Introversion: Reflections on Susan Cain's "Quiet"
Colin Johnson, BEd - Director of Operations
"What I have taken away from Susan’s book is an appreciation of the different working styles of people. The books and my personal reflections on it have shown me that as a manager
there is not a one-size fits all solution for managing your team."
When I started reading Quiet by Susan Cain (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012) I was drawn in quickly to the descriptions and stories that she told and how reflective they were of my own experiences. I was impacted argument that an introverted manager will manage people differently than an extroverted manager would manage people. The ideas discussed in Quiet helped to explain many of the aspects of my experiences as an employee under extroverted managers and introverted managers.
I was exposed to number of new perspectives in Quiet that gave me a new frame through which to think about learning style and management. It was quite interesting to read about the historical shift from the culture of character to the culture of personality where, Cain argues, extroversion became the desirable personality type. It was also interesting to learn that this personality type comes from the traits that make an ideal salesperson. What I found central to my enjoyment of the book was the way that introverts and extroverts tend to manage differently. Extroverts, according to Cain, are most likely to manage others by providing detailed instructions and processes showing how to complete tasks while introverts tend to assign tasks, giving their employees freedom to question the process and find new ways to accomplish the tasks.
As I thought back to my jobs in the past, the lessons that I took from Susan Cain’s book helped me to make all of the pieces fit together and explained why I felt so fulfilled in some of my roles and stifled in others. I graduated from university with a teaching degree and immediately moved into a teaching position at a high school in New York. The climate of the district at the time was one of teaching so that students could receive the best results on standardized
tests, which was translated to me as teach according to a set of lesson plans for the year that were provided to me.
While many young teachers (and even some experienced ones) might find this structure very useful, I felt that all I was doing was following a set of instructions. I craved an opportunity to write my own lessons and to engage with my students in a learning process that I could bring to life. After leaving teaching, I took a job working in a call centre in the financial services industry. Now, this may not come to mind as one of the jobs that people might find fulfilling, but for a number of key reasons it was very fulfilling to me. Although there was a great deal of process and routine in the day-to-day work that I did, the employer had created programs that allowed employees to engage in projects, learning and other opportunities to allow them to gain new skills. I worked under a number of managers who encouraged me to use these programs and the projects allowed me not only to develop my skills through learning, but also to question practices by suggesting improvements to the work that we did. I was able to engage in a self-directed way that kept me satisfied and engaged.
What I have taken away from Susan’s book is an appreciation of the different working styles of people. The book and my personal reflections on it have shown me that as a manager there is not a one-size fits all solution for managing your team. I believe that management is as much about process as it is about people, and applying the concepts in this book allows me to build stronger connections with my employees and get different perspectives on the way we work.