Tips for Extraverted Leaders:
- Be concise. Every gift, taken to extreme, can be a liability, so understand that while you are invigorated by talking, are energized by interruptions, and enjoy thinking out loud, taken to the extreme, others may consider you overbearing and overpowering.
- Circulate information ahead of a meeting. Provide as much written information as is feasible before a meeting so that introverted team members have a chance to reflect on the material in order to give you their best thinking.
- Don’t expect immediate decisions. Pressuring introverted team members to come up with a decision on the spot may likely result in a decision that they don’t fully buy-in. The time you saved upfront will come to haunt you downstream.
- Allow silence its moment. A common complaint of introverts about extraverts is about their listening skills—in particular, their rush to fill the silence. Practice self-management by valuing pauses which allow the real conversation to be heard. To that end, watch Tom Peters’ provocative video clip on strategic listening and see if you are an 18 second manager.
- Ask introverts for their thoughts. Introverts generally dislike having the light shining on them, so you may have to seek out their opinions. It is often more fruitful to meet one-on-one rather than in a public forum.
- Respect introverts’ need for privacy. Practicing good social awareness skills entails understanding that extended extraverted activities can be draining for introverts. The American Journal of Psychiatry reported on a fascinating study showing that introversion (as well as extraversion) may be hardwired and controlled by certain neurotransmitters. Introverts, unlike extraverts, have a low tolerance for dopamine, a transmitter linked to thrill seeking, which increases their need for time alone. An explanation of these research findings can be found in The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World.
Tips for Introverted Leaders:
- Give visual clues when listening. While introverts are often better listeners, their expressions may sometimes give the impression that they lack interest or involvement in the topic being discussed. At the extreme, they may even inadvertently appear to dislike the speaker. Remedy this with simple things like a nod, a smile, and leaning forward—micro gestures that go a long way to signal to others that they are indeed being heard.
- Raise your comfort level with public speaking. If public speaking ranks among one of your top dreads, resolve to conquer this. Developing the ability to stand up in front of an audience to deliver an engaging presentation is a strategic imperative. Lee Iacocca once said: “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” Develop the skills to help you share your brilliance with a wide audience.
- Beware of voids created by non-communication. A void will be quickly filled by rumors, misinterpretations, and grapevine musings. Take the initiative to share information. Be inspired by Seth Godin’s exhortation that “the less people know, the more they yell” and make sure that you communicate early and often.
- Provide timely feedback. Consider voicing your opinions sooner. Providing critical feedback once a project is well underway can frustrate or de-motivate others on the team.
- Learn the art of small talk. If this is not a preferred activity for you, consider that small talk is the oil that lubricates relationships and paves the way for more important discussions. For pointers on mastering this social ritual, read Guy Kawasaki’s article on The Art of Schmoozing II. Just as being in the presence of an overly gregarious extravert may make an introvert feel uncomfortable, so sharing space with an individual who appears impassive may make an extraverted person feel ill at ease.
- Share more personal information. This helps more people know you better and increases the level of trust. Transparency strengthens our connections to others.
There are many gifts that each group brings to the table. Introverts and extraverts form a beautiful palette of diversity if we are willing to capitalize on each other’s strengths. And the quickest path to reach this is through emotionally-intelligent communication.
Bruna Martinuzzi is a facilitator, author, speaker and founder of Clarion Enterprises Ltd., a global company specializing in emotional intelligence, leadership and presentation skills training. Her latest book is The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.