Management, Technical Leadership

Help! There Are Introverts in My Team

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In my last post I described some theory behind introversion, and mentioned that probably most software developers demonstrate such type of personality. Today let’s discuss some practical implications it may have for your team and things to consider as a leader.

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Brainstorming should be abandoned. You won’t get the best ideas, you’ll just hear the ones your extroverts can come up with off the cuff. Introverts need time to think through a problem, and they won’t usually say anything just to appear ‘creative’. Use different discussion patterns instead, and if you really care about valuable input, give your people some time to prepare.

Open spaces are counter-productive. They result in your most talented introverts being frequently distracted by the most ‘active’ employees. And you thought you can just put people together into a large room so that they ‘communicate’ and be more creative? Think again.

Some agile techniques require a second thought. Pair programming? Maybe two developers working closely together, communicating all day long, is still fine from an introvert’s perspective – when they know each other well… That’s yet to be researched though. Maybe that’s why some people consider such techniques to do more harm than good.

Review your recognition approach. Many of your team members might not actually enjoy the ‘unique opportunity’ to present their idea in front of the whole company… Some might even see it as punishment. You may still need them to do this, but don’t pretend it’s a reward in such case.

Collaboration is not always the way. We might have been too aggressive in promoting the collaborative style of work, thinking it’s a solution to all problems. Allow your people to work in a bit of isolation sometimes, give them more privacy, and see if the results won’t actually be better.

Limit the number of meetings. Well, nothing new here… Just one more reason to do it (does anyone even need it?!).

These are just some basic observations. I’m sure once you start to look at your team’s everyday work from this perspective, you will notice many more situations in which the environment doesn’t help your introvert team members. Feel free to share them in the comments.

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5 thoughts on “Help! There Are Introverts in My Team

  1. In my opinion you should also encourage introverts to have more extravert approach. I know it doesn’t sound simple but, I was and am introvert with many anxieties. Still with a lot of training I have become extravert in some aspects 😉 I can speak, I can present, I can mentor / coach and lead people. There are of course parts of my introvert side. I am not eager to go out for beer with co-workers ( I love my house ) or I have some weird anxieties like calling someone through phone ( allays stressful thing for me 🙂 )

    • Rafal Barszczewski says:

      Michał – I agree. I think regardless of your personality, it is often beneficial to get out of your comfort zone. That’s what allows some people to achieve more than others, so I definitely encourage this approach. At the same time, there’s a difference between stretching yourself in this way, and ‘faking’ your personality just to appear more likable or whatever. That’s why it’s important to understand your traits, accept them, and conciously decide what you want to engage in.

  2. Osiris Martinez says:

    I wouldn’t say that brainstorming should be abandoned. Consider brainstorming with the extroverts segregated from the introverts. Although I would still wish for the entire team or group to participate. I’m all about the team. However, if it turns out that introverts feel out of place, or even an individual without a label (and I do prefer to leave the labels off… think of the individual, and their preferences), then they would be welcomed to opt-out, or perhaps opt-in to a different, calmer, less-extrovert-y session.

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