Introverted leaders are usually at their best when they have long periods of quiet time to think and work uninterrupted. As a result, one of the most common challenges quieter leaders face is navigating between concentrating on work that needs to be done and responding to team members who constantly need support, decisions and approvals. On one hand, not being available to the team creates a bottleneck that compromises performance and engagement. On the other hand, not getting the quiet time to think through decisions and get work done and slows down personal productivity.
By understanding the introverted personality style and employing certain routines, systems and best practices that embrace their traits, introverts will find themselves well positioned to thrive in leadership roles. Here are seven of our top tips and best practices for introverted leaders:
- Build a consistent & predictable schedule. Periods of isolation to get work done should be paired with a system for staying connected to the team. For example, some leaders intentionally block off 2-3 hours per day as focus time, and deliberately walk around the office to check in with team members before they disappear. Others schedule all meetings in two or three designated days, leaving at least two full days for concentrated work. As long as the system is consistent, team members will adapt and reach out for what they need during times the leader is usually available.
- Maximize coaching and mentoring time. Introverts tend to be quiet, thoughtful and attentive listeners. They follow their curiosity, ask thoughtful questions, and provide space for team members to think through issues. As a result, one-on-one mentoring and coaching sessions are a powerful key to success for quiet leaders. Their unique ability to make others feel heard, understood and cared about cultivates a deep, undying loyalty that is both rare and tremendously valuable in a leader/team member relationship.
- Utilize small group discussions to bond with the team. For introverted leaders, team bonding can be very effective in intimate, small group settings, which are most conducive to their natural communication styles. An example of this might be a monthly forum where leaders can teach a best practice, talk about the “state of the team”, or facilitate a brainstorming session. The ultimate purpose is for people to talk and get to know each other. If attendance is optional, the smaller group has even more thoughtful, interesting, and personal discussions. This creates stronger team bonds and deeper relationships, which strengthen collaboration during the rest of the workday.
- E-mail updates and acknowledgments go a long way. Many introverts prefer writing to speaking. One way to capitalize on this is a monthly letter to the team. It can be used to share the monthly numbers, reinforce vision and mission, discuss situations the team has experienced recently, and acknowledge specific people/behaviors that have positively impacted the team’s performance. While writing might seem boring, if it’s a consistent practice, people will look forward to the e-mail as a grounding mechanism, to reclarify goals, expectations, and give them the emotional comfort that comes from connecting to what the leader is thinking and feeling.
- Support a balance of quiet and collaboration time. Introverted leaders easily recognize how hard it is to work through interruptions and are well equipped to influence the structure of the workday for the whole team. This can be achieved by structuring the day into “meeting time” and “focused work” time. For example, morning hours reserved for focused work time can create a positive mind frame of productivity, allowing for strong interactions during an afternoon reserved for meetings. Or, implementation of a “no meeting Friday” for the entire team can lead to everyone feeling several times more productive going into the weekend.
- Make sure extroverts get enough people time. Generally, teams have a combination of introverts and extroverts. Just as introverts need more time alone to think, extroverts need more collaboration and interactive time. It’s important for introverted leaders to honor the needs of extroverts and utilize their energy to create positivity and momentum. If there are opportunities to plan events, attend meetings, network or advocate on behalf of the team, these can help make sure extroverted team members are giving and getting enough interpersonal energy to keep them fired up and focused.
- Mitigate intimidation with emotional connectivity. Most teams play off the emotional energy of their leader, and if leaders don’t naturally show a lot of emotion, their teams may not know where they stand. For this reason, it is critical to proactively build a personal relationship with each team member. Find a reason to reach out, make eye contact, ask how they are doing, see if they have any questions or issues, or just share information that might interest them. It helps to know some personal detail, i.e. who has a child applying for college, who has a new pet, or is researching new cars. Checking in on a personal AND professional level sends a clear message that they matter. In fact, keeping a file on each team member with learnings and notes about each person can go a long way.
While general in nature, these tactics are intended to be molded and customized from leader to leader based on individual personalities, preferences and communication styles. We encourage all our clients to experiment and figure out what works best for them and their own teams. If you are interested in exploring our coaching programs further, please contact us for a consultation.