Do you have an introvert that rarely contributes to the conversation? You know they are smart and have good ideas because they bring these ideas to you on occasion. But when you look to them in your time of need, they don’t deliver. Perhaps it’s your approach? Maybe you have been indirectly taught through outwards displays of encouragement that extroverts are smarter, better leaders, but the real truth is that if the introverts of your organization are not contributing it is your failure as a manager. Here are four ways to help you rise to the occasion!
- Understand them. Introverts make up about one-third of the population, so there are introverts in your organization and most likely on your management team. Many managers make the mistake of thinking introverts are less confident than extroverts which is why they contribute less. The reality is, introverts just work differently. They like to take the time to think through many different scenarios. They don’t want to be rushed and pressured into coming up with the solution “right now.” Many times we expect an introvert to be more extroverted. We tell them to speak up or get involved in the conversation. This is often a pointless suggestion. It is like asking an extrovert to sit in during an important conversation and to expect them only to contribute when asked. That would be very frustrating for an extrovert. So the point is to understand the introvert and not expect them to change who they are just to make your job easier.
- Ask for their opinions. This tactic is the standard response when faced with an introvert. Most managers will simply ask them to contribute. It can get a little old and can be frustrating for a manager to have to do this all the time, but I have found it is usually worth the effort. More often than not, the input an introvert provides is thoughtful, and even if it isn’t the perfect response, it will usually spark other ideas.
- Give them time to think before calling on them. This is a tactic I try to use as much a possible and seems to give me the best results. An example of this is if you are having a meeting and need input; give them some warning by asking for input from three or four people before them. In the past, I have said to the group that I needed to hear their thoughts and would say “Jaxon (extrovert) you go first, then Christine (extrovert), then Eric (Introvert). Doing so gives Eric time to think of a way to express his idea without having to do it instantly. Although there will be some anxiety with this tactic, it will be better than the frustration they will experience due to their mind drawing a blank by being put on the spot.
- Empower them to lead. This last item is not always possible, but if you can apply this, it is very effective. When you put an introvert in charge of the meeting or project, you give them a natural way to work. The expectation will be for them to communicate and solicit input from others. I have found they have high emotional intelligence and can lead a team through the myriad of challenges very well.
Although there is no perfect way to manage or lead a group of people, following the above steps should help you avoid awkward meetings and frustrated employees. The big key is to have empathy and be deliberate in your approach.