Harnessing the Power of Introverts in Your Organization

Photo Credit: The Odyssey Online

It’s been nearly a year since I wrote this Medium post declaring my introversion to the world. Since that time, I have learned a lot about myself and really focused on becoming comfortable in my own skin. It’s been a great time of learning for both me, my team members and those who lead me.

Today, I’d like to share some ways you can be inclusive of introverts in your organization. And if you or your team haven’t already taken the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, I would highly recommend doing so. You can do it for free on 16personalities.com. Shout out to David Cancel, Dave Gerhardt and the “Seeking Wisdom” Podcast for inspiring me to take the test. :)

There are a few key differences that distinguish introverts from extroverts:

  • Introverts process information by thinking deeply about what is being presented
  • Introverts are recharged through quiet time
  • Introverts prefer deeper, more intellectually stimulating conversation over small talk
  • Introverts prefer smaller group interactions over large ones

These characteristics when nurtured properly can be extremely powerful and of tremendous asset to your organization. Unfortunately, they are also often perceived as weaknesses with introverts labeled as shy or antisocial.

Now that we understand what an introvert is (and is not), here are some ways you can make your workplace more inclusive.

Have an Agenda for Every Meeting

Because introverts often talk less and process information internally before speaking, it is helpful to provide an agenda beforehand. This will allow the introverts on your team to adequately prepare their thoughts and ideas and, in turn, bring more value to the conversation. Introverts are great listeners and might only speak a few times during your meeting. Don’t worry though. Their contributions will be far more valuable because you allowed them time to prepare.

Give Them Time To Think

One of the most challenging situations for an introvert is getting put on the spot. While extroverts think out through things by talking, this is not the case for introverts. The better approach is to allow an introvert time to think through a complex question. Give them the question and then let them know that you will meet to discuss it with them at a later point after they have had time to think things through. The quality of the discussion and the response you get will improve exponentially. It is worth the wait. I promise. :)

Allow Them Quiet Time

Introverts recharge through solitude. Being in back-to-back meetings for hours on end will quickly drain your introvert and productivity will suffer. Try to schedule meetings in such a way that it allows the introverts on your team a chance to have a moment of quiet. It can also be helpful to have flexible schedules that allow your introvert team members to work when they are at their best and recharge when they need to.

Consider “Quieter” Team Activities In Addition to Happy Hours

While a good happy hour can be highly stimulating and fun for extroverts, the introverts on your team may find them draining and less enjoyable. Some ideas here are to host book clubs and lunch and learn sessions that your introverted team members will find highly stimulating and feed their thirst for knowledge. You might also want to consider having periods of quiet time in your office, especially in open floor plans where there can be a lot happening at a given time (Hat Tip to my co-worker Edwin Marty for this idea).

Communicate in Writing

If I had a dollar for every time I ever thought “I should have said that,” I would be a billionaire. Because introverts take more time to think things through, it might be better to communicate with them in writing. This allows them time to absorb what is being communicated and formulate an appropriate response. I’m not not proposing it all has to be done via email though. Written communication can take place through tools like text messages, Gchat or Slack. One caveat here: emotion and meaning can be difficult to interpret in these channels. A simple emoji can help provide context.

Introverts can be a huge asset to your organization by providing deeper strategic insights to some of your most perplexing challenges. The key to unlocking this is creating an environment where they can thrive and be well nurtured.

Special shoutout to my own manager, Sangram Vajre, who has genuinely embraced my introversion and helps me grow more and more as an introverted leader every day. :)

What other ideas do you have for creating an environment for introverted employees and leaders in your organization? Leave me a note in the comments.