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Episode 120: How Introverted Consultants Can Succeed Their Way—with Terrance Lee

Deb Zahn: Hi. I want to welcome you to this week's episode of The Craft of Consulting Podcast. So we are going to go deep into introverts. And this is for introverts but it's also for extroverts. So everyone should listen to this because if you are an introvert, you're going to hear things on this show that are going to help you make better decisions about your business and help you be more successful. If you're an extrovert, God bless you. But you've got to know this too because you're going to have clients that are going to be introverts and you're going to be more effective if you understand who they are and how they tick.

So I brought on the Introvert Leader, Terrance Lee, who's going to break down exactly what's up with introverts. How they tick and the things that are important to them. So again, if you are one, you can build a successful business. If you aren't one, you can work more effectively with them. So let's get started. Hi, I want to welcome my guest today, Terrance Lee. Terrance, welcome to the show.

Terrance Lee: Hey, how are you? Thanks for having me.

Deb Zahn: Absolutely. So let's start off. Tell folks what you do.

Terrance Lee: Yeah. So my name is Terrance Lee. My platform is called the Introvert Leader, and I created the platform late 2020. So it's only been about seven months now. And my entire mission is to empower introverts to grow as leaders at work and business and in life.

Deb Zahn: I love it.

Terrance Lee: Yeah, thank you. So it stemmed from when I was a kid and I was pretty outgoing to start. But then something happened when I was in middle school and I really lost a lot of my confidence. I became a lot more quiet and reserved. I didn't want to speak in front of people. I just had a lot of insecurities I was dealing with and I carried that into high school and college. And eventually, I was put in positions where I was essentially in a kind of sink or swim situation where, you know, when I started working as an engineer I had to learn about leadership as an introvert.

And so the whole purpose of the platform is just to show people with introverted personalities that they can be powerful. They can lead. And that all the society's stigmas about introverts not being able to do that are just completely false. So that's the purpose of the platform.

Deb Zahn: That's perfect. Well, I appreciate that because I am a huge introvert and I know one of the questions that I get a lot because I obviously help other consultants become successful, is can you even be successful as an introvert consultant? And I'm living proof that you absolutely can. So that's one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show, is to talk about introverts and what that means and things that can help us navigate the worlds that we're operating in and working in.

And I want to say for folks listening, it's important if you're an introvert to think about it from the perspective of your business. If you're not, it'll give you really good insights about who we are and how we tick, but also you're going to have clients that are introverts and it's going to be essential for you to understand how to work with them effectively if they're introverts. So let's start off. What's the definition of introvert? Because I know people get that wrong all the time.

Terrance Lee: Yeah. Yeah. I think people get it wrong all the time, too. I think that introverts are a lot of things. So you have I guess different points on the spectrum of introversion, right? So you may have some people where for them, they can be around a group of people but only for a certain amount of time. Where a lot of times with extroverts, they thrive and they want to be around large groups or be at social outings, whereas with an introvert, sometimes, depending on the person, they'll be in that environment, but only for so long. You can be in an environment with certain people, but after a while maybe our social battery starts to kind of run down. We need to have some time to ourselves to recharge.

But then another thing about introverts is that it's not that all introverts are quiet. I think that's a big misconception. I think that if we're around the right people and the right circumstances, then you know, like for me, there's certain friends and coworkers, when I'm around them, I can talk for hours. But I think if I'm in a new situation, maybe new people that I'm not as comfortable with, then that might be different. I don't think that all introverts fit into one box. I just think that in general, we tend to have our certain circles, people that we're comfortable with, and then we're not always the ones that we want to be in a large group. But definitely not all introverts are the same.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. I appreciate that because I have a lot of folks who don't believe that I'm an introvert because I don't appear as the stereotype they have in their head of the quiet, shy one who's hiding under the sofa every time they're around.

Terrance Lee: Right, right.

Deb Zahn: Well, let's start with, since we're both introverts, and so we know we're fabulous. Why don't we start with the gifts of being an introvert because I have found there's certain things that I'm able to do and that I bring to the work world that's different than a lot of extroverts. What are some of the gifts that you've seen of folks that are introverts?

Terrance Lee: Oh, yes. I love this question. So I would say that one thing with introverts that I've noticed, and noticed with myself, is we have the gift of observation. And what I mean by that is I think when there are discussions going on and different conversations and people that are more extroverted, the first thought that comes to mind, they just kind of say it. They just go back and forth and have this fast-paced conversation.

