008 – Working With Introverts

By April 24, 2019 April 26th, 2019 Podcast

Today we are going to talk about what every Extrovert needs to know about working with Introverts.

Recently, I was coaching a brilliant young woman who is now the head of analytics at a very successful tech company. She said something that literally took my breath away. She was sharing some feedback that she had received from some of the senior folks at her organization. They had said something along the lines of, “You are always so thoughtful in how you respond to problems we are struggling with. You really think things through, and you think about how to respond. And, we want you to talk more in our director-level meetings.”  She said to me, “So they like that I don’t rush to judgment. That I take my time and provide a thoughtful response, yet they are asking me to speak without thinking.” And I thought my gosh it’s so true!!   The very thing they loved about her is now the thing that they want her to change! And, it is indicative of the extroverted-world that we live in.

In many organizations it is often the loudest voice in the room that gets heard, (Or, the most senior.) It, therefore, stands that sometimes, we may not be hearing from the most thoughtful, or the smartest. We might be missing something significant here.

Without a doubt, I am an extrovert – tried and true. I joke and I say that, “I don’t know what I am thinking until the words come out of my mouth.” And that is so true for me! I think that so many of us misuse these words – “introvert” and “extrovert.” Extraverted implies sociable or outgoing, while introverted implies shy or withdrawn. This is not the Myers Briggs or Carl Jung meaning of these words. The first pair of psychological preferences for Myers Briggs is Extraversion and Introversion. These distinctions are there to help you understand where you put your attention and get your energy from. Do you like to spend time in the outer world of other people and things? That points you to extraversion, or your inner world of ideas and images that’s an idea that you might be an introvert.

Everyone spends sometimes extroverting and introverting. Don’t confuse Introversion with shyness or reclusiveness. They are not related. As an extrovert, I truly do process my thoughts  (a lot of the time) by speaking out loud.  Introverts do not. They need to go inside and into their heads to be with their thoughts to make sense of it and then they can come out with a thought.  The two are really quite different! But that doesn’t mean as an extrovert that I don’t need time on my own because, I actually do. And anybody who knows me knows that.

There is a great book on this topic by Susan Cain called Quiet. How to be an introvert in a world that cannot stop talking. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. She writes, so eloquently about how we have idealized extroversion in our American culture and how we are missing out on the careful and deep-thinking introverts! She writes: “We love flash and dazzle.  But great power lies [in the quiet.] ‘It’s not that I’m so smart,’ said Einstein, who was obviously a consummate introvert. ‘It’s that I stay with problems longer.’ “ (p169) I love that.  Introverts tend to stay with the problem longer. She writes: “If we assume that quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good (and bad) ideas, then we should worry if the louder and more forceful people always carry the day. This would mean that an awful lot of bad ideas prevail while good ones get squashed. Yet studies in group-dynamics suggest that this is exactly what happens. We perceive talkers as smarter than quieter types – even though grad point averages and SAT and intelligence test scores reveal this perception to be inaccurate.” (p51) This book is a treasure trove of information and interesting studies that are happening out there – one that I found fascinating is work being done at Wharton by Adam Grant that introverted leaders are better with proactive employees while extroverted leaders are better with more passive employees! (p55)

So here we are – complex, messy, human beings! Where to begin? The first step is to think about: where do you fall? Are you and Introvert or Extrovert?  Remember that probably half of your workforce – if not more – are introverts!

So four things to think about if you are an Extrovert and want to work more effectively with Introverts:

  1. Be OK with silence. If you are leading a discussion or want input, it can be challenging to not have anyone talk. But just wait. Give folks a few minutes to think or write about something. Then ask for what people are thinking.
  2. As a manager, you want to pay attention to the group. We are back to Level 3 listening (from podcast 6!). Are there just a few folks who are dominating the conversation? If so, you might want to say something like “I want to invite some of the quieter voices in the room to say something!” And, then wait.
  3. Send a note ahead of time with the agenda or topics that you want to discuss with folks – be detailed and be specific about what you want help/thinking through or with. You will get more from your introverts if you do this! You can invite them to send their thoughts both before and after the meeting!
  4. Check in with the quieter voices after the meeting. They just may not be comfortable in the bigger group. Shoot them a note or pull them aside and ask “Would love your thoughts on the topic today. When can we find time to talk?”

Introverts – you can also help the rest of us loud-mouthed extroverts! Some things to try on your end:

  1. Ask for what you need, you might say something like “I would be happy to provide you with some thinking on that and would like some time to think about this. I can get that to you in 24/48/ hours. Will that work for you?”
  2. Buddy up with someone in the room – find someone who can help you “get the floor” or the room’s attention. Sometimes that is the most challenging part, have that person say, “Hang on a minute. Elizabeth has something to say.” Then Elizabeth you can take the floor.
  3. Sometimes – as an introvert, you need to let us in a little. Things are moving fast. Even if you don’t have an answer, we know you are thinking about something! So be brave and offer up a question, so you might say something like, “So one of the questions I am wondering is . . . “ That can be just as powerful as offering a solution! And sometimes even more so!

At StepUp Leadership we know that one size does not fit all.  We are all different.  And we are coming to the room with various amounts of experiences. As a manager and leader in your organization, there are lots of ways to get more from your folks and it will be different every single time.

Thanks for joining us for this weeks “Five-minute Epiphanies How to Mine the Mess for Success: Tips, Snippets and Stories.”  For more information check us out at humanityworks.kinsta.cloud and join us next week when guest speaker Jonathan Rodd we here and will be talking about presentations – some key nuggets that will change how you do this!

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