The workplace is often dominated by the loudest people. Whether they’re talking in a meeting or standing by the water cooler, you can’t help but notice an extrovert. Running alongside this, many organisations spur employees on through training to maximise their presence. The goal is to be confident networkers, public speakers, and above all, not afraid to pipe up in a meeting with a creative idea or problem-solving solution.
For some this comes naturally. For others, the idea is a personal hell. It requires constant thought in order take part and be taken seriously in an environment which champions the forthright. The issue was addressed perfectly by Susan Cain’s 2012 book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. This throws shade on our preference for extroverts – or as she describes: “The Extrovert Ideal — the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.”
The problem for introverts is the way we tend to celebrate leadership, creativity and communication. Under poor management this can lead them to be overlooked or worse – have a detrimental effect on their career path. However, the attributes of this particular group – which is almost a third of the population – are slowly gaining the recognition they deserve; particularly the things they can deliver which other personality types find difficult. For example, natural observation, listening skills and the ability to work alone under their own steam.
Unfortunately, they don’t always contribute all they have to offer in a meeting setting. There are effective meeting hacks you can implement that will help unlock the talents of the introverts in your next meeting. Both team leaders and individual participants should be alert to the common meeting problems below and use the suggested tips so everyone has something to gain.
Unlearn unconscious bias to people who seem “too quiet”
Quiet people aren’t disengaged or uninterested. Often, they’re processing, organising their thoughts, and waiting for the right time to share. Ask for feedback both during and after the meeting to give introverts a clear opportunity to share their ideas. During a meeting, always keep in mind that when it comes to ideas, quantity doesn’t mean quality. Resist the inclination to automatically view the most talkative contributors as the most valuable.
Give introverts time to prepare for meetings
Impromptu meetings are part of everyday life – for some more than others. However, there is a difference between a quick catchup and being disorganised. Introverts don’t always respond well in meetings they have not prepared for. Send a detailed agenda before a meeting so introverts can plan something to contribute. Even if it’s a brainstorm session, many like to think up ideas ahead of time. Let them know what you hope to get out of the meeting and what specifically is expected of them.
Too many extroverts can cause the meeting to lose focus
When a meeting bounces from point to point too fast without giving enough time and consideration to a single point, it’s likely you won’t hear anything from people who need time to think. Once the team presents the first round of ideas on a topic, set a two minute period for processing and thought. As the meeting leader, ask for feedback. Use questions that tap into introverts’ natural talents, such as, “what have we overlooked here?” and, “can anyone sum this up for us?” This will ensure you don’t haphazardly jump around topics without taking the time to thoughtfully explore several ideas. If you are an introvert and you need a minute to process, ask for that before you respond. And don’t be shy about emailing your ideas after a meeting.
The meeting topic does not directly affect everyone in it
It’s good to bring extra people in to a meeting for new ideas. However, if introverts are not well versed in the topic it will directly affect their ability to consistently contribute. If you’re an extrovert or the meeting’s leader, be willing to let your participants take their pick of where they participate most based on the topics they’re really passionate about. If you’re planning a meeting, ask introverts to help you create the agenda.
Meetings regularly go off topic
We’ve all been in a meeting which veers off in an unexpected direction. Sometimes this is beneficial and at other times it’s unproductive. But it’s important to remember that this type of meeting may energise certain people so much they become dominant and throw introverts off enough to stop participating. If you’re following new ideas, make sure you periodically sum up what’s happened. Take a minute to reflect and organise all the ideas and action items. Follow up after the meeting with details in writing. This helps everyone get on and stay on the same page. Actively invite corrections and comments from your team.
By following these steps, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. Start maximising the talents your team brings to the table to get more out of each team member. Sensitivity to these issues will allow your team to perform more effectively without it appearing as though you’re reigning people in or forcing others outside their comfort zone unnecessarily.
Finally, it’s worth noting that working remotely or having a meeting via a conference call can make some of these practices harder to implement. Using video conference such as GoToMeeting for these situations is a good way to keep everyone at ease. Be aware of participants’ body language and gestures. These are important signifiers which can help everyone stay focused, engaged, and most importantly, empowered to contribute.
LogMeIn simplifies how people connect with each other and the world around them to drive meaningful interactions, deepen relationships, and create better outcomes for individuals and businesses. One of the world’s top 10 public SaaS companies, and a market leader in communication & conferencing, identity & access, and customer engagement & support solutions, LogMeIn has millions of customers spanning virtually every country across the globe. LogMeIn is headquartered in Boston with additional locations in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.