And the introverted person is more likely going to be sitting back and observing the discussion. Observing what people are saying. Watching people's body language, all this stuff. We catch certain things that other people miss because other people, they're so busy talking and getting their thoughts out.

And I've noticed a lot of times, it's like in my career now, where there's certain people where they won't be saying a lot in a certain meeting. And then when they do say something it's like everyone's amazed at what they have to say. And it's because they've been sitting back. They've been thinking. They've been watching. They're observing everything that's going on. And I think that's a major strength. People think if someone's being quiet that that's just all it is. It's not. We're thinking. We're thinking, we're observing, and I think that's a major step in leadership. So I think that's a big one.

Deb Zahn: I love that one. I notice that facilitators, and I'm one of those who are introverts, although it exhausts us often, we are reading a room in ways that it's difficult for somebody who doesn't have that sort of innate observational superpower to do. And so it makes it easier to pay attention to where's the room? What's this person doing? Are they disengaged? Are they in the mix? How can we bring everybody back in? And it creates a very powerful experience for folks.

Terrance Lee: Yeah, definitely.

Deb Zahn: So now, we don't always have it easy, which is one of the reasons that your platform exists. So what are some of the common struggles that introverts have, and particularly when we have to operate in those extrovert-forward environments?

Terrance Lee: Yeah. Yeah. So I will say that I get a lot of questions in my DMs. And I have people reach out to me. And I think that some of the more common struggles that I hear is one, public speaking, feeling anxious when talking in front of people. And one of the other ones I think is overthinking.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Terrance Lee: With the public speaking one, I mean, I 100% understand that one because that's me. I mean, even now with what I do, I have to lead meetings and lead teams every day. And I still have times where I'm going to talk and I get nervous. It still happens. And so I don't ever want someone to feel like, you know, introverts that may listen to this, like there's something wrong with them, or they have some problems just because they may get anxious speaking in front of people. There's nothing wrong with having those fears. It's just about how you then work through that and overcome it. So that's a big one.

And then I think the overthinking one is big, too. I'm a major overthinker myself. I'm one of those where I can create an entire scenario in my head, and it might not even happen. So I identify with that one, too. And I think that's a struggle sometimes because the danger there is if we can hold ourselves back from certain situations and where we're trying to go because we can just overthink ourselves out of progressing. So I think that's two of the main ones that I've seen.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. I joke that my motto is “I overthink, therefore I am…I think.” And that can get in the way when you're trying to build a consulting business or any type of business because the whole thing is a series of decisions and overthinking can get in the way of making those. So what are some of the tips you have, particularly with overthinking, that you would encourage introverts to help them calm their brain down, get past that so that they can move forward?

Terrance Lee: Yeah, yeah. So that's a tough one. So I think with overthinking, what I've noticed works for me is just that I have to watch myself talk. I have to watch what I'm telling myself and what's going through my head. So let's say there's a scenario where I have to give a presentation and I'm overthinking the presentation. I'm like, oh, I'm going to forget this one person. And I know they're not going to like this part of the presentation and they're going to ask me this question. And then that could spiral.

So now, all of a sudden, I've created this entire thing in my head that's not even real yet. I'm just overthinking this thing. And so when we do that, just stopping in that moment and recognizing that OK, let me really think about this. Is this a real scenario? Is this really going to happen? Or am I just making this up? I think it's about stopping in the moment, when we're having those thoughts, and just calming ourselves down and just realizing we have control. I think that's a big piece of it, is just whenever that self talk creeps in and those thoughts creep in, just checking ourselves and just making sure that we're in control of those thoughts.

Deb Zahn: I like that. I like that a lot. And I know that one of the other things that can be difficult is having to be present in spaces where extroversion either dominates or it's the most rewarded thing in that room. What are some of your suggestions for introverts in those types of spaces?

Terrance Lee: Yeah. So this is a common thing. And I talk about this a lot in my upcoming book How to Find Your Voice and How to Add Value, while at the same time maintaining your introversion. I don't think being an introvert is the problem. I think a lot of times, people that are introverted think they have to become an extrovert to be successful. And I don't think that's necessarily the case.

I think the best way to operate in an environment is to first acknowledge and embrace the fact you're an introvert and not feel like you have to be something else, but at the same time, learning to find your voice. Having that courage to speak up in certain situations. And this is really key because we think so much and we observe so much. Introverts have amazing things to say. I mean, we have amazing thoughts because we spend so much time thinking. And so we do need to get those thoughts out. And at times, it can be difficult. These conversations where the extroverts are talking super fast and you're looking for your chance to kind of get your words in. It can be a difficult dynamic, right?

