Advance Performance | How can we encourage our introverted colleagues to become leaders?
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How can we encourage our introverted colleagues to become leaders?

How can we encourage our introverted colleagues to become leaders?

“We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.” – Susan Cain

“Introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes than extrovert leaders, because when they are working with proactive employees they are far more likely to let the employees run with their ideas.” – Susan Cain

Adam Grant of Wharton Management has carried out extensive research on the outcomes of introvert leaders versus extrovert leaders working with different types of employees, with surprising results.  The higher results gained by introvert leaders, reflect teams working more cohesively with strong communication, respect and listening skills so that the best ideas are followed.

How can we empower our introverted colleagues in our working environment so that they can achieve their potential? How can we encourage our quiet team members to communicate effectively so their ideas are heard? And how can we ensure that a candidate who is considered an introvert has the same possibilities to become a leader?

Susan Cain states that although an extrovert leader can dominate a team with their ideas there is absolutely zero correlation between being the best speaker and having the best ideas. Yet in any group situation, team members tend to adopt the behaviour AND ideas of the best speaker.  Cain asserts we must reflect on the importance of the more passive leader who may be passed over for a less effective “louder” personality.

Provide quiet space where introverts can recharge and have time away from being social. Introverts need time to be alone when they can think, be creative, solve problems, and work on projects without the distractions of the office environment and more extrovert personalities. Introverts need breathing and thinking space to develop ideas before sharing them with others.  It is important to allow a creative individual who may have introverted qualities to pursue subjects which they are passionate about, to give them the headspace to build their creativity so that it can be utilised by the team or company.

Organise smaller meetings and networks to solve problems and form action plans. Ensure that a skilled facilitator manages the meeting, and gives every individual the opportunity to share ideas. Select a person with high emotional intelligence who reads body language well, and can include an introverted member subtly through eye contact.

Give an individual time to express their ideas – introverted people tend to think more carefully about what they want to say. Their ideas may be more structured, and a facilitator needs to encourage the introverted individuals to take their time to expand on their ideas. Share ideas by writing down ideas on post-its, or discussing ideas in pairs before presenting to the whole group.

When organising projects or request pitches for contracts, ensure that every individual has an equal opportunity to show their strengths and potential. Not everyone can confidently present their ideas with a Power Point presentation or by delivering a twenty minute talk. In their recruitment process, Google now puts increasing emphasis on tasks that the individual would be expected to carry out in their role rather than interview performance.

Provide opportunities for individuals to mentor others to build their confidence as a leader and to ensure they can share their experience, skills and ideas with others to develop team strengths. Introverted leaders are known to be excellent mentors who will encourage team members to think for themselves and solve problems without imposing their own views. Introverted leaders create new leaders.

As Susan Cain says: “The trick for introverts is to honour their own styles instead of allowing themselves to be swept up by prevailing norms.”

We are all aiming to be the best we can be, but also, to encourage our colleagues, team members and clients to be the best they can be, and therefore, by adapting our meetings, communication and office environment, we can empower every individual to show their strengths and reach their potential.

Remember, to empower your quieter colleagues by giving them the resources and processes to show their strengths to become their best selves. As Susan Cain says:

“Everyone shines, given the right lighting.”