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LEADING TEAMS

How to Be Good at Managing


How to Be Good at Managing Both Introverts and Extroverts

Both Introverts and Extroverts


by Rebecca Knight
NOVEMBER 16, 2015

As the boss, your goal is to have all your


employees operating at their peak level of
energy, efficiency, and motivation—which can
be a challenge when it comes to leading a team
comprised of introverts and extroverts. How do
you manage these vastly different personalities
and work preferences? How do you draw out
your introverts and get your extroverts to listen?
What’s the best way to adapt your management
style so that it works for everyone?

What the Experts Say


Until recently, personality types and human
dynamics were not typically the stuff of work
conversations but that is changing, says Susan
Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in
a World that Can’t Stop Talking. “We are now at a
point in corporate culture where it has become
socially acceptable to talk about this.” For good
reason, she says. “Introversion and extroversion
go to the heart of who a person is: how they work, how they live, and how they interact.” Coming
to terms with this element of team diversity isn’t always straightforward. Francesca Gino, a
professor at Harvard Business School, advises approaching the managerial challenge from a
“mindset of understanding and curiosity.” Here’s how to create an environment that maximizes
each of your colleagues’ strengths and temperaments and ensures that everyone’s needs are met.

Educate
How to Be yourself
Good at Managing Both Introverts and Extroverts
Extroverts and introverts take “dramatically different approaches to work and social processes,”
says Cain. Understanding these preferences will help you become a keen observer of “the people
who are part of your team and what drives them,” says Gino. Extroverts, for instance, tend to
tackle their assigned work promptly; they’re quick, sometimes rash decision makers. They’re
comfortable with risk-taking and multitasking. “On the other hand, introverts work more
deliberately and slowly. They prefer to concentrate on a single task at a given time.” Extroverts
gravitate toward groups and they tend to think out loud. “They are energized by social gatherings
and shared ideas,” she says. In contrast, introverts typically dislike noise and big group settings
—“they may enjoy business meetings and some parties, but after a moment they wish they were
at home with some good books.”

Talk to your team


You don’t need to give everyone on your team a Myers-Briggs test to figure out who’s an extrovert
or introvert because in most cases, “it’s pretty clear,” says Cain. That said, some introverts are not
immediately identifiable “because they are practiced at acting like extroverts.” In other words,
they appear sociable and outgoing at work, but as soon as they get home, they collapse on the
couch from exhaustion. To get a handle on your colleagues’ preferences, you should “encourage
frank and open conversations with people as individuals and as a team,” she says. Ask questions
like: In your ideal workday, how many meetings do you attend? How do you like to get your work
done? How do you recharge? Cain notes that some introverts might be reluctant to open up. If
that’s the case she recommends providing your team with reading materials about the quiet
power of introverts, pointing to high-profile, successful introverts, such as Beth Comstock, chief
marketing officer at General Electric, or “identifying a leader in your organization who is an
introvert and willing to talk about it publicly.” Talk to your team, too, about the ways in which
personality differences drive performance. After all, says Gino, “a properly balanced team has the
strengths and skills of both personality sets, whereas a team of too many extroverts can suffer
from ego issues, while a team of too many introverts can be lacking a shared team dynamic.”

Rethink the workday


Your next step is to use the information you glean about your individual team members’
personalities and predilections to formulate norms and “dynamics that are respectful to
everyone,” says Cain. Start by looking at how you structure the workday. In Cain’s office, for
instance, there is a policy of no meetings before 12:30pm. “This gives people who prefer head
down time the freedom to have that, but it also gives extroverts the knowledge that there will be
time to talk things out,” she says. It’s wise to give your team ample uninterrupted work time by
“not
How tohaving soatmany
Be Good meetings
Managing in the first
Both Introverts and place,” she says.  “Research on brainstorming shows
Extroverts
that individuals come up with more ideas and better ideas than groups of people brainstorming—
this is true of extroverts as well as introverts,” she says. Most important, though, give your team
members flexibility to manage their workdays as they see fit. Encourage extroverts to socialize
and share ideas when they feel compelled to and “give introverts the freedom to take a walk to
recharge or work from the coffee shop next door” if they need a break from team togetherness,
she says.

Promote privacy
The workplace—particularly the modern American workplace, with its open floor plans and
emphasis on constant collaboration—can seem like it’s built for extroverts. But a research
suggests that we all— especially introverts—need private space to get work done. So think about
small design changes you might make to create “nooks and crannies for people to go and be
alone,” she says. These include individual tucked away workstations or even “quiet zones”
similar to quiet cars on trains. You can also help your team develop cultural practices whereby
colleagues “signal to others that they’re not be interrupted,” she adds. For example, in some
offices people wear headphones to indicate that they’re in concentration mode. At the same time,
you need to make sure that your extroverts don’t get discouraged by everyone retreating to their
cubes. So maintain or create spaces for gatherings and random encounters too – for example,
coffee break areas, communal lunch tables, lounge rooms.

Encourage introverts to speak up…


Research indicates that in a typical six-person meeting, two people do more than 60% of the
talking. In bigger groups, the problem is worse. According to Gino, the key to drawing out
introverted employees is “to make them feel comfortable enough to contribute.” Since a direct
request for feedback might put your introverted colleagues on the spot, “you could tell them in
advance that you would like them to contribute so they come prepared.” Sharing the meeting
agenda a few days prior is helpful here so that introverts can think about how they want to
convey their ideas “rather than having to improvise in the moment.” At Amazon, she says, every
meeting begins in total silence. “Before any conversation can occur, everyone must quietly read a
memo about the meeting, which gives introverted team members the time they need to
formulate their thoughts and, for some, build up the courage to share them with the rest of the
team.” She also recommends that from time to time you ask people to write instead of speak in
meetings. “Have your team write their ideas and suggestions on slips of paper that you put up on
a white board for everyone to read,” she says. “This avoids people having to jockey for airtime.”