But it's really about finding those moments where you can interject your words, interject your thoughts, and that's really key because again, your voice does have to be heard as an introvert because we have valuable things to say. So I think it's about maintaining your introversion but having that balance of that with also the courage to speak up.

Deb Zahn: That's great. And I would also say for consultants listening to this who lead teams or facilitate in their consulting engagements, part of the role of being a leader in those circumstances or facilitating is making sure that there is space for everybody in the room to share their thoughts and share their wisdom. And that's part of the job of what an effective consultant can actually do, whether you're an introvert or an extrovert or not.

So one other question, I know that you've talked about networking for introverts, which I hear the word networking, and I just start to twitch a little bit. But when you're a consultant, one of the ways that you get business is networking. You also have to outreach to prospective clients. You have to have engagements with clients. There's a lot of people stuff. What tips do you have for introverts in being able to do those things that help them build their business and be successful, but still recognize who they are and embrace that?

Terrance Lee: Yeah. Yeah. And this goes back to what we were talking about earlier, about extroverts, they enjoy being around people and they feed off of that, where introverts, we need that time sometimes for ourselves. And so I think it's just finding a balance. I'm really big on balance. And so one of the things...I'll be in these meetings all day long, talking to people, leading discussions and things, and then at the end of the day, I'll just totally unplug. And I won't want to talk for like an hour. I just need an hour to myself to just regroup.

So I think it's finding that time to recharge. So being able to have conversations and network with people is one piece of it, but also making sure that you take that time to recharge because if you're just constantly talking and constantly networking, then your social battery's just going to overload. And next thing you know, you just, it's not going to be good. So finding that balance of recharge and networking I think is really key for introverts.

Deb Zahn: I like that. Yeah, because if I push it too much, I just get weird. That makes really ineffective networking.

Terrance Lee: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: So one of the things, again, as I mentioned, is you have to reach out to get clients. So if you're a consultant, you have to approach it. And that's where the overthinking can come in. That's where the nervousness comes from because you have to introduce yourself. You have to talk about yourself. But you also have to listen deeply. Any tips you would share, and I'm sure we've already covered some of these, for introverts who are looking to get business, looking to actually get clients to say yes to them? Anything you'd encourage them to do?

Terrance Lee: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And ironically, I plan to start a coaching business here soon, as well. So I've been actually thinking about this a lot. So I think that one of the things is authenticity. I think that's really key. In the past, I've done some network marketing. I've been a part of some multi-level marketing companies. You have a compensation plan and you're trying to recruit people into the business and all these kinds of things. And I think that my attitude was not the right approach when I got started. I felt this pressure to bring on these people and get these new business partners and everything. And I don't think I was being authentic.

I think that one way to really attract people is to be yourself and to not come off too overeager. I think if you come off like, “Hey, I'm trying to sell you this thing,” or, “Hey, I'm trying to…” No. I think it's about adding value. What is the value that you're going to add to that person's life? If that person hires you as a consultant or as a coach, how are you going to make their life better? What's the value that you're going to add? And I think if you focus on that and people see the value, then you have the potential for that person to be a client.

But I think if someone feels like this person is just being salesy or they're just trying to sell me on whatever this thing is, then that's a different interaction. So I think the focus is more about adding value and when people see the value that you add and you're being authentic with that, then that makes a big difference.

Deb Zahn: I like it. Yeah. And one of the things I think about is I tend to prepare very thoroughly before I go meet with prospective clients. That's partly because I'm an introvert because when in doubt, think. When in doubt, gather more information. And so that makes me better when I walk in the room. And then because I'm an introvert, listening and observing is a normal part of how I operate in the world and prospective clients love that. They absolutely love that. But then it gets tricky when you have to talk about yoursel

So one of the things that I know for introverts is you have to think on an ongoing basis about what I call regular maintenance. And we talked about recharging and not overtaxing your social batteries and things like that, but are there things that you encourage folks to do on a regular basis to be able to, you know, not just be able to maintain and keep their energy, but also enjoy what they're doing more?

