One of the toughest lessons for many managers to learn is that one size doesn’t fit all. While you can hand a project to one person and have her run with it, the next person needs to ask 20 questions, wants feedback at every step and needs reassurance he’s on the right track. In other words, not all employees are created equal. Not even all uber-smart, can’t-live-without-them employees.
We need to tweak our approach to fit the person. This can be a particularly hard-learned lesson for entrepreneurs, because we tend to demand a lot from ourselves, and we expect everyone else to meet our own (often unrealistic) standards. One element that factors into people’s work styles is whether they are an extrovert or an introvert.
3 Tips for Managing Introverts
In The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership, Lisa Petrilli has written a book primarily aimed at helping introverts succeed in the workplace. But she also offers advice for managing the introverts on your team (including, perhaps, yourself):
- Give introverts time to think. “It’s imperative that you give us some time to think about your idea and reflect on it,” writes Petrilli. “It’s also imperative that you not perceive our initial quiet reaction as either (1) that we aren’t smart enough or insightful enough… or (2) that we are not decisive enough to have an opinion.”
- Meet with introverts one-on-one and in small groups. Petrilli points out that introverts are not comfortable in big meetings. As a result, she says, “meet with us one-on-one or in groups of two or three to run your ideas by us prior to a big meeting. Give us time to think about your ideas and for us to share our own thoughts with you.
- Never assume. Instead of making assumptions about an introvert’s intelligence or what he is (or is not) thinking, Petrilli suggests that managers instead “always ask. And then really listen.” She adds, “Please do not assume that if [introverts] spend a lot of time alone in their office that they are not a ‘team player.’ Introverts reenergize by spending time alone with their ideas and by creating clarity around their strategies and next steps.”
The Introvert’s Guide to Success is a quick read, but it’s one packed with information to help introverts thrive in the office, in the boardroom and while looking for that next great opportunity. Whether you’re an introvert yourself or just work with (and/or manage) them, you’ll learn something about leadership, networking, managing and motivating employees, and more.