I was a motivational speaker for a group of teachers. The other guest speaker did a compelling motivational speech on how extrovert rule society. Since, I have been contemplating the value of introverts in the workplace and how to help them succeed.
Here are some ways to help introverts succeed:
- Extroverts should be encouraged to spend more time bragging about there introverted colleagues and less time bragging about themselves.
- Leaders need to spend time recognizing the hard work that introverts do and help balance an introverts workload to allow time for withdrawal.
- Most recognition programs feature public recognition, which introverts may shrink in the face of. Introverts may prefer a personalized thank you note to public ceremony.
- Some meetings ( heavy social stimulation, which may drain an introvert) may not be necessary or possibly could be accomplished through email or other media.
- In social situations, give introverts "tasks" ( for example at a conference, they could set up or do product demos) to help them stay busy.
- Since introverts need time to compose their thoughts before sharing them, never put them on the spot, give them time to prepare.
- Introverts usually prefer writing to talking, so value their written words.
- For introverts let their work speak for itself. Notice and appreciate results without putting an introvert in the spotlight but recognize them with more meaningful work that they like.
- Introverts prefer strong, meaningful relationships versus having to be in the face of everyone on the team at all times.
- Highlight introverted role models. Is your CEO an introvert? Let him share his story and show his courage.
- Facilitate open dialogue between introverts. Similar to an example the guest speaker gave in her motivational speech; my mother is an introvert and she loves quilting. She opens up and naturally becomes more extroverted in her quilting circles and with her quilting friends ( often also introverts). Similarly, often a subculture emerges in a workplace that allows like minded people to engage.
Studies indicate that well over 60% of people are introverts. The basic difference between introvert and extrovert is that introverts get energy from being alone, through self reflection and withdrawal, while extroverts thrive on stimulus from the external environment.
Does Society and our Workplaces Benefit Extroverts?
I think that often introverts may feel guilty for wanting to be alone. At a party or a business meeting or event, being quiet, aloof or unassuming in the corner draws glares and concern..., What's wrong? Are you OK? Why are you in a bad mood?When you are not talking and interacting people assume something is wrong.
It is hard to contribute and have your ideas heard if you don't speak up and share them. A memo or report is much less impact than a motivational speech that compels people to get behind your ideas.
Our schools, workplaces, and churches often strongly benefit extroverts and there need for lots of external stimulation.
In classrooms, group work is very commonplace. Many workplaces are designed as cubicles or open plan offices subject to interaction. At conferences and events, social interaction is deeply embedded in the experience.
Any customer service role would tend to see an extrovert shine, while an introvert may prefer to withdraw from the intense social stimulation ( ie- sorting out conflict).
Extroverts know how to ask for help from others and will naturally gravitate towards social networks and support while introverts may withdraw.
Introverts are made for contemplation, not action. Unfortunately today the world values action, speed and immediate results.
All of this paints a rather bleak picture for an introvert struggling to find sanity in an extroverted world.
The Value of Introverts at Work
Yet, some of the hardest working, creative, dedicated people are introverts( ghandi, eleanor roosevelt, Einstein, Bill Gates). Many introverts have thrived in the world and that may be because they had the courage to push there ideas forward.
Miss popular may spend her time trying to impress people, meanwhile the introvert keeps his head down, does his job and gets promoted.
Maybe what we should be doing is questioning the validity of an extrovert run world? After all, before intense technology and our drive for results came along, solitary work ruled the day. Meetings, technology and constant contact are great but can distract you from getting the real creative, thoughtful work accomplished.
An introvert run workplace would likely feature more contemplation before action, more research and careful consideration, increased innovation, people who think before they speak so less conflict would result, and leadership would think through their strategies before implementation.
The guest speaker related that solitude and quiet time is where deep thought stems from. To unplug and get inside your head and heart may be just what the extroverts of the world need- to create balance and reflect on their thoughts before speaking up.
When it comes to leadership and creativity we need introverts to do what they do best.