Working with Extroverts and Introverts

Mike Saunders
Jan 2, 2018 · 4 min read

Steve Gardner and I had a powerful business relationship. We challenged each other and pushed each other to be better at almost every turn. Without realising it, we were two opposing personalities that spent considerable time learning how to get the best out of each other. It wasn’t easy for either of us but our candid and honest communication was always appreciated and it lead to us being able to tackle some huge challenges together. Challenges that were way bigger than each of us on our own.

You see Steve is an introvert and I am more extroverted than him. I am not a complete extrovert, according to the quiet revolution test I am classes as an ambivert. In Myers Briggs terms Steve is an INTP and I am a ENTP, essentially my extroverted nature was the primary difference between the two of us. While I loved extraverted communication, Steve avoided it at all costs, I would love working in our open-plan office and Steve would use our work-from-home policy to its maximum. Steve often was criticised for being disconnected and unapproachable, however my impression was very different. Steve was always thinking about the business, always looking for ways to add value and always approachable, I just had to learn how to see that in him. In fact I always saw Steve as my biggest supporter once we both took the time to understand each other better.

What Steve and I faced in business is a classic challenge that we managed to tackle together. We never saw it as an introvert/extrovert issue, rather we were both focused on developing a good working relationship. We never criticised each others nature or personality but rather sought to see the best in each other and look for ways to exploit that. I remember a conversation where Steve challenged me outright that I had not put enough thought into a decision we were making. He was right, and his introverted nature picked it up quickly. There was a lot more information that needed to be digested before we could make a good decision. In the same light I remember challenging Steve often that he had enough information to make the decision I needed from him. In that case I was right and Steve saw that his desire to drive deeper thinking sometimes got in the way of actually making the decision in a timeous manner.

I remember Steve reminding me that my team communication and presence was important to the team dynamic, that something was missing after I spent extended time out of the office. He was pushing me to exercise my strengths more for the benefit of the team, where sometimes I would feel like I was bulldozing the team with my ideas. I would often bring Steve into big decisions that needed to process a lot of information because he naturally found these exercises invigorating and always came out with much better insight than I could find.

The relationship between Steve and I has shown me that there are incredible aspects to the introverted personalities that we need in both our personal and business lives. Introverts are incredible people who have more to offer that extroverts ever give them credit for. Some of the worlds greatest leaders and influencers are introverts, including Warren Buffet, Lady Gaga, Barak Obama, Emma Watson, J.K. Rowling and Marissa Mayer. Introverts are often seen as the minority, but research shows that introverts make up between 47% — 55% of the population in the US, which I believe is enough of a sample base to be assumed it correlates globally. Yet with so many introverts in business, we often see advice that suggests introverts bend toward the extroverted life to succeed while extroverts are subtly projected to be superior. Extroverted natures are seen as an asset while introverted natures are seen as a challenge to overcome.

In my experience with Steve and others I have found that a person having a introverted or extroverted nature is not enough to distinguish their success or not. I would suggest that each party has a lot to learn from the other. Extroverts often speak too quickly, sometimes too emotionally, while introverts can learn to express themselves and their emotions clearly to others. Extroverts prioritise people and introverts prioritise self, both could learn how to balance this better. Most extroverts I know battle to spend time going deep on an expertise and could learn from introverts about the value of deeper thinking on particular topics. Introverts in turn could learn from introverts how to take their deep thinking and communicate it efficiently to the world.

In my opinion, introverts and extroverts can learn a lot from each other and if they found a base of humility and appreciation to discuss their differences and find a working relationship, we could develop a personal relationship and a business culture that grows people in a more wholistic manner and that produces the best out of its people. I see many conflicts in business rise out of introvert and extrovert differences, and like most things, an unwillingness to work at understanding these differences leads to unhealthy business relationships, that in turn lead to unhealthy, ineffective and unhappy teams.

I am not saying that introverts don’t need to change. I believe that introverts and extroverts can be immature versions of themselves, shown with a lack of emotional intelligence and understanding of self. I simply believe that both introverts and extroverts have a growth path that possibly moves towards each others strengths in order to make the most of their own natural gifting.

So to discuss this I have done some research to identify ways that each group can grow:

1) The growth path for the introvert
2) The growth path for the extrovert

Mike Saunders

Written by

CEO @digitlabsa, entrepreneur, husband & proud father and author