…And
How extroverts
to Be to listenBoth Introverts and Extroverts
Good at Managing
Extroverts often bring enthusiasm and candor to meetings, and you want to encourage that. But
you must also teach them to “listen, reflect, and become more open to the perspectives of their
more silent peers,” Gino says. Cain suggests talking to the dominant personality—or personalities
—on your team one-on-one. “It doesn’t have to be loaded or a big deal—it’s not a critique,” she
explains. Instead, you want to acknowledge all the good things they bring to the table but then
ask them to consider “tweaking” their behavior to allow others to be heard. Challenge them to
draw their more introverted colleagues out while still staying true to themselves.

Principles to Remember

Do

Balance social spaces with private ones


Send the meeting agenda in advance and occasionally ask for written feedback to give
introverts time to formulate their thoughts and summon the courage to share them
Allow people to work the way they want to; extroverts should feel comfortable taking time to
socialize, while introverts should have license to work remotely or take breaks from the team

Don’t

Assume you already know everything about introversion and extroversion—make an effort to
learn about how personality impacts work preferences and styles
Overload your team with meetings; give colleagues ample uninterrupted work time during the
day
Let a certain dominant personality do all the talking; encourage that person to reflect and listen

Case Study #1: Talk to your team members about how they prefer to work and learn
A couple years ago, Margaret “Meg” Sheetz, the President and COO of Medifast, the nutrition and
weight-loss company, had a problem with team dynamics. “I am an extrovert—I like to
brainstorm and talk stuff out—and I was highly frustrated because some people were not
engaging the way I wanted them to,” she says.
After discussing the issue with one of her HR colleagues, Meg had her team take the Myers-Briggs
personality type indicator. Her goal, she says, was to get “an understanding of who was in the
room.” The entire management team took the test and discussed its results together. “We talked
about our gifts and talents, what motivates us, and how each of us makes a contribution to the
company based
How to Be Good at on our strengths,”
Managing she and
Both Introverts says.
Extroverts

The conversation helped Meg think about how to get the best from each individual—particularly
when it comes to team meetings. She now emails the introvert on her team agenda items
beforehand. “I say, ‘I need you to come to the meeting tomorrow with your ideas on these three
specific things.’ It gives her time to focus and prepare,” Meg says. Meg doesn’t provide the
extroverts on her team with as much information beforehand because she knows “they’re better
on the fly.”

The Myers-Briggs test results and the subsequent discussion also gave her a new appreciation for
introverts in general. “We have an introvert who does all our training and presentations and you’d
never know he was an introvert because he’s so good on stage and so personable,” she says. “He
talked to us about how he hasn’t let his introversion stop his career growth and also how he’s
adapted his management style for the extroverts on his team.”

That director has also become somewhat of an ambassador for other introverted personalities at
the company. “I think there is an assumption that an introvert is someone who sits in a cubicle
with his head down and can’t drive and inspire people—but that’s not true. We value introverts
and their management style.”

Case Study #2: Provide structure and encourage feedback in multiple formats
Mat Brogie, the COO of Repsly—the Boston-based software company focused on mobile customer
relationship management, oversees a marketing team of two people. “One is very much an
extrovert, the other is very much an introvert,” he says. “My job as their manager is to get them to
the point where they’re most comfortable so they can perform at their best.”

Recently, for instance, Mat led a meeting on the topic of implementing an Agile methodology into
the company’s marketing unit. When Mat finished his portion of the presentation, his introverted
employee shied away from providing feedback, while his extroverted colleague “gave his input
right away—I didn’t even have to ask.”
Mat let his extrovert do the talking, but he made sure to follow up with his introvert after the
meeting, one-on-one, to solicit her ideas. She sent him an email the next day with her
perspective. “My philosophy is to let people be who they are but make sure they all have an equal
opportunity [to say their piece]. I welcome different types of feedback. And I don’t want to put
people onGood
How to Be the at
spot or putBoth
Managing them in an awkward
Introverts situation.”
and Extroverts

At the same time, Mat wants to make sure his introverted employees have a voice at the table that
others hear, too. Repsly doesn’t have many meetings, but the company does gather every day at
8:30am for a 15-minute morning scrum. Each team member is allotted one to 2 minutes to give
an update. “It’s a format that works for everyone. Because it’s structured, the introverts can
prepare for it. They know ‘These are the things I need to say and I say them in this order.’ They
don’t feel uncomfortable, and they get to practice being a little more out there.”

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist in Boston and a lecturer at Wesleyan University. Her work has been
published in The New York Times, USA Today, and The Financial Times.

This article is about LEADING TEAMS


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5 COMMENTS

Brandon Moten a year ago


This is a helpful article for interacting with a variety of traits. I appreciated how a 'Don't' was "don't assume you
already know everything about introversion and extroversion—make an effort to learn about how personality
impacts work preferences and styles". The emphasis on taking it case by case is crucial. I personally am an
introvert and, on the surface, a lot of what Rebecca mentions is spot on, but there are traits that I possess in
which are branded within only myself. The managers in the case studies did what works for their team, but it's
important for readers to understand we each have a different dynamic in our offices. Thanks for the read,
How to Be Good at Managing Both Introverts and Extroverts
Rebecca.

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