I was working with a client recently who came to me from a referral. She said she was tired of being passed over for promotions at work. After talking with her for about 10 minutes, I could tell she was an intelligent woman who truly wanted to succeed. I could hear the frustration in her voice as she talked about how she wanted to be a leader, but felt like no one gave her a chance. She said that as an introvert, there were plenty of times she felt unnoticed at the office, as if she were just another desk or piece of furniture.
We came up with a game plan for her. Within the next day or two, we agreed that she would schedule some one on one time with her manager. During that meeting, she was to ask her manager for feedback about specific things she could do to become a high-performer at work. (By the way, this is the same method you can use for getting a raise at work. Ask for specific goals that will make you a star performer, and then knock those goals out of the park. When it comes time for your annual review, your raise should be a no-brainer.)
When I met with her again, she said her manager mentioned one crucial area where she'd like to see improvement. Based on her manager's feedback, my client was already a high-performer in the office, but lacked assertiveness. (This is probably the number ONE trait that holds so many smart men and women back from reaching their full potential.) She said that her manager wanted her to be more assertive in meetings, and to become a resource when others need help.
Introverts tend to face a lot of unconscious discrimination in corporate America. People who talk the most (extroverts) are often the ones who get promoted to management, even if they're no more knowledgeable than anyone else. I can think of many situations during my career that I've been incorrectly labeled as being aloof, unmotivated, or anti-social as an introvert. On the contrary, introverts often make great managers due to our ability to thrive in deep, one on one conversations with people.
I asked my client if she felt comfortable being more assertive. She said there were plenty of times she wanted to speak up more, but she was afraid of what people would think. There were times where she would try to be more assertive for a week or two, but eventually she would retreat back to her old behavior. She would start to question herself all over again. What if she said something that was wrong? What if she came up with an idea and people thought it was dumb?
Every morning before she left for work, she would hold the Wonder Woman/Superman pose for at least 2 minutes before walking out to her car. At some point in the middle of the workday, she would go to the bathroom or her car to hold the pose again for another 2 minutes.
Within 3 months of us working together, my client's manager started to recognize her as a reliable resource. Her manager would often ask her to provide feedback as a subject matter expert. Her colleagues also started coming to her with more questions if they needed help. A few weeks later, a consulting group was brought in to manage a huge project. Due to her expertise, she was able to provide valuable input throughout the duration of the project. At the end of the project, the consulting group was so impressed with her, they offered her a job as a consultant. In less than one year, she saw her salary increase by 30%.
What's been holding you back from your goals and dreams? What would it mean to your life if you could become more assertive and go after the life you want?