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06 August 2021

Tech Perspective #31: The Time of the Introvert

business

The role of extroverts during a business meeting is inestimable. It speaks for itself: extroverts ensure enthusiasm and high energy, keeping the flow going and eliminating awkward moments of silence. They’re usually great at hyping ideas and spreading a positive vibe among other participants.  

However, nobody’s perfect, and despite their indisputable merits, extroverts can be a little too much to handle. High intensity and energy come with a price: they tend to outshine the others and dominate the conversation. In extreme cases, they may drain the rest of employees, especially introverts, of motivation, as well as speaking time.  

Speaking up in a meeting in such conditions may become quite a challenge for some introverts who may be too overwhelmed to present their original ideas.   

How to encourage more introverted employees to speak for themselves? Let’s find out.  

Great Equaliser  

Participating in meetings may be quite stressful, especially for the introverts. As Kay White, a career coach and the author of It’s Always Your Move says, “Speaking up in meetings and having an opinion always has a perceived risk. You might ask yourself, what will people think? Will I sound silly? Will I be cut off?”

However, with only a part of participants contributing, brainstorm meetings aren’t as successful and creative. By allowing introverted employees to become overwhelmed by their feisty colleagues can negatively influence their confidence and prevent them from sharing their inventive ideas.  

What’s interesting, the severity of this problem may be significantly reduced by holding online meetings, as introverts usually find it easier to speak up during video meetings. As Shana Simmons, the general counsel at Everlaw and avid participant of Zoom meetings, says, “I have seen introverts really shine at this time. They’re the first to have a chat after a virtual call”.  

Video meetings work as a great equaliser: somehow, extroverts are reduced by the virtual settings, giving space to introverts to present their ideas. As said by White, “clients have told me they actually prefer the virtual settings for meetings. They’ve said that (…) the more introvert, quieter types have thrived and expanded by being asked their thoughts as [the speaker] naturally goes around the virtual room.”  

Introverts Assemble  

Even though introverts seem to fend for themselves in virtual settings, there are some improvements that you may introduce to create favourable conditions and encourage them to speak their mind.  

First of all, it may be a good idea to implement more structure to your meetings to make sure that everybody is heard. It may also prevent more talkative participants from stealing the spotlight and overtaking the discussion. By giving your workers a heads up that they’re next in the speaking queue, you’ll give the quieter ones some time to prepare, ensuring peace of mind.

You may also try to encourage less vocal participants to contribute and make sure that the extroverts are not overwhelming them. It may be also advisable to track the amount of time each participant is speaking. If your quieter employees are not receiving equal airtime or finish their presentation earlier, try to ask them some follow-up questions. However, don’t get too pushy, as it may easily backfire.  

Even though it may be more comfortable for quieter employees to propose their ideas after the meeting, as a manager, you should encourage everyone to stake their claim to ideas in public. As White says: “It’s easy to sit back and let the big voices dominate, then email or make a quick call to make yourself heard, which is often the way the more hesitant individuals do get their point across. However, this has consequences. You’re not seen in a public arena to be a contributor, and the ideas you have often don’t get attributed to you.” To change this dynamic, I advise you to encourage shy participants to start the next meeting.  

Unleashing Full Potential  

As a manager, you should encourage your employees to unleash their full potential and present their original ideas. That’s why you should create a safe, supportive environment for less vocal employees.   

Encouraging quieter employees to speak may provide your team with unique and unexpected insights and different points of view. It will also boost the confidence of shy participants, as well as balance the energy of the meetings and ensure their wellbeing.  

And who knows, maybe one of the introverts will become your company’s best spokesperson? 


Author
Marcin Bartoszuk
Chief Technology Officer

With Microsoft technologies related since 2005. He graduated from the Computer Science Faculty of the Bialystok University of Technology where he was the leader of the .NET Group and the Microsoft Student Partner. Four times finalist of the national stage of the Imagine Cup competition, and later the mentor and the jury member of the contest. Co-founder of the Bialystok .NET Group. He lectured .NET development at the Bialystok University of Technology. Microsoft MVP in the Client Application Development category in 2008-2010, when he actively participated in the IT community. Constant new technology enthusiast and IT consultant.