If you’ve ever wanted to get more from your whole team, specially the quieter members, you might wondered “how to manage introverts”. You probably only need to make small adjustment to how you’re managing introverts, but these small changes can make a huge difference to your team’s performance. This page explains many of the issues and gives you 5 tips to manage introverted employees.

Are you wasting a third of your talent?

Most managers encourage extroverts and extrovert behaviour when managing their team, without realising. That makes it harder for introverts to play their full part, possibly cutting a third of your talent!

That quieter third are normally the ones most likely to think differently, in detail and prevent “group-think”. Two of the most well known examples of group-think are possibly Coca-Cola’s decision to launch “New Coke” (yes, I’m old enough to remember it, read about it here if you’re lucky enough to be younger) in 1985 and the USA’s invasion of Cuba in 1961.

Many companies suffer from groupthink. Team members with similar thought processes are more likely to think similarly, all head in the same direction and less likely to spot potentially catastrophic errors – even though they often have all the information they need in the room.

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Should you manage introverts differently?

“Treat all people equally” seems like a reasonable maxim. However, it depends on what you mean by equally and whether your want get the most from your team.

Introverts are a third to a half of the population, introverts in the workplace (e.g. your team) generally reflect that. My surveys show that many firms struggle with more than third of staff not being fully productive. The biggest causes are company culture, communication styles and where the two overlap with introversion. In other words the unknowing actions of leaders are causing the problem, in the way they set the communication style and drive the company culture.

Rather than asking should you manage introverts differently, better questions are who are your introverts, how introverted are they, and how could you manage them more effectively – so your whole team benefit.

Why introverts make great employees.

Introverts, like all your staff, can be valuable assets to you. Some of the reasons 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 “get to the bottom” of an issue.
  • be self reliant. They’re not always looking for positive reinforcement as they use 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, or sign up to introversial leadership – the fortnightly briefing, packed with ideas to help you manage your whole team.

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 discourage 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 you run more effective meetings that work for the whole team.
  • Telling people how to feel: 80% of introverts I’ve interviewed 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. That leads to 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. 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? Sound panels help, plants absorb some sound, quiet rooms, or even home working for some tasks all help.

Tips to manage introverted employees

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

  1. 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. If it’s just words it will do more damage than saying nothing, change the way you manage team meetings.
  2. 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 accept the first answer and move on, you cut out the more detailed introvert answer. People who normally respond immediately may benefit from a few more seconds of thinking time, and introverts 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).
  3. Ask for more answers: Don’t just take the first answer, ask for more ideas. This will encourage quieter, more thoughtful people to believe it’s worth bothering. You’ll get a richer answer and be able to make better decisions.
  4. 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
  5. 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

This episode of the weekly radio show “Activate Your Introvert”” features a discussion with 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
Click here to buy the book on Amazon

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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