When Bombas CEO Dave Heath walks into a room, he commands attention and authority. With a deeply empathetic and engaging presence, he makes you feel strangely relaxed and energized at the same time.
The only problem right now for Dave and other extroverted leaders like him is that during this global pandemic, there are no physical rooms to be walking into. With most companies putting off coming back into the office until early 2021 at the earliest, and others like Twitter saying employees can work remotely forever, leaders who became reliant pre-COVID on their charisma to influence and inspire their employees are having to retool and rethink their leadership style.
Through our work leading one of Silicon Valley’s top Executive Coaching firms, we have had our share of introverted clients who sought to learn to “sparkle” like their more extroverted colleagues. Yet, faced with the prospect of many more months (and potentially years) of remote work, it is now the more extroverted leaders who are seeking to redefine what it means for them to lead in this new reality.
Here is what seems to be working for them:
Adopt a growth mindset about what effective leadership looks like
The primary impediment facing extroverted leaders who seek to adapt their style to a new reality is the story they tell themselves about what effective leadership looks like. They are hammers walking around looking for nails. This type of “fixed mindset” thinking keeps leaders stuck.
Carol Dweck, whose research on Growth Mindset has changed how we think about intelligence and talent, says, “Important achievements require clear focus, all-out effort, and a bottomless trunk of strategies.” If extroverted leaders see themselves as having a bottomless trunk of leadership styles and believe in their own ability to adapt, they will be able to shift into a growth mindset and prime themselves to get out of their comfort zones as leaders.
Remind us all why we’re here . . . over and over again
In Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage, he suggests the first question every team must ask itself is “Why do we exist?”
When you were all in the same space, your team was reminded in both subtle and overt ways many times a day “why we exist.” The mission statement was written on the wall. Posters of client stories hung in the lunchroom. A digital dashboard sharing the latest stats about your impact was in the lobby.
Now, more than ever, your team needs to be reminded why they exist. They must feel unified by a sense of shared purpose and mission. Yet, working remotely, far from the daily reminders, your employees are getting almost none of that.
Our clients are having success in this arena by dedicating a portion of every all-hands to sharing stories about how the company is delivering on the Mission, and not just on sales numbers. They are inviting customers to give testimonials live to the whole team. They are giving team members the chance to call out each other for going above and beyond in service of the mission.
Our client Didier Elzinga, CEO of CultureAmp, harnesses his extroverted and charismatic style by doing a weekly short video to reinforce the vision, mission, and values of the organization in a very compelling way. His continuous reminder of WHY is always front and center. Their own employee engagement survey data has shown that his weekly videos are critical in aligning and motivating people during these uncertain times.
Be a receiver, not a broadcaster
Introverts lead in quiet ways. They choose more intimate interactions, either one-on-one, or in small groups. They are not always speaking on every topic but when they do, their words carry great power and credibility.
In our coaching of extroverts around how they interact with their teams, we often help them do less “Broadcasting” and more “Receiving.”
It’s important in group calls for leaders to allow the silent spaces to be filled by others. Extroverted leaders often take up too much air time when in person, but the virtual Zoom meeting gives extroverts a chance to step back and practice more balance between talking and listening.
Introverted leaders opt for smaller groups or one-on-ones with people lower in the organization to see how they are doing and get input. These more intimate affairs will give you the chance to tailor your message and tone to the individuals, to answer questions, and, most importantly, keep individuals from tuning out and “multitasking.” You should be selective in your choice of these one-on-ones and focus on those individuals who appear more disconnected and isolated and are in greater need of support.
Name what’s hard
It’s instinctive to want to “put on your best face” for your team, but Brené Brown’s ground breaking research has shown how important vulnerability is for leaders to build trust and be seen as more human by their teams. This flies in the face of the instinctively more brash and bold style of more extroverted leaders.
By naming what’s going on for you personally, you drop the veil and allow your teams to see you as more human, more flawed, and more real. This helps them feel validated and seen by their leader, and ultimately engenders greater loyalty. While leaders should always avoid showing panic, which can lead to a stampede of fear among their reports, showing a little bit of your humanity and fallibility let’s everyone else feel like it’s ok not being perfect too.
Certainly, there are myriad other ways charismatic leaders can adapt their style to the new semipermanent work-from-home environment, but this is what we’re seeing is working with our clients right now. First, get honest about what’s holding you back. Then, get clear and remind the team why we are all doing this. Next, do your best to get in touch with your team members in smaller and more impactful ways. And finally, get real about what’s going on for you. Get honest, get clear, get in touch, and get real.
Hopefully, this simple recipe will help you make the transition from wasting your energy wishing you were back together in the office, to focusing your time on adapting your style to a new reality.
Edward Sullivan and John Baird are respectively the CEO and Chairman of Velocity Group, a leading executive coaching firm with operations in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and London. They are also authors of the upcoming book The Power of Insight, which will be released by Harper Collins in 2021.