In a previous post, I shared 7 Reasons the Introvert Is Not Talking in Your Meetings. I committed then to share some suggestions. Read that post first, or this one will be harder to follow.
The fact is we miss out on a lot of valuable input if we don’t hear from the introverts on the team, but hearing from them is more challenging. They are introverted. That basically means they typically internalize their thoughts more than the externalize them. But, in order for them to be helpful you have to hear them. They have to externalize their thoughts.
These aren’t fool proof. Not all introverts are alike, just as not all extroverts are alike. All of us are unique.
But, these might help. If you’re not hearing from some of the introverts on your team, give some of these a try.
Keep in mind, these are coming from an introvert and a leader.
First, from the previous post…
Here were 7 reasons they may not be talking:
- Everyone else keeps talking
- You are rushing the answers
- There are too many people, especially extroverts in the room
- You have them in an uncomfortable seat
- They’ve got nothing to say
- The conversation isn’t going anywhere
- You put them on the spot without warning
Here are 7 suggestions to get them talking:
First – Give them proper warning before the meeting to get them thinking ahead of time and let them know you’ll be expecting their input. With time to collect their thoughts in advance they’ll be more likely to share.
Second – Give them time after the meeting to reflect and specifically ask for their thoughts. In brainstorming, give them the questions before the meeting that you’ll be discussing. In some circumstances, I’ve even given introverts the freedom to email or text me or someone else during the meeting. (I’ve led a couple meetings where we put a live Google Docs on the screen to add our thoughts. Introverts could type in their response and Google Docs would update. They seemed to share more.)
Third – Divide into smaller groups. Especially during brainstorming meetings or strategy sessions, divide out and then come back together to share. Depending on the size of the group, you could have an introvert serve on their own “team of one” during the breakout time with the assignment to come back and share.
Fourth – Let them choose their seat. Never force introverts to move to the front of the room. You can offer them the seat, but if they want to stand in the back of a crowded room, let them.
Fifth – Don’t make people talk. Don’t call out an introvert or put them on the spot for an immediate answer. Provide opportunities, but don’t force. As mentioned previously, to see if they have thoughts to share, write a question on the board and give some time to process — maybe even let the answers be written.
Sixth – Start meetings on time and with an agenda. If small talk is part of the culture — that’s okay — but give them something to read or focus on until the main meeting starts. And, don’t be upset if they are still working on their phone until the actual meeting starts.
Seventh – Give them a preassigned part in the meeting. Most introverts are not afraid of leading, even speaking in large groups (I do it every week), they just want time to prepare. Then watch them shine.
As I said in the previous post, leaders this means you must know the people you are trying to lead. If you aren’t sure — ask, do assessments, observe, get to know them.
Also, to my fellow introverts, I hear from you. Some of you cringe at the word “brainstorming”. You want a pass from anything that makes you particularly uncomfortable. I’m sorry, I can’t give that as a leader. We all have to do things uncomfortable at times — that includes my extroverted friends. Sometimes they’ll be forced to sit in silent activities on the teams I lead. Brainstorming can be an important part of team-building and idea creation. And, the team needs you. We just need to help leaders — especially extremely extroverted leaders — learn how to get us more involved.
What suggestions do you have?