No one is a pure introvert or extrovert. However, every workplace has representatives of each personality type, and there are a few fundamental differences between the two that affect how they interact with their colleagues. Introverts tend to keep to themselves, preferring one-on-one conversations and solo work. Extroverts enjoy group projects, talking through their thoughts and connecting with others throughout the day. These behaviors often lead to unfair assumptions and judgments about both groups, which may cause tension within the team.
When discussing projects with introverts, you may not get much verbal feedback. That doesn’t mean they aren’t listening or that they have nothing to say. They often prefers to take some time to process information and respond in a way that’s most comfortable for them. Be sure to give clear expectations and some space. As long as goals and deadlines are understood, there’s no need to hover over their shoulders and micromanage.
Large and busy workplaces may default to group meetings to save time, but one-to-one communications may be sacrificed. This will impact the introverts. To cover this possibility, send out an email that summarizes the meeting and offer an opportunity to offer suggestions or comments.
Introverts are more reserved, making them a bit more difficult to get to know. This doesn’t mean they do not like people or are not friendly. They typically prefer a few good friends over many acquaintances. Introverts have valuable input and need to be offered a suitable opportunity to express their viewpoints.
Extroverts usually have a need to speak out when they have something important to say. With extroverts, it is helpful to ask and rephrase questions or statements to ensure that a well thought out point is being offered. It is not true in every case, but extroverts tend to think out loud by talking and getting “fired up” both by talking as well as by interacting with others. This means that some of what you hear come from them may be all part of working through their thinking process. So, give the extroverts some face time to talk out their ideas and bounce things off team members.
Managing a Team with Different Personality Types
Obviously, the team leader needs to recognize each team member’s personality type and delegate tasks in such a way as to highlight members’ strengths and mitigate their weaknesses.
It is critical that a team leader actively facilitate conversations and comments from introverts and not allow the extroverts to dominate any team action.
Where do you fall?
If you’re curious about where you are on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, this informal quiz, Susan Cain developed ten questions that can help you determine the group to which team members more closely identify. The questions were formulated based on characteristics of introversion accepted by contemporary psychologists and researchers.
To complete the questionnaire, answer “true” or “false” to each of these 10 questions, choosing the answer that applies to you most often.
1. I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.
2. I often prefer to express myself in writing.
3. I enjoy solitude.
4. I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in-depth about topics that matter to me.
5. I enjoy work that allows me to “dive in” with few interruptions.
6. I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it is finished.
7. I do my best work on my own.
8. I tend to think before I speak.
9. I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself.
10. I’d prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled.
The more often you answered ‘true,’ the more introverted you probably are. However, Cain noted that even if you answered every single question as an introvert or extrovert, your behavior isn’t predictable across all circumstances.
No matter which side you tend toward, try to be considerate and understanding of others’ viewpoints and natural behaviors as a team member.
Sometimes as a team leader, you have to work with someone who has a completely opposite personality than your own. As long as you properly acknowledge your personality type relative to your colleague’s, you should be able to find a happy medium.”
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