How can introverts sell their teamwork skills without sounding fake?

Oct 20, 2016

You’re asked about your teamwork skills during a job interview but you hate working in teams – what do you say?

Workplaces make a big thing of collaborating and working in teams – but what if you’re not that kind of person?

What if you prefer to work quietly and alone?

Many introverts struggle to sell their teamwork and group work skills during an interview without coming across as fake. They list ‘great team-player’ on their CVs and try to appear enthusiastic about teamwork skills during the job interview but inside they know they are lying.

Susan Cain talks about this in her book, Quiet Revolution. She says workplaces should stop their obsession with group work and instead create more spaces for quiet, private contemplation where introverts can work how they work best: via thinking, reading and reflecting in silence.

Most workplaces, Cain said, just aren’t designed like that but with large open plan and café type spaces for extroverts who thrive in environments where they can be around others. But we need both.

The Graduate Coach 5 top tips on how introverts can sell their teamwork skills without sounding fake

Despite its enthusiastic response to her message, I don’t think society will drop its obsession with group work anytime soon. Teamwork is often necessary and is likely to stay, so here’s are 5 tips on how introverts can sell their teamwork skills without coming across as fake.

  1. Reframe your view of your space in the group. Contrary to what a group might appear to be it really is nothing but a collection of ‘individuals’ working together. Your contribution to that group is likely to be unique, personal and specifically important. As an introvert, you can still enjoy that aspect of working on your own and in your own area without compromising the interest of the group as a whole or your need for space. In this way you can still be a genuinely great team-player.
  1. Be virtual. Know that collaboration need not mean working in a physical environment. Today, people can make meaningful contributions to projects without even being in the same room, building or country as the people they are working with. When we think of roles that require connecting with people via social media or other real time online spaces, teamwork and being a good team-player begins to take on a whole new shape.
  1. Focus on your value. Concentrate on what being an introvert contributes to group activities – great questions, deep thought and insightful answers, all of which is done by quietly listening and reflecting well. When Karl Moore, a professor at Desautels Faculty of Management and an associate of the Quiet Leadership Institute, decided to try networking like an introvert at an event one evening, he learnt stuff he never noticed as the natural extrovert he is. He learned ten times more about the people he spoke with. Usually, whenever he attended these events, he would move quickly from one conversation to another. Introverts tend to take their time over conversations and therefore end up developing deeper, meaningful connections with the people they talk to.
  1. Understand team dynamics. This is crucial and Dr Bruce Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development can help. He says teams tend to go through three specific stages: Forming, Storming and Norming. At the Forming stage everyone is in the same boat and getting to know one another. Knowing this can help you resist the normal tendency to act reserved and to hold back. The next stage is the Storming stage where differences of opinions and views can arise. Clashes can fuel the natural tendency of the introvert to withdraw. You must resist this and work through to the final stage, which is the Norming stage. This is where everyone begins to understand one another and, powered by the need to achieve the common goal of the team, finds ways to work harmoniously and collaboratively toward that goal.
  1. Adopt a power pose. “Too often we approach our lives’ biggest hurdles with dread, execute them with anxiety, and leave them with regret,’ says Amy Cuddy. Rather than live that way you can adopt what Amy calls the ‘Power Pose’. Whenever you’re in a situation where you feel like ‘disappearing’, like at job interviews, doing a presentation or conversing with people you don’t know, don’t crunch up and make yourself small. Adopt the non-verbal expression of power and dominance by opening up and making yourself big. Stand straight, feet apart, hands on hips. Stride. Take up more, not less, space. But don’t just fake it ‘til you make it’, fake it ‘til you change it. Fake it until you become it; until you internalise it and begin feeling it. Takes just two minutes. Try it.

None of the suggestions above require you to lie but simply to reframe the way you talk about and therefore sell your skills as a team-player. All you need do is change the way you think about it. And that’s something you are very, very good at.

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