How to Help Introverts Succeed in a Team Environment

introverts in a team environmentWorking at a company that organizes its work groups as teams, you will invariably find introverts and extroverts. In most corporations, we tend to celebrate and reward the extroverts, or people who have an easier time expressing themselves and navigating the political backwaters that are sometimes required to influence decisions. As a leader in your organization, you undoubtedly are required to manage and interact with both types of personalities. While your perception may be that it is easier to engage with someone who is described as outgoing and affable, the truth is it can be extremely beneficial to you to have introverts on your team. Some famous introverts include: Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Steve Wozniak (Dancing with the Stars must have been a challenge), and Rosa Parks. Who wouldn’t have wanted some of that creativity and backbone on their teams?

Studies show that introverts are more likely to thoughtfully approach a problem instead of trying to break through it like it was a brick wall. There are benefits to this strategy. When you present a problem, they are often the team member who responds with “Let me wrap my head around that for a minute”. Give them time and allow them to come up with a solution. When they have the time to contemplate and formulate an appropriate response, many times they will come up with a creative solution. Give them some time and let them balance out those personalities on your team that are more aggressive and assertive. The loudest solution isn’t always the best.

IntrovertsIn a team environment, you will often need to stick up for the voice of the introverts. Let’s take a Sprint Retrospective as an example. Who do you think is the most likely to express concerns with the processes of your last Sprint if you are using Scrum? Of course it is the extroverts. As a ScrumMaster you will need to pay attention to the introverts on your team and make sure they feel safe expressing their concerns and they can speak without being interrupted. If they don’t feel safe expressing their ideas, you are not likely to pull anything out of them. One strategy that could work is to allow your team to anonymously submit their concerns in writing to you and you can bring them up to the group. While Scrum is about ownership of ideas and responsibilities, it is your job to balance that with making sure everyone’s voice is heard.

Dr. Susan Cain gave a fantastic TED talk on this topic. The talk improves your understanding of the personality type and how to provide supportive framework to allow introverts to work towards their strengths. I have also included an infographic on introverts and twelve guidelines you should follow when trying to provide an environment where they can achieve their potential.

Personally I am what you might call an extreme extrovert — I talk more than I listen, I draw my energy from other people, and I am very easily distracted. But 40% of the population can be classified as introverts, and it is up to me to enhance my skills so that I can not only work with introverts but so I can help those assigned to my teams flourish and find their work engaging and rewarding.

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IT Project Management

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I am the author of this site, and what I say goes. I love talking about the benefits of formalized and professional project management and getting stuff done.