As you have gathered from the heading above, this month’s focus is on coaching for quiet performers – those people amongst us who seem to like to work on their own (something they normally do pretty well too!) and are quiet in meetings even though you’ve noticed that when they do talk, they normally have something really worthwhile to contribute. You just wish that they would give more of themselves to the team! In fact, as we will see, this is often an underlying frustration between them and the extroverts around them – and sometimes the underlying cause of arguments that arise as a result.
The Extrovert vs The Introvert
Extroverted children thrive just about anywhere and are virtually incapable of being thrown off track. Introverted children flourish in a supportive environment; in the wrong place, they close up.
These traits normally follow us into adulthood. Interactions between introverts and extroverts are often marked by misunderstanding. When conflicts arise, extroverts tend to grow hostile and take the offensive, overpowering or overwhelming the introverts. The typical introvert retreats from open conflict because he or she finds it unpleasant – which the extrovert more often than not interprets as a lack of interest. And so it goes on…
It is only when both temperaments open up to one another and try to understand the other’s perspective that they can achieve great results together.
Even though a person has an introverted temperament, this does not prevent them from switching into an extrovert mode. By reflecting upon themselves, they can learn to adapt their manner to various different situations and to flip the extroversion switch at just the right moment. And, of course, extroverts can also move across the continuum between themselves and their introverted colleagues, where necessary, becoming more reflective, calmer and focused.
The Ideal Environment
Many employers, wittingly or unwittingly, have tailored their workplaces to the ideal of the extroverted employee. Whilst these workplaces make the extroverts happy, they run the risk of squandering their full potential if they ignore their introverted employees. We only have to look around at the globally successful companies to notice just how many significant and creative achievements have come about in private – Steve Wozniak built Apple’s first computer by himself at home; Sir Isaac Newton formulated the law of gravity alone, and JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter in solitude.
Susan Cain in her book Quiet (where we got the quiz from), suggests that it is the challenge of truly skilled leaders to unite the talents of introverts and extroverts. In a study she refers to, it was found that extroverted team leaders, although successful in getting their team to adhere to the rules and work by the book to achieve great performance levels, were less successful in responding to individual’s suggestions.
Among the introverted team leaders, the study showed the exact opposite. Although their calm, quiet character made it difficult for them to encourage their comrades and boost their efficiency levels, they were more open to their team’s ideas and used all available means to put good suggestions into action.
So it can be argued that, in the workplace, an extroverted leading style is ideal when the goal is to complete tasks as quickly as possible. However, introverted leadership qualities are imperative if team members want to get involved and contribute their own ideas. These two approaches will depend on the organisational culture in each instance.
Strength in Diversity
Another interesting difference emerged in the US from the 2008 financial crisis. Extroverted leaders tend to make quick decisions based on less information. And many such leaders had, in fact, made risky investments with their companies’ funds. By contrast, introverted leaders usually amass a lot of information before making a decision. Companies with introverted leaders were therefore less severely affected by the crisis, having invested their money less precariously.
So when quick decisions are necessary, extroverted leaders are best. When careful consideration is required, it’s best to call on the introverted leader.
But why keep them apart? Each personality type has skills the other can profit from. This is a point that emerges time and a again in the different books I read on the subject – this and the point that over time workplaces have geared themselves more towards extroverts so that introverts choose to withdraw more. I guess that’s why I am asked in my coaching practice to help more introverts abut their introversion than the extroverts (they are measured against) about their extroversion.
And that’s the reason why this Better Leaders Better World Series starts off with an offer to coach your quiet performers. Check out the attached Coaching for Quiet Performers brochure to see my approach to coaching in this instance and the outcomes and benefits you may expect. Please also remember that the discount is valid for registrations completed in September only