Managing Diverse Personalities - Extroversion & Introversion

Studies have shown that the best teams are made up from a diversity of members. Not only in terms of demographic factors such as ethnicity, age, and gender - but also psychographic factors such as personality, values, and interests. A heterogeneous team will have a diversity of ideas which leads to more robust problem solving.

However, there is one problem intrinsic to diversity -- the potential for conflict or disharmony. The trick then, is to activate the diverse team in a way that allows each member to shine.

This post will give some ideas for dealing with one psychographic dimension - the personality type of introversion Vs extroversion. We will look at this dynamic from the perspective of the manager/facilitator and in the context of an meeting where an important decision needs to be made. And while there is a spectrum from from highly introverted to highly extroverted, we will take an extreme view and assume each personality type is distinct and at the very ends of the spectrum.

It is first important to understand the benefits and optimum working styles of the stereotypical introvert and extrovert.

When faced with an upcoming meeting, or a problem, the introvert need to start by themselves, thinking deeply about it. They will likely research online and think through the problem and all the various implications of any potential solution. Their recommendation will be well thought-out and backed up by evidence.

The introvert will need time to prepare before the meeting. Maybe this is why Amazon (lead by introvert Jeff Bezos) requires all meetings to be planned 24 hours in advance. This allows introverts the uninterrupted time needed to go down their complex thought processes, arriving at deep understandings and robust conclusions.

Extroverts, on the other hand, talk their way through a problem gaining the diverse insight of the team. Extroverts know that each person is limited, but when potential solutions are bounced around the room, each thought building on the others, new insight can be quickly achieved. They gain energy from the social interplay leading to novel ideas and creative solutions.

As a facilitator, it is easy to see that both personality types have their distinct benefits. It is the responsibility of this important position to set up each personality up for success. Hers is a recommendation.

  1. Give the details of the upcoming meeting 24 hours in advance so that each person can take their individual required time to prepare.

  2. At the beginning of the meeting, give each person a chance to speak without interruption for a reasonable amount of time.

  3. When it is time for the discussion,

  • train the loudest members of the group to listen to the quietest

  • Train the quietest to be open to new ideas and not entrenched in the conclusions they spent so long to cultivate

4. Bounce ideas around, making sure recommendation 3 is being followed. Elevate the ideas, make sure everyone is being heard, even those with the softest voices.

In summary, you can think of this recommendation in a linear fashion, first allow each member to study and think on their own. Then take those views into the meeting in an open-minded way. During the meeting, allow for interaction to happen and ideas to bounce around and elevate. The facilitators role is to understand the optimum working styles and put them into practice.

#leadership #decisionmaking #management