Barbara Corcoran almost rejected her best hire because she was introverted: I had ‘no intention of calling her’

Wealth

Barbara Corcoran almost missed out on “the best hire” she ever made — all because the prospective employee seemed too introverted.

“When I started my business [in 1973], I needed people to join my real estate company,” the millionaire investor and real estate entrepreneur said in a recent TikTok video. “But I had little to offer, and good people were really hard to get.”

In walked Esther Kaplan, who would eventually become Corcoran’s business partner and longtime president of The Corcoran Group. But at the time, Kaplan didn’t seem like the right fit for the sales position she’d applied for, Corcoran said.

“She was a petite woman dressed in a little knit suit with little pearl buttons, and spoke so softly, I could barely hear what she was saying,” said Corcoran. “I had already learned that great sales people were typically loud and enthusiastic. So I handed Esther my card and I told her I’d call her if something opened, having no intention of calling her.”

Corcoran recalled watching Kaplan take the card and place it within a meticulously organized purse, complete with labeled partitions. The unexpected tidiness and attention to detail appealed to Corcoran, she said.

“With a mind like that, I knew I wanted my business in her purse,” said Corcoran. “I opened a position for her on the spot and told her I was eager to take her under my wing and teach her everything she needed to know to sell.”

The point wasn’t for Kaplan to become a superstar salesperson, Corcoran added. Rather, it was to get Kaplan in the door — and figure out how she could best help the company later. “She had all the needed traits I didn’t have, and two years later, we were running the business side by side,” Corcoran said.

3 traits that can make introverts great leaders

You don’t have to be extroverted to be a great leader. Introverts typically share three traits that can help anyone excel in leadership roles, according to bestselling author Susan Cain:

  • A conservative and calculated approach to risk taking
  • High levels of creativity
  • Effective problem solving skills

Despite that, introverts often feel like they need to mimic stereotypically extroverted personalities to get ahead.

“The bias in our culture against introversion is so deep and so profound, and we internalize it at such an early age,” Cain, an introvert herself, said in a 2012 “Talks at Google” lecture. Introverts are “routinely passed up” for leadership positions, she added.

Her challenge to workplaces: Create an environment where both behavioral styles can coexist.

“This two-tier structure of how we view personality leads to a colossal waste of talent, and of energy and of happiness,” Cain said. “We need to be adopting much more of a yin and yang approach of balance between the two styles.”

In Kaplan’s case, she spent more than 20 years helping run The Corcoran Group, handling filing systems, finances and the legalities of the business. Corcoran oversaw public relations, advertising, marketing and recruiting, she said.

In 2000, Kaplan was succeeded as president and CEO by Pamela Liebman. The following year, Corcoran sold the company for $66 million.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank,” which features Barbara Corcoran as a panelist.

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