Qualities of introverts

Or: When extroverts don’t even recognize introverts. And how recognition helps with perception.

Recently, someone approached me with a statement: I’ve noticed that our best product managers tend to exhibit the traits of extroverts. I don’t think that one has to be an extrovert to be successful […]

Merely reading that, I almost exploded. After a few dasy of thinking, my response was this:

I disagree. This is the same as saying there are no women in tech simply because you are not female or don’t have a female in your team.

And I disagree again. There is at least one very extrovert person who championed an introverted person in your team towards well-recognized success (and that’s not the only example).

And yes, here’s where I agree. It’s difficult to recognize introverts. They are there when it’s quiet, showing up every day, building teams, and services that succeed. (Stereotypical) extroverts might feel more comfortable to fight fires. I wrote “The showman” about 1.5 years ago, which is slightly related to the reasoning you started.

I don’t think our company is doing a bad job compared to other companies, but we could handle “stereotypical introvert” better by setting a higher bar. A lot starts with recognition:

  • You get recognized by refactoring an API flawlessly, but you don’t get recognized to not even need that.
  • You get recognized to reduce your AWS bill by 10k, but you don’t get recognized to have chosen an economic infrastructure from day one.
  • You get recognized for a heroic effort of huge changes to bring security compliance to your services, but you don’t get recognized when it was just a little tweak to make that change.
  • You get recognized for excellent customer support, but you don’t get recognized to write clear UIs that don’t even need that type of support.
  • (The list goes on forever.)

My suggestion is to start changing who and what you recognize. Start today. Do this for a few months. You’ll see magic happening, at least within your area of influence.

And no, that doesn’t mean we should all be introverts. Same as we don’t want necessarily want a female-only organization. It’s all about individuals, recognizing their respective strengths, striving for diversity and embracing the resulting benefit, and giving everyone a fair share at the table instead of only to the loudest voice or tallest human.

Please, please do yourself a favor and look around. You’ll be amazed by what you find that will invalidate what you said.