Bring everything you are. Become everything you want.
This is how SAP invites everyone to join our company and culture. It speaks to who we are as group of people and our collective commitment to diversity. It also signals the route to success — be your true self.
However, this invitation comes with some challenges. One challenge is knowing who you are and what you want. Another challenge, specifically facing introverts, is strategically adopting extroverted behaviours while staying true to who you are.
Author and introvert, Susan Cain, has literally written the book on the latter. Integral to successfully being an introvert in an extroverted environment, such as SAP’s, is to identify and stay true to what Susan calls your core personal projects. These are the things that motivate you, re-energize you, and bring value to your life. These projects form your home base or touchstone. They are the activities you come back to after stints of pseudo-extroverted behaviour, such as making a presentation to a room full of people or participating in a multi-day workshop in another city.
Identifying core personal projects may be particularly challenging for us introverts, because we have become experts at conforming to the environment around us. Within her book, Susan identified 3 key steps to discovering your core personal projects. While re-visiting that section of the book to prepare for this blog, I reflected again on each step:
Remember what you loved to do as a child. What was the underlying impulse for you?
I wanted to be a marine biologist because I was (and still am) fascinated by sharks. For me, being a marine biologist represented intensely studying a specific topic (sharks) with a small group of like-minded people while being on or near the ocean.
Consider the types of work you gravitate to. What makes this work attractive to you?
Helping others, learning and participating in small ‘think tanks’ to innovate or move a topic forward are really attractive to me. I love helping others to be more successful, whatever that means to them. Years ago, I spent time as an assistant coach in women’s ice hockey and had dabbled as a head coach. It was the assistant coach position that really resonated with me because I could help the players improve their game and also help the head coach improve their coaching, all without having the additional responsibilities of being the one in charge.
Pay attention to what you envy. You mostly envy those who have what you desire. What is it you desire to do?
I envy those who get to experiment with new ideas or things (I love to play!), who get to help others or who get to facilitate the learning or growth of others. As an example, at work I envy those who participate in Design Thinking sessions and am always eager to raise my hand when a session is being planned.
So, if the above describes what my core personal projects look like, how did I end up becoming a Chartered Professional Accountant? Well, I didn’t have Susan’s book at the time. Seriously though, my decision to pursue that career had nothing to do with my core values or who I was. It took yearsfor me to understand that I was in the wrong profession for me, more years to discover what truly resonates for me, and now I intentionally pursue work that allows me to express who I am. For example, I am a certified Coach within SAP, focusing on Career Growth, Performance, and Leadership and this allows me to help others take creative actions to improve their lives.
I invite you to take the time to reflect deeply on each of the above steps to identify your core personal projects. Keep them close. They represent your true self and will enable you to bring everything you are to whatever you are doing.
Are you an introvert working in an extroverted environment? Share your strategies for succeeding and staying true to who you are.
Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach’s Corner.