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Don’t overlook the introverts in the office

Extroverts will always, by their nature, be the most visible and audible members of the team. They’re the first to speak up in meetings, the first to put themselves forward for promotion, and even to request the most sought-after holidays.

While it may be easy to reward these high-profile colleagues with recognition and accolades – no doubt often deserved – leaders need to make a special effort to seek out those who are naturally more introverted to ensure that they too have a voice.

It’s important to remember that people with an introvert preference need to be asked for their thoughts and opinions – they’re unlikely to talk up over other people in meetings and instead tend to reflect and think things through before they talk.

There are lots of techniques that can be used by leaders to ensure that everyone is treated equally – the ten components of Nancy Kline’s ‘Time to Think’ are a very good benchmark. Structure meetings so that everyone around the table is given a chance to speak, or use a technique called dialogue in pairs, where two people discuss the issues and then bring their thoughts to the table.

As introverts tend to need time to consider the issues to be addressed and form their responses, make sure that everyone is given plenty of information about the meeting content in advance. Include information about how it will be structured and what outcomes are required, so everyone can come prepared.

Meetings aside, it’s important to ensure that there are lots of different channels of communication available to give feedback and ideas to team leaders and managers. Make it very clear what those channels are and ensure that there’s an option that will allow introverts to engage. If you have a weekly team meeting where everyone is asked for feedback and ideas, also make it clear that the same information is welcomed by email, or in private meetings on a given day or time of day.

If you don’t give people with an introvert preference a communication option, you’ll lose their valuable insight.