Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of Quiet Influence, made a series of short videos for the American Management Association on issues concerning introverts and leadership. Below, find her response to the question, “How can an extroverted manager be a better leader of introverts?”
The key here is respect for style. Kahnweiler cites examples like going into an employee’s office to talk out an idea, when the style of the introvert isn’t always conducive for that. This can also extend to practices in meetings, like not providing agendas in advance, or expecting input to come extemporaneously. Additionally, it could even extend to recognition practices like public announcements of praise, or surprise awards.
So if you’re an extrovert that advises or supervises an introvert, here are a few tips that could help you facilitate their best work:
- Plan out meetings in advance. If you can provide agendas ahead of time, do so. Additionally, any agenda items that will require prep or research, should be clearly articulated. What information will we need in the meeting to be successful and productive? Allow them time to find and prepare it.
- Spend time in “big talk.” Engaging in big talk about employee interests will pull out potential areas of competency or excitement. Introverts and others who are unlikely to speak up about their accomplishments or expertise, are more likely to do so once a rapport was established. These conversations could inform you of someone’s potential to excel in a special project; lay the groundwork for “reach” projects by building a relationship where your staff feels comfortable letting you know what they’re capable of.
- Articulate the acceptable nature of post-meeting/conversation contributions. Do your employees know that it’s okay to follow up after a meeting or event with an email or note? Probably. But it never hurts to say it. It will encourage introverts to use that avenue of communication, and opens the door for any other temperaments in the room that may not be accustomed to contributing in that fashion. You never know who will have an idea after the fact- let people know you’ll take input anytime!
- If recognition is important to you, find out from employees early how they like to hear praise. Some employees value public acknowledgement of achievement; others prefer it to be a private affair. Important note: the distinction between the two is not always down temperament lines! But showing employees they’re appreciated, in the manner that they prefer to be appreciated, is yet another way of acknowledging that they matter.