Any well-rounded workplace needs a healthy mix of personality types. From people who thrust their hands up during meetings to share the idea that just popped into their head to others who hang back and prefer to ruminate before saying anything, workplaces contain a spectrum of different personalities and communication styles. An effective leadership team must be able to realize this, and in turn work hard to ensure that they’re getting ideas from all different angles.
Your team may be missing out on valuable input if they’re catering to the extroverted side of the workforce but leaving the introverts and shy employees in the dust. It’s not that they don’t have great suggestions; it’s just that without the right forum, they may not feel comfortable sharing what’s on their mind. As the Washington Post says, modern workplaces tend to be structured around group activities, even though research shows that individuals who get a chance to think by themselves come up with better ideas.
How can you be sure to facilitate discussions that include the valuable point-of-view of quieter individuals, and avoid falling into the pitfalls of an office that’s so group-centric that it impedes true teamwork?
Identify and Play Toward Strengths
As The Muse points out, shy employees have just as much intelligence and ingenuity as louder ones, but their tendency to fly under the radar means that it may not be as obvious to the outside world. As a manager, it’s up to you to identify and tap into this well of insight. But how?
Play to their strengths and meet them on their terms.
They may not be the first people jumping into the spotlight during a meeting, but quiet employees generally excel in creative problem solving and decision making due to their reflective mental process. Instead of forcing them to masquerade as a talkative master of brainstorming, give them notice before meetings and let them shine during one-on-one scenarios. It will save them a dose of anxiety, and it will provide a new depth of insight that group sessions may miss.
Anonymous Question and Answer Sessions
It’s likely that many introverted and shy employees feel like fish out of water during large presentations, training sessions, or meetings. When the lights go up and the presenter asks for questions or comments, someone might have a valuable contribution but feel uncomfortable speaking out in front of so many others. One solution is to integrate a discreet learning activity into a PowerPoint presentation like an instant Q&A session from Poll Everywhere. Anyone in the audience can type their question on a mobile device or computer and anonymously submit it to the slide, so the speaker can address it in real time without needing to call anyone out. People can vote on questions that they share, so the submitter may gain a boost of confidence for asking something important without having to stand up and say it in front of a crowd.
Use Positive Reinforcements
One basic way to make sure that people understand the worth and necessity of their contributions is to give credit, and even praise, where it’s due. According to one contributor for Forbes, consistently giving people credit for their ideas will encourage people to share more in the future. Make sure that ideas are taken seriously, and provide a practical and emotional payoff for employees—even shy ones—to speak up and toss their questions and ideas into the ring.
It’s beneficial to company culture to avoid the fallacy that only verbal go-getters have leadership potential or a stream of solid ideas. If you’re not working hard to create an inclusive environment for all personality types, ranging from the extremely extroverted to the shy, then you’re missing out on serious perspective that could help shape your organization. Use these tools and techniques to encourage open, honest conversation for all in the workplace.