How to Lead an Introvert-Friendly Meeting
There's been a lot of conversation over the past several months about the under appreciated value that introverts can bring to workplaces, and even to positions of leadership. Scientific studies back up the idea that introverts and extroverts alike can bring value to employers and can be great leaders.
For instance, Professor Francesca Gino of the Harvard Business School led a study of workplace dynamics in a U.S. pizza-delivery chain. What she found was that introverts and extroverts excelled as leaders under different circumstances: extroverts were good leaders in situations where employees were passive. They could motivate unmotivated workers, leading to an increase in profits. Introverts, on the other hand, succeeded as leaders and improved profits when employees were more proactive. They were skilled at recognizing and bringing out each employee's abilities. But when the situations were flipped --when proactive employees were managed by extroverts, and passive employees by introverts--profits went down.
This demonstrates that there's a need for all different personality types in order for businesses to thrive. However, many of the ways that we do business are still geared toward extroverts. Workplace cultures that value meetings, group brainstorming and processing, and highly assertive leadership tactics aren't the best way to get good results from everyone, particularly from introverts.
Whether you tend toward introverted or extroverted behavior, there are things you can do to boost the effectiveness in these collaborative environments:
What introverts can do.
If you're an introvert, one of the keys to making yourself heard is advance planning. For instance, Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, author of The Introverted Leader, suggests, that introverts get hold of meeting agendas before going into a meeting. Introverts like to think things through before jumping into a discussion, so knowing what's coming will allow you to begin that thinking process. Kahnweiler says that preparing ahead of time "caters to your introverted sweet spot of preparation and allows you to confidently present your thoughts." No agenda? Offer to create one and your teammates will be grateful that someone is taking the organizational reins."
Butch Ward at Poytner's News University suggests taking it a step further: he advises introverts to seek out and volunteer for assignments that they can head up and present on. This gives you an opportunity to use your skills, prepare your thoughts and remarks in the form of a report, have a pre-planned opportunity to speak, and participate actively in workplace conversations.
Finally, plan ahead by watching your caffeine intake! As Inc.'s Jessica Stillman reported, research indicates that caffeine actually makes introverts perform more poorly than extroverts in meetings or other situations that demand a high level of engagement.
What extroverts can do.
If you're an extroverted leader, getting the most out of your introverted employees is as simple as adopting a few thoughtful tactics.
Try using a variety of means to stimulate ideas and participation in your meetings. Jumping into brainstorming activities doesn't work for everyone. Kahnweiler suggests using written brainstorming exercises instead. And even something as simple as pausing between points so that thoughts have time to percolate. This is useful for everyone in the room, not just introverts.
Gino cites Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos's meeting style as an example of introvert-friendly tactics. He requires that each meeting begin with employees silently reading a narrative memo that apply to the topic at hand. This gives everyone an equal opportunity to spend time processing the tough questions, and formulate clear ideas and responses. Bezos reinforced this process by banning all PowerPoint presentations from company meetings because they simply don't work for everyone.
Get creative and consult with different personality types to see what helps them to be most collaborative and productive. These kinds of strategies can make your office a more productive environment for introverts and extroverts alike!
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