It’s easy to spot the individuals on your team who stand out, speak up and continually rise to the occasion. But what about the people who remain under the radar? How can we as leaders call out the best in those who don’t always find their way into the spotlight?
Modern society often champions extroverts over the introvert. In the workplace, this leads us to believe that the more excitable, gregarious, and amped-up visionary types always make the ideal team players, but this simply isn’t the case. Of course, it is only natural to be drawn to build a team with such vivacious individuals. But what strengths and qualities could you be forfeiting, if you continue to only favor extroverts at the forefront?
In her book, "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking," Susan Cain brings to light the strength and unique vitality of the introvert. This quiet strength can also be quickly overlooked in our leadership. Introverts are often undervalued, underutilized and therefore rarely built up to their full potential in the workplace.
Here are a few myths of quiet employees that need to be debunked in order to elevate the level of your team's performance:
They’re quiet, so they must be on the B team.
There may be many on your team who are ready to take on more responsibility, only their introverted characteristics would lead you to believe otherwise. In his book, "Quiet Leadership," David Rock suggests key leadership skills, such as mentoring, are innately more introverted. When we look at how quickly we assume charismatic personalities should always take the lead, maybe we should readdress what it takes to be a leader.
Only the best ideas and brainstorming come collaboratively.
Brainstorming sessions are often a go-to to arrive at the next groundbreaking idea. As Cain reminds us, “Introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.” Sometimes great ideas are born in solitude.
They are too shy to have the necessary interpersonal skills for the job.
Being shy and introverted are not one in the same. This assumption can encourage leaders to bank on outgoing individuals to handle all relations. As Cain addresses, “Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.” While introverts may not always appear to engage in social settings easily, it doesn’t mean they can’t read them.
They are too timid to handle conflict.
Before you write them off, carefully gauge their abilities and confidence. As Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” They may appear timid or wary to engage in conflict, but they may be better at it than most. Since introverts aren’t as reactive and, often, carefully filter their thoughts, you may be surprised at how well they can rise to the occasion.
They never speak up, so they must not have any great ideas.
Often introverts are full of more ideas than they are willing to blurt out in a team meeting, particularly if many others are already speaking up. There are many thoughts and perspectives an introvert is ruminating in. They are just waiting to be asked.
We often move forward in promoting and giving voice to the gregarious individuals, the apparently natural-born leaders. But could we be moving forward with a more dynamic, multifaceted, and grounded team if we began to engage and invest in more introverts? Guess we’ll never know until we ask.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the President of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and is the author of “Framework Leadership.” A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the president of one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. As president, Ingle founded the American Center for Political Leadership at the university and is also a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Before becoming Southeastern’s president in 2011, Ingle held leadership positions in higher education and the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Ingle is the author of several leadership books and the creator of the Framework Leadership podcast. He currently serves on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.