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Networking and Socialising

It does not come naturally to introverted leadersto "work the room"; many are not immediately comfortable in social or semi social situations which involve making polite conversation with a number of new people yet networking is an important aspect of building work and business relationships


  • because by its very nature, networking tends to involve contact with a lot of people at once, it tends to drain introverted leaders’ energy very quickly

  • socialising, and particularly dinners, seemed to be one of the most challenging and disliked aspects of leadership for introverted leaders

  • walking into a crowded room of strangers is particularly challenging

  • conference dinners, or dinners at residential training events can be exhausting, especially when you have been amongst large numbers of people all day

  • an unwillingness or inability to network effectively can place limitations on your career, in certain fields.

What introverted leaders said about the challenges of Networking and Socialising:


  • “I'm less sociable than others and less willing to do networking/marketing. That leads to a lower personal profile when networking/meeting others/forming alliances.”

  • “I'm still uncomfortable at times when there's a lot of small-talk - like buffet lunches in the middle of a conference. I'm often to be found studying a very dull leaflet left out by the venue, or taking longer than strictly necessary to go to the loo!”

  • “On occasions the demands to 'network' and 'perform' have been stressful/energy sapping.”

  • “ I am also not naturally very gregarious, and at more senior levels, a degree of 'schmoozing' is expected, which I am not very good at.”

  • “My weaknesses in networking - although I got better at it, and am less socially hopeless in role than in private, I think that this became perhaps one of the most important limitations on my career.”

  • “I felt there was an ‘in crowd’ and an ‘out crowd’ and I didn’t even want to be part of the ‘in crowd’.”

  • “I tend not to do conferences. I don’t think there is anything much worse than going to a formal dinner. I get asked to dinners in London but I just don’t do it. I don’t mind working breakfasts but staying late for dinner is not my idea of fun.”

  • “I don’t like residential training. We get to the dinner and my heart just sinks. By the evening I am so tired, I don’t feel like being there. My head is so full, I feel uncomfortable sitting there especially with groups of people I don’t know that well.”

  • “On a busy project, if I can't get some space for reflection, and the extroverts are keen to socialise over meals or in a pub until late at night, I get very tired and desperate to get away and 'switch off'.”

  • “I've felt that my profile and visibility has suffered on many occasions because I rarely engage in social activities with work colleagues outside work. I used to do so, but if I stayed sober I felt painfully self-conscious and out of sorts in a big group - and, while I felt more relaxed if I had a drink or two, I would tend to get involved in very 'deep' conversations with individuals in the group which then put me under more pressure than I wanted to support them after the social event (I'd end up in 'counselling' mode!).”

Positive Approaches to Networking and Socialising:

  • focus networking on 1:1 situations rather than groups

  • if you have the choice, arrange to meet people for coffee or lunch as it will be shorter and more conducive to a one-to-one discussion

  • recognising that your reaction to walking into a crowded room of strangers is common to introverted leaders and that you are not alone

  • having a sense of being ‘in role’ can help when networking

  • reading the attendance list and targeting a few important contacts

  • visualising and mentally preparing for an event: perhaps preparing a list of interesting conversation topics before going

  • setting personal challenges, such as making five new contacts before you leave the room

  • initially focusing on people you already know, while you adjust to the surroundings

  • nurturing a few good clients and contacts rather than spreading the net more widely

  • asking questions to let others do the talking

  • looking out for those who are not part of larger discussions and latching on to them

  • offering to facilitate small workshops or group discussions - this can give you a clear role and the opportunity to be visible without having to resort to social chit-chat

  • carefully controlling the amount of time spent in networking situations and recognising that you do not have to be ‘there’ for the whole time

  • explaining in advance that you will have to leave early

  • simply choosing not to go to dinners.

What introverted leaders said about how they make Networking and Socialising work for them:

  • “I am known for my extensive networks. I tend to maintain these through "real" one-to-one relationships nurtured and developed over years. I spend time with people one-to-one rather than "working the room" which doesn't fit my natural style so well.”

  • “In big events/conferences, I try to orientate towards people I know initially to make myself more comfortable with the surroundings.”

  • “I cope with ‘circulating’. I look for someone who isn’t in a closed circle and then I “make myself” go and talk to them.”

  • “Planning ahead: if I do need to ‘work a room’ or make my presence felt in a particular setting, I plan in advance and give myself targets. So I am very purposeful. For example I will read the attendance list and decide who to target.”

  • “I prepare and think what I need to do. I visualise how I will do it. In a way I have kind of cross-hatched this from sport – it is like visualising the shot.”

  • “I sought out and took speaking or chairing slots at external events to gain experience and raise my confidence in a neutral environment.”

  • “I can do the social things much better in role.”

  • “I try to meet people for breakfast, coffee or lunch rather than dinner as I am likely to be less tired.”

  • “Explaining in advance that I will need to leave early (eg at social events). This gives me the option to leave if I get too drained and tired, without embarrassment. If I have more energy than I expected and it turns out I can stay longer, then nobody bothers that you'd originally said you'd go! This saves having to make awkward excuses to leave.”

  • “Actively planning something else to do when there is a large dinner or something, and then giving those I'd really like to talk to the option of coming with me!”

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