As any regular Inc.com reader can tell you, starting up can be extremely rough on your mental health. Entrepreneurs have long quietly suffered from depression and anxiety, but it's only recently that the community has started to be more open about the problem.
Among the stories revealed when the door of silence creaked open these past few years was the suffering of successful co-founder Jess Lee. She built fashion tech startup Polyvore from an idea into a business that sold to Yahoo! (not uncontroversially) for $230 million, but as she reported in a blog post in 2012, she was often pretty unhappy doing it.
Why? In part, Lee blamed her naturally reserved personality, which made it difficult for her to connect with her community for support. But, as a great recent article on Lee's evolution from introverted founder to successful entrepreneur to recently anointed VC by Quartz's Aimee Groth explains, over time, Lee developed some very practical (and entirely steal-able) tricks that helped her overcome her shyness and feel happier.
Like many other introvert CEOs, she was able to thrive as a leader despite her preference for smaller groups and quieter gatherings. Here's exactly how:
1. Share the spotlight
Like many introverts, Lee wasn't a huge fan of public speaking, but being a CEO demands a fair amount of talking to groups. How did Lee overcome this contradiction? "She... found that by spotlighting employees and asking them to take the floor, she gave them a greater sense of ownership," reports Groth. Happy employees and soothed speaking nerves? It's a win-win.
2. Bring a connector
Leaning on others was also how Lee learned to overcome her fear of socializing with others in the startup community at big events. She "found a way to get over her fear of networking by bringing a social connector with her to events to navigate the scene," Groth reports.
3. Focus on one-on-ones
Sometimes Lee's workarounds for her quieter personality actually ended up being big benefits to the business, Groth reports. "Instead of holding frequent group meetings, for instance, Lee opted to meet 1:1 with employees throughout the company, a move that suited her personality type and gave her a competitive advantage in rooting out issues," explains Groth.
"I have a lot of 1:1 conversations with people, which means that I have more time to get know someone better, or time for them to tell me if there's a problem. As a leader, you can't fix problems that you don't know about," she told Quartz.