Building Up Introverted Employees

Who would you rather have as an employee? Tom, who’s action-oriented and is good with people? Or Sam who thinks about it first and likes to work alone? The answer is you need both. But introverts like Sam (and the contributions they make) often get overlooked. Here’s how to engage and nurture introverted employees so your small business gets the most from everyone on your staff.

Recognizing Differences

Identifying how employees relate to people helps you understand them better. Most people are somewhere in-between these personality types:

  • Introverts like alone time. They want to think first before speaking or taking action. They relate better in one-on-one situations than in large groups. And introverts recharge by researching ideas and diving deep into their work before they act.
  • Extroverts like being around big groups of people. They think out loud and have a preference for action. Extroverts recharge by working in groups where they can bounce ideas and move forward even if they don’t have all the facts first.

Getting the Most from Introverts

With today’s emphasis on working in teams, many businesses are geared toward extroverts. But that doesn’t mean introverts can’t make significant contributions too. Here are some tips to nurture high performing introverts:

  • Provide solitude – Give them a private, quiet workspace. They’ll have the autonomy they need to dive into work without interruption. Some businesses accomplish this with signs that say “working” that people use when they want to work alone.
  • Allow more time – Give introverted employees more time to think. Don’t expect instant answers. You’ll get better ones by waiting. Some managers give them 15-minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing. It helps them wrap up and prepare.
  • Conduct 1-on-1’s – Meet with introverts one-on-one where you can build trust and create a safe space to talk. You’re more likely to find out what they’re doing, reinforce their achievements and coach them with challenges they may have.
  • Clue them in – Use an agenda in meetings so they can anticipate what will be discussed and gather any facts in advance. Assign specific tasks so they’ll know what’s expected of them. Consider using time limits so everyone on the team has a chance to speak.
  • Draw on strengths – Introverts tend to be good listeners. So consider assigning them tasks that take advantage of it. Have them assume the role of an interviewer, a researcher, a writer or a strategizer.
  • Brainstorm individually – Ideas don’t always have to be generated in a group. Try asking for them individually. Have staff respond by emailing their ideas. It gives introverts the time to think of options and the safety of submitting them independently before presenting them to a larger group.

Introverted employees often have some of the best ideas and insights, but speaking up often goes against their personality. Give them a supportive environment and you can maximize their contribution to your small business.

Want more information? Listen to this TED Talk  from best-selling author Susan Cain who speaks about the power of introverts in business.

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