The meeting ends. Everyone puts away their laptops, notebooks and pens and leaves the room. If you watch carefully, you will notice two groups. One: lively, motivated, full of energy. The other: tired, quiet, exhausted. You would think that the extroverts and introverts have had different meetings.
But no. They simply experienced them differently. If there is one thing you know about the two groups, it is that they deal differently with situations in which they are confronted with many people. But in fact, it goes even further. The difference lies in how they perceive the world.
A little theory
Introverts and extroverts have different limits for stimuli. Introverts usually perceive external stimuli much more strongly than their counterparts. Therefore, they are more easily overwhelmed by large groups of people or overflowing meetings. They have nothing against other people per se, they are simply more easily overwhelmed.
Extroverts are on the other side of the spectrum. They are in need of stronger stimuli and are also a little more easily bored with themselves. They find it harder to be alone with their own thoughts. In return, they thrive among many people, make new acquaintances quickly and are generally more outgoing.
By the way, if you think that one or the other group is much bigger than the other, you are mistaken. According to most studies, they are fairly balanced and make up about half the population each. Of course, the degree of introvert and extrovert traits differs from one individual to another.
Different ways of working
The different personalities naturally have fundamentally different ideas about what a good workplace should look like. Extroverts tend to prefer open space concepts, frequent meetings, brainstorming sessions and small talk.
Introverts favour a more protected working atmosphere, rather work on their own or in small groups and generally do not like small talk. This doesn't really sound like it could by matched with the ideas of the "others".
However, this is exactly what you need to do if you want your project or company to succeed. All groups have strengths that you can use and weaknesses that you should address. In other words: For every Steve Jobs you need a Steve Wozniak.
The dream office of the extroverted faction is a large open space where you can constantly exchange ideas with others. There is a lively discourse, chattering and somewhere there is always a group brainstorming. But this won't make introverts happy.
They feel more comfortable if they have somewhere to retreat. They prefer to work relaxed in small rooms and can concentrate on their own thoughts.
The perfect workplace is one that supports both groups in their thinking and working. It offers open areas for discourse as well as sufficient possibilities to withdraw for concentrated work.
If such an arrangement isn't possible, there are other ways of working. Extroverts could simply wander more in offices with smaller rooms and be allowed to visit others. Introverts in open-plan offices should be allowed to shield themselves from others with headphones. The important thing is that no one has to feel obliged to play along, even if there is another way.
Meetings are the domain of the extrovert. They thrive here and should be allowed to play out their strengths. However, meetings can be adapted so that introverts also feel comfortable.
It helps, for example, when there aren't more people in the room than necessary. Clear meeting plans also help, and you should also say goodbye to spontaneous brainstorming if you don't want to disturb the quieter people in the room.
As an alternative, you can give all participants some preparation time. Including the task of preparing some ideas. Introverts can use this to show their strength and work on their own. Extroverts can still discuss during the meeting.
It also helps if you shift to digital communication in some parts of the communication. Introverts often find it difficult to voice their opinions, while extroverts occasionally need to be slowed down in their flow of thoughts. Audience response systems like feedbackr are a helpful tool for this.
They allow introverts to express their questions and opinions without having to jump over their shadow too much. Extroverts receive valuable input that they might have overlooked due to their generally more impulsive nature.
The digital way is the right one to support introverts on other occasions as well. For example, you could prevent meetings that could actually have been an e-mail. This gives introverts well-deserved breaks to recharge.
Strengths and weaknesses
In all areas, the ultimate aim is to respond to the needs of the individual. For project managers, this not only means reacting when someone asks for something. Instead, you should intentionally approach people and ask them what they need.
While you're at it, you might as well find out how they think they can best get involved. Open communication almost always helps. And not just once, but over and over again.
It's the only way to find out everyone's strengths and weaknesses and give them the framework in which they can do the best possible work. By focusing on the needs of introverts, extroverts and everything in between. Best case: everyone comes out of the meetings happy.
By the way: At Carrot & Company the team is roughly divided into introverts and extroverts. Including open rooms and lots of headphones. Would you like to benefit from our way of working and our team?