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Don't Forget the Introverts on Your Team: They May Be More Valuable Than You Think


Leading in a remote work environment is very different from leading in a physical office. Businesses have been working remotely for a while now, and leaders have more clarity around what does and does not work. Large virtual meetings are a good example. They tend to get awkward once the work agenda is completed. Smaller meetings work much better because there is more opportunity for the attendees to interact differently and become more engaged.

By taking a step back and thinking about the past few meetings from the perspective of those who spoke up at these meetings, leaders may find they have been dismissing some team members without giving it much thought. In all likelihood, the extroverts on the team participated the most simply because they enjoy being seen and heard.

But what about the others on the call who did not contribute much, if at all? These are the introverts. It is easy to forget they are there because they are quiet. They listen more than they speak. But dismissing their contributions might be a big mistake because one of their biggest attributes is analytical thinking — a critical skill for any team. When they do participate, their contributions generally are meaningful.

Often, introverts do not participate because they are afraid others will disagree or think their ideas have no merit. Speaking up is outside of their comfort zone. When they are engaged in a one-on-one or small-group setting, however, they can provide excellent input.

Company leaders need to understand what makes these team members tick. It is clear they do not promote themselves the same way extroverts do. As a result, their work is accepted without fanfare or recognition even if they secretly want to have their contributions acknowledged.

Ultimately, introverts may be overlooked when it comes to promotions because they are viewed as lacking leadership skills. But that is not accurate. Some of the leadership skills introverts have are the very skills extroverts are trained to have, such as listening and empathy.

Introverts are natural team players who look out for the good of the team and the project in a different way than do extroverts. The pleasure they get from success comes from being on a winning team. It is about the "we" rather than the "I." They tend to work independently without much supervision, making them even more invisible.

Ironically, their positive traits are part of the reason they are often overlooked for promotion, especially when their competition for the new role is an extrovert who is always visible.

Today's small virtual meetings are a good place for company leaders to assess the traits and contributions of the introverts on their team. They may find that they have been overlooking team members with leadership potential.

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