Think back to your last meeting or brainstorming session. Who received the most credit for their ideas or appeared to make the most valuable contributions? Probably the most outgoing people or loudest voices in the room. Despite more than half the world’s population displaying a preference for introversion, our workplaces elevate and celebrate extroverts.
While they need more time to process information and feel more comfortable contributing in smaller groups, introverts add immense value to the workplace – through their active-listening skills, creativity, empathy, and emotional intelligence. Embracing their talents and work style will lead to a more productive and engaged workforce that contributes to the overall success of your organization.
Let’s explore some strategies to engage and support your quiet performers:
1. Ask them about their preferences.
Each person on your team likely exhibits a unique work style (even if all of them are introverts) so they’ll prefer different ways to receive feedback, express their opinion, and communicate with others. Make an effort to learn about the preferences of your boss, colleagues, and direct reports. Consider carving out some time during a team meeting or send a survey with some essential questions like “how do you like to communicate?”, “how do you like to receive feedback?”, and “what are your favorite ways to be recognized for success?”
That’s the art of managing up, down, and across – you learn people’s preferences and then adapt your behavior to collaborate more effectively. Changing the way you operate can be challenging at first, so the more you can slow down and consider the person you’re interacting with the easier it’ll become. This will help you work more effectively with each person on your team, build stronger relationships, and ensure that everyone feels seen and supported.
2. Give them time to prepare.
Introverts need time to think and process information. You won’t hear them share the first idea that pops into their mind; they need time to collect their thoughts first. Try to avoid asking for their opinion on the spot. That means giving them notice about the topics in a scheduled brainstorming session and sending meeting agendas a day or two ahead.
Just because someone on your team isn’t speaking up during a meeting doesn’t mean they are disengaged. They’re likely actively listening and processing the new information from the discussion. If you didn’t hear from everyone in a large meeting, you might consider sending an email out afterwards to provide another opportunity for people to share their thoughts and feedback.
3. Gather information multiple ways.
Meetings don’t need to be the only way teams communicate. Consider other options when it comes to brainstorming or sharing information. Introverts feel most comfortable sharing their thoughts in smaller groups or one-on-one. If a large meeting is necessary, spend some time in breakout sessions with four or five people. After the meeting, encourage people to share additional ideas electronically. You will still get valuable input from your quiet performers this way, and they’ll feel more confident sharing their thoughts.
Schedule one-on-one check ins with them, too. Beyond using this time to touch base on projects, take it as an opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship with your bosses and colleagues. When scheduled regularly, these conversations build trust and connect members of the team to one another, making it easier for introverts to share their honest feedback, opinions, and challenges.
4. Leverage their strengths.
Quiet performers add exceptional value to the workplace, from their stellar active-listening skills to their ability to form meaningful connections, making them an asset to any team. Once you get to know everyone on a more personal level, you’ll learn about their unique strengths and how you can structure their role to harness their potential.
Provide them with opportunities to make the most of their skillset. That might include assigning them the role of notetaker in important meetings, handing off written communication to them, or tapping into their ability to analyze information thoughtfully. If you can’t identify someone’s strengths or favorite tasks right away, you can always ask them.
5. Show them appreciation.
The contributions of individuals on your team aren’t always obvious, especially for the people who shy away from showcasing their impact. But that doesn’t mean that your quiet performers don’t appreciate recognition. Everyone appreciates recognition. You might just have to dig a little deeper to find out about their hard work behind the scenes.
Make time for everyone to share wins on a regular basis. Consider gathering accomplishments during one-on-one check in’s by asking about what projects your team is currently working on and the aspects of those that make them feel most proud. Or create an online survey to prompt people to talk about their recent achievements.
Finally, ask how each member of your team prefers to be recognized. Some people might appreciate a public shout-out while others would rather a personalized note. Noticing and celebrating everyone’s efforts in a way that makes them feel seen will boost engagement, loyalty, and performance.
All personalities and styles contribute to a diverse, innovative, and creative work environment. When we create spaces that embrace and celebrate everyone’s strengths, we unlock success. Learn to leverage the unique abilities of all individuals on your team with our Personality Matters session.