Self-Advocacy as an Introverted Leader

On this week’s episode of Daring to Succeed, I talk about 3 practical strategies for self-advocacy as an introverted leader:

  • Being strategic about the work you volunteer for
  • Finding ways to demonstrate your past experience when making recommendations, and
  • Declining so-called opportunities that don’t showcase your leadership skills

Have a topic you’d like to hear about? DM me on LinkedIn!

Episode Transcript

Hello and welcome to the Daring to Succeed podcast. My name is Juliana Yau Yorgan and I’m a career coach who helps introverts succeed in the workplace by unleashing their introvert superpowers.

Today I’m going to talk about three practical strategies for self-advocacy as an introverted leader. This was a topic that was suggested by one of my listeners. And it’s such an important one because, as you know, Self-advocacy is critical to your progression as a leader. As introverts, self-advocacy can also be uncomfortable, whether it’s because we don’t like being in the spotlight or simply don’t like talking about ourselves. So let’s get to it. The first way to self-advocate is to strategically volunteer for stretch assignments and shared work.

Rather than just volunteering for easy things like taking meeting minutes or social things like organizing a potluck, if your company even still does those I guess, make your volunteer opportunity something meaningful that can highlight a skill that you have that also has business impact. The key here is to figure out what skills you have and want to highlight, and then volunteer that skill so you can showcase it to people outside of your immediate team.

For example, I worked with a manager who was trying to move into her first director position. Although her boss was super supportive of her move, her boss’s boss didn’t think she was ready yet. We figured out that her boss’s boss was worried that she could only lead projects, but not plan strategically. Well, that wasn’t the case, but we did need to make sure that she could show it.

So we created a plan for her to volunteer to help her boss with their team’s planning of both the staffing and their upcoming work. This not only gave her hands-on experience, but because her boss was supportive of the help, she also made sure that my client was known for the one doing the work herself. So the next time there was a director position, she was actually asked by her boss’s boss to apply because he knew that she was already ready. And of course, she got the job.

But what if your boss isn’t as supportive as my client’s boss?

That’s where the second strategy comes into play. Directly sharing your accomplishments as a leader. This can often be the trickiest strategy for an introvert to implement because bragging feels so uncomfortable for us. So rather than just boasting about yourself when you introduce yourself or trying to like force it into the conversation, find meaningful ways to highlight your past experience when you make recommendations and suggestions. This can be when you’re working with a team of peers or with leaders who are more senior to you.

So rather than just simply suggesting an action, draw in your past experience to get more context to it. For example, I worked with someone who was trying to move into leadership, but everyone just saw her as like a specialist or a knowledge worker. To turn that perception around, I coached her on demonstrating her past leadership experience when she was sharing her ideas.

So rather than just saying something like, “we should meet with the legal team to review these documents together.” what she did was she drew from her past experience to round it out and added something like,

“When I did this before with another team, we also thought that reviewing these documents separately would be more efficient. We ended up doubling the time we needed instead because first we had to review them separately, then we had to review them together with legal. Here’s how we could do it together…”

When delivered factually, bringing your past experience can highlight experience that other people may not be aware you have, and that’s really what you want to do. And then because you’re talking about it in relationship to work that’s happening right now, it’s relevant and it doesn’t feel so out of place.

It also anchors your suggestion more firmly and makes it harder for other people to claim the suggestion because you’ve got that story behind it. And that’s exactly what it did for my client. By doing this consistently, she was able to share her experience with other leaders that she worked with without having to set up coffee chats or ask for their time or make it feel really boastful because it was so out of place.

So she was able to turn around that perception of her and she landed her first leadership drill because of it. And then the third way to self-advocate as an introverted leader is actually to decline opportunities that don’t serve you. So while you’re looking for stretch assignments that can actually help your progression, you also need to make time and energy to do those things by turning down the opportunities that don’t showcase your leadership skills.

There’s a few ways you can do this. One is what I call the exchange. So declining the lower value work that you’ve been volunteered for and offer instead to do something that is a better return on your investment of time or energy. Taking the meeting minute example again, if you get volunteered to do something like that, which is a very classic low level office housework task.

You can offer that the meeting be transcribed using built-in software and instead you can facilitate the discussion itself. This way you’re not seen as just like secretary or somebody in a more junior position and by facilitating the conversation you step into more of a leadership role.

Another way to decline things that are not going to help your career is to teach rather than to do. So as an example, when I moved from a project lead role to a manager then director, I often had peers try to use flattery to try and get me to create project plans for them. So not only was it insulting that they thought my project management work could be reduced to a checklist.

But I also needed to be seen as a leader, not a project manager. So rather than creating the project plan for them, I offered to show them how to do it themselves. And I pitched that as, well, this is a really good skill set that you can learn and I can help you with that instead of actually just creating the plan. And because I was still offering to help, it didn’t feel like I was being unhelpful.

And because it was work for them they usually found someone else to do it. So you can think of some of these ways to exchange what they’re volunteering you to do or asking you to do, and kind of turning it around to an opportunity where you can either showcase more of your leadership skills or turn it around and teach them how to do the thing rather than doing it yourself.

So that’s it. Three ways to advocate yourself towards a promotion as an introverted leader include

1. being strategic about the work you volunteer for

2. finding ways to demonstrate your past experience when you’re making recommendations and

3. declining these so-called opportunities that don’t actually showcase your leadership skills

I hope you found this helpful and if you have a topic you’d like to hear about feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn about it and I’ll link to my profile in the show notes. Okay, that’s it for now and I’ll see you next time.

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