Introverts & Extroverts Know What They Need

“I can’t wait to take a breather after this meeting to decompress.”

“I hope we hang out after this meeting to keep chatting!”

Two employees, one meeting, two very different ways of channeling energy. When I conduct trainings, I spend time helping people define their energy preferences. Although introversion and extroversion are often perceived as social qualities, they are more accurately defined as how people use their energy. Do they plug into themselves to recharge or do they glean momentum from being plugged in to other people?

Let’s hear directly from them:

An Introvert Shares:

I love my job here. This product is something I would use as a consumer even if I wasn’t an employee. Becoming a team leader was an adjustment, because I had not supervised people previously. I am excited about trying out all the great ideas that have been accumulating in my brain!

I am perceived as “shy” or “standoffish” sometimes but the truth is more nuanced. I do like to take time to observe people and situations before speaking up. If I am thrown into a situation without a certain amount of preparation, I struggle to “catch up” and hit the ground running. My “inner world” is a delightful place but it is in no way less important than the my team, my social connections, my family, and my workplace.

To be at my best in a meeting situation:

Circulate an agenda in advance (this helps me feel prepared)
Create opportunities for me to contribute (I have great ideas but won’t typically interrupt or barge in)
Encourage me to circle back around with follow-up observations after the meeting (with additional processing time I can expand my ideas and create additional value)

An Extrovert’s View:

Just like my introvert co-worker, I love my job here too! I am a fan of our product when I am on the clock and when I am off the clock. Just ask any of my friends; they hear about it all the time. I couldn’t wait to become a team leader; I love cheering everyone on to bigger and bigger successes! One challenge of being a team leader is the amount of time spent by myself in my office, head bent over reports. The administrative component of being a team leader is not nearly as much fun as the actual team motivation part.

I have been called the “life of the party,” and I do like inspiring people to participate in all of our work efforts. I love having several balls in the air at once, and nothing makes me happier than being surrounded by a big group of people. I get a lot of energy from others. “Two heads are better than one” is one of my constant mantras. The power of people gets me going. On the flip side, I know that I sometimes let my enthusiasm get ahead of my brain. I make half-formed suggestions without knowing enough background; I defend positions that may not deserve my unflagging support.

To be at my best in a meeting situation:

Facilitate tightly (I can talk and talk. Remind me to turn some of the control over to someone else so we get a variety of views)
If our meeting involves breakout sessions, put me in charge of a group (I like the responsibility and energy)
Keep us all together in a less formal setting after the meeting so I can let the ideas continue to flow.

Preferences toward introversion and extroversion are not clear cut. People may lean more toward one than the other over a lifetime. It is not typical for someone to do a full 360 to the opposite of their current preference, but life experience and self-awareness can impact a person’s approach to the world. A certain amount of people are genuinely ambiverts, existing in the wide expanse between a true introvert preference and a true extrovert preference.

What do I do next?

If you do not know your own preference, that’s an important place to start. A 12-question quiz from the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is available here. A fee-based version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which provides insight into Introversion, Extroversion, and other personality characteristics is available via this link.

At Lamson Consulting, we provide assessments that incorporate introversion/extroversion preference in our management development training.

Every organization is full of people who differ from each other. Being aware of your own preferences and being able to get the most out of diverse groups by tuning in to the needs of introverts and extroverts will help you turn those differences into assets.

Finding the Transparency Sweetspot

Have you ever had an employee say “please keep me in the dark” or “please be dishonest with me”?

Everyone says they want transparency, honesty, and openness.

When fragile situations demand confidentiality, you as a manager have decisions to make. You have to navigate toward the sweet spot between healthy transparency and professional discretion.

Being constantly open, honest, and transparent can cause conflict and loss of morale as people sort through a deluge of information. On the flip side, if we hide things or aren’t transparent, trust can break down.

If you find yourself in the midst of a crisis and everyone is clamoring to know more, use these six guidelines to hone in on the transparency sweet spot:

Lead Explicitly. Make it clear that your role as a leader is to protect your team and advocate for them. Candidly explain that there will be some pieces of information that are not eligible to be fully disclosed right away. Don’t say “you will know everything I know” if that’s not what’s going to occur.

