“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.