If you’re an introverted manager, chances are that you will occasionally find your preference for introversion is challenged by your role as a people leader. That’s not to say that introverts don’t make good managers or leaders. It just means that sometimes there’s a need to take on extroverted behaviour in order to be effective.
To clarify. That doesn’t mean you have to ‘be’ an extrovert, just that it helps to take on extroverted behaviours.
A primer on introversion
Let’s first clarify what we mean by introversion. Most frameworks have a similar interpretation of it but we usually look at it through the lens of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
Contrary to often held beliefs, introversion doesn’t mean to be shy or aloof or withdrawn. To be introverted means to be energised by internal thoughts and feelings rather than through interactions with others.
So while an extroverted person may think out loud, an introverted person is more likely to think, then speak, then think again. As a result, they may not be so forthcoming with information, because it ‘feels complete’ due to the internal processing that’s been happening. But when they do speak or share, it can be quite impactful as they have given a good deal of thought to it.
An introverted person is often seen as being calm and centred and can come across as being quite reserved. So if you're not quite sure whether you have a preference for introversion extroversion then that could be an indicator.
We discussed our top 3 tips for introverted managers on this podcast. You can also read them below.
1 - Share information sooner
We mentioned earlier that an introverted person may not be so forthcoming with information because they have processed it so thoroughly in their head. An example to demonstrate…
One of us (Jan) has a husband who is introverted. Handsome as well but that’s not so relevant to the story. So Jan might ask him a question such as “So what did we decide about the holiday?” or “What are we going to do to about x?” His reply will often be, “Oh I thought I already told you…” or “I thought we discussed that already?”
For an introvert, once a decision or conclusion has been made internally, that can often mean the end of the issue. It’s been dealt with internally so it’s time to move on. Of course that can lead to problems if there are others involved.
And as a people leader, it’s a critical problem to avoid. So even if you don't have a completely thought out view on something, share some information so that your audience or your colleagues get some indication of where you're heading.
That can seem like a ‘risk’ to an introvert but it can avoid problems further down the track. Plus, you might well find that in sharing the information, other information will come to light that can shorten the decision making process.
2 - Be expressive
People with an introverted preference may sometimes appear a little bit closed off or less engaged in a conversation than an extrovert. This will usually be because they are adopting a reflective stance. This might even include looking down and away from the subject. This helps to process the discussion without distraction but may in fact appear as if they are distracted.
To avoid this it helps to be expressive. This doesn’t necessarily mean matching an extrovert's level of intensity or enthusiasm, but little things like making eye contact, using body gestures, and changing voice intonation, will help the other party know that you are engaged.
As a people leader, being more expressive will help also get more engagement from your team. You have a natural advantage in that your team will have an inherent desire to match your energy so use that to the benefit of all concerned.
3 - Prepare for meetings and discussions in advance
Because introverts like to process information, they often come up with their best ideas, questions or answers after a meeting has concluded. With a little preparation, you can pre empt what might come up and have a bit of a game plan in place.
This can include preparing questions that you need to ask of other stakeholders in a meeting and preparing answers to questions you might be expecting. If it means you have to refer to notes during the meeting then that’s fine as that’s better than to not have the issues addressed to completion.
This doesn’t mean having a scripted response on hand. If you’re sufficiently prepared you’ll find you can articulate your input easily enough.
On top of seeing issues resolved earlier, the bonus upside to being prepared is that you get feedback in real time. Instead of leaving a meeting feeling that there’s unfinished business to attend to, you’ll leave knowing that it’s been dealt with to the satisfaction of those involved.
And even if you aren’t a key stakeholder in a meeting, set yourself a challenge to contribute in some shape or form to every meeting you attend. Your value can’t really be felt unless it’s actually shared.
Balancing the dynamic
Having done hundreds of workshops and debriefs for the Myers Briggs in the past 20 years we know for sure that these are the three things that would reduce the vast majority of the frustration that extroverts feel when interacting with introverts. Don’t adopt the tips just to please the extroverts though. Do it because it is good for all concerned.
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