What do Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg have in common? They are all successful introverts. It’s estimated that one-third to one-half of the world’s population is comprised of people you would describe as ” reserved or shy’. Yet research shows that many leaders have difficulty effectively managing and leading more inner-oriented employees. As a leader, you don’t want to underutilize a significant segment of your team. Here are four ways to adapt your management style to bring out the best in introverted employees:
Know your employee’s preferences. Introverts may prefer e-mails and one-on-one meetings over group meetings and they may find group meetings challenging and even trying. Many introverts also don’t like being called on in meetings unless they have had time to prepare what they plan to say. Try providing a meeting agenda ahead of time and giving reserved employees advance warning when you might ask them to share thoughts or address the group.
It’s estimated that in a typical six person meeting, two people do more than 60% of the talking. If you have an employee who dominates team meetings, you could (nicely) suggest they take more time to listen to other people’s points of view and make that person aware of your efforts to encourage everyone to speak up. But that doesn’t always work. You could also try a technique called ‘brainwriting‘ to make sure everyone’s ideas are shared and considered.
Be observant. Introverts aren’t as likely as extroverts to highlight their own accomplishments and speak up with their own opinions and beliefs. Know that with some employees, they’ll never point out their successes to you or feel completely free to share great ideas.
Give them space. Introverted employees typically thrive when left alone to complete their tasks. They also are more likely to find interruptions taxing and may do best in quieter areas of the office. Sometimes, giving an employee a choice in where and how they work can be a tremendous help.
Don’t force them into socializing. Not all employees want more office parties or team bonding activities. Socializing with colleagues can be beneficial for team cohesion, but for significantly introverted employees, being forced into these activities could be more detrimental than helpful. Accept that not all employees want to socialize with others for fun, and let your introverted members of the team decide if/when to participate on their own terms instead of goading them into it.
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