personal smartphones. BYOD strategies coupled with tools such as Spoke keep teams talking and promote better collaboration. With Spoke, for example, you turn smartphones into business phone extensions so you can reach any team member simply by dialing their office extension; calls are automatically routed to the recipient’s smartphone. Spoke is equipped with an auto attendant, message services, smart directories, hunt groups, group calling, and other features to simplify internal communications, and because all calls are handled using a smartphone, team members can always be in touch.
Effective communication doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it can be learned.
Successful entrepreneurs learn to adapt their leadership style, bring in the right professionals to help them succeed, and harness the right technology and techniques to promote teamwork and collaboration.