An Intro to Introverts: What’s the Best Way to Manage Them?

 

In an earlier blog post, we identified the perplexing debacle of managing rowdy extroverts as an introvert.  Today we are going to examine the other side of the coin; how can one best manage a timid, introverted employee to draw them out of their shell instead of intimidating them into a premature two-weeks notice?

The first key to effectively managing your introverts is identifying them in your workforce.  Hint: They are reserved, shy, and often solitary folks, but not invisible or nonexistent! So although it may take a concentrated effort to reach out and distinguish these employees, as any good manager knows, it is your job to identify the needs of your workforce.  Identifying personality types is key to executing this task successfully.
Read the tips below from a Wall Street Journal article on identifying and managing introverted employees.  Hint Number 2:  Introverts are by nature independent, self-starters, and reflective, observatory individuals with a plethora of information and insight.  What success-minded manager wouldn’t want to maximize THAT employee’s potential?!
How can you tell if someone is introverted?
You might be asking, “What is introversion, anyway?” or “How can I tell if someone on my team really is an introvert?”
Unlike shyness, a product of anxiety or fear in social settings, introversion is a key part of personality—a hardwired orientation—and may be best defined by several characteristic behaviors. Introverts derive their energy from within, avoid showing emotion, and keep personal matters private. Five more defining behaviors to look for within your team:
1. Seeking solitude. Introverts need and want to spend time alone. They frequently suffer from people exhaustion, and when they do, they like to retreat to recharge their batteries. At work, they prefer quiet, private spaces, and enjoy managing projects on their own or with a small, trusted group.
2. Thinking first, talking later. Introverts think before they speak. Even in casual watercooler chats, they consider others’ comments carefully and pause and reflect before responding. They dislike interruptions, especially when they are thinking things through.
3. Focusing on depth. Introverts seek depth over breadth. They like to dig deep—delving into issues and ideas before moving on to new ones. They are drawn to meaningful conversations—not superficial chatter—and know how to tune in and listen to others.
4. Letting their fingers do the talking. Introverts prefer writing to talking. On the job, they opt for e-mail or texting over the telephone and stop by to talk only when necessary. Averse to excessive conversation, many gravitate toward social networking websites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
5. Exhibiting calmness. Introverts are quiet and reserved. Unlike extroverts, they have little desire to be the center of attention, and prefer to fly below the radar instead. In heated conversations or circumstances, they tend to stay calm—at least on the outside—and speak softly and slowly.
What’s in it for you?
There are a whole host of good reasons for learning how to communicate with your introverts. For starters, we create our best results through relationships. In truly communicating and connecting with your introverts, you will understand their wants and needs and know how to best engage them. When you tap into your introverts’ hearts and minds, you also promote more creativity and innovation. Their individual ideas can help advance your entire team.
Tips for getting started
Learning a new language is never easy, and the language of introverts is no exception. Here are four tips to help you get started:
1. Chill out. In meetings, conversations, and even casual chats, slow down and give your introverts time to reflect and respond. Put space between your questions—counting “1…2…3″ in your head if you have to—and avoid what most introverts perceive as a cross-examination. I know several extroverted managers who also post a reminder next to their phone: “Shut up and listen.”
2. Give the gift of solitude. Introverts need alone time. As a manager, refrain from judging this need, and do what it takes to honor it instead. One simple technique: Rather than stopping by throughout the workday, bundle your non-priority items and schedule a single conversation.
3. Write more, converse less. Accommodate your introverts’ preference for writing over conversation. Instead of picking up the phone or showing up unannounced at their desks, communicate through email or online chats whenever possible.
4. Pass the megaphone. Encourage balanced participation in meetings, and help introverts prepare. Ask for agenda items in advance, assign pre-work, and agree on a system that invites everyone to be heard. One group I know distributes 10 tokens to each team member at the start of a meeting. When someone speaks, he or she gives up a token. The idea: No tokens, no talking.
Finally, avoid many introverts’ least favorite question: “What’s wrong?” For these quiet, reserved types, nothing is wrong. So, why not leave them alone—and enjoy a little peace and quiet yourself?

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