As an introvert, it can be tempting to avoid working with extroverts, especially if we have had a bad experience in the past. The fear, often, is that we won’t be able to make our voice heard. But extroverts do possess useful qualities that introverts find challenging. In this article, Marcia describes two situations where she collaborated with extroverts.
~ Julia Barnickle
Can introverts and extroverts collaborate productively, joining forces to achieve results they wouldn’t have accomplished on their own? Two cases in point: one that imploded and another that generated a win-win. I have changed the names of those involved.
“Let’s Start a Company”
I met Rachel, a writer like me, at an artist colony. Rachel was a tornado of enthusiasm who swept others into her funnel – even an introvert like me, who tends to hang back until I trust someone. After we became friends, Rachel described her dream of presenting business writing seminars. She argued that the need existed, that she had contacts who would turn into clients and that we would prosper as a team. At first I said no, but her whirlwind of positive energy convinced me.
We signed an office lease and landed two seminar projects right away through Rachel’s contacts. We designated Rachel as company president and me as vice-president, as I didn’t mind being the backstage manager. Rachel did the talking when reporters called because of press releases I’d written. At her request, I took care of the proofreading and accounting.
“Haven’t you always wanted to start a company?” she asked me one day. “No? Really?”
After the first few months, Rachel confessed that she wasn’t sure where to turn next for prospects. Most months, our company income was higher than expenses, but twice I had to bail us out to make the rent. Rachel lived month to month, with no credit cards, and had been behind for years on her student loans.
It took me a year and a half to realize that everything that Rachel did for our company, I was also capable of doing, but the reverse wasn’t true. She talked a great game, but way more income was coming in from promotions I wrote than from her schmoozing. We limped on together until our two-year lease finished, then dissolved the partnership. Our friendship dissolved as well.
“Let’s Write a Book”
MaryAnne was an outgoing, established professional who coached business people on their speaking skills and had an idea for a book that would incorporate her knowledge. Would I be interested in co-authoring it? I thought her book idea had merit. With the help of my literary agent, we secured a decent contract offer.
We made steady progress on schedule toward the contractual book deadline. MaryAnne was upbeat, pleasant and completely reliable, and I enjoyed cooperating with her. She had a short attention span, but she had accommodated that both in designing the book to have unusually brief chapters and in giving me just four or five pages of notes for those little chapters every week.
Like Rachel, MaryAnne wasn’t a detail person, but she always helped me clarify whatever I didn’t understand from her notes. We met the deadline with a manuscript that our editor liked, and the book made a big splash, with a two-day auction for paperback reprint rights, translations into French and Japanese and an appearance for MaryAnne on the Oprah Winfrey show.
MaryAnne couldn’t have done this without someone like me. She lacked knowledge and contacts in the world of publishing and the skills to refine what she knew into smoothly polished prose. We each earned six figures from our cooperation. We stay in touch from time to time and wish each other well.
Red Flags and Green Flags
Interestingly, my first response to Rachel’s invitation to collaborate was no, and my initial instinct for MaryAnne’s proposal was cautiously positive. I think I knew intuitively that Rachel was roping me into a scheme of hers while MaryAnne was suggesting something mutually beneficial. My intuitive “no” to Rachel was a first red flag. I never stopped to ask why it was important to Rachel to convince me to join forces with her before she started the seminar company.
A second red flag was that Rachel made money decisions that were foreign to me. She was extremely casual about owing money to the government and to other people When the business was out of cash, it unfairly fell to me to make good on the shortfall. I now believe that how people handle money signifies much about their character generally.
The third red flag had to do directly with extrovert/introvert stereotypes. We fell into a division of labor in accordance with our respective personalities. Because she was effusive in her manner and could talk to anyone about anything, both she and I wrongly believed that she was a natural at sales. In fact, I had a far better track record of convincing people to invest money in projects than she did.
Whereas with Rachel I mistook personal magnetism for social competence, with MaryAnne the green flags included indicators of actual competence and responsibility. MaryAnne had a realistic sense of business from having had to fill her coaching calendar through hustle and good work. Publishing a book was a goal of hers, but she didn’t need me to buy into her dream – another green flag.
And finally, MaryAnne’s extroversion took the form of being friendly and funny, while Rachel’s energy was overwhelming. The sheer volume of Rachel’s gusto, along with her ability to talk about things she actually knew little about, had a dominating impact on someone more reserved, like me. When MaryAnne was excited about something with me, I never felt like I had to extract myself from her influence afterwards.
The lessons for how introverts and extroverts can successfully team up well in business include:
- Listen to your intuition – the part of you that knows, even though you don’t know how you know.
- Avoid basing your expectations on personality stereotypes and assumptions. These played a major part in dooming my partnership with Rachel.
- Make sure neither of you is attempting to cover up a lack or to reach success on the back of someone else. Weaknesses need to be out in the open.
- As an introvert, you may be vulnerable to getting snowed by extroverted enthusiasm. Watch out for that.
About the author
Marketing expert and author Marcia Yudkin is a fierce advocate for introverts, showing them how to claim their talents and strengths while rejecting the culture’s emphasis on hype, manipulation and ego. She is the author of “6 Steps to Free Publicity”, “Persuading People to Buy” and numerous other books, as well as the ebook, audiobook and online course “Marketing for Introverts” all of which are available via her website http://www.yudkin.com