We asked managers in the tech world to share what they've learned about working with different personality types. One fundamental lesson emerged: It starts with education, not assumptions.
As someone who self identifies as an introvert, I find that the label is not binary, but rather a sliding scale. There are times when I act very extroverted – leading a meeting, giving a presentation, networking at events – and in those cases many people believe I'm an extrovert. At the end of those days, though, my energy is drained and I require time alone to recharge.”
“Introversion isn't about talking less. It is about the preference for an individual to move inward to explore the rich and expansive corners –perspectives and experiences– of their mind and how those may inform the situation at hand.”
–Introverts: “Given the choice, introverts will devote their social energy to a small group of people they care about most, preferring a glass of wine with a close friend to a party full of strangers. Introverts think before they speak, have a more deliberate approach to risk, and enjoy solitude. They feel energized when focusing deeply on a subject or activity that really interests them. When they’re in overly stimulating environments (too loud, too crowded, etc.), they tend to feel overwhelmed. They seek out environments of peace, sanctuary, and beauty; they have an active inner life and are at their best when they tap into its riches.”
–Extroverts: “Extroverts relish social life and are energized by interacting with friends and strangers alike. They’re typically assertive, go-getting, and able to seize the day. Extroverts are great at thinking on their feet; they’re relatively comfortable with conflict. Given the choice, extroverts usually prefer more stimulating environments that give them frequent opportunities to see and speak with others. When they’re in quiet environments, they’re prone to feeling bored and restless. They are actively engaged in the world around them and at their best when tapping into its energy.”
–Ambiverts fall somewhere in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. “In many ways, ambiverts have the best of both worlds, able to tap into the strengths of both introverts and extroverts as needed.”
Managing larger groups of introverts works best when individual and collective goals are consistent, transparent, account for different skill sets and talents, and encourage coordinated efforts…
In the work environment, there are many factors – from how teams are assembled, to how many meetings are scheduled, to how office space is organized – that can be tailored to maximize employees’ strengths and temperaments.
A clear communication rhythm and framework are essential for a highly productive team, and can really assist introverted team members by allowing them to mentally prepare for interactions/meetings/communications.
When in doubt, ask employees about their work preferences.
“As managers we need to learn how to leverage an individual’s strengths instead of focusing on perceived weaknesses.”
…cautions against letting preconceived ideas about personalities limit managers’ expectations of their team members. “Just because a person is an introvert doesn’t mean they’re not good at something which might be seen as an extrovert thing to do.”
Ensuring that everyone has a meeting agenda and topics ahead of time allows introverts, in particular, to absorb the information and prepare their questions or comments.
While more extroverted team members love group discussions and whiteboarding sessions to brainstorm ideas, I’ve found that more introverted team members prefer to brainstorm on their own time.