Management

How to Manage an Extrovert … When You're an Introvert


You're a quiet introvert leading or managing others at your company. Odds are, then, you have a couple of not-so-quiet extroverts on your team. So how can you get the very best from these "too talky" types? Know what makes them tick and help give it to them. Only then can your full team shine and succeed.

What makes your extroverts tick? Look for—and leverage—five defining behaviors:

1. Energized by people. Extroverts thrive on working with others. They like to engage anyone and everyone in conversation and even hold court as the center of attention. Without people around them, they deflate like balloons without air.

2. Talk first, think later. Extroverts make sense of the world by first talking about it. From last night's client dinner to this morning's team meeting, they process almost everything through talk and hardly ever come up for air. The thoughts in their head must come out, now.

3. Choose breadth over depth. Extroverts rarely go deep when discussing issues and ideas. They like batting around divergent possibilities that might (or might not) converge to create solutions, and they don't mind moving from topic to topic.

4. Act fast and fervently. Extroverts are excited just to get moving. Their pace is quick, and as natural multitaskers, the more they can juggle, the better. They also wax enthusiastic about their experiences and results.

5. Are open books. Extroverts, ironically, need not tell you what they are feeling; it is written all over their faces. Their body language can also speak volumes and, because they're perpetual movers, it often "says" a lot.

Now that you've identified the extroverts in your organization, use these tips to fuel your—and their—success:

1. Let them think out loud. As an introvert, your natural ability to tune into others can serve you especially well with extroverts. In fact, recent research reported in the Harvard Business Review reveals that introverted leaders are more likely than their extroverted counterparts to listen to, and process, the ideas of an eager, vocal team. Additionally, you can help your extroverts refocus when they ramble on (and on) by using your "innie" instincts to dig deep and ask pointed, penetrating questions. It's also O.K. to have extroverts send their ideas before meetings or conversations, giving you a chance to reflect on the ideas beforehand.

2. Make room for face time. In today's tech-fueled workplace, face time is about much more than chitchatting. For extroverts, in particular, it's about your connecting with them, eyeball to eyeball, and collaborating on their views and ideas. Resist the temptation to hide behind e-mails or texts—a frequent source of disconnects and misunderstandings—and get out there as much as possible. If your extroverts work remotely, reach out via regular phone calls.

3. Play to their strengths. Leverage your extroverts' people skills early and often. Working at trade shows, entertaining customers, or heading up community service projects are just a few of the opportunities for your "outies" to sparkle in meaningful ways. Even if an extrovert's job isn't a people-intensive one, you can find ways to put his or her extroverted energy to work wisely.

4. Pull up the curtain. Your extroverts probably have a hard time reading you, even perceiving a negative vibe from your silence or pauses. They want—and need—words. Are you mad, sad, or just thinking? Help set the stage by explaining your more quiet, introverted nature and how you tend to process new information. Tell extroverts, for instance, that when you don't immediately respond to their questions or ideas, it doesn't mean anything other than "I'm just taking time to think."

5. Be yourself. Many people say their best boss ever was an introvert. Why? Because in our go-go extroverted business world, an introvert's quiet, deep, and reflective leadership style can be a tremendous asset. So don't try to be an extrovert. Instead, adopt a few simple new behaviors and just be … you.

Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PhD, is author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength (Berrett-Koehler, 2009).Founder and president of AboutYOU a leadership consultancy in Atlanta, she is a speaker and executive coach.

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