Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Quiet Tidbits

Did you know that probably one-third of your staff and workforce are introverted, whether they appear that way or not? Some famous celebrities are introverted yet they are phenomenal performers. Too often, according to one author, we set work environments and policies based on what appear to be natural extroverted leadership.

For example, open workplaces--a trending rage in some circles, and seems to come back into the fore every 20 years or so like open classrooms--will hurt your introverts. Too much social background depletes their energy. It will reduce productivity and health. It will increase turnover and absenteeism--maybe even presenteeism, or disengagement (i.e. physically present but not emotionally nor mentally).

As a statistics nut, I like this bon mot: if extroverts and introverts are equally likely to have good and bad ideas, then why do we let the extroverts carry the day? They're just as likely to quickly, easily promote their bad ideas as their good ideas. We should provide opportunities for the goodness and the badness of ideas to be ascertained whether they come from extroverts; we should provide opportunities for the introverts' ideas to come forth. "Make the most of introverts' strengths--these are people who can help you think deeply, strategize, solve complex problems, and spot [dead] canaries in your coal mine," says Susan Cain (emphasis and addition is mine), meaning that they might find the subtle, nearly invisible mode of failure in your grand (or not so grand) scheme.

Additionally, she says, "Introverts are uniquely good at leading initiative-takers...Extroverted leaders are better at at getting results from less proactive workers." Perhaps introverts are good at leading initiative takers because the latter tend to be leap-before-looking kind of people. Okay, that's a stereotype. If you have the activation strength, think of yourself as an initiative-taker (a little risk tolerant, perhaps), why would you think introverts could lead your effort? Remember leadership is unleashing potential and disrupting the order of things to build new endeavors.

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