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Introverted? Turn it into an asset

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Do you tend to eschew the limelight, think before you speak or feel most ener­gized by spending time alone?

In a 2006 survey by TheLadders.com, 65% of senior managers said that introversion was an impediment to reaching higher management levels.

That finding is easily debunkable.

Introverts can be better bosses, especially in a dynamic and unpredictable environment, reports Adam M. Grant of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, who studies this topic.

Here’s how a few well-known introverts have turned those supposed career deficits into assets.

1. Stake out a speaking venue in advance. Campbell Soup Co. CEO Douglas Conant wrote in a blog post that he’s an introvert who sometimes feels drained appearing “in front of large groups of people I don’t know.”

Solution: He eases jitters by visiting a venue ahead of time, plotting out where he’ll stand, and bringing along a buddy who’s familiar with the locale.

2. Accept coaching from colleagues and advisors. The introverted Ian Cook, chief of Colgate-Palmolive Co., believes his strong listening skills played a role in his steady advancement.

“I listen intently,” he says. “I am extremely attentive to body cues.”

What he didn’t excel at? Addressing large groups of staffers—until colleagues coached him toward improvement.

“Unshackling from the podium was a defining moment,” he says. “I had to learn.”

3. Navigate awkward situations by enlisting assistance from extroverted associates.

Take Tim Miller, chief executive of Rally Software Development Corp. He once tried to convince an investor group to pour $10 million into his fledgling business. Their response to his pitch: “All steak, no sizzle.”

“I didn’t create the excitement that they were used to seeing from an extroverted, more flamboyant CEO,” he says.

So he went back a week later, this time with Rally’s extroverted founder and the top sales official. He wanted the investors “to see that the whole team wasn’t introverts.” Rally got the $10 million.

— Adapted from “Introverted Execs Find Ways to Shine,” Joann S. Lublin, The Wall Street Journal.

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