It can be challenging to find your voice in the workplace, particularly in those that reward extroverted behaviour. We spoke with Anissa Paranihi, Facilities Manager for Sodexo, a self-described firm, but fair person with a unique sense of humour – and introvert.
Only, while Anissa says she is an introvert by nature, she stems her professional success to her development and strategic use of the skills more typical to extroverted personalities.
“In my role, I’m responsible for managing, directing and delivering strategic and operational facilities services, creating safe, productive environments for occupants. We work to ensure Sodexo and our clients meet our financial and operational goals. I’m a pretty ‘shy’ person. But in this position, you have to overcome this to drive results and achieve success. One way I do this is by not stressing over the things I can’t control!”
Soon after Anissa joined Sodexo 18 months ago, she was quickly put to the test with one of the toughest challenges in history – the outbreak of COVID-19 – and navigating the complex practicalities and regulations that followed. The situation was compounded by new fit outs and placements in the businesses, with external staff entering and everyone adapting to a new environment.
It was Anissa’s confident, people-centred approach that guided her facilities team through this difficult time. Her skills enabled her to manage day-to-day operations at Sodexo’s client facilities in Macquarie Park and New Zealand, including reception services, hard and soft services, and cleaning and on-site maintenance.
In reflecting on her journey successfully steering the organization through this time, she shares her five best tips to help other introverts take advantage of their natural strengths, find their voice and discover the confidence to make an impact at work.
1. Be proud of your expertise and accomplishments
Anissa began her career in the hospitality industry. After staying home until her youngest child went to high school, she completed a Certificate IV in Business Administration, before taking on part-time roles in administration and facilities – gaining experience in facilities coordination, supervision and management.
“Having great role models in my parents, managers, clients, vendors, trades and colleagues, has given me opportunities to learn and gain knowledge I would never have had otherwise.”
At the start of her tenure, during the onset of COVID-19, Anissa was tasked with constantly retaining her facilities team to maintain Sodexo’s functionality.
“The scope of our services involved everything, including security, audits and inspections, front-of-house management, cleaning services, and fire safety management – just to name a few! We had to integrate new personnel and ensure compliance with ever-changing protocols.”
Through managing her team in intelligent, innovative ways, Anissa proudly accomplished this incredible task with a 100% incident-free record.
“I’m proud of the awesome relationships I’ve built with our clients who want to succeed and continue their partnership with Sodexo. I’m proud to have a supportive management team. Most of all, I’m proud of our onsite team members who work exceptionally well together. Everyone contributes to our business sustainability, HSE (Health, Safety & Environment), DE&I outcomes and are always willing to go above and beyond.”
If you’re an introvert, you may feel uncomfortable sharing your expertise and accomplishments. While humility can certainly be a positive trait, get comfortable talking about your qualities in the workplace, particularly in performance reviews, job interviews and salary negotiations.
If you prefer not to be the centre of attention, consider talking about the successful projects you’ve championed, your team’s accomplishments and how your work contributed to your team’s success. (And be prepared to accept well-deserved compliments graciously!)
Did you know Sodexo also support inclusion and belonging at work through several Employee led diversity groups?
Find out how else Sodexo support their employees professional development.
2. Choose a supportive company
“From day one, I knew I’d made the right decision to work for Sodexo after meeting the management team. They’ve always been supportive, available and willing to give me guidance when needed.”
Being backed by a supportive company has been pivotal in helping Anissa face challenges throughout her career, including hiring and retaining staff, and aligning local teams with regional goals.
“Sodexo plays an important role in finding people’s strengths and utilizing skill sets to achieve the best, most efficient outcomes. This allows people to gain confidence, manage workloads, enjoy what they do and want to stay. The support of my manager and our management team and working with our regional teams also helped me align processes to ensure everyone met deadlines.”
“It’s awesome to know Sodexo is dedicated to removing the barriers women can face today by partnering with WORK180. Choosing the right company to work with is really important – I’m really proud to be a part of such a supportive environment.”
3. Be a continuous learner
Supportive workplaces also often reward introverts for their listening skills and learning mindsets.
“When I was younger, I was shy and preferred to fly under the radar. So instead, I’d watch, listen and learn from people, and learn from mistakes. By doing this, I think I gained more confidence in myself and my abilities.”
For Anissa, every day is different and presents new opportunities for learning, both in the workplace and in life.
“You can always learn something new from others. It could be a cleaner who teaches me something I never knew. It could be my daughter who reminds me to consider things from different generational perspectives. It could be a client who acknowledges our hard work, or my manager who has years of knowledge to share. It could be my grandchildren who put a smile on my face – all these things motivate me and make me want to continue moving forward.”
Introverts can apply a learning mindset to all facets of life. In fact, outside work, Anissa is learning to speak Maori, her own language.
“After two years, I’m still not fluent, and this is probably one of the biggest personal challenges I’ve faced. But I can understand someone speaking fluently. Not word for word, but I can piece together words and sentences to get an idea of what they are saying. Each region has different variations and meanings, so I need to learn those as well, which is the challenging part.”
“Mauria ko ōku pāinga, Waiho ko aku wheru!”
(Focus on one’s strengths and not on one’s weaknesses.)
4. Take opportunities and rise to challenges
Learning something new and rising to new challenges go hand in hand – enabling people to build confidence and recognition, both inside and outside the workplace. For Anissa, confidence and success comes from completing a job, regardless of the size of the task.
“Success is seeing the faces and appreciation from stakeholders, with our attention to detail. It’s creating exceptional experiences. It’s being part of a great company with strong values and a supportive workplace culture. But it’s not without its challenges.”
In facing challenges, she advises people to be practical but pleasant, supportive but logical, organized but not overly controlling.
“At the start of my tenure at Sodexo, we had to prepare the office for regulatory changes, create signage, secure PPE, block workstations, create new processes, implement safety measures for our team members and clients, and deal with staffing issues. It was a whirlwind of constant changes, but even facing these challenges, I consider facilities management to be something I’m lucky enough to have fallen into, and really enjoy doing.”
5. Be yourself
Most importantly, Anissa recommends staying true to yourself and playing to your strengths.
“Don’t compromise your values to meet other people’s agenda. Do the things you love. Look, listen and learn from every resource available. Don’t be too hard on yourself! Be confident in your ability, and others will be confident in you in return.”