Adobe Stock / Fairygodboss Staff
Anouare Abdou, Hive
Whether you’re an introvert yourself or you have introverts on your team, working with introverts can be an underrated superpower in the workplace – and it’s all about how you leverage it.
“Introverts are typically drawn to an inner focus on thoughts, ideas, and visions. Introverts are sometimes reluctant to share their ideas in a group setting or in a staff meeting. Introverts can sometimes seem aloof or uninterested, but this is usually not an accurate portrayal; they are typically pondering their next contribution to the team,” according to the National Career Development Association.
“Introverts are quietly thinking and solving problems while you’re talking. They have just as many ideas, perhaps more creative ones, but you have to intentionally make space if you want to hear them and benefit from them,” Madeline Schwarz, a facilitator, coach and trainer who advises introverts and helps teams balance out communication so ideas and talent don’t walk out the door.
According to her, introverts are usually great listeners, highly observant, introspective and creative. And here is how these skills are valuable in a team setting:
Keep in mind that extroverts are often rewarded in the workplace because they’re comfortable in the spotlight and don’t hesitate to share ideas and take the lead, but this doesn’t mean they’re better. Introverts and extroverts are simply wired differently, and adjusting your organizational practices to avoid favoring one type of personality can bring great rewards.
Below are some insights and tips to help you tap into the potential of introverted teammates who tend to be more reserved but have tons of value to bring to the table.
“Send agendas in advance so introverts can collect their thoughts. This is generally a good practice to be more inclusive because it allows people who speak different languages or have different abilities to prepare,” says Schwarz.
She also recommends establishing community guidelines such as “1,2,3 and Me” so that people know when to stop talking and everyone has the chance to contribute.
It’s simple: After one person speaks, let three more people speak before you chime in again. “This is a simple and effective way to make space for quieter voices and prevent more outspoken team members from drowning out everyone else,” adds Schwarz.
Also, when you ask a question during a meeting, it’s important to pause to allow introverts to collect their thoughts and decide to speak up. Carving out intentional time for thinking after prompting your team to answer a question is a great habit.
“When you pose a question in meetings, instead of letting people jump in, give them a minute of thinking time to write down their ideas. If you’re meeting virtually, encourage people to share in the chat along with volunteers who speak,” according to Schwarz.
She also says that in order to make the most of the introverts on your team, it’s important to vary meeting facilitators because different facilitators draw out different voices.
It’s not so much about skillset, but the fact that different personalities and styles of facilitation as well as rapport between people on the team can bring out awesome ideas that would have otherwise stayed bottled up in an introvert’s head.
Utilize breakout rooms or smaller group formats which create more comfortable settings for introverts to speak up, suggests Schwarz.
Small group formats also foster innovation and collaboration and lead to more productive decision-making, so this is a practice that will benefit you over larger meetings and you might find yourself never going back to big groups when you want to get things done.
Finally, it might be tempting to nudge introverted contributors to speak up by telling them they are too quiet, but this tends to backfire and make them clam up even more. “Telling people they’re too quiet is never helpful advice. It’s like telling employees they’re too tall or their hair is too curly.”
“Instead, celebrate their strengths and look for ways to reward employees for being introspective instead of interruptive.”
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