Terrance Lee: Yeah, that's a good question, to enjoy what you're doing more. Yeah. I think that one thing is to change up the routine. I'll say that's one. I think that sometimes in our jobs and our businesses, things can become very routine. They can feel like just doing the same thing over and over. And one thing that I like to do is to change the routine of what I'm doing. I think that's very important, to kind of monotony them and not me because after a while that can get boring. It gets a little uninspiring if you feel like you're not growing, or you feel like you're not doing something different. And I think one of the keys to growth is to try new things and to do new things.

So if you're a consultant, maybe it's taking on a type of client that you wouldn't normally take on. Maybe it's exploring different spaces that you hadn't thought about before. I think that's a key for that.

Deb Zahn: That's great. And I know that you've gathered a lot of this wisdom, and you have a book coming out. Tell us a little bit about the book and why you wrote it.

Terrance Lee: Yeah, absolutely. So the name of the book is Quiet Voice, Fearless Leader: 10 Principles for Introverts to Awaken the Leader Inside. And really it was birthed, the thought was in my head years ago, I just didn't know what it was yet. And in my career as an engineer, I started out and I was very apprehensive to speak. I'd be sitting in meetings, and I wouldn't say anything. I would have a lot of thoughts, but I just, I wouldn't say anything.

And I eventually got into situations where people saw leadership potential in me that I didn't even see. I was like, who are you talking about? I don't see myself as that person. And I started to get put into leadership positions where I was leading teams of engineers. And I started to do well. And I'd get a lot of compliments about my leadership style. The way I would handle situations. And today as a leader, I look at the things I'm doing, and I just never would've thought that I'd be in the position I'm in.

So I really want to empower people because I know there are introverted people out there like me that may feel like and think that they can't lead. They may look at it like, “Oh, well that's for the extroverts. The extroverts are the ones that talk. They're the louder people in the room. They're the ones that are the leaders.” And I want to break those stigmas and I want to empower people with introverted personalities to show them that, no, you absolutely can be a leader. In fact, in many cases, introverts are the best leaders. And so that's really the purpose for the book, and I'm looking forward to trying to help as many people as I can.

Deb Zahn: That's great. And as soon as it comes out, we'll have it in the show notes and let folks know. I'm definitely looking forward to it. I was privileged to see a bit of it before it got finalized. And I just thought it was great. So where can folks find you?

Terrance Lee: Yeah. So on social media, I'm at The Introvert Leader on Instagram and Facebook. I'm also on Clubhouse. On Clubhouse, I'm just Introvert Leader on there. And then my website is So people can go there to download the book introduction and first chapter for free. Yeah, that's the best way to find me.

Deb Zahn: Wonderful. And I have to say because I do follow you on Instagram, it is nice that what pops up in my feed is's very soothing. Almost like, “It's OK. And yeah, I get it. I experienced this, too, and don't worry about it.” It's very nice to have in your feed, particularly when so much of an Instagram feed, particularly on the business side, can be me, me, me, me, me, me, me, no me. And yours is a nice respite from that. So I certainly appreciate it and I encourage other folks to follow you. So where do you find your own balance in your life, however it is you define that?

Terrance Lee: So I think for me, my balance comes from helping people. I really enjoy helping people. When I'm at work, kind of my nine to five and everything, what I do in my engineering career, that's fine and I enjoy it. But what I really enjoy is with this whole Introvert Leader platform. When I have conversations with people in the DMs. When people reach out to me and they say, “Hey, I was having a really rough day and I watched one of your videos about public speaking and it made me feel better.”

I think I find my balance from trying to just provide value to people's lives and help people as much as I can. So I think, for me, that provides a lot of balance. And then from an introvert perspective, one of the things that I love to do is just sit on the patio with a good book. If I have a good book and some alone time, that is just...that's great for me. So that helps me with my balance, as well.

Deb Zahn: That's wonderful. That sounds heavenly right about now, actually.

Terrance Lee: It is. It really is.

Deb Zahn: Well, Terrance, I really appreciate you coming onto the show and am looking forward to your book coming out. I think it is going to do what you want. I think it's going to help a lot of folks. So thanks for coming on and sharing this with us today.

Terrance Lee: Absolutely. And hey, I really appreciate you having me on. This was a lot of fun.

Deb Zahn: Oh, great.

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or if you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up and a lot of other great content and I don't want you to miss anything. But the other two things that I'm going to ask you to do is, one is, if you have any comments, so if you have any suggestions or any kind of feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those.

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So as always, you can go and get more wonderful information and tools at Thanks so much. I will talk to you on the next episode. Bye-bye.

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