Most businesses will have a combination of two personality types. Extroverts are people who get their energy from external sources like meetings and interactions with others. Introverts, on the other hand, recharge from time by themselves to think and plan.
How do you know which employee is which? Watch them in action, says human resources expert Meredith Persily Lamel, an executive in residence at American University's Kogod School of Business in Washington, DC. The person who is seeking out others to chit chat at the vending machine or suggesting group brainstorming sessions to solve a problem is likely your extrovert. The one who heads off to a quiet corner to go over meeting notes or to come up with a great solution is probably an introvert.
While individual employees may vary in their strengths and preferences, this two-part series will include overall best practices for managing both types of employees. Here are five ways to manage introverts:
1. Give them time to think. Introverted employees typically perform better when they have a chance to think about ideas or meeting topics in advance, so creating an agenda can be a simple task to get them to participate fully, Persily Lamel says.
If that's not possible, give your introverted employees some time after meetings to reflect and get back to you with additional thoughts, she advises. That's how you'll get the gems from them.
2. Give them space. Too much external stimuli can be draining for introverts. If it’s not possible to let them work in a quieter office or cubicle, at least have a space where they can retreat, giving them refuge from the sensory onslaught of an open workspace. They may also do better with more independent work, Persily Lamel says.
3. Plan early meetings. Since introverts tend to have more energy at the beginning of the day, try to time important meetings before lunch when their energy is highest. At this point, they haven’t been exhausted by dealing with other people and the hustle and bustle of the office all day. "If their day has a fair amount of external stimuli, which most workplaces will have, you're going to do better with them at the beginning of the day," Persily Lamel says. If that’s not possible, give them time to plan in advance and an opportunity to think through the meeting discussion and get back to you with more information or ideas later.
4. Be comfortable with silence. When conversing with introverts, give them time to think and respond "You might have to call on them in a group setting or at least inquire if they have something to add," Persily Lamel says. "Don't be afraid of silence. Don't try to fill every moment with conversation. It's important to let the introvert have the last word on occasion." If you’re managing an introverted team member, don’t let others interrupt or speak over him or her, she advises. Help your introverted employees speak their minds.
5. Seek their feedback. Get answers and information from introverts in ways that make them more comfortable. Instead of expecting them to hold their own in meetings and spontaneous discussions about projects and issues, seek them out for one-on-one chats. When they've had a chance to prep for meetings, specifically ask their opinions to be sure they get a chance to contribute fully. It's not a matter of coddling, Persily Lamel says. Good managers create environments where employees can express themselves and thrive.
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