Managing introverts

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How to manage introverts? Be aware of the differences between introverts an extroverts and then take these 5 tips to manage introverted employees, They’re small changes that can make a huge difference to your team’s performance.

Why should you manage introverts differently?

It’s not unreasonable to say “treat all people equally“, although that depends on what you mean by equally and whether your want get the most from your team. Introverts make up a third to a half of the population, your team probably reflects that. Survey data shows that in many firms a third of people are not fully productive, due to the company culture, communications and where the two overlap with introversion. In other words unwitting actions of leadership.

Better questions are who are your introverts, how introverted are they, and how to manage your introverts more effectively.

Are you wasting a third of your talent?

Without realising most people encourage extroverts and extrovert behaviour when managing their team. That makes it harder for introverts to play their full part, cutting out up to a third of your talent.

That quieter third are normally the ones most likely to think differently, in detail and prevent “group-think”. Groupthink is an issue many companies suffer from, where people with similar thought processes are more likely to think similarly, all head in the same direction and less likely to spot potentially catastrophic errors.

Why introverts make great employees.

Introverts, like all your staff, can be valuable assets to you. Some of the reason are that introverts tend to

  •  be good listeners.
  • excel at thinking critically
  •  think carefully before acting.
  •  be less emotional, especially in stressful or challenging situations.
  • explore problems from many angles and are able to get to the bottom line of an issue.
  • be self reliant. They’re not always looking for positive reinforcement as they trust internal validation to know they’re doing a good job.
  • take time to ask the right questions to ensure they fully understand their tasks.
  • value quality and accuracy in their work – they want to get it right.
  • set very high standards for themselves – it’s that internal validation again.
  • follow rules and processes more that extroverts.
  • be detail oriented.
  • help the team gel by focusing on output, detail and challenging poor quality thinking

To unlock these benefits and get your whole team working more effectively involves some of the tips to manage introverted employees on this page. If you’d like to get started and help your business benefit from the activating your introverts, get in touch.

Managing introverts in the workplace…ineffectively.

There are many ways in which people are managing introverted employees ineffectively, without realising. For example:

  • Team meetings: Typical team meetings, and way that teams are run, encourage louder people and discourages quieter ones. Even when you ask everybody think about something, the “rewards” normally go to the first voice to respond (normally the extrovert).  “Running Meetings that make things happen” was written to help with this and has ideas to help.
  • Telling people how to feel: That sounds odd, but interviewing introverts showed me that most introverts don’t like being told how to feel or to display those feelings (some extroverts are the same by the way). Don’t spend your time trying to make introverts show feelings and express themselves; spend your energy making them feel safe to do so. Then, when they do, support them and you’ll have converted them to your cause. More details in “Don’t tell an introvert how to feel, or ask them to show you“.
  • Not listening: Introverts typically take longer to respond as they process thoughts internally (the benefit is more detail and often a different angle on the problem). That’s great, except many leaders are already moving onto the next issue, or tuning out to the detail in the answer. As a result you’re training your introverts not to bother next time.
  • The work social: There is a big benefit in teams getting to know each other outside of the immediate workplace, however many work social events put introverts at a disadvantage unless they’re well planned.
  • The office layout: Research shows introverts find it harder to concentrate in noisy environments (click here for more detail about this). Offices where people are more likely to chat together or interrupt each other may suit those who are energised by social interaction, but cause issues for introverts. What can be done, if you can’t change the office building? Sounds panels help, plants absorb some sound, quiet rooms, or even home working for some tasks all help.

Tips to manage introverted employees

Don’t make obvious gestures and suggest you’re managing some people differently. There are small changes that will help, without being obvious.

  • Value different thinking styles: making it clear to the whole team, both as a team and individuals, that you value all styles of thinking will help. But if it’s just words it will do more damage than saying nothing, go on to change the way you manage team meetings.
  • Response time: Give all of your team slightly longer to respond to questions, or make them take longer. Typically introverts think things through before they talk, while extroverts talk in order to think, if you’ve accepted the first answer and moved on you cut out the more detailed introvert answer. People who normally respond immediately may benefit from a few more seconds of thinking time (so their ideas have more detail), the introverts will get a chance to express their opinion. Send out agenda and discussion items beforehand so everybody can prepare (the introverts will engage more if you do).
  • Ask for more answers: Don’t just take the first answer, ask for more ideas. This will encourage quieter, more thoughtful people to think it’s worth bothering to respond. You’ll get a richer answer and be able to make better decisions.
  • Encourage people into conversations: You probably have some team members that don’t readily respond in discussions, no matter how much you’ve asked. How to engage an introvert in discussion has 7 ideas to help
  • Manage meetings so everybody feels comfortable speaking. This can mean holding back some of the louder voices. Running Meetings that make things happen has more ideas on this subject.

A discussion on Managing Introverts

As part of the weekly radio show “Activate Your Introvert” I interviewed Gina Gardiner. Gina is well known for her leadership expertise and illuminates the way for enlightened leaders to create a more profitable & meaningful mission. Here’s our discussion on leadership and managing introverts.

Managing meetings to make things happen

A short book to help you unlock the quieter talent in your meetings and get more from your whole team.

As an advocate for quieter and more detail oriented individuals, I urge all managers to keep this book close at hand. Packed with practical, solution oriented, tips on how to create productive meetings -ones where employees feel safe and valued- this isn’t a once off read but a guide to refer back to often. This is a must have book on every managers’ desk to keep improving meeting facilitation skills.
Aoife Lenox, The Introvert Coach

Activate your introverts

A programme to improve the leadership in your firm, increase the understanding of introversion and improve productivity, creativity and staff retention, by increasing the understanding of introversion.
Click here for more details.

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