Everyone exists somewhere on the continuum from introvert to extrovert. That’s a good thing because both the quiet, introspective introvert and the outgoing, assertive extrovert have their place to communicate in the work environment.
Still, leading a team composed of different personality types can be a challenge. One of the biggest issues in such a group will be communication—both your communication with team members, and their communication with each other.
Overcoming this challenge is worthwhile. The managers who best manage change and lead highly effective teams are the ones who adjust their communications to their team members, especially when there is a mix of introverts and extroverts. To start honing your communication styles, you should:
Learn About the Differences
Introverts and extroverts differ in many ways: How they process information, how they work in groups, how they “recharge their batteries,” and of course, how they communicate. Learn what those differences are and think about how they could affect team dynamics.
Give Introverts Room to Process
Introverts tend to reflect, and they do this best when they have alone-time. So give your introverts more time to collect their thoughts and respond. Communicating via email instead of the phone or in-person meetings, for example, can give introverts time to process and respond in their own way.
Another example: Your extroverts will tend to be sociable, and so might like to engage in small-talk after meetings. (They find it's a good way to recharge after the group work is done.) Introverts, on the other hand, might find small-talk just as taxing as the work itself. They need alone-time to process the work the team just did. That space will refresh them more than the small-talk.
Give Extroverts a Forum to Try Out Ideas
Most extroverts are also external processors, meaning that they tend to think out ideas and arguments by talking out loud. So give them opportunities to work out their ideas with others. This can be as simple as being available as a sounding board, or tackling tasks together as a group. Then tap into your extroverts’ energy and allow them to pursue ideas as they develop.
Extroverts will also feel engaged when they can express their ideas and opinions. Give them the chance to do so, while still keeping things fair. Allow time for brainstorming out loud so that others know the group is engaged in “external processing” time.
Learn More About Ambiverts
While it’s easy to label someone “introvert” or “extrovert,” it’s important to remember that the descriptions these labels conjure up tend to be the extremes. In reality, there is a continuum, with most people falling not at the extremes, but somewhere in the middle.
These folks are what best-selling author Dan Pink calls ambiverts. Ambiverts combine some aspects from both introverts and extroverts. For example, an ambivert might be more introspective than the extroverts on your team, but still confident enough to voice his or her opinion in meetings.
Although most people tend to be ambiverts, they might not have the ideal mix of communication skills—but because of their dual nature, they can be taught those skills. For example, it will be easier for a quiet ambivert to pick up training about assertiveness or presentation skills. Likewise, a sociable ambivert will not find training in active listening or critical observation as strange and alien as an extrovert would.
Appreciate the Diversity
Remember, you have your personality type, too. You will lean a little more toward the introvert or the extrovert, and because we tend to like interacting with those that are like us, you will tend to seek out, engage, and praise people like you. That’s human nature.
Recognize this bias that we all share, and take steps to engage those team members that are not like you. Remember, they have something to bring to the table too. That diversity will benefit your team.
For example, if you tend to be extroverted, think of what the introverts on your team bring. They listen. They observe. They can take a step back and analyze what is going on.They will be thorough and reflective, often coming up with creative solutions seemingly out of nowhere. Knowing this, a good manager gives them space and then finds ways to engage them and tap into their insights, without coming on too strong.
On the other hand, if you tend to be introverted, try to look beneath the surface of your extroverts. They will likely bring energy to your team, as well as a spirit of collaboration. If there’s a presentation to be made, they’ll make it. If there’s an idea to kick around, they’ll give their input. Knowing this, a good manager gives them opportunities to work socially...while also putting boundaries in place to channel their energy and prevent them from overshadowing the team’s introverts.
When it comes to communicating with others or managing a diverse team, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy or style. Introverts and extroverts of all stripes require different approaches and contribute different skills.
We offer training courses on all of the topics I mentioned. Check out a few of our communication skills training videos. Or, sign up for a free trial of our Thinkzoom LMS and gain access to our full library.