Introverts sometimes get a bad rap in today’s business world, portrayed alternately as antisocial types who can’t work on teams or reclusive geniuses that are best used in moderation. In fact, successful teams are often a mixture of extroverts and introverts. The key to supporting your more inner-directed reports is understanding what makes them tick and how to give them the best shot at success, both for their own sake and that of the company.
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1. Don’t corner them.
“It would be misguided to expect an opinion from an introvert at the ‘drop of the hat,” writes Dr. Marla Gottschalk at LinkedIn. “One hallmark of introversion is the need to sit with one’s thoughts and process information. If you offer an introvert a period of time to process, you’ll likely take full advantage of their vantage point and skill set.”
2. Give them time and space apart from the team.
Most introverts don’t need to work alone 100 percent of the time, but they do need a bit of room for independent thinking. If giving them a separate, designated work space is out of the question — and in this era of open offices, it often is — consider encouraging them to work at home on occasion or use a conference room, in order to get a little work time away from the madding crowds.
3. Consider them for leadership positions.
It’s tempting to pigeonhole introverts as individual contributors, but that’s not always the best use of their skills. Depending on the individual, a leadership role could be a perfect fit. Introverts are less likely to take unnecessary risks or run over their teammates’ ideas. Keep an open mind and communicate with your all of your reports about their goals and aspirations, regardless of their personality type.
4. Make time for one-on-ones.
Don’t skip your one-on-one meetings with introverted employees (or any employees, if you can help it). Small meetings allow you to build trust and loyalty, as well as figure out what motivates your report to do his or her best.
5. Leave room for their voice in group discussion.
Since your extroverted teammates are more likely to speak up in meetings, you might need to get creative in order to make sure that you hear from your introverted co-workers, as well.
“One group I know distributes 10 tokens to each team member at the start of a meeting,” writes
Jennifer B. Kahnweiler at The Wall Street Journal. “When someone speaks, he or she gives up a token. The idea: No tokens, no talking.”
Whatever method you use, make sure that the quietest voice in the room still gets a chance to be heard. Your team will benefit from the diversity of perspective, and it will help ensure that every team member feels valued and heard.
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Do you think it’s harder to manage an introvert or an extrovert — or does it matter? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.