Every office has at least one person who seems removed from others. They may not participate as much in office banter or speak up in meetings. They might not make it to as many Friday get togethers as the rest of the team, and you certainly won’t find them doing the limbo at the Christmas party. Don’t write them off as simply aloof or arrogant, though. You may have identified the office introvert.
Psychologist Carl Jung first defined introversion as a personality type. These folks are solitary, more comfortable with the inner world of thoughts and feelings, whereas extroverts thrive on interaction and draw their energy from others.
It’s easy to overlook introverts because they’re quiet, but do so at your own risk! They may spend their time listening carefully to conversations and spotting important points that others have missed. They may be thinking carefully about solving business challenges, but you may never hear their ideas unless you create a welcoming, quiet space for those people to communicate.
We tend to promote our more outgoing employees over the quiet ones because we equate gregariousness with effective leadership. However, a 2017 Harvard Business Review study of 17,000 senior executives found that introverts were more likely to outperform the expectations of boards and investors than the extroverts that so often make it to the top.
Still need convincing? Larry Page, one of Google’s original founders, is an introvert, while Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is well-known for his love of quiet time. Bill Gates, who led Microsoft to success, famously spent two weeks alone at a personal retreat each year reading and probing his thoughts.
Consider nurturing introverts in your organization by adapting your leadership style to support their needs. This means giving them space and time, not putting them on the spot, and not micro-managing. It also means spotting their talents yourself, because an introvert may never tell you what they’re good at.
You can help by creating appropriate office spaces. Too often, office spaces favor impromptu group collaboration. “Hey, who’s for a lunch-and-learn session in the group lounging area followed by a game of Foozball?” Not the introvert, probably.
Try to cater for all personalities by creating quiet, private spaces for people to hang out on their own or in pairs.
Managing as an introvert
If you’re an introvert yourself, draw on your strengths. If you’re especially insightful, you can use those powers to generate great ideas. Then, push yourself to share them with others. Consider using the communication channels that work for you to do that, which may mean emails rather than in-meeting discussions.
Try to seek out leadership roles, even if it means moving outside your comfort zone. Then use your listening skills (a strong introvert characteristic) to really understand team members, even if you need to do this in a series of one-on-one chats.
Finally, you can draw on others’ strengths, too. When Bill Gates needed extrovert skills to help communicate and sell his ideas, he hired Steve Ballmer as his loud, go-getting CEO.
That’s the most important takeaway here: Introverts and extroverts each have something to offer. The most successful teams have both, and they riff on each others’ qualities. Armed with that magical mixture of skills, your business tribe will be unstoppable.
About the Author
Danny Bradbury has been writing about technology and business since 1989. His clients have included the Financial Times, the Guardian, and Canada's National Post.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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