Introverts. They’ve got a bad rap. They are considered to be quiet, shy, reserved, over analytical and lacking in empathy. Extroverts, on the other hand, are seen as outgoing, opinionated, team players who are going places.
But in fact, this is not the case.
The truth is that introverts are misunderstood. Psychologist Carl Jung claimed, “Each person seems to be energised more by either the external world (extraversion) or the internal world (introversion).” In other words, while introverts gain energy from spending time alone, extroverts are energised by being around other people.
A third to half of the population is introverted to a greater or lesser degree, whether they appear that way or not.
Take a moment to think about that: one or two of every three people you know are introverts! Does that surprise you?
As children, introverts tend to get into a habit of taking on extrovert behaviours to fit in. However, as adults, this subterfuge can lead them to feel mentally exhausted, putting their energy into dealing with sometimes boisterous groups rather than investing their energy into focusing on their work.
As a leader, you need all your team operating at peak level to maximise productivity, motivation and efficiency. So, understanding the introverts in your organisation will help you get the best out of them.
Why? Because they have a lot to offer.
In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking author Susan Cain argues that modern culture undervalues and misunderstands the traits and capabilities of introverts, leading to “a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness.”
To get the best out of introverts within your team, it’s, therefore, crucial to understand what makes them tick and celebrate the qualities that they bring to the table.
Introverts are Creative
Introverts tend towards being extremely creative; in any large group of creative people, you will find more often than not that the majority are introverted. Focused and quiet, they allow themselves time and space to explore their creativity and develop innovative insights.
From Darwin turning down social events to study nature in solitude, to Steve Wozniak who believed he would never have invented the Apple computer if he hadn’t been so introverted as a child.
Introverts have taken themselves ‘away’ to do great work.
This working style makes introverts ideal candidates for independent working, and they will often prefer working in a quiet environment or from home. Solitude is likely to lead to creative insights as introverts can problem-solve easier away from noisy workstations. The most optimal workplaces allow for both collaboration and solitude.
Introverts bring diversity to a team, and their creative ideas can spark innovation, so, as an empathetic team leader, it’s crucial you listen to what your introverted team members have to say – you can be sure they have thought it through and have some excellent proposals and points to make.
Introverts are Energised Leaders
Introverts are often passed by as potential leaders in favour of their more ‘out there’ extrovert colleagues.
But take a moment to think about some of the world’s most celebrated leaders. Gandhi, for example. He described himself as soft-spoken and quiet and yet he took the spotlight because he had a passionate cause.
Because they exhibit traits of being open-minded and empathetic, introverts often make excellent leaders. While some extroverts can get over-excited about a project and override others in the team, an introvert is more likely to listen to each team members’ thoughts and ideas and therefore make the whole process more collaborative.
I read an article in Harvard Business Review recently that endorses the positive influence of the quiet boss. It states, “ In a dynamic, unpredictable environment, introverts are often more effective leaders—particularly when workers are proactive, offering ideas for improving the business. Such behaviour can make extroverted leaders feel threatened. In contrast, introverted leaders tend to listen more carefully and show greater receptivity to suggestions, making them more effective leaders of vocal teams.”
The thing is, introvert leaders are not necessarily in charge because they want to tell others what to do; they are leading because they believe in what they are doing. And this passion drives them to succeed.
Although they are quiet and thoughtful, if introverts have a cause to promote about which they are passionate, they can excel as leaders. They exhibit contagious energy when they have a purpose.
So, the trick is to find their passion and let them run with it.
Introverts are Good Listeners
Introverts show empathy for others and are great listeners. They are prepared to listen to multiple opinions and suggestions within a team.
So, for example, if you are considering starting a new pharmaceutical project, developing new IT software or introducing strategic plans for the growth of your tech team, the introvert in your team can be guaranteed to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages and offer a concise, well thought-out and practical way forward having analysed all the facts and options.
Consequently, you can rely on an introvert to deliver the goods.
Introverts are Knowledgeable
Because they like to think things through and don’t talk a lot, introverts are often mistakenly thought of as not knowing much or lacking in confidence.
Because they take time to make a decision and are naturally reflective, they observe and think before they speak or act.
They know the value of acquiring knowledge and the benefit of presenting it at strategic moments, thus assuring their colleagues that they are confident in what they are saying. Additionally, they tend not to take risks and so are more likely to propose realistic ideas and conclusions.
Given the opportunity to operate on their preferred level of in-depth and sustained thought, they can produce ideas from which real innovations and breakthroughs often come.
Introverts are Rational and Thorough
The extroverts in your team will enjoy debating plans and will be quick to make decisions. Sometimes this is necessary due to time pressures, but the introverts in your group are more likely to think things through in a more considered way and weigh up the pros and cons. This is because extroverts are more sensitive to the reward-centre of the bran and want instant gratification. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to be more sensitive to the warning signals from the brain.
Consequently, introverts are more through planners and will want to be sure they have taken all aspects into consideration before agreeing to plans or decisions. If there is a problem to solve, you will find that the introverts will spend much more time analysing it before beginning work, while extroverts tend to dive straight in.
They are also more likely to keep on track and complete plans than extroverts, who can lose interest after the initial flurry. Introverts exhibit persistence and are much more likely to overcome barriers to complete any project they are given. Albert Einstein, who was believed to be an introvert, famously said “ it’s not that I am so smart. It’s that I stay with problems longer. “
This means that their words carry more weight. They are good decision makers. So, if your team needs to formulate a proposal, or is looking to put a series of recommendations to the board – your best bet is to get the introvert in the team to write it.
Introverts are Productive
The introvert’s reserved nature and preference for peace mean that they rarely involve themselves in office drama or politics. They spend less time at the coffee machine discussing the latest tv shows and more time putting energy into their work.
Having time to recharge their batteries and factoring in breaks when they need them will reduce potential stress, giving them control over their environment and helping to stimulate their thinking to maximise productivity.
Celebrate and Empower Your Introverts
One size does not fit all.
The key to maximising the individual talents of your team is to ensure they can operate in the ‘zone’ that stimulates them most wherever possible.
The introvert’s attention to detail and weighing up of options make them informed decision makers; their words carry weight. Empathetic to others, they make good leaders for projects for which they have a passion.
Recognising that introverts prefer to operate in small groups or on their own, have valuable opinions, and genuine enthusiasm will enable them to flourish.
If you empower the unique qualities introverts bring to the workplace and work towards removing the assumption that implies only extroverts are valued, you will leverage all the exceptional qualities and advantages that an introvert brings to your team.
So, do you recognise the importance of introverts in your team?
Until next time,
Can We Help?
Zestfor specialises in developing Training programmes and resources scientifically tailored for technical markets – including Pharmaceutical, IT, and Life Sciences.
Our blend of in-classroom, online, and virtual live-stream delivery methods will engage and assure even the most introverted team members from the first meeting – whether face-to-face or virtually. To have a brief chat, call us on 0845 548 0833. Alternatively, please email our team here.