Unleashing the Talent of Introverts

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facilitated by Arthur Coddington

What Is Introversion?

(hint: *not* the same as shyness or social anxiety)

  1. Social interaction drains the batteries rather than charging them
  2. Difficult to process information while talking, need to go away & be quiet to think

Initial Thoughts & Questions

  • What do people experience? How to talk publicly without feeling like a nervous wreck?
  • Do goals differ between intro & extra? What different kinds of activity do they bring?
  • How to do public social marketingy stuff without being drained?
  • Introverts have a lot to contribute in meetings etc, but tend not to want to interrupt, take the spotlight. But can lead in different ways.
  • Meyers-Briggs was big turning point, analysis of results helped see what was needed: time to recharge between networking events.
  • Book recommendation: Quiet by Susan Cain - what introversion is, how people have thrived.
  • How do intros talk about what they're working on?
    • Not in superlatives, not so strongly pushing, but more matter-of-fact, more objective.

What Does Introverted Leadership Look Like?

  • Nudging not shoving
  • More collaborative, may seem to conflict with basic traits but OTOH it is more about listening, which introverts like to do
  • Selling your work would be not so obviously sell-y, but in a more open way that can nevertheless be very effective - and attracts a different sort of customer/client
  • How to handle it when you try to foster collaborative decision-making but others don't step up?
    • Hard not to fall back on dictatorship!
    • But it doesn't feel good.
  • Want people to do their jobs, but to continue doing them because they're invested & engaged & have a stake.

Introverts in the Work World

  • Tech seen as a haven for introverts, but maybe more than that it's actually an incubator or social force nudging business & society towards listening to and valuing introverts.
  • Intros can take longer to get to an idea, but there are bigger leaps in the steps along the way.
  • Are there ways to foster introvert comfort & contributions in a work world that's not really set up for it?
    • Recognize and acknowledge and name the differences
    • "Take down the fences" - create open, collaboration-inducing work spaces
    • Gather people for conversation
    • Or... how about *not* open spaces? need some separation & quiet time
      • Nice to have some noise and activity around, helps create privacy through anonymity, but need to make it not intrusive & distracting
      • Can use headphones (with music or white noise) as a good device

Also a need for introverts to understand how extroverts talk & how to listen to them, as well as getting them to listen. Like, because they think by talking, if you suggest something and they go off on a tear, it might seem like arguing or shooting you down but isn't -- you might just have to know to sit back and wait for 20 minutes while they come around to the same idea, because that's how they're doing their thinking.

Extrovert leaders can take active steps to make space for intros to be heard, boundaries in interaction that are respected.

Specific examples:

  • Don't make decisions immediately, but with ideas & proposals brought up on one occasion and then time before the next meeting to go away and think and process and create response.
  • Send agenda around 2 days before
  • Call for initial input of questions & ideas at beginning of meeting
  • Written word can be easier to process & more effective
  • Other modes of interaction than group meetings: one-on-one, email, wikis, etc

And as we do more of it and others come into contact with us, ripples will flow out and scales will fall from their eyes.

Three Takeaways

  1. We can use personality typing systems like Meyers-Briggs to identify and talk about, and then recognize and learn to value the innate differences between people.
  2. Introverted leadership looks more like collaboration, which has to be enabled by and embedded in transparency and trust.
  3. Extroverted leaders can actively make space for introverts and get the best out of them by structuring meetings and decision-making appropriately: use email & wikis & other tools for written communication, distribute agendas well in advance of meetings, make decisions on a subject only after some inter-meeting time to allow for quiet thinking & processing after it's been brought up, etc. We can create processes and culture that's supportive of everybody's strengths and fosters their best work, but it takes education & care.