4 Strategies For A Quiet Leader

written by Erica Quam

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One of the questions I often get at my coaching summits is, "Can I be a successful coach and still be an introvert?"

My answer? Absolutely. 

I really believe the more authentic you are the less energy it takes.

Being a coach is a big job already! Trying to be someone you're not will leave you overwhelmed and exhausted. 

Now, there are times when all coaches have to step out of their comfort zone and adapt their behavior - to be effective.

However, if you're always striving to please your athletes, be someone you're not, or simply trying to fit a mold of who you think you should be...you're gonna burn out.

Here are four strategies to honor your introvert and be highly successful:

1. INTENTION

If you've ever read my articles before, you know I'm a big believer in setting intentions. As a coach, you're going to be stepping up and putting your voice out there a lot more - coaching your athletes, talking to parents, working with your staff, etc.

Set an intention ahead of time and choose who you want to be in these moments. This step can be as simple as choosing one word that describes what you'd like to embody: bold, confident, strong, authentic, or just be myself.

If you aren’t setting an intention, often times you are left to react in the moment.

It’s easy to overreact in the moment and then situations can spiral downwards.

Have you ever found yourself reacting to something before you have all of the information?

Old patterns and stories of what's happened in the past may trigger you go into situations with that little voice in your head saying, "Here we go again” or “this always happens” or "this is way too hard" or "here we go again."

Setting an intention will help you re-program that little voice inside your head - to tell it, "I can do this." "I am going to do this." "I'm all in."

Your intention changes everything!

2. PREPARATION

Preparation will allow you to nurture your nature. 

Preparation is crucial for everyone...especially for introverts.

Here's why: coaching is all about relationships and connecting with people. This can take a lot of energy for introverts. 

Plan ahead and have a few questions in your back pocket - to ask other people. This will help you get other person talking. It'll take the pressure off of you and put the emphasis on them. (And people love to talk about themselves!) You can own the conversation and connect with people at a deeper level.

So, before you go on the road to recruit, out to a fundraising event, or anywhere you have to mingle and network...prepare three key questions you can ask someone.

Make these questions meaningful for you - so you can be engaged as an active listener. Then, it's a win-win situation for you!

You can even do this when you're working directly with your athletes.

I've worked with a lot of coaches who feel pressured to provide "the right answer" or be expected to "fix" the situation on the spot.

Buy yourself a little more time by asking questions and listening. When you respond, use their words in your response. "So, I really hear that you think._______. I understand you feel _______. Why don't you try _______"

This will allow you more time and help you to formulate your response. By summarizing what they said to you they will feel listened to and better understood by you.

3. EXPANSION

You may have a lot of resistance surrounding the stories you've told yourself for a long time about your introverted-ness. It’s easy to stay tucked in a nice comfort zone.

How can you expand out of your comfort zone to learn and grow?

Expanding can be as simple as:

  • go first in a group - when you usually go last

  • say something that's on your mind - rather than waiting to see if anyone else will bring it up

  • do a little more talking - instead of more listening

It's great to stretch beyond your norms. Get out of your default-mode. That's where real transformation happens!

4. PERMISSION

Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured...Spend your free the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to
— Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Just as there are times to expand, there are other times where you will need to give yourself full permission to be a total introvert!

Educate others on what you need.

Set boundaries...and don't apologize.

If you need 30 minutes in your office by yourself with your lights off...make that need known to others. 

You'll have to get out of the spotlight and be by yourself to be able to recharge. Don't worry about saying no to things.

Extroverts get refreshed by being around people.

Introverts need more downtime.

It's not that introverts don't enjoy being with other people...it's just that they replenish their energy by being by themselves.  

The bottom line?

I believe introverts can absolutely be successful coaches!

In fact, I would encourage all coaches to switch roles every once in a while to experience the benefits of "the other side".

Just be sure to play to your strengths a majority of the time.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What have you found that you need to be at your best? Share one of your insights in the comments below.