How to use introversion to drive business success

Christine D'Mello

Self-described introvert Catriona Pollard started her public relations firm CP Communications 15 years ago. She worked from a rented apartment on a borrowed computer using dial-up internet.

“I used that time to think about what I wanted to achieve and how I was going to achieve it,” she says.

Pollard says she didn’t seek out an extroverted environment. “I had come from corporate where it was all about meetings and all about talking. So much of our corporate environment is built for extroverts. And when I started my business I wanted to do it in a way that suited my personality.”

“I think that we need to change that perception. I think as introverts we need to understand that there’s a lot of skill and positive attributes that we can bring to business."

Despite being an introvert, Pollard did a TEDx talk in front of a room full of people. 

“I think we need to make sure that we push ourselves into environments that’re going to help us grow our business or help us grow as individuals.

“My TEDx [talk] is a really good example of that. I could easily have said no to that, but I chose to say yes even though it scared the hell out of me because I had something to say and I really wanted to say it on a world stage.”

I think we need to make sure that we push ourselves into environments that’re going to help us grow our business or help us grow as individuals.

Introversion to drive leadership

We all have different styles of leadership, says Pollard. “When we’re in the corporate environment we kind of get told and moulded around what type of leader is going to work best in that environment.

“But when we start our small businesses, we then have to take that responsibility on for ourselves. Because not only are you a leader when you’ve got a small business, you are everything else especially when it is new.

“As an introvert I have emotional intelligence that I can apply to leadership positions because I don’t go in with ego and I don’t go in with bravado or the person who has to talk all the time. So quite often my leadership style can be a lot more around communication and listening.”

Introversion to drive entrepreneurship

Pollard says as an introvert, she can develop very deep relationships with people

She soon realised she excelled at networking. She says she doesn’t feel the need to walk into a room full of people and be the loudest person.

“I’m really interested in having conversations with people. And so I built my business by networking and by building relationships, because I realised as an introvert that’s a core excellent skill that I had.”

Pollard says introverts are really good at asking questions and getting people to talk and “as an entrepreneur that’s an amazing skill to have”.

“Whether you’re in a sales environment, a networking environment, or trying to build relationships with people who’re going to invest in your business, the more people feel like you want to understand them and know them, the more they are going to build a relationship with you.”

As an introvert I have emotional intelligence that I can apply to leadership positions because I don’t go in with ego...

Introversion to drive business results

“From a sales perspective, I really do believe that introversion helps because to be a really good sales person is to be the person who asks the right questions and does the listening rather than the selling,” says Pollard.

From a PR perspective Pollard’s job is to get her clients out there. “I think understanding that lots of people have blocks around stepping into the spotlight, I can actually talk them through or even pre-empt what’s going on ... that’s what makes me excellent at my job.

“And it’s why clients come back to us and stay with us, because I have that insight that maybe extroverts don’t have.”

Spotlight moments

Pollard says she turned down a lot of spotlight moments before getting up on stage for the TEDx talk.

“This idea around saying yes kind of came through with my journey.”

Christine D’Mello

Christine D'Mello is a freelance journalist who writes for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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