How to manage an introverted team

You love your job as a manager. It’s stressful and challenging. No one day is the same but it’s incredibly rewarding.

You love working with people, mentoring them, and getting the best out of those on your team. You’re riding the wave of happiness, seems everyone loves working with you—until today.

Your team hired three new developers. You hit it off with two of them. Plans were made to go out for tacos this week. But the third developer, not so much.

You tried to get him to open up, you told your best work story to them. His response?

”Crickets.”

You think, okay, the new hire will come out of the shell. But what happens if you have a team of introverts who don’t communicate and you’re left in the dark regarding the teams’ processes being accomplished?

It’s one thing to make your team members feel comfortable. It’s another when it means processes aren’t running smoothly. Will the silence continue into the future and be detrimental to your team?

Not so much.

You’re dealing with a team of introverts—that’s all. Sure, they function differently than extroverts. They may be shy. They don’t like confrontation. But they tend to be some of the best employees in a company. You need to learn how to manage introverts in your team, not ostracize them, so you can produce great results.

Here are the ways to do so.

Take a step back and assess your team

You keep pushing to have a relationship with the introverted members on your team. And you’re hurt they don’t see your efforts. But ask yourself—is their introverted side hurting the productivity of the team at all?

Probably not.

It’s a common misconception people have about introverts – that they lack enthusiasm for their job. But take a look at their numbers. They will tell the real story. So, you have to take a step back and go outside of yourself. Assess whether it’s really necessary for the introverts to mesh well with the team socially.

If the social side does not upset the work equilibrium, then you shouldn’t see a lack of communication as problematic. Introverts are effective at communicating, as they don’t try to fill up the silence with menial talk.

Too often, managers think everything is their responsibility—social relations included. Whether someone acts like an extrovert is not your problem. It isn’t up to the manager to decide what is a reasonable level of communication of an employee. It’s admirable you’re trying, but it’s not necessary.

Make yourself available to their ways of communicating

You wish introverts on your team would be more welcome to conversing. You want a bubbly office vibe. You feel bad they are left in the corner. But did you consider you are one of the reasons introverts cannot communicate?

Think of how you sit at work. How do people approach you? Are you approachable? Do you huddle in the corner, not saying much? Or, are you located in a more open area, where you are walking around and asking team members how they are doing?

It should be the latter. You have to think about how you look to introverts and whether you are making yourself available to their ways of communicating.

Try this:

Casually walk up to him or her and ask how the day is going. Express you are there to help with anything. Not everyone is comfortable walking up and asking questions. Especially if they are new or introverted.

Introverts need time to feel out their surroundings and relationships. Ease your way into it, but be available when they are ready.

Identify introverts’ working habits

Imagine your working routine. You have it all planned it. You’re going to come in, answer some emails, then throw your headphones on and do some analysis work. You’ve parsed out the time in your calendar to do so. In the middle of this, someone comes in and says it’s now time for you to converse with people. Put down the headphones, march out there, and talk.

Pretty jarring, isn’t it?

It’s how most introverts feel on a daily basis when they are doing their tasks quietly. Extroverts might welcome such a scenario, but it’s an introverts’ worst nightmare. The way around this is to understand how your team members like to work—and then cater to it.

Say there is a sprint planning session. You have to divvy up certain tasks. An introvert relishes getting lost in their individual work. They ask you to load them up with tasks so they are left busy and not wasting their time. If an introvert signals this to you, rinse and repeat next sprints.

Use 1-1s as the syncing time

The introverts remain an enigma. You can’t figure them out. You know they like to work hard and be left alone. Then you have a one-on-one meeting with them. And they say the following:

“I love my position and think the role suits me very well. Just wanted to say that I’m really happy”.

You’re floored.

You went in thinking they were going to hand in their two-weeks notice. Well, chances are you haven’t utilized one-on-ones as best you can. The good news is you can start doing so from today.

One-on-ones are for the employee. It’s their time to let you know what should be changed and to communicate freely. The problem is most introverts find it difficult to do so. These meetings can be stressful for the introvert. You’ll have to make it easier for them.

Start by telling them what they are doing right as opposed to what they are doing wrong. Be open and honest with them. Don’t shy away from what you think might be a difficult conversation. Introverts hate small talk because they are deep thinkers.

Tell them what you appreciate. It changes the power dynamic where they are seen as the contributor and you are the receiver. You’ll see how the dynamic here will shift their loyalty to you and soon they will open up and have more honest feedback with you.

The do’s and dont’s for introverts in large meetings

You remember the first team meeting you lead in your workplace. You felt there were so many great ideas. So many people contributed. A+ all around for communication. You were elated.

One month in, you realize you had it all wrong. In reality, what’s happening is a hijacking. Two extroverts going back and forth with one another, leaving all introverts held hostage. If this sounds like you, then you’re missing invaluable contributions from the introverts on your team. Let’s make a change.

Start by presenting the topics for this week in an email days before the meeting. Why? Because introverts need time to process and think about such topics rather than say anything on the fly. Give specific questions to processes. How do you think feature x is coming along? How have the changes to x impacted you?

Give the option to send comments in an email from before the meeting. Then, you can read portions of this off during the meeting. It allows introverts to still be quiet in the meeting. It also centers the conversation to be more meaningful and concrete. The extroverts will have to respond to the specific solution brought up, as opposed to talking about whatever comes to their mind at that moment.

Nudging the boundaries for introverts to excel

Now you have the ways to go about creating an environment where introverts can shine. With these simple steps, you are closer to push introverts past their boundaries. You are facilitating both professional and personal growth. But remember not to change the individual. Reach out and build a bridge for them. It’s up to the introvert to talk across it.

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