Just like extroverts, introverts are the backbone of successful companies. While you won’t see them glad-handing with investors or clamoring for recognition on a well-executed project, they will drive your business’s success just as much as outwardly ambitious extroverts do.
Whether you run a small business or a large enterprise, chances are you’ve got at least a few introverts on your team. Research shows that up to 50 percent of the population may be introverted -- though people sometimes force themselves to act like extroverts in environments that favor outgoing personalities.
Introverts possess keen contemplative and analytical qualities that make them especially valuable team members. They often choose careers in computer programming, software development, consulting or psychology -- all of which require quiet, reflective atmospheres and the ability to think through complex problems.
Whatever your industry, at least a handful of your employees are introverts, and it’s in your company’s interest to play to their strengths, not overlook them.
Managers often associate introverts with the downsides of their reflective personalities, including a tendency to dwell on problems to the point of inaction. But set up the right working environment, and your introverted employees will become some of your company’s greatest assets.
Use these strategies as a starting point for creating an introvert-friendly culture at your company:
1. Avoid unnecessary surprises.
Introverts don’t like being called into last-minute meetings or thrown on a team mid-project; they thrive when they have adequate time to research and prepare. Schedule meetings and presentations as far in advance as possible, or invite introverted team members to give scheduling input. By putting the ball in their court, you ensure that they’ll be confident and focused when it’s time to deliver.
2. Give employees face time.
People often typecast introverts as shy and hesitant to share their feelings. But introverts are no less reluctant to voice their opinions than extroverts; they just prefer to do it in a more private setting.
For that reason, Ben Horowitz, co-founder of VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, holds one-on-one meetings with employees. This format encourages employees to set the agenda, and it creates an environment in which introverts feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns.
3. Build writing time into meetings.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos gives his executives 30 minutes to carefully read over the agenda and write down notes or comments before a meeting begins. This strategy gives everyone a chance to formulate ideas, but it especially benefits introverts. Introverted employees communicate most effectively when they’ve had time to think through their contributions. Allot at least 10 minutes for writing time at your next meeting and take note of how it affects the quality of the conversation.
4. Respect your employees’ space.
Introverts perform best when they work on their own terms. Once you’ve set a deadline, trust your employees to get the work done. Aggressively demanding that they show you their research or respond to project questions on the spot is frustrating for everyone involved. Instead, schedule check-ins at different intervals throughout the project so you and your employees can prepare appropriately.
5. Cater to their tastes.
If you’re meeting with an introverted employee outside the office, opt for a venue with a subdued atmosphere. When planning team activities, include events that appeal to introverted employees. Don’t get me wrong: Introverts enjoy socializing -- just not at noisy happy hours or high-energy retreat days. By taking their preferences into account, you show that you value their happiness and want them to feel as much a part of the team as extroverts.
6. Challenge introverts with detail-oriented problems.
Studies show that introverts excel at problem solving and strategizing, so delegate detailed, analysis-heavy assignments to your introverted team members. Given a clear time frame and autonomy, introverts will deliver top-notch results for even the toughest problems.
Above all, talk with your introverted employees. Find out how they prefer to work, and incorporate their ideas into your operations. Companies function best when their employees feel comfortable and motivated in their work environments. By taking introverts’ unique strengths into account, you’ll benefit from their sharp, well-reasoned ideas and methods.