Managing Introverts like Audrey Hepburn
Management Monday: Managing and Motivating Introverts
Modern business is all about extroverts, teams and collaboration, which is great. However, history has proven that it’s important not to overlook the value of introverts. The world recognizes introverts such as Warren Buffet, Jo Rowling, Johnny Depp, Audrey Hepburn and Steven Spielberg as some of the most impactful leaders, artists and innovators. It would be a shame for the business world to burn-out or suppress a future Warren Buffet. Workplaces are much more attune to nurturing extrovert talent and often don’t understand how to help rather than stifle bright introverts.
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It is important to understand that introverts are an important asset to the business world. Healthy companies need both to survive. In fact, studies by psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist reveal that often the most creative people in many fields are introverted (New York Times). Below are some tips to help introverts feel welcome and part of the team, without overwhelming them. Different tips are right for different scenarios.
1) Introverts can be vocal on topics of interest to them. During team meetings, find ways to incorporate their interests into the discussion, which will help get them to start talking.
2) Naturally, introverts internalize a lot. Know that it will help motivate an introvert if they’re in an environment where they have time to process and think. To put this to use, practice having two weekly meetings, one in which problems, goals and ideas are laid out and a second where the team is invited to discussion. This gives the introverts time to mull over the topics.
3) Introverts are likelier to share their ideas in writing than they are trying to win out over other people’s voices. Try having everyone turn in any ideas they have on paper during the week and then discuss them as a whole.
4) Make the work space friendly to introverts. Provide areas in the office that are quiet and secluded where people can think.
5) Avoid making the mistake of trying to make introverts into extroverts. At the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, gene specialist Dean Hamer conducted a study revealing that the D4DR gene on Chromosome 11 affects dopamine, a neurotransmitter connected to excitement, motivation and physical activity. Extroverts have a long D4DR gene and as a result require more external input to maintain their level of drive. Introverts, on the other hand, have a shortened version of this gene, so too much external excitement can exhaust them and disrupt their thinking (Chron and Collaborate). Introversion is not a defect. It is thought to be genetic and is a positive trait when embraced.
6) Don’t overload introverts with meetings and phone calls. If an introvert is hired for the purpose of coming up with big ideas, it is important to give them quiet and uninterrupted time to do just that. Too often, introverts are given goals and strategic projects, but then bombarded with unnecessary internal and external communication, which blocks their progress. Monitor this for introverts in the office to help them thrive. While it is important for them to be aware and part of the team, it should be done tactfully.
7) Another tactic is to set up one-on-one meetings more regularly and group meetings less often. Contrary to popular belief, most introverts are vocal and enjoy discussion, but prefer to talk with one person at a time. So balancing the amount of small and large meetings gives both introverts and extroverts opportunity to flourish.
8) Another idea would be to create an introvert/extrovert friendly environment. Talk to employees about the genetic differences between both introverts and extroverts. Talk to them about the strengths and value of each. Establish a system where each employee is given a sign that reads introvert on one side and extrovert on the other. This sign can be hung on their door during their working (non-meeting) hours and flipped to the status of their choosing. This way introverts gain their valued quiet time, but extroverts who need discussion and collaboration to reboot know which other employees are on the same page at that time.
There’s no doubt that incorporating introverts on teams and motivating them is worth the effort. They are creative and bring a different form of innovation than extroverts, which is equally and sometimes more valuable. They are the ones who are always thinking, always strategizing and often working in isolation to produce brilliant outcomes, like introvert Bill Gates working alone on his computer to eventually develop Microsoft. Nurturing introverts isn’t rocket science, but it can be done and is worth the results. In the words of a famous introvert, Audrey Hepburn, “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m Possible!’”