Statistically speaking you have introverts in your team. The questions are who, how introverted are they and how productive are they not being? The page is about the introvert productivity gap and some of the very simple things you could do when asking “how to manage introverts”. These simple changes can make a huge difference to performance.
Introverts make up a third to a half of the population, your team is likely to reflect that. Based on survey data in many firms those talents are being wasted due to the culture in your business and your unwitting actions.
Wasting a third of your talent?
It’s highly likely that, without realising, you manage your team in a way that encourages extroverts and extrovert behaviour, making it harder for introverts to play a part in the company. In other words, cutting out a third of the talent. Worse than that, you could be cutting out the third of their talent 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 (wrong) direction and less likely to spot potentially catastrophic errors.
Give me examples.
- 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).
- Telling people how to feel: OK, that sounds odd, but interviewing introverts showed me how most introverts don’t like being told how to feel or to display those feelings (some extroverts are the same by the way); being told to show your feelings is more likely to annoy introverts. 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: 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.
Diversity in the workplace
Former Education Secretary Justine Greening recently said “We can’t continue to be a country that only uses about a third of our human capital”; she was talking about social mobility, but her point is equally valid here. Many companies have invested huge efforts in in improving diversity in the workplace, where one of the big benefits is diversity of thinking. Simple changes to the way you manage could activate your introverts and get more diverse thinking from them.
How to manage introverts
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.
- 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
Getting that extra 33% productivity.
To regain full productivity of the introverted 30-50% of the workforce takes thought, but is achievable. This page gives a few examples, to go further you could:
- create a programme for your business.
- download your copy of “Activate your introverts” to get more ideas,
- just call me; I’d love to chat through the issues you’re facing.
What will your first action be?
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.
Download your copy of “Activate your introverts”, free, to help you change the way introverts are managed in your firm. This short book focuses on your team meetings, as they’re a common problem for many firms.
Click here for more details.