In our working lives it seems as though it’s always the charismatic talkers who get on. We reward loud creativity in brainstorms and focus on the types who say things like “I’ll be project manager Lord Sugar!” This isn’t the only way to go, argues Susan Cain, author of new book Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking. We caught up with Susan to hear more about her ideas.
WHY OPEN-PLAN WORKING COULD BE BAD FOR YOU
The vast majority of offices are now open plan. We’re meant to have brilliant ideas by chatting across desks and running into each other in the kitchen: we circulate in the office, increase the number of chance encounters and have more eureka moments. “I think this is a faulty belief,” says Cain. “Open-plan space doesn’t allow for any respite and can be downright hostile. They can make you sick, literally, with everyone’s colds circulating, and emotionally, there’s nowhere to stop, to hide or to think. I believe open-plan actually stops us being as productive as we can be.”
NOT AL THE BEST MANAGERS ARE OUTGOING
“Everyone thinks you need to be an extrovert to be a manager, that you must be bold and dynamic,” says Cain. “Actually introverted mangers are more likely to hear employees out and to let them run with their ideas. William McKnight was the CEO of a company called 3M and he famously said: ‘Hire good people and leave them alone.’ 3M employees were all allowed time to pursue personal projects. One of them invented the Post-It note.”
CHANGE YOUR WORK TO SUIT YOUR TEMPERAMENT
You probably have a strong sense of how introverted or extroverted you are, and in what situations these aspects of your personality come into play. You may already be in a job that suits your temperament, but it is possible to remake your job in your own image. “I used to be a corporate lawyer,” says Cain. “And I found staying quiet and listening during negotiations could really pay off.” She also mentions the celebrated journalist Joan Didion, who found that people would talk more to a shy and quiet reporter, just to fill the silence.
TEAM UP WITH YOUR OPPOSITE TYPE
At work, and even in relationships, it can help to team up with someone of the opposite type. “Look at Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg,” says Cain of the CEO and chief operating officer of Facebook. “Zuckerberg is an amazing product developer, but didn’t like going out and talking. So he hired Sandberg to do it for him. That worked out pretty well.”