- Beki Fraser, CPC, PCC is a business and leadership coach and HR expert.
- If you usually work on your own and find your accomplishments ignored by colleages, Fraser says you may be an ‘introverted skeptic.’
- It’s important for introverted skeptics to give their work a voice by engaging with coworkers more often and soliciting to feedback.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
In my 20-plus years as a leadership coach and a human resources leader at a variety of companies, I have coached hundreds of people who are introverted skeptics, the hybrid personality type that can be both an obstacle and an asset in the workplace.
As introverts, these individuals prefer quiet to concentrate, are reflective and comfortable being alone, don’t enjoy group work, take their time making decisions, and feel drained after being in a crowd. As skeptics, they don’t accept information at face value. They question and challenge, value evidence and proof, and seek out problems to be solved and work to fix them.
Introverted skeptics tend to care deeply about the work they do and deliver thoughtful, well-reasoned solutions. They are often creative and have strong problem-solving skills including the ability to view an issue through multiple perspectives, connect dots, and identify opportunities, risks, and insights that others miss.
Challenges facing introverted skeptics
If you are an introverted skeptic, you may find yourself struggling because you don’t willingly engage collaborators or seek colleagues’ input – which may adversely affect the quality of your work or other peoples’ perception of it. You may be under-appreciated and overlooked because you don’t share your work and get support for your ideas as you go along. You may also become frustrated when people don’t embrace your solutions and recommendations – which were carefully constructed, but may seem to have come out of left field when they are finally unveiled to your stakeholders.
I often hear introverted skeptics express their frustration like this: “I’m not viewed as a strong contributor, because I’m labeled as negative or don’t speak enough in meetings. Of course, I don’t speak. No one is listening. I do great work and spend a lot of time doing things right, but I don’t get credit for the extras I contribute. Meanwhile, people who brag about lesser work and constantly kiss up get the promotions.”
As an introverted skeptic, you tend to toil in solitude, immerse yourself in the challenge at hand, and build a solution block by block. It’s likely you find this type of work exhilarating and working collectively to be tiring – so you may hesitate to present updates or seek feedback until you’ve addressed every last issue and question. Like many of us, you’re inclined to spend more time on the tasks you love and less on the stuff that’s unpleasant.
Professional success, however, often requires the steps you tend to avoid when it comes to showing your work and lauding your own efforts
In coaching sessions, introverted skeptics often identify their communication style as an underlying cause of challenges on the job. The good news is there are three simple, repeatable steps that will help you properly show your work and thrive professionally.
1. Engage stakeholders
With each new undertaking, determine who may ultimately be affected by the work you’re doing, who will have meaningful insights or points of view, and whose approval or help is required. Determine which relationships need to be managed – up, down, and sideways.
Commit to providing regular updates – even when there’s not much to report. This will keep your work top-of-mind among stakeholders, make them part of the project, and build understanding and buy-in.
2. Give your work a voice
Before you start work, share what you’re thinking and your proposed plan of action. This can be a simple email to those directly affected or, for large or complex projects, might warrant a group call or a presentation to your organization’s leadership. Ask for input regarding your approach, timing, and other considerations.
The bottom line is this: Your work doesn’t have a voice. It relies on you to share its value. Think of it like an uninterpreted data set that needs to be organized into a story to be understood and appreciated. When you keep that story to yourself, no one sees the value you create and your work won’t achieve its full potential.
3. Listen with an open mind
Be sincere when you ask for and evaluate input. Don’t let your skepticism close your mind and learn to value different perspectives. Incorporating good ideas, and even so-so ones, into your work will give your colleagues a stake in the project and ultimately improve the final product.
On the other hand, work completed in isolation, even great work, will have less impact and do less to bolster your reputation. Share your work, share the results, learn lessons from the process, and share those, too.
With these simple steps, you give people the opportunity to see what you’re doing, understand why you’re doing it, and help you succeed. Your work will be aligned with other efforts and the organization’s overall strategy – so it can have more impact. Showing your work will showcase your initiative and talent, grow your reputation as a collaborative team player, and increase appreciation for your contributions.
Beki Fraser is a certified business and leadership coach who worked 15 years as an HR leader for a variety of companies. She holds an MBA from the Yale School of Management. Learn more on her website.