Introvert evangelist Susan Cain elegantly tore down the 'New Groupthink' in her best-selling book, Quiet.
Famous artists, entrepreneurs and politicians are given as example introverts demonstrating of the benefits of working alone.
"I'm going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. You're going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you're working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team."
~ Steve Wozniak
As an introvert myself, I can attest to the advantage of working alone. I'm most creative when left to my own devices; I can work for longer without feeling drained and I generally enjoy it much more.
Even working on a project with just one other person brings me down.
I experienced this at university: working for two weeks on a project with a partner resulted in my worst grade that semester.
Even my professor gave me a talking to, asking if I was having personal problems.
No, I was perfectly happy - but I had no enthusiasm for this joint effort.
Fortunately, the third week of the project allowed us to split up, and finish the project as individuals. I turned the project around and aced it. The same can't be said for my former teammate.
So, why am I harking on about masterminds? These groups, formed on average of five or more likeminded people, meet regularly to discuss problems, offer solutions and motivate each other.
Napoleon Hill defines a mastermind as:
"The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony."
Sounds a bit like an introverts idea of hell. Talking to a group about their private problems? Taking time away from real work?
Trust me: these issues will fade when you experience what a well-crafted mastermind meeting.
This is what you can expect:
Particularly when you work alone, there are days when you need reassurance you're on the right track.
It might be just having someone else to moan to about taxes, but speaking to those in a similar boat can make a huge difference.
Even if you have friends and family that support you, having someone who can fully relate to your ambitions is invaluable.
If you're familiar with Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies you'll know where I'm going with this.
Some of us are superb at getting things done just because they're on our to-do list. Some of us just need to know why they have to do the thing.
Others rebel altogether.
Others just need someone to be relying on them - to hold them accountable.
I think sometimes we all need a bit of a push from others.
Having a mastermind meeting in your calendar - whether it's in person or on a call - can be exactly what an introvert needs.
Otherwise, many of us have the tendency to stay in our comfort zone - whether that's our physical or mental environments.
3) Unbiased feedback
A problem I've always found (even as a child holding drawings of mangled cats up to my parents) is where to get honest feedback.
I can't say I've always found criticism easy to take - but I still value it. I might not follow all the advice I'm given - but I'll consider it.
Trying to get an outside perspective from someone who 1) isn't close to your business and 2) doesn't love you SO much they couldn't hurt you is key to improving anything you're working on.
4) It teaches you to talk about yourself
Amazingly, even though I set up the mastermind, on our first meeting I didn't even introduce myself. I asked the group to explain what they did, what they were currently struggling with and what they could bring to the table.
Somehow we called the meeting to an end by the time it got round to me - typical introvert fail! I think I secretly wanted that to happen though ;)
Since then I've become much more vocal about my business, and it really wasn't so bad. In fact, it was hugely encouraging and every meeting it gets easier to have everyone's attention.
5) It's flexible
Even when I'm not feeling up to talking too much about my own struggles, I can kick back and listen. The perfect introvert indulgence.
This allows me to do what I do best: listen to what others are struggling with, and then offer my advice. For some reason, this doesn't feel awkward at all - it never does.
(Probably why I'd rather help others to promote themselves rather than myself!)
So if you are having a more 'quiet' day, know that it's more than OK to take a back seat and show up as more of a giver than a taker.
6) You can do it from the couch
Not all masterminds can meet up in person, and thanks to Google Hangouts, Skype or services like Zoom - you can totally do this from your office or a coffee shop... or at home in your PJs.
Yes, I do think that meeting up in person is beneficial, for accountability as well as how much more people open up, but I don't think location should restrict you.
I love the idea of connecting with mastermind members all over the world, and we should totally take advantage of our ability to do so.
Some tips for introverts thinking about finding or creating a mastermind:
• It might be worth finding a group of fellow introverts initially. Some introverts are shy, some are actually very outgoing. The difference is in energy levels. Extroverts get their energy from external stimuli - introverts, from inside. Finding the right energy level in the group is key to everyone feeling comfortable.
• Have a structure that allows everyone to speak. This doesn't mean that everyone is forced to speak at every meeting - in fact, I believe there should always be the option to just listen if that member is low on energy that day. But contributing ideas should be easy and encouraged.
• Meeting in person is generally more beneficial - it helps with engagement and all-round group contribution. But choose your environment carefully: brightly-lit, noisy coffee shops aren't the most conducive of meeting spots for introverts.
Cat Neligan helps creative introverts get their work seen and voices heard.