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7 Points of Advice for Board Introverts

Advances in the art and science of human psychology in recent years have shown us that it is folly to try and subvert one’s personality type, learning style, energy level, and so on in an attempt to try to squeeze out more productivity. If anything, this type of practice only amounts to a kind of self-torture that wise and responsible people could not advocate with a clear conscience.

This could not be more true for the introverted personality. Such persons are energized by time alone. They prefer to listen more than they speak. The most talented and intelligent introverts will listen long and hard, develop insights that others forgo in the name of appearing engaged and in control – then, the introvert will hit us with stunning insights that no one expected. If you find this describes you, rejoice because this is not a weakness but a strength. If you can make the most of your personality type, you will find yourself stronger, happier, and better appreciated among your peers and colleagues.

Here, we will discuss ways the introverted board member can be more effective and contribute valued insights while avoiding the dangerous appearance of having nothing to say.

7 Points of Advice for Board Introverts

Just as you wouldn’t take a luxury car into the mud and you wouldn’t use a toaster to bake a cake, you should not expect an introvert to use her or his brain the way an extrovert would. As an introvert, your first task will be to understand your strengths.

Know your strengths

As individuals, some environments give us mental energy and others drain it. As an introvert, complex and informal social interactions drain your mental energy. Quality one-on-one interactions give you energy, and low-quality interactions drain you. Once you know and accept this about yourself, you can save your mental energy for the times when you need it most, and avoid excessive time in large group settings. Thankfully, a well-organized meeting is a lot like a one-on-one interaction since members take turns talking. That means it’s your time to shine.

Know your weaknesses

Sometimes you will need to attend social functions. You can do this and be fine as long as you know your limits and don’t push yourself too far. Understand that your lower tolerance for big groups in an informal setting will weigh heavily on you if you are not careful. Excuse yourself before you become irritable.

Be a pressure cooker, not a microwave

Understand that you tend to listen, process, and then deliver more valuable insights. You are more of a sniper than a brawler. When you speak, your thinking style will serve you best when your thoughts are well-considered and fully seasoned. So, save your speech for when it counts, but do not let a meeting go by without sharing your thoughts. Because you don’t talk much, you must show that you do have something to say. Keep this up, and you will become known for your well-seasoned insights rather than for your jargon-laden “thought leadership.”

Make wise use of infotech

Because you recover in solitude, use some of your free time to offer valuable communications to your team. You may become responsible for setting the agenda for future meetings as this would suit you well.

Gravitate towards those who appreciate you

Some people will appreciate your style of thinking and sharing and some will not. Those who do not can no more learn to appreciate introversion than you can learn to become an extrovert- which is to say, to a limited extent.

Don’t let anxiety rule your mental life

Introverts tend to be more sensitive to negative emotions than extroverts. They tend to have a louder and more persistent inner voice than others. This can be a good thing, and it can also be a mental health nightmare. If you have persistent negative thoughts, treat them like you would a colleague. Listen to them when they are right. Ignore them when they are repetitive, and put them in their place when they overstep their bounds. Remember, you are not your persistent thoughts. They are a passive mental process that you must learn to live with- but they are not who you are.

Develop key insights in your private time

It may take time to get your team to understand and appreciate that your introversion means fewer but higher quality insights. Therefore, it would be wise to do some of your mental labor on your own time. Take at least 10 minutes each workday to sit alone and think constructively about problems and concerns related to your organization. Write your insights down, and be ready to share them at the next meeting.

Here at Boardable, our goal is to help all boards function better and get more out of their efforts. That includes helping the introverts to be better appreciated and to use their insights strategically, to earn the respect they deserve. Stay tuned for more valuable insights into this important area of board development.


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