We all remember the quiet, shy person in high school who rarely spoke in class – the person who listened intently, took lots of notes, and worked hard at flying under the radar. When the teacher called on this introvert, we were all amazed at the insights offered and surprised the person didn’t speak up more often.
The best contributors to meetings are often the quietest. These reflective, contemplative thinkers have great ideas that are frequently lost on the team. Leaders can benefit by going out of their way to get the input of these team members. Some ideas to get their involvement:
- distribute an agenda and/or discussion topics well before the meeting, specifying what decisions need to be made (the introverts will be well prepared and more likely to contribute to the discussion);
- don’t let the domineering extroverts monopolize the conversation (the extroverts love being the focus of the meeting and the introverts are content letting them);
- do not assume the introvert’s quietness means they agree (the introvert’s head nod means they heard the point not that they concur);
- encourage the introverts to contribute by setting a rule that their silence means they disagree (this forces them to speak up);
- ask the introverts to “think out loud” and never, never criticize these thoughts (introverts prefer to speak after their thoughts are complete and are uncomfortable expressing their incomplete thoughts).
Leaders who empower the introverts on their team to contribute to team meetings have more successful organizations.