As I slumped in my chair, exhausted after another evening of ‘working the room’, I was pondering whether I am an extrovert or an introvert – and whether this had any relationship to my ability to be a good networker. Particularly as most accountants (but not all it has to be said) are introverts – does this mean that accountants are lousy networkers?
The thing is (and this annoys me) there is an industry pandering to the perception that introverts are shy, unconnected and get overwhelmed by meeting lots of people – and so need help to network. The industry also has the solution – lots of books, articles and products to help introverts feel happier about networking and ‘working the room’.
I have a number of problems with this perception. Firstly whether you are an introvert or an extrovert has NO bearing on whether you make a great networker. Yes, no bearing. Whether your natural preference – as defined by Jung - is for introversion or extroversion, this has no correlation with your ability to build and maintain relationships. While an introvert has a preference for a small circle of very close and deep friends, and extrovert has a preference for a larger circle of friends but less deep friendships. If the key to being a great networker is to have strong relationships with the people who can help your business or career, then I want to both an extrovert and an introvert.
Jung’s definition of extroversion is where people are energised by the company of other people. Introversion is the opposite – where people are energised by their own company. Jung did not say that introverts or extroverts have more or less social confidence, or that either is any better at growing mutually beneficial relationships. So why do people assume that extroverts will happily work a room and introverts hate working a room?
The other reason I get annoyed by this perception that introverts need help to work the room, is the assumption that to network you need to work the room. Not so. I am considered by many people to be a true connector (as defined by Gladwell in ‘the tipping point’) and someone with an amazing little black book of contacts. 100% of my new business comes to me from existing clients and my network, particularly a few key relationships. However, I very rarely work the room – and when I do, I find it very exhausting. I normally need an hour or so to myself to recharge after a few hours of ‘working the room’ with many people I don’t know. I now tend to use online tools and personal recommendations to find the right people for my business, rather than the random nature of working the room at a conference or mix and mingle type event. When I have identified a key relationship, I will then progress the relationship via 1-2-1 meetings.
What do you think, are extroverts better networkers than introverts?
About Heather Townsend
Heather Townsend is a brand ambassador for the Practice Excellence Programme, and the Founder of ‘The Accountants Millionaires’ Club’. In 2015 the ICAEW decided she was the number one online influencer for the accountancy profession. She is the author of 4 books, including The Go-To Expert, and ‘How to make partner and still have a life’ (co-authored with Jo Larbie).
Heather is always up for a challenge. Perhaps that is why she has built a track record of helping accountants grow the size of their practice by 50-200%, often in under two years. Often helping them make partner or equity partner in the process.
Heather is a high profile member of the accountancy profession in the UK. She has worked with over 300 partners, coached, trained and mentored over 2000 professionals at every level of the UK’s most ambitious professional practices. Heather's clients have included: 7 out of the Top 10 UK practices, including all the Big 4 firms.
In 2016 her and her team of coaches have coached:
1) 7 people successfully to partner
2) Professionals from all of the Big 4, from every major continent in the world
As well as helping accountants make partner, she still spends 40% of her time helping small firms, typically under £1m GRF:
1) Create profitable revenue streams from advisory services and reduce their reliance on revenue from compliance services
2) Radically increase their profitability, even if they are a cloud based practice, often helping them achieve a net profit margin of 40%+
3) Double or even triple the size of their practice within 3 years
4) Win bigger and better clients
5) Grow the right team around them so they stop working stupidly high hours and spend quality time with the people they care about
Her articles appear regularly in the UK national and trade press, including The Financial Times, Accountancy Age, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. Heather is also in-demand for her speaking and has recently returned from the South African Accountancy Academy conference.