Steve Duignan, vice-president of International Marketing at LogMeIn, provides a five point action plan to encourage quieter colleagues' participation in meetings.
06 August 2018 | Steve Duignan
Whether it's a dominating senior manager or chatty Brenda in accounts, extroverts can inhibit their introverted co-workers.
A study by Harvard Business School showed that introverted leaders produce better results than their noisy counterparts, largely because they recognise other people's strengths and give them the space to flourish, rather than talking over or ignoring them.
So companies are well served by fostering an inclusive environment to ensure that quiet employees have their voices heard - especially in meetings.
Here's an action plan to turn up the volume of the soft speakers.
1. Temper the extro-behaviour
It's a myth that extroverts, who often contribute more frequently and louder than introverts, are more valuable. Sometimes, they can create a toxic environment.
So stay alert for:
- 'Extrovert-splaining' - when an extrovert interrupts an introvert to explain something that the introvert knows more about; and
- 'Extro-propriating' - extroverts taking credit for ideas generated by introverts.
This is a communication issue more than a personality issue, so ask your best communicators to lead by example. Ask for input from everyone at the table and correct those who habitually interrupt.
2. Give employees information so they can prepare
Whenever possible, arm employees with all the information they need so they can go into a meeting prepared and ready to contribute ideas.
Introverts are seldom comfortable talking off the cuff, so sending over an agenda, for example, can boost their confidence.
Issuing an agenda and sticking to it also means that the meeting is less likely to get derailed by louder colleagues.
3. Increase processing time
Meetings that are rushed and move straight from one topic to another, or that are overloaded with information aren't conducive to eliciting creativity from attendees. However, introverts often prefer having time to think about what is being said before jumping in with an opinion. Meeting leaders should foster a culture in which introverts especially can ask for a moment to process before responding.
They should also ask people to send their ideas by email after the meeting so those that feel nervous about speaking out loud can still be heard.
Techniques such as PechaKucha (20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each) can be used so that information is presented quickly and to the point.
This can free up time for colleagues to process thoughts and field questions.
Back-to-back meetings should also be avoided because time is needed to process one meeting before moving on to the next.
4. Invite the chosen few
Being in a meeting unnecessarily is a waste of time. Determine whether it could replaced by a Slack chat, for instance.
If not, invite the essential personnel only. Introverts will feel more comfortable in front of fewer people and also know their opinions are specifically requested, encouraging them to contribute.
5. Make the remote more real
Videoconferencing can help as it partly mimics the conditions of an in-person meeting. Being able to see other participants can be more encouraging for introverts to participate rather than keeping quiet on the other end of the line while one voice dominates.
A final thought
Managing team personalities gets more from all of its members, and fosters a culture of inclusion. Productivity is likely to increase and, with it, revenue.
The other benefit is earning the organisation the reputation for championing the introverts, who make up about a third of the population. Everyone performs better when they feel valued.
Steve Duignan is vice-president of International Marketing at LogMeIn