Best Practices for Managing Introverts
I got a B in my graduate school marketing class. I couldn’t figure it out. I aced all of the tests. I also aced all of my projects and presentations. I found out that I got that grade because I failed in class participation. I didn’t raise my hand and answer questions that I knew the answer to.
I am an introvert. I am also a project team leader. Yes, you can be a successful leader and an introvert. If you search the web, you’ll find numerous articles on introverts and leadership. Here’s just one example: a Harvard Business Review 10-year study of 2,000 CEOs titled “The CEO Genome Project” found that introverts are more likely to surpass the expectations of their board and investors than their extrovert counterparts.
It’s been a while since that class and I’ve moved on to a successful career in IT, but over the years I’ve been “punished” for my introversion. I’ve been embarrassed in meetings by being called “too quiet” by my managers. I want to make it clear; I am not afraid to speak up or express my opinions. I just don’t talk to fill space and I choose my words wisely.
The meetings I have with my teams can best be described as “succinct.” The meetings are pleasant as I’m not anti-social. I’ve also been told that I’m a good communicator.
But I had a manager tell me that my team couldn’t leave our daily meeting until I made a comment or asked a question. It made me dread going to our morning meetings as I felt pressured to come up with something to say.
I now have a manager that understands me as an introvert and as a leader. Who doesn’t see it as something negative. She realizes that it is just another personality trait. Like all personality traits, it has both strengths and weaknesses. And one of the primary goals of every effective leader should be to fully leverage each team member’s individual strengths.
She understands the positive leadership characteristics that introverts have:
- We have the ability to listen, think and then talk.
- Our low-key attitude projects a level of calmness and confidence.
- Introverts take time to reflect on problems and their solutions.
- We have the willingness to put our teammates’ and clients’ needs and goals in focus. A trait that is very important in consulting.
I’m able to motivate and inspire my fellow team members and I’m not afraid to make quick decisions when I need to. I lead by example and empower others to succeed in their chosen profession. I firmly believe that having a mix of personality types on a team is a benefit – not a drawback. An article in Entrepreneur Magazine titled “Why The Business World Needs Both Extroverts And Introverts” further reinforces why a mix of personality types leads to more productive teams.
You don’t need to be like him to be an effective leader.
Not sure if you can be an effective leader as an introvert? Here’s a quick list of introverts that appear on leadership lists: Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Larry Page.
So how do you lead an introvert? Here are some of my recommendations:
- Always ask if there are any questions during your discussions with introverts. But don’t always expect an immediate response. And don’t call them out if they don’t immediately ask.
- Let them know that you are open to follow-up discussions. Ask them to respond to you by email if they have any additional input. Introverts love communicating using technology.
- Understand that introverts have good ideas. Give them time. Let them reflect and sort out their thoughts. Don’t keep following up unnecessarily.
- Create an environment where people aren’t afraid to speak up.
- Shout outs! Shout out their successes. Understand that they won’t do it themselves. Help them be visible and let their work quality speak for them.
- Remind that you don’t have to be an extrovert to be an effective team player or a leader.
- And remember that being introverted is not bad or negative. You leverage your strengths and work on improving your weaknesses. Just like any other personality trait!
Effective leaders understand that a team consists of many different personalities and don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to management. They realize that the team as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But in order for a team to be successful, they have to fully maximize the potential of each, individual team member.
I appreciate you taking the time to read my article on managing introverts. Hopefully, it will allow you to better understand introverts and fully maximize their contributions to the team.
I hope you enjoyed my article on managing introverts.
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