Many introverts tell me that they prefer live meetings to conference calls. Why? They find it easier to read people when they can see them. Body language cues and facial expressions are helpful in understanding more about who is speaking and what they are expressing. Listening to voice cues alone is often limiting.
Smart managers know workarounds to this dilemma and use 5 proven approaches to bring out the best contributions from their quieter participants.
- Prepare an agenda. Even if you are not an agenda maker, pause and take some time to write down the items you want to address. Also include a space for the action items and who will own the task. Introverts will appreciate having the time to carefully consider the topics and their input will be more substantial.
- Tell Introverts Why They Are There: If you have points you want quieter participants to contribute you can let them know by providing a quick email beforehand. Tell them why they are there. To avoid conflict introverts may not push back when they are not sure why they have been included on a call. If you explain the reason they are on the call they will be able to contribute in a more meaningful way.
- Get There Early – Get on the call at least 10 minutes before the start time. Technology can fail and it is good to test all connections. You can also use this time to develop rapport with others as they get arrive. When you start the call, try to avoid immediately diving into the task. Go around the “room” if you have no more than 10 people and ask them for one short positive update which can be either personal or work related. Introverts,` who don’t usually volunteer personal information as easily as extroverts will appreciate this structure. As a team leader you are building relationships between meeting participants, which will make the work go more effectively.
- Create Structure on the Call – Put some structure in place that sets the stage for everyone to be heard. A ground rule like “One person speak at a time ” can encourage introverts to voice their ideas. You can also ask people to write down some solutions to a problem or question and allow for a few minutes of quiet time as the ideas take shape. Since introverts find meetings and conference calls draining consider how you can incorporate small task forces outside the meeting to cut the calls shorter and play to the introvert’s strong suit of more focused conversations.
- Consider technology –By using programs like Zoom, Skype Google Hangout or Freeconference.com you can incorporate video into your calls. This allows introverts to have access to body language cues. These web based platforms also have a chat feature that allows everyone to post comments and questions during the call. Having the ability to reflect and express their ideas in writing is very natural for introverts.
A special word to Introverted Meeting Leaders:
Dan, a senior director at a government agency shared that he and his team rarely talk because they are