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Team-Building: Including Introverts For Terrific Teams
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Team-Building: Including Introverts For Terrific Teams - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Including Introverts For Terrific Teams

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Including Introverts For Terrific Teams

There’s been a lot of press in recent years about the value of introverts and what they contribute to the workplace. In fact, it seems to have become something fashionable, with formerly closeted introverts now publicly professing their need to be left alone. In a world that values those who speak up, it’s nice that some media attention is finally being paid to people whose tendencies lean toward quietude and working alone. It’s a step in the right direction, but more than mere tolerance and acceptance, introverts on our teams should be valued for their strengths and contributions, with some attention to creating an environment that brings out their best. Most teams are already built to accommodate extroverts, with team-building activities playing right to their talents, so making introvert-friendly teams can be simply a matter of fine-tuning.

Introverts aren’t necessarily shy or anti-social, and that’s an important distinction to make right away. It’s true that most would rather not be in a meeting or very long conference call, but they’ve survived in the workplace this long because they’ve learned—by necessity—to adjust. However, you can help the introverts on your team by not stacking meetings on top of each other, leaving time between them for some alone time. This decompression is critical to the well-being of any introvert, a time to recharge and restore their mental energy. You might also encourage them to sit near the door of the conference room so they might slip out for a stroll down the hall or a couple of deep breaths in the break room. This could be too disruptive for teams with larger numbers of introverts, so more dramatic planning on their behalf may be needed, such as ten-minute breaks for every hour of meeting time.

Introverts do their best work and their best thinking alone, so the meeting environment is not conducive to getting their best ideas. On big topics and small, once ideas have been batted around by the talkers, whenever possible, say something like, “We’ll keep this discussion open for a day or two, so please email me any suggestions you come up with after this meeting.” If a project is broken up into separate tasks, you’d ask your best organizers to do the organizing and your best executors to put things in motion, so why would you put your introverts on super-collaborative work when you have other tasks that can be done by one person working alone? Consider offering options, such as a few solo tasks to go along with group tasks, and leave them open for volunteers. You never know when an introvert is feeling chummy or when an extrovert is learning the benefits of working quietly and alone. This leaves room, too, for your still-closeted introverts who haven’t figured out that what they think is extroversion is really a life of workplace adjustment.

If you’re managing workspace, consider allowing your introverts the spaces where they’re most likely to be left alone, as is their preference. We’re not talking about a closed cubicle in a wide-open space, but perhaps the space in the corner, away from the door, and away from the more social teammates. Introverts appreciate being surrounded by introverts because they know to leave each other their space, but some also appreciate proximity to more talkative people because extroverts tend to draw attention away from their quieter colleagues. This can be a personal preference, so talk to your introverts individually, and express to them your desire to create the space they will work best in.

Personal preference is really what it comes down to. When it can be accommodated, by all means find some way to do so, not only for your avowed introverts, but for everyone on the team. There are introverts who like to talk, just as there are extroverts who prefer to work in silence. Some of us have work personas that differ from our rest-of-life personas, and being aware of it all is really what good team-building is about. Now you’re nurturing a team of humans, not a group of classifiers and types, and when team members value each other as individuals, whatever their individualities look like, they thrive.


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Team-Building: Including Introverts For Terrific Teams - Executive Leadership Articles

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