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How to manage the introverts and extroverts on your project team

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If you’ve been given a project team, it’s likely you’ll have diversity; both introverts and extroverts to handle. Both are necessary for a team to be a success, but getting one to understand the other can be a tall order. It’s critical, then, that as soon as your team is in place, you take time to understand who exactly you have working alongside you. This means making known to the team each person’s technical skills, but equally important is to figure out their behavioural styles, as this can be the biggest cause of misunderstanding, miscommunication and dysfunction between individuals.

Those with an introverted preference often show a calm, self-contained and distant exterior, mentally absorbed in solving problems and analysing situations. They are steady and reliable, stick to rules and conventions, and are self-sufficient and realistic. They are also meticulous and painstaking in their attention to detail. Their skills include planning, organisation, time management, product knowledge and analysis.

Those with an extroverted preference often demonstrate a creative ability and use their intuition to spot possibilities and solutions. They prefer the excitement of the new, rather than the predictable. They are comfortable working with many projects, people and situations, where they can see the results of their labour making a positive difference. Their skills include drive, enthusiasm, positive thinking, a focus on results and verbal communication.

Both preferences bring different, yet equally valuable, skills to the project team, so understanding these differences is a vital foundation on which success is built.

How to introverts and extroverts perceive each other?

Extroverts are often perceived by introverts as coming to a meeting unprepared and just throwing out ideas without much substance. Introverts, on the other hand, are comfortable to just sit, listen and absorb the communication going on around them.

Extroverts may think that introverts don’t speak up and contribute, whereas introverts may despair that extroverts never shut up so they can add something to the conversation.

How can we better meet the needs of everyone?

Below are some tips to making meetings more effective for introverts and extroverts: 

  1. Get the agenda out early. Introverts prefer time to gather their thoughts and prepare, whereas extroverts can often speak off the cuff.
  2. Go around the table to give everyone the opportunity to express their views. Introverts will appreciate not having to struggle to be heard.
  3. If you are an introvert, push yourself to speak up and share your views. If you are an extrovert, keep quiet to allow introverts to have their say.
  4. Nod your head and smile when your extroverted colleagues speak. They need signals that you are engaged.
  5. Allow your more introverted colleagues time to finish their sentences.
  6. If the meeting involves a large group of people, consider breaking out into smaller groups to discuss an idea. Introverts find it easier to open up in a smaller group.
  7. Consider writing questions on a piece of paper and handing them around the group for people to add their individual comments. It works well for introverts and extroverts. 

At the very outset of a project, make sure that everyone knows who is on the team, from both a technical and behavioural perspective, and that these differences are understood, valued and appreciated by everyone. In doing so, you will increase your chances of project success (and do your bit for world peace in the process).

Brought to you by Project journal.

Image: igor kisselev/


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