Business Development

How Introverts Can Build Business Without Burnout

By Anusia Gillespie, JD, MBA
The key to maximizing our talents is for us all to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that is right for us.
Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts.

60% of attorneys are introverts.[1]

First, what is introversion, exactly? It is not “shyness.” The difference between introversion and extroversion (or “extraversion,” whatever your preference) lies in where a person turns for stimulation. Introverts get gratification from their own interests, thoughts, and feelings. They turn to their own mental life for stimulation. Extroverts, on the other hand, crave and are energized by large amounts of external stimuli. The introverted nature of most attorneys is an asset in their legal work, but can prove challenging when it comes to marketing functions. The standard business development practice to attend networking events and accept speaking opportunities is uncomfortable for introverts. And, more importantly, it is physically draining. Why would you engage in activities that leave you drained and distracted from your real work?

To highlight the stark contrast between the experience of an extrovert and an introvert in performing the same marketing activity, consider the following example.

I am 75% extroverted and 25% introverted. (True stat.)

I participated on a career panel with the General Counsel of a prominent juice company a couple of years ago. In the chitchat that takes place before such things begin, the GC remarked that he would have to nap that afternoon. I quickly imagined that he had been up until the early hours of the morning for work and was consequently exhausted. But, no, he was well rested.

So why would he need a nap?

He went on to explain that “these types of things” absolutely drain him. He needs solitude in the hours after a speaking engagement to recharge. I was so struck by this.

Me? The excitement (read external stimulation) would fuel me for the rest of the day. I could already feel the energy I was absorbing from simply sitting in the chair waiting for the panel discussion to begin. I was recharging right then!

This contrast demonstrates why it is so important to know which activities fuel you, and which drain you, so that you can organize your business development activities to play to your strengths and avoid burnout. If you know you’re an introvert and feel stuck in the rut of mainstream extroverted activities, consider shifting away from:

  1. Networking events to small dinners with strategic connections;
  2. Speaking on panels to writing for a well-respected journal, blog, or other publication; and
  3. Engaging in activities where the focus is on you (for example, podcasts) to creating forums where you can shine through asking thoughtful questions (for example, being the moderator on a panel).

As the adage goes, growth lies at the edge of discomfort. So, test the waters. But, be sure to note whether your marketing activities rev you up or down, and consistently opt for the energizing choice.

[1] Gordon, Leslie A. “Most Lawyers Are Introverted, and That’s Not Necessarily a Bad Thing.” ABA Journal. N.p., n.d. Web.