Inverting the introvert

William Macleod (Global Shapers: Generation 2017), Transport Planning Consultant in Edinburgh

You really need to get comfortable with being outside your comfort zone. If you are in your comfort zone, you are probably not learning anymore.” Peter Oosterveer, Arcadis CEO.

During the face-to-face program, our CEO shared an insight with the 2017 Global Shapers team; and for me, it resonated strongly with thoughts I’ve had and lessons I’ve been learning during the Global Shapers program.

The program started with virtual assignments identifying our personality profiles and creating personal development goals for the program.

My Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) profile revealed that my profile was: ISFJ – The Defender. The first letter ‘I’ informed me that I was an introvert. This was not a big surprise to me; being an introvert is easy. My default comfort choice is to recharge my energy by relaxing by myself rather than making conversations in a social situation. That is not to say I don’t enjoy meeting people (I really do!) but it can be exhausting and intimidating, especially with new people. The quiet book in my room and relaxing in my own time is always the comfortable option and my fears and shyness often dominate social situations and prevent me from initiating conversations.

Typically, extraverts prefer group activities and get their energy through social interaction. The introvert-extravert notion is a complex personality scale. It is not ‘introvert = bad and extravert = good’, or vice versa, and it is just one part of each person’s unique personality.

From my experience, the Global Shapers program is a fantastic and unique opportunity to learn about your strengths and weaknesses, where you can challenge yourself and your comfort zones. It is filled with fun, enthusiastic, and interesting colleagues from all over the world and encourages you to reflect and challenge your personal preferences, learn from them, and develop them.

So, I decided to use the first virtual assignment as an opportunity to challenge myself and my comfort zones. Initially, one of my personal development goals was to:

  • ‘Meet and get to know something about 25 Global Shapers and find out one thing about them by the end of the event’.

This worked out at approximately 5 per day and seemed ambitious at the time. However, I soon realised that I was still defaulting to my comfort zone and aiming for a target which was manageable and attainable. It is always a challenge to push the comfort zones!

After arriving at the event, we were given name tags and booklets with a picture of each Global Shaper. So, I used this as an opportunity to see if I could meet the other 98 Global Shapers. This was a far more ambitious and daunting personal challenge but the program is set-up to maximise opportunities for meeting, collaborating, and developing connections and friendships. I used the different workflow teams, meals, group sessions and evenings as opportunities to meet everyone and learn something about them. And during one of the last days (with the help from Yan), I checked the final name off the list: Daijuang Wang from the Arcadis Shanghai office! She was enthusiastic and shared some insights about the ‘One Belt One Road’ massive infrastructure incentive in China. In short, this is the ‘modern Silk Road’ with overland corridors connecting China with Europe, via Central Asia and the Middle East and maritime trading routes and ports to boost trade and stimulate economic growth across Asia and beyond.

It was really interesting to learn more about the vision and some of the challenges it faced. This is possibly a conversation which would not have taken place if I had stuck to my initial target of meeting 5 people per day and therefore possibly something I may not have learned about for such a large and influential global project.

Being aware of your weaknesses and comfort zones is only the first stage, you then need to challenge these default preferences and take the opportunities to learn and develop them.

I will take Peter Oosterveer’s insights as a challenge when I go back to my office and try and identify areas where I can learn and develop weaknesses and connections, with colleagues in my office, within the company and with clients and thank the Global Shapers 2017 program for helping me to start challenging these comfort zones.

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