A former GE and NBC exec says being introverted isn't the same as being shy, and she wasn't successful until she figured out the difference

GEBeth Comstock spent 27 years at GE and former NBC properties.
  • Former General Electric vice chair Beth Comstock had to push herself out of her comfort zone to reach the C-suite.
  • Early in her career, Comstock would attend pitch meetings and often left without contributing to the discussion. It took several meetings where Comstock didn’t chime in for her to realise she was shy and introverted – and to be successful she had to overcome both.
  • Over time, Comstock said she dug deep to find her “internal extrovert” and gave herself small challenges to overcome.

Beth Comstock spent 27 years at GE and former NBC properties, eventually rising to the level of former vice chair at General Electric, but it took her years of overcoming being shy and introverted to get there, she said on an episode of Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success.”

Comstock recently wrote a memoir and career guide, “Imagine It Forward.”

At first, Comstock wanted to be a journalist and would attend regular pitch meetings, often leaving without contributing to the conversation.

“And I was mad at myself. I was, like, ‘I had that idea.’ Or, ‘I had a better idea.’ And well, who can I blame? I didn’t say anything,” she said.

It took several meetings where Comstock didn’t chime in for her to realise she was shy and introverted. She says the two are different, and being introverted means “you’re reserved, you reserve energy.”

When she realised she couldn’t succeed if she didn’t speak up, Comstock pushed herself to accomplish small challenges that would eventually lead up to her bringing and pitching ideas at meetings.

“Change starts with these small steps. It’s taking a risk, it’s facing a fear that’s just small. It’s me saying: ‘I’m going to bring an idea to that meeting. And I’m actually going to pitch it,'” she said.

Over time, Comstock said she dug deep to find her “internal extrovert.”

“It’s like, ‘My job requires me to do this.’ So it was getting out of my head. It wasn’t like, now I’m going to be confident, and now I’m going to put myself out there because I’d freak myself out, to say, ‘My job requires this.’ So it was a way for me to get out of my head,” Comstock said.

Comstock recognised she was holding herself back and looked for an opportunity to change when NBC launched MSNBC and she had the chance to speak with Bill Gates.

“But those moments, you just say, “OK, this is my job. I have to go talk to Bill Gates now. I have to say, ‘Bill, you sit here,'” Comstock said. “As I said, you just say, ‘I have to do my job.’ And those are the situations.”

As she grew in her career at GE, she felt more comfortable talking to customers, speaking internally, and giving presentations. She said she started out talking to her team, then she’d get called into big meetings. Ten years later, she was able to talk to the board but said she “couldn’t have done that right away.”

“I certainly never would have imagined I’d end up where I would at GE, but I was ambitious. I’ve always been ambitious,” Comstock said. “I knew I wanted to keep learning, I wanted to keep growing, I wanted to keep rising in the company. So ambition has always been a part of who I am.”

Listen to the full episode and subscribe to “This Is Success” on Apple Podcasts or Art19.

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