3 Ways To Engage The Introverts On Your Team

3 Ways To Engage The Introverts On Your Team

in Blog, Brainstorming, Collaboration and Technology
3 Ways To Engage The Introverts On Your Team

We’ve all been in meetings where some people hold forth with gusto and others listen carefully, but say nothing. We suspect that the quiet ones have a lot to contribute, and we wish that the enthusiastic meeting orators would give them some space to speak up. Researchers estimate that fully a third to a half of the individuals in your team, department or organization are likely to be introverts. According to the Harvard Business Review’s article entitled Introverts, Extroverts, and the Complexities of Team Dynamics

Extroverts gravitate toward groups and constant action, and they tend to think out loud. They are energized and recharged by external stimuli, such as personal interactions, social gatherings, and shared ideas…In contrast, introverts typically dislike noise, interruptions, and big group settings. They instead tend to prefer quiet solitude, time to think before speaking (or acting), and building relationships and trust one-on-one.”

The author, Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino, studied teams in a pizza delivery chain to confirm her hypothesis that teams that are passive and prefer to follow orders do best when lead by an introvert, while teams that are proactive and eager to contribute new ideas perform better when lead by an extrovert. According to Gino, it all comes down to mitigating the effects of our extrovert bias in the workplace, and a good place to start is with meetings.

Here are some ways you can help the introverts in your team unlock their potential to contribute in a meeting.

Use meeting pre-work to get everyone on the same page, and give introverts some time to prepare.

Gino uses Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ practice as an example; prior to starting a meeting, everyone must read a six-page narrative memo about the agenda. At Facilitate.com, we might set up a pre-work activity, for example a reading assignment, then ask the team to post a reflection on what they have read. This gives everyone a chance to digest important context for the meeting, share ideas anonymously about the material and come to the meeting fully prepared to engage.

Level the playing field by allowing each team member to contribute at their own pace.

Planning the meeting process ahead of time will help you come up with creative ways to channel both introverts and extroverts into productive idea generation. Even simple techniques like asking for input and going around the table, inviting each person to contribute one idea, or build on an idea someone else has brought up, can help moderate the longwinded enthusiasm of an extrovert and encourage the introvert. Use a collaborative tool like FacilitatePro to generate a list of ideas, allowing each participant to contribute at their own speed and style. Then use a thumbs up vote to determine which ideas are resonating the most with the group. The introverts get a chance to weigh in without saying a word.

Leverage the power of anonymity

Sometimes the issue on the table heats up the discussion, with people taking sides, louder voices, stronger opinions, all of which put introverts at a disadvantage. At time like these, take advantage of anonymity to make sure every voice is heard without judgement. Have people put their ideas on pieces of paper and read them aloud. Or use an online meeting tool to give everyone a chance to weigh in anonymously, then have a quick vote to decide whether an idea should be tabled or developed further. By giving participants an anonymous platform, everyone, and particularly the introverts, can express themselves without the social anxiety face to face encounters involve.

Using tools and techniques that allow introverts to prepare for a meeting, and contribute at their own pace without social anxiety will create a new balance between those who thrive on the public stage and those with a natural reserve who would prefer to express themselves one on one.

FacilitatePro supports creative collaboration, helping participants brainstorm and evaluate ideas, collecting and distilling them into the clearest output possible, making creative collaboration effective and productive.

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FacilitatePro enables us to capture and explore ideas, providing focus and critical thinking amidst the play and spontaneity. This is a new way of learning, free from the traditional constraints of the classroom or business environment.
Mark Atlay,
Director of the University of Luton CETL