Tips for Managing (and Understanding) the Introverts on Your Team

 

Introverts make up roughly half the population. Yet, in a world where the loud and the bold attract much of the attention, introverts can often be overlooked—even in the business world. 

Your results as a manager depend on your ability to unleash the creativity and ideas of each person on your team—from the outspoken and social to the quiet and introspective. It’s up to you to find untapped brainpower and direct it.

There’s ongoing attention to the differences between introverts and extroverts. So you might already know that introverts recharge from within through quiet alone time and extroverts recharge through interaction with other people. These recharging needs don’t have anything to do with whether they like being around people in general. Plenty of introverts are incredibly social and plenty of extroverts enjoy time alone.

Here are some tips for working with and getting the most from the more introverted personalities on your team.

  1. Allow for preparation … by sharing an agenda before meetings or brainstorming sessions. This advance notice will enable your introverts to come to the table comfortable because they’re prepared—better able to respond and offer ideas and solutions. Introverts are typically good at processing information, so you’re more likely to get a well-thought-out answer if you don’t ask for a spontaneous response.
  2. Allow for silence … if you’re meeting one on one. Pause between multiple questions. Give him or her time to carefully consider before responding.
  3. Allow for follow-up … by encouraging your team to continue thinking on topics after a meeting has ended. Encourage them to share these post-meeting ideas and thoughts through email or an additional follow-up meeting. Giving this extra time to process the information could yield big ideas.
  4. Give them space and quiet … by ensuring there’s a place to get away from continuous interactions with people for a few minutes. In a typical workplace, employees don’t have offices, so simply closing the door for a few minutes isn’t an option. Is there another space that could be used for a quiet break? Also, bundle your questions, requests and other low-priority items to minimize periodic interruptions.
  5. Allow them to work independently. While collaboration is part of any work environment, sometimes portions of a job can be divided and conquered individually. Introverts tend to prefer solo or one-on-one work.
  6. Speak up on their behalf … when they deserve a pat on the back. Many introverts don’t toot their own horns. Notice their work. Reward it. But, if you’re going to do so publicly, better to let them know ahead of time. They’re typically not big on being the center of attention.
  7. Encourage participation in meetings … by developing a system that encourages everyone to be heard. Two ideas: Give a limited number of tokens to each participant to be used each time he or she talks; or assign agenda items (and needed legwork) to specific people.

Introverts make great team members and leaders. You might be an introvert yourself. Reading through this list may have reminded you how you like to be approached, what drives you crazy or what works best for you. A few small changes could help you get the most from everyone on your team.

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