Millions of business owners and corporate professionals work tirelessly to tap into the potential of their workforce, yet far too many of these leaders ignore the immense talent and simmering opportunity that lies within their introverted employees.
Far too often, extroverted managers and business owners allow introverted employees to fade into the background where they struggle to be productive or feel like part of the team. It's time to reconsider thinking that the quiet people in your office are the lackluster, unproductive ones. Here's how you can unlock the potential of introverted employees.
Introversion is not shyness.
First and foremost, you need to arrive at a thorough and accurate understanding of introversion if you want to effectively lead your introverted employees to greatness. After all, many misconceptions about introverts plague society today, with countless people (many of them extroverts) believing that what makes someone an introvert is that they're shy. In reality, though, being an introvert has nothing to do with shyness and everything to do with a preference for low-stimulus environments.
This is fundamentally different than being shy or timid and reserved around other people. As a matter of fact, few introverts are nearly as shy as the extroverts around them seem to think. You're making a crucial mistake if you think that the workers in your office who prefer low-stimulus environments somehow aren't "people persons" and shouldn't be put in front of clients or customers. It's critical not to overlook your introverts in your search for future leaders, as those who you may perceive as "hiding away" are often just waiting for an opportunity to present themselves to the world at the right moment.
Don't force introverts to be something they're not.
Now that you have a more accurate understanding of introversion, you won't make the mistakes that countless other managers have made in the pursuit of "changing and improving" their introverted employees.
God only knows how many business owners have spoiled the ultimate potential of an introvert by putting them on center stage in an effort to transform them into a happy-go-lucky extrovert.
What these managers didn't realize is that to unlock the amazing potential of introverted employees, you need to forge an environment where they can feel comfortable and thrive.
Create a low-stimulus environment.
Creating a low-stimulus environment is a vital part of making your office welcoming to introverts, yet it's easier said than done when managers and business owners are extroverts who prefer a vibrant, busy office.
Those business owners who have been struggling to tap into the potential of their introverted employees should be prepared to make changes to their work arrangements in order to bolster productivity. However, they'll soon realize that everyone benefits from a low-stimulus environment that allows employees to focus on their work.
You should provide private workspaces, like individual rooms or cubicles, rather than large group tables or open workspaces. Similarly, offer flexible working hours to employees. Many introverted employees may want to trade the traditional 9-to-5 schedule for earlier or later hours.
You may think that a quiet office will lead to lower productivity, but in reality, the opposite will occur. This is because introverts feel at home in low-stimulus environments, as author Susan Cain recently explained in an interview with the Harvard Business Review. Whereas extroverts feel they need group meetings to survive and thrive, introverts are happier to meet in one-on-one situations where things are quiet and more controllable.
Also, managers who assign team projects should consider a more siloed approach when working with introverts if they want to bolster productivity.
Finally, managers and business owners should understand that taking care of introverts doesn't have to come at the expense of extroverts; in fact, both can be managed with the right skills and outlook.