Spotting your most extroverted employees isn’t likely to be a hard task, but identifying your introverted workforce can be harder. They typically don’t like to draw attention to themselves as much as others. It is, however, a vital step to take on a most rewarding journey.
As you lead a team, you may notice those who perhaps aren’t always the first to put their hand up in public, who prefer to hang out alone or in small groups. Their work may be exceptional, but they might not shout about it as much. None of this necessarily means they are shy or lack confidence, they just prefer to engage with their workplace in a different way and will therefore need a different environment to generate their best results. Exceedingly successful introvert Bill Gates elaborates on the benefits of having high quality introverts on your team.
“If you’re clever you can learn to get the benefits of being an introvert, which might be, say, being willing to go off for a few days and think about a tough problem, read everything you can, push yourself very hard to think out on the edge of that area.”
Failing to cater for the introverts in your company can lead to avoidable stress and a drop-in performance. They may not feel welcome, and can you really afford to lose the next Gates, Zuckerberg, or even Einstein?
If you’ve identified introverts in your team and want to get the most out of them, here’s some ways to get started:
1) Allow online feedback opportunities
The idea that introverts are incapable of speaking in public is a myth. There are many introverts who perform on stage, lead companies, and deliver highly regarded keynote speeches. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an opportunity they relish at every opportunity though, and many may not always feel comfortable speaking up in meetings or in discussions.
Using software like Google Sheets isn’t just an easy way of collating data, it also gives introverts a chance to make points and suggestions on their own terms with time to think about their answers. You may even want to take this a step further with software like Know Your Company to allow everyone to tell the company a few details about themselves, and keep everyone updated on what they are doing. Many people find such an approach preferable to standing in a circle and telling everyone about themselves.
2) Mix up your social activities
Bonding with your team is an important factor for many companies, it builds relationships that improve loyalty, shows you how people work, and it’s also a chance to have some good clean fun.
Your calendar of events needs to be inclusive of your whole team’s tastes and personalities. This means you can’t give carte blanche to the loudest voices in the room. There’s no reason not to have more boisterous events if there’s an appetite for them, but many introverts would prefer more relaxed and reflective activities that can still be fun for the whole team. Maybe try an escape room, or do a crafts class as a team, perhaps even holding a book club. Maintaining this variety will help everyone feel like a valued member of the team.
3) Offer coaching
Depending on what an individual is like, you may notice that they need help overcoming certain challenges. This can be particularly important when looking at things like leadership skills, networking, and public speaking.
This is not to alter their personality or to turn them into overnight wolves of Wall Street. It’s to give them the tools to unlock their knowledge for everyone’s benefit. Or even to give them the abilities that leaders of companies are expected to possess.
Warren Buffett was an introvert, and ascribes much of his success to taking a Dale Carnegie course on winning friends and influencing people back in 1952. In fact, it’s the only certificate that hangs up in his office!
4) Share meeting plans beforehand
Unlike a lot of extroverts, introverts would often rather not be put on the spot in meetings. It’s not that they can’t think quickly, or work under pressure. It’s just be that they may not wish to vocalise their thought process like extroverts often do.
By circulating the planned discussion points for meeting in advance, your introverts will be in a far better position to anticipate questions and prepare some ideas to bring to the meeting. They will be more comfortable elaborating on them having clarified them in their mind already.
5) Don’t mistake silence for rudeness
Being aware of the personality traits common among many introverts will help you understand where they fit into office life and communicate it if necessary.
For example, if an introvert doesn’t want to join in with the chit-chat around the office at lunch, there’s a good chance they’re not deliberately being anti-social, they may simply be more comfortable being left alone with their thoughts.
Similarly, they can be very enthusiastic about their work, the company, and their fellow employees but not outwardly show it.
6) Avoid doing business in the pub
Depending on your company culture, this may be a relic, but for some places it is still an ongoing occurrence. People will meet up in the pub after work, and end up conducting casual meetings in a more relaxed setting. Things here can be informally agreed upon before being made more official in the office come Monday.
For many introverts, who do not wish to be in a loud bar or crowded pub for too long, this can exclude them from the decision-making process and lead to them feeling alienated from the group. It’s a demoralising situation that can be avoided by agreeing to avoid deciding on ideas when out at evening social events, and implementing it into company policy.
It’s also worth pointing out that this doesn’t just apply to introverts. Busy parents, commuters, or those who don’t feel comfortable around alcohol will be far less likely to be available for this.
One size does not fit all
In this piece, and its sibling one on extroverts, we include somewhat of a caveat here. Every single one of your employees is a unique individual, who will have their own quirks and trait. Often they will not fit snugly into a well-defined psychological framework. So this piece is only to be viewed as a guide. As you get to know them, adapt your strategy to suit the employees you have.