Effective managers adapt their management style to the individuals in their team. This means not just treating people the way that they would like to be treated or using systems and processes that work well for just part of the team.
One important element to consider is the personality characteristics of individuals in the team and specifically, whether they are introverts or extroverts. Broadly speaking, extroverts love working with groups, are comfortable spending large proportions of their day interacting with others and tend to think aloud. Extroverts draw their energy from others. Introverts on the other hand, tend to find greater creativity and insight when working alone, they don’t tend to dominate conversations or command attention in group settings.
Unfortunately, the way that we work and specifically, how we manage others, often doesn’t take into account these variations in personality and therefore, we can sometimes unconsciously favour certain personalities while disadvantaging others. To avoid this and create an inclusive work environment for all, we must consider how personality can influence preferred ways of working and be flexible enough to allow everyone within the team to shine.
Dr Rebecca J Jones PhD CPsychol is an Associate Professor in Coaching and Behavioural Change at Henley Business School. Here are 5 tips by Dr Rebecca J Jones to managing both introverts and extroverts are:
- Raise awareness. Effective managers understand themselves and their team members. Don’t make assumptions about the personality of your team. For example, many introverts have adopted ‘extroverted’ behaviours to be successful at work. Ask your team to complete a personality profile (you should do this as well) and discuss as a team what you discovered and the implications for how you work together. Working with a team coach can be a great way to facilitate a session such as this
- Consider the physical space. Our surroundings have an impact on us. For example, extroverts are more likely to prefer open plan working whereas introverts as more likely to prefer their own office space. While you may not be able to influence the design of the office, you can consider creating different zones in the office. If you have open plan offices, ensure that there are some private offices (this means no glass doors or walls), where individuals can go if they need to work without interruption. Equally, if team members have separate offices, ensure that there are welcoming communal areas where team members can work together
- Recharging social energy virtually. More teams than ever continue to work virtually or adopt hybrid working. Managing virtual or hybrid teams brings fresh challenges, not least in relation to personality. Introverts may enjoy the flexibility to work from home, whereas extroverts may miss the social interaction at work. If you manage a virtual team, be sure to create time before the start of meetings for team members to socialise and catch-up, re-charging their social energy
- Make meetings inclusive. The most divisive of work situations for introverts and extroverts are meetings. Extroverts can often dominate meetings, thriving on the inherent socialness and the advantage of preferring to think aloud. However, changes that make meetings more inclusive for introverts will also benefit extroverts. For example, ensure that attendees share papers, ideas and agenda items well in advance of the meeting. This information should be detailed enough to provide attendees with sufficient information to start their thinking prior to the meeting itself. The manager must also chair the meeting in a way that supports inclusivity. For example, setting the ground rules that everyone will have time to contribute, can speak without interruption while allowing sufficient time for everyone to have their say. Chairing meetings in this way ensures that everyone has time and space to contribute, regardless of who speaks loudest. Finally, let attendees know that they will have time to share additional ideas after the meeting, consequently giving those more introverted, reflective thinkers time to add additional input should they desire
- Don’t put people into boxes. Importantly, our position on the introversion-extroversion spectrum is not fixed in concrete. While we have a preference to be more introverted or more extroverted, this can also be to some extent context dependent. For example, even highly extroverted individuals may find themselves seeking solitude and introverts may crave social contact. Consequently, while understanding the personality of your team is important to being an effective manager, putting people into boxes based on personality is never a useful strategy