Have a Policy. Ideally, your company has a formal policy or statement on ethics. If not, at a minimum you should immediately have a conversation about what ethical “do’s” and “don’ts” you expect within the context of your team. Make sure each team member acknowledges your plan of ethics and commits to operationalize it.

Be Proactive. Put a five-minute status update about upper management’s directives on the agenda in every team meeting. This status update should be as straightforward as possible. Even better, have an upper management level representative attend your team meeting and answer questions directly.

Hold Skip Level Meetings. Advocate for and set up skip level meetings with your manager so your staff will get access to senior leadership. These meetings will give your direct reports more visibility and status. Skip level meetings give everyone a sense of more transparency, even if the word “transparency” is never overtly said.

Make Allowances for Your Industry. Remember that ethics criteria will vary depending on the industry. A law firm, for example, may have a different take on transparency than an ad agency.

Take Cultural Standards Into Account. For example, countries vary widely in their attitudes toward gifts. In the United States, the exchange of presents could be seen as bribe or form of corruption but in some countries, business partners will expect to exchange gifts.

My training specialties are management development, cultural communication and gender cooperation and the topic of transparency arises at every session, either in group discussions or private sidebars (or both). It’s easy to get access to company details these days, from salaries to the balance sheet. It’s not so easy to get at the heart of that organization’s values.

The transparency “sweet spot” can be elusive. Too much transparency can distract. Not enough transparency can be a trust-blocker. Follow these six tips and you stand a good chance of ending up right where your people need you to be.

Preventing Virtual Team Implosion

You brought ten bright people together to calibrate milestones. The team was dispersed internationally and throughout the course of the project you met by teleconference… The deliverable was a mess. Clearly, something fell through the cracks.

With virtual teams, you can’t just put members together and expect productivity. Let me tell you, that just won’t happen.

You are going to have get in each team member’s face, literally and figuratively.

How Was Information Delivered?

What technology solution did you use? If words and images are garbled, inconsistent, or simply not there, your project has taken a step backwards.

Here are a few products that are commonly used by virtual teams:

Bluejeans This cloud-based video collaboration tool appeals to IT departments because it frees up server space. Most importantly for you as a virtual team leader, it helps your team people see and hear each other and easily share graphics.

Webex This is one of the best known and oldest collaboration tools. Webex recently redesigned its User Interface to be more streamlined and easy to navigate during videoconferencing. I have found the Webex mobile apps to be more versatile than some of the newer products on the market.

I am especially intrigued by Immersive Telepresence, which utilizes sophisticated technology and, occasionally, robotics to make the videoconference experience mimic the “in person” conference experience.

Other virtual teams I have worked with have used Citrix Go To Meeting and Google Hangouts.

Look Me In The Eyes!

You may have all the bells and whistles your IT budget can buy, but making the most out of your virtual team depends on so much more than the technology. Your team members need to:

Get buy in. Who among us hasn’t heard “this new system is going to make our lives easier”? Sometimes the only person truly invested is the one who made the decision to buy it. As with any change, people are more likely to be positive about learning new systems if they are given a role in choosing or implementing it.

Communicate intentionally. Some keys to keeping your virtual team on track are the habits that help communication flow easily, such as introducing yourself before speaking, and deliberately building in strategic silences. (Strategic silences are important because members can’t easily catch the “I am done now it’s your turn” cues that are typical of in-person conversations.)

Develop discipline. As with an in-person meeting, assign roles such as “moderator” and “timekeeper” to structure the meeting. With one person concentrating on helping everyone use their time effectively, other members can focus on the business at hand.

And then there’s the devil of the virtual team world: Multitasking. Establish rules about multitasking at the outset and enforce them.

From choosing the technology to using the technology appropriately, a lot of preparation goes into virtual team management. Don’t short-change your employees by skipping steps.

Your ten people are logging in. Are you prepared?