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Are You Under-utilizing the Brainpower of Half Your Employees?

Posted on June 13, 2017
You may be under-utilizing the brainpower of 50% of your employees

For many extroverts, going to a meeting where we can share our opinions is nearly as good as a holiday! We love to share ideas on anything from best practices for our business to best vacation spots. This can be terrific, but have you ever just taken a minute during a vibrant meeting to quietly look around and observe the group dynamic? Notice those quiet people who may be doing a lot of listening, taking notes or working on a project on their computer (you may be one of them)? Have you noticed the folks that do a lot of early listening and wait till the end of the meeting to chip in with an observation or suggestion? Yes, those folks are your introverts and, depending on which study you believe, they make up between 20 to 50% of your organization’s braintrust.

Further, as Susan Cain, author of Quiet, The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, points out, you may be unknowingly be sitting next to an introvert, because, in a world that seems to listen more to the socially forward, and often boisterous voices, some introverts have strained to adapt to become more social in larger groups. However, even for a less obvious introvert, you may not be getting their strongest contribution in a loud, crowded setting, because studies show, that is not where they do their best work.

Questions You Should be Asking

At this point, you should be asking yourself some key questions. Here are the two that immediately jump to mind for us:

  1. Can you afford to lose out on the amazing ideas these talented, but less social contributors may be having, even as their voices can sometimes get drowned out in the cacophony of a noisy brainstorming session?
  2. Are there ways we as leaders can be sure we are making it easier for introverts to be heard within the organization and ways to be sure we are maximizing their contributions?
Tips to Leadership

As a leader, it’s your job to be sure the contributions of your introverts are heard and their ideas are valued and embraced. This is important for your organization because the kinds of ideas you may be missing from these deep thinkers could be transformational to your business. In fact, your future success may depend on their critical contributions. Also, beyond the valuable, individual ideas, suggestions and strategies you may be missing, if you fail to provide appropriate coaching, leadership and environmental conditions for your introverts, you will find them becoming unhappy and either leaving the organization, or feeling marginalized and then performing at less than optimal levels.

As a leader, you have both a business responsibility to your organization and a social duty to your employees to see this doesn’t happen. So, I think we can safely say, in answer to question 1), no, you absolutely cannot afford to miss out on your introverts’ contributions.

As we think about the second question you should be asking, here are a few strategies you can use to be sure your introverts are a powerful force within your group.

  1. Actively seek to include your introverts in discussions and decisions! As a leader in your organization, you should be actively using strategies to be sure you are getting a balance of voices in all of your strategic decisions and innovation initiatives. Some ways you can be sure to do this:

    • Get to know your people.
      When you are assembling teams and workgroups, don’t just ask for volunteers, make some knowing selections! Extroverts will often jump through hoops to get in on the action, but you need to be sure your workgroups and teams have a balance.

    • Solicit the quiet voice.
      During brainstorming sessions and meetings, use your leadership role to include those who may be quietly sitting on the sidelines. Politely invite them to offer input and feedback. Ask them for their opinion. Introverts don’t always do their best work amidst a hubbub, so if you are having side conversations and people are not respectfully yielding the floor, encourage your team to quiet down and let others speak.

    • Take folks aside.
      If you’ve observed a colleague in a meeting who’s reluctant to dive into the fray, it may be they have some great insights, but just have a hard time trying to engage and get a word in edgewise. In this case, it’s entirely appropriate to pull them aside as the meeting is breaking up and ask for their impressions, feedback and advice. Introverts do their best work in smaller groups with less commotion and social stress. They will appreciate being asked and you might get some great feedback you might have missed otherwise. If that’s the case, you can circle back to the group electronically to be sure such input is included going forward.

    • Use small work groups and teams.
      Again, as Susan Cain, points out, “So introverts really feel at their most alive, at their most energized when they’re in quieter, lower key environments.” Even in large gatherings, when big issues are being discussed and brainstormed, there’s usually an opportunity to break into smaller workgroups to do problem solving. If you can get these groups down to 3-5 colleagues, your extroverts will be in a better position to do their best work. If you can send your groups off to quiet corners to strategize and work before reporting back to the group, so much the better.

  2. If you are an extroverted leader playing a “sponsor” role, quietly seek out another member of your leadership team who’s an introvert to play a co-sponsor role. Doing this will send a subliminal message to the team that all input is valued and may make some members of the group more at ease approaching one or the other of you to provide insights during key moments of a discussion.

  3. Implement an actively moderated electronic feedback platform. Electronic, social innovation and feedback platforms are a great way to get feedback from ALL your employees. Whether you are soliciting their input to a poll or survey, or issuing a challenge for ideas, such platforms can play a vital role in not just collecting valuable feedback, but by providing a structure that makes idea management, project implementation and employee recognition easier to accomplish.
Consider Idea Management and Collaboration Technology Options

For introverts, collaborative feedback technology platforms can be ideal because they provide an opportunity to thoughtfully create and communicate ideas on product development or process improvement to a wide audience, post the ideas for collaboration and interact from the comfort of their own workspace. Because they can filter and process collaborative feedback as it comes in, at timely moments for them, they can engage in the kind of “quieter, lower key environment” they may prefer.

Reach Out

If you’d like to discuss the benefits of a social innovation platform for your group, please reach out to the Vocoli team; we’d be happy to share our insights on what makes for a successful employee feedback experience and share some of our client stories with you as well. To learn more about how to give ALL your employees a stronger voice contact the Vocoli team at 888-919-5300 or email us at .

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