Introversion Isn’t Something to be Managed

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    (Guest post from Jan Terkelsen )

    Have you ever thought that managing people with introversion is challenging? Or that you have to “manage” them in some way. I’m guilty. Yes, guilty of seeing introversion as something that you have to change or manage.

    As a Myers Briggs practitioner and workshop facilitator I am often asked to run team sessions so teams can understand how to communicate more effectively with each other and with external clients.

    When I first began my career running these workshops and prepping for workshops, I would start to collate the workshop participant’s type reports, and see if the majority of their preferences were for introversion or extraversion. If I knew that the majority of people in the workshop were introverts, I caught myself saying “Oh no, how am I going to keep the energy up, or the discussion going? How can I get the discussion happening so we can really flesh out issues, or How am I going to keep my energy up so I can deliver a great experience?” (Yes, that last one was all about me.)

    Notice the comments were about energy, engagement and discussion. This is what most people consider to be important inputs into a workshop, meeting and team environment; however, an introvert may see it differently. This is where we have one the biggest dichotomies in the corporate workplace.

    The corporate workplace is set up to congratulate and validate extraversion yet 50% of the people in the corporate workplace have a preference for introversion and the gifts of introversion is exactly what the corporate workplace needs.

    People who have a preference for Introversion:

    • Get their energy from the inner world of ideas, concepts and emotions.
    • Tend to think then talk then think. Yes, these are the people who never, or rarely, put their foot in it, or regret what they say.
    • Tend to be brief in their communication and dialogue.
    • Prefer to have one on one or intimate interactions with people.
    • Like to reflect and analyze information before commenting.
    • Tend to get deeper insight after a conversation.
    • Prefer to share well thought out or near perfect thoughts and ideas.
    • Usually have a depth of interests and are subject matter experts.
    • Prefer written information ahead of time so they can reflect and process the information.
    • Tend to have contained body language.

    After facilitating and coaching thousands of people, I know that introversion is just a preference and the gifts and talents that introversion offers is just as relevant and important as the gifts of extraversion.

    As a manager you will need to accommodate a variety of styles, preferences and competing demands.

    By increasing your level of self awareness and understanding of your communication style and strengths, you can then use this knowledge to manage and coach others in your team, so they can demonstrate their gifts and talents. This is the best way the team can leverage from each others’ strengths.

    It isn’t that introversion needs to be managed; it needs to be validated and acknowledged. Understand that people with a preference for introversion do not show the outside world their strong suit; we are not privy to their best, most dominant process or way of thinking. Introverts leave that for the inner part of their world.

    Isabel Briggs Myers, the co -creator of the MBTI and author of Gifts Differing, likens it to a General and an Aide. The Introvert’s General is inside the tent and we, the outside world meet the Aide so we see their least dominant preference or process.

    Only when the business is very important, or the friendship is very close, do other people get in to see the General himself. As a result, the outside world can underestimate an introvert’s abilities and also get an incomplete understanding of her talents, wishes and point of view.

    So, if you are managing a team with introverts, be mindful that by having just ordinary contact with them they haven’t necessarily revealed what really matters to them. If there is a decision to be made, they should be told about it as fully as possible and if it is important to them the General will then come out.

    Let’s start to see introversion as a gift and talent and something to be celebrated and validated. Perhaps then the general will come out more often.

    People open up and do their best work when they know like and trust the people they are dealing with. Be that type of manager.


    Jan Terkelsen is an Executive Coach helping business managers to become business leaders and their staff to become high performing teams. Using a range of modalities – Executive Coaching, Team Coaching and Facilitation and Corporate Speaking – Jan also specialises in the use of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), for one-on-one coaching purposes and for improving team dynamics and communication. Ph 0425 795 938