It is estimated one-third to one-half of the population is introverted. Psychology Today® describes introverts as those who enjoy time to themselves, do their best thinking alone, and lead most effectively when others are self-starters. All good things, right? Yet, at times, the quiet nature of introverts leads them to be typecast as antisocial, aloof, unenthusiastic and unproductive. In fact, Susan Cain, former corporate lawyer, self-professed introvert and author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, asserts we live in a culture biased against introverts. This e-newsletter offers tips on how to counter that premise and maximize the talents of introverts in the workplace.
- Timing is everything: Introverts often need time to think things through before throwing out ideas, offering suggestions or coming to conclusions. That’s not to say introverts will never contribute in the moment. Cain reminds us: “It’s not a bad thing to go to a meeting and, even if you feel uncomfortable, push yourself to speak.” It may, however, be best to revisit your introverts after they’ve had time to ponder. A brief circle-back at the close of a meeting or an online survey sent after the meeting can help ensure you get thoughtful feedback from the entire team.
- Brainstorms are thunderous: Introverts generally prefer to think in a quiet place sans commotion and chatter. This can turn typical group work and brainstorms into less-than-ideal situations. If you’re looking to team up and tackle a problem, you may want to chat about the issues first; then let those who prefer to reflect quietly on potential solutions leave the table and storm alone. Or, employ brainstorming methods, such as blitzing, where ideas are first generated individually and shared as a group after. Show them that everyone’s ideas are important by providing sticky notes and a pen to help them organize their thoughts.
- The right fit: Introverts have natural abilities that are assets within the workplace. In general, they are strategic idea-generators who are organized and good at managing time. Do you have some special projects that fit your workplace introverts’ personality? They may be up for tasks that involve writing or research, so a mini organizer or a notebook and pen set can help keep their notes organized.
- Listen up: Simply because introverts are quiet doesn’t mean they can’t make a statement. We can all learn a thing or two from tuning in to introverts. They are great listeners, so they generally have a good understanding of both sides of an issue. They ask great, strategic questions and have a keen awareness of what’s going on around them. In fact, introverts make great salespeople because of their strong listening skills. Take a cue from introverts and consider offering active-listening training at your next all-staff meeting or lunch-and-learn. Promote the session with logo’d ear buds to help participants drown out the noise and tune in.
Having a team of varied skills is a great thing. Just be sure to tune in to each team member’s needs. For an introvert, that may mean allowing them to listen more than talk, take time to think things through, and re-energize through alone time.
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