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Thursday, October 2, 2008

BIZ TIP: EMBRACE Your Inner Introvert!

BIZ TIP: EMBRACE Your Inner Introvert!

by Kelly Bennett, WORLDPAC Training Institute (WTI) Business Development Instructor

In this series of fictional letters from a new shop owner to his former boss, WTI management trainer Kelly Bennett discusses basic business principles that apply to the automotive repair industry.

EMBRACE Your Inner Introvert discusses how introvert and extrovert brains work differently, and the importance of knowing which one you've got!

Dear Kelly.

Yesterday I caught myself rolling my eyes at a customer’s question. She didn’t see me, thank goodness! But this was just after I yelled at the guys in the back to stop bugging me so much, and I suddenly realized how impatient I can be. I mean, I get really sick of dealing with people, and sometimes I just need a break. I guess I am not the people person I thought I was. So here’s my question. Do you think maybe I’m not cut out for this business after all? What kind of a shop owner could I be if I just want to be left alone sometimes?


Dear Erol:

You’d be a normal shop owner, that’s what! I think you’re being a little hard on yourself, Erol. I’ve seen you in action, and you’re great with people. But everyone needs some down time. That’s normal.

Rather than trying to figure out whether you’re a ‘people person,’ I think you ought to ask yourself if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. Most people think they know where they fall on that scale. Some would be wrong.

I’m reading a book right now that is blowing my mind. It’s one of those that you wish you’d read before you went into business for yourself. It’s called The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, by Marti Olsen Laney. Here’s how I came to read that book. I was visiting my friends Shane and Sandy, and while I was there, Sandy casually mentioned that she thought I was an introvert. I have to tell you, Erol, I was a little offended. I’ve always thought introverts lacked confidence and social skills. I know I’m no Anthony Robbins, but I sure knew I wasn’t an introvert! Besides, research shows that shop owners tend to be ‘socializers’ and ‘drivers’ (remember that personality test I gave you a few months ago?

We like people, we like being helpful, and we like to socialize . . . a lot! I was certain that I was an extrovert, just like all of my shop owner friends. But when I asked Shane what he thought about his wife’s insult to me, he said, “Absolutely, you’re an introvert.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. And a few tests later (including one from Laney’s book in which I scored 27 out of 29) it is confirmed. I am an introvert. I’m still in shock!

But what I’ve been learning has helped me immeasurably at work. The simple fact is that introvert brains and extrovert brains work very differently. And it’s important to know which brain we’ve got so we can avoid activities that cause us to get stressed and, ultimately, to burn out.

Probably the biggest difference between introverts and extroverts is how we recharge our batteries. Extroverts do it in social situations. They get energized at parties. Introverts do it on their own.

They get drained at parties. That certainly resonated with me. Yes, I like people. And, yes, I like my customers. And I really like my team. But I can’t be around them all the time. I get exhausted after a while and I find reasons to excuse myself. I never realized I was just getting away in order to regroup and recharge.

Now it’s obvious. I’m an introvert. So how does that affect my business? Well, it won’t hurt my business – as long as I’m aware of the fact, and I limit those situations that make me uncomfortable or cause me stress. When I start to get that nagging feeling that it’s time for me to get away, I listen to it. Introverts are not like cars with an alternator that allows them to recharge their batteries while they’re going 80 km-h. And they’re not like those fancy jets which can refuel in mid-air. In their attempts to keep up with extroverts, a lot of introverts end up running on fumes.

So here are a few things I do to help me recharge:
  1. I always leave the shop for lunch. Always. I sometimes have to force myself because it feels like I’m abandoning my employees, but the change of scenery does me good. I’ve even asked the techs to put their tools down at lunchtime. Some of them get so focused they just want to finish the job and they end up eating in the bay. I don’t think that’s healthy. I’ve fixed up the lunch room so it’s a comfortable place for the technicians to hang out, and we’re building a library of DVDs for them to watch together. As for me, I’m close enough to my home that I can make a quick lunch for myself there, have a power nap and a shower, and come back to the shop completely refreshed and ready for the rest of the day.

  2. I bought some noise-canceling headsets so that when the world presses in too close, I can put on my favorite music and completely withdraw into my own world. You’d be surprised how efficient I can be, working away at my desk, with no outside distractions. Sometimes people have to wave a flag to get my attention.

  3. I use books as a recalibration tool whenever I get stressed at work. I set aside some time every day to read. It may be only 15 or 20 minutes, but books can help melt my stress away. They get me to focus on something else besides my business.

  4. I take time outs whenever I really need one. Last week I was watching my son's basketball team in the dying minutes of a very close game. With less than two minutes left on the clock, they were just a couple points down. Whenever they scored, the other team matched them. His team just couldn’t get ahead, and the players were starting to get desperate. The coach saw this and called for his last time out. My son told me later he just wanted everyone to take a breath and get focused. You know, it worked. They ended up winning by four points! There’s nothing wrong with taking a time out when you need it.
The more introverted you are, the more you need to do what I’m talking about here. Introverts need to recharge their batteries away from people . . . and it sounds like you haven’t been getting a chance to do that.

I’ve learned to embrace my inner introvert. We can do everything an extrovert can do . . . we just prefer to do it by ourselves sometimes.

- Kelly

To learn more about Kelly Bennett's Business Development Classes, visit the WORLDPAC Training Institute (WTI).

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