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Perusing Facebook, I always see personality tests and posts where people brag about being either an introvert or an extravert. Some people use their lack of desire for interaction as an excuse to be standoffish and others attribute their good or bad actions to their outgoing personalities.
Just last month, I attended a conference where Introversion/Extraversion seemed to come up in every other session. Not really considering before how extreme the two types of people can be in relation to the workplace, I happened into a session that provided some valuable insight on how to manage a team that consists of both types of people.
Manage the Project, Not the Personality
Any successful manager will tell you that the key to his or her success as a leader is getting to know team members as individuals and learning their strengths. Everyone is not the “stand-in-front-of-the-crowd” type. While some individuals may be social butterflies and love constant interaction, others may work best alone. These kinds of differences are important to note and to be mindful of, as it is the manager’s duty to “direct traffic” and put employees in the best position to thrive and succeed. By spending time with and talking to employees, leaders can better understand who is stronger at what, and assign tasks according to those strengths. Project management is about getting the job done, and the best way to accomplish this is by aligning talent properly and efficiently.
Know Who You Are as a Leader
Extrovert managers may be just what some employees need, while others may find this personality type intimidating. On the flip side, introvert leaders may seem standoffish and disconnected to those employees that are extroverts. When leaders know and accept their own personality type, they can better communicate and offer support by teaching their employees the best way to communicate with them while giving employees insight as to why they act the way they do. This understanding and better way of communicating can lead to clearer expectations, lack of confusion and an overall comfort in the work environment. Similar to knowing employee strengths, mangers must learn their own and be able to navigate the landscape depending on the type of work team they support and lead.
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Get Input, Then Act
It is critical that managers don’t just assume they know what motivates employees. One key area of motivation lies around how the employee is recognized. One session attendee made a great point to the group: depending on if an employee is an introvert or an extrovert, that can dictate the success of recognition programs. Banquets and programs that require large social interaction may not sit well with introverts — they may not attend or if they do, they may feel uncomfortable. Additionally, there may be extrovert employees that feel slighted if they are not recognized for their accomplishments publicly. Asking employees how they would like to be recognized and acting accordingly can go a long way in assuring that everyone gets the attention they need and appreciate, all while motivating them to do their best without fear of being uncomfortable and ostracized. When employees feel appreciated and needed, leaders will get their best efforts.