I am currently working with a Senior Vice President of a global Fortune 1000 company who happens to be a solid introvert. What I love about him is how he takes in information, processes it, and then makes succinct statements that are really powerful. None of the fumbling-around-verbally-processing-sometimes-sticking-my-foot-in-my-mouth that I, as an extrovert, can do.
If we are at a function, he does engage others, but after awhile he starts to get people-d out. He tries to smile and be gracious, but it is obvious he needs his alone time.
As an introvert, he really shines when he has a solo project to work on. I have worked with him through his last five promotions. The higher up he moves, the more he is working through others to get the work done. However, we noticed that he becomes a little bored and at times drained through the constant meetings required to keep his direct reports updated and their work refined.
One of the things revealed in a coaching meeting was that he needed one critical solo project to work on, while fulfilling his other duties. Since we have implemented that, there has been no more boredom, and he handles the direct reports with his one-on-one’s feeling less drained.
How To Work With Introverts
As is implied in the above paragraphs, there are a few things to keep in mind when working with introverts.
- Give them time to process – As introverts listen, they formulate their answers in their heads and then they speak. They may pause before responding. One way to maximize their ability to process in this way is to favor email over discussion. This is not to say that they would not profit from face-to-face meetings, but sometimes they would rather take in the details and chew on potential responses ahead of the meeting, especially if they are J’s (Judgers on Myers-Briggs).
- Protect their alone time – Are you noticing that an introvert’s calendar is getting filled with meeting after meeting? Try giving them a chance to take a significant break to process what they’ve been taking in and also recharge their batteries. Please don’t disturb them during this time as they want to be fresh for the next round of face-to-face meetings
- Give them a solo project to work on – Yes, introverts can work in a team and collaborate well, but they tend not to like the office gossip or the small talk. They want to get into the work, perform their role well, and move on to the next meeting.
When working with an introvert, be sure to give them one solo project that matches their gift-sets. If they are being “forced” into constant group work, you could start to see discouragement set in. Even in group work, make sure they get some time to work alone on their own on a piece of the project, and then allow them to come back into the larger team.
Introverts are rising fast in the marketplace. Those who are rising leverage their strengths, learn to work with their constraints, and communicate their needs to their team members so that all are aware of how to work with them successfully.
If you are leading a team with introverts encouraging them to do the same will increase their engagement.
Chew On This: Do you know which of your team members are introverts? How can you help them to shine?
Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.