In another one of our posts, we looked at managing an introvert-friendly business.
Understanding personality types, and making reasonable accommodations for people’s preferences, are really important in today’s businesses. They affect how people work, think, discuss, socialise and rest.
Helping introverts to have their voices heard and accessing private space, will make for more comfortable, productive workers.
Now that we’re more conscious of introverts and their place in the office, it’s useful to consider how we can get the best out of our extroverted colleagues too.
You’d think this one would be a bit easier - business is an extroverted discipline, after all. Commerce has long been the domain of talkers; raconteurs, chatterboxes, persuaders, shysters, influencers and everything inbetween.
But making sure these personality types are comfortable too will lead to increased team cohesion, productivity and wellbeing.
Firstly, a reminder of these two personality types, from Laurie Helgoe phD, author of Introvert Power,
“Introversion is an inward orientation to life, and extroversion (alternatively spelled extraversion) is an outward orientation. Though you probably use both introversion and extroversion, one of these orientations usually feels more like home—more comfortable, more interesting and more energizing—than the other. Introverts prefer introversion; we tend to gain energy by reflecting and expend energy when interacting. Extroverts have the opposite preference; they tend to gain energy by interacting and expend energy while reflecting.”
So, it’s not so much about talking vs. thinking - it’s more about how we like to recharge.
These definitions are backed by science, and first became popular through the work of psychologist Carl Jung.
They’ve been popularised partly thanks to the spread of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality quizzes. These are the tests that give you one of 16 labels for your psychological make-up, like INTJ or ESFP.
We now know that the MBTI is essentially a corporate horoscope, backed on shoddy science. (They’re completely self-reported, and you often get different results based on what mood you’re in when you take the test.) But people like understanding how their minds work, and attaching hard labels to the fluffy, ever-changing nature of the psyche is quite seductive. (Especially when the answers are all positive and complimentary, and you don’t get called out on your flaws.)
But the spread of MBTI has made people more aware of their social energies and where they fit on the intro/extroversion scale.
So even if it’s not 100% foolproof, understanding our preferences is a useful tool in life and in business.
How do we make sure we’re getting the best out of our extroverts, then?
Talk about it
Just as with introverts, it’s best to have a frank and open discussion about preferences. Managers need to know how to best treat their employees, and workers need to understand how their communication preferences affect their colleagues. By being open about personality types, there’s less opportunity for confusion and conflict, and higher productivity and comfort is likely. And extroverts will always be up for a good chat.
Channel their energy wisely
Encouraging extroverts to share their ideas with the team in moderation, saving some for after meetings, emails etc., is a good way to keep everyone happy and keep things running on time. It stops them getting bored, and stops their introverted colleagues getting tired of hearing every thought that goes on in their heads.
It's not that extroverts are particularly uncomfortable with silence and feel the need to fill it with inane chatter; more that the ideas make more sense when voiced out loud. So, providing opportunity and time for discussion, maybe away from their desks, might help them think things out better.
Designate open areas
Your extroverted colleagues are likely to suffer in a library-quiet atmosphere. Brains buzzing with ideas, they’re often in need of someone else to bounce off new concepts with to validate and understand their thoughts.
The open-office ideal, where everyone mingles all day and creativity thrives, was a bit of a let-down. Open offices are distracting and noisy. But the opposite is just as harmful - oppressively quiet spaces with no areas for discussion.
This can be addressed either with specific places for discussion, out of earshot of others, or specific times, where people have advance notice of open discussions and can tweak their schedule accordingly.
Appreciate the expert extroverts
Extroverts may do a lot of talking, but they also do a lot of thinking. Having an aptitude for details and craftsmanship is perfectly normal for those that like to discuss ideas out loud. It’s easy to imagine an exuberant, bubbly chef being an expert at making food - there’s no reason a talkative software developer couldn’t be just as competent. It’s a sensory preference, rather than a measure of aptitude.
Extroverts are usually more receptive to open displays of appreciation. A well-done or thank-you at the morning stand-up meeting can be just the kind of stimulation an extrovert needs to perk them up for the day.
It’s important to note that while many extroverts are charismatic, open and humorous, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to be taken seriously. Joking around (to an appropriate extent) helps make everyone comfortable, but it shouldn’t devalue anyone’s opinion about their expertise and trustworthiness.
Balance is the key to success
As Daniel Pink reveals in To Sell is Human,
“The notion that extroverts are the finest salespeople is so obvious that we’ve overlooked one teensy flaw. There’s almost no evidence that it’s actually true.”
He goes on to detail a third personality type: ambiverts. As defined by Wikipedia:
"An ambivert is moderately comfortable with groups and social interaction, but also relishes time alone, away from a crowd. In simpler words, an ambivert is a person whose behaviour changes according to the situation they are in. In face of authority or in presence of strangers, the person may be introverted. However, in the presence of family or close friends, the person may be highly energetic or extraverted.”
These social chameleons are a powerful resource in any business. Dan Pink’s research shows that ambiverts make for the most successful salespeople - their versatility and emotional intelligence are highly useful in the social world of doing deals.
Businesses that cater for the social animals as well as the reserved thinkers will end up with much better team cohesion, productivity and creativity. Why not say hello to your introverted colleagues today and see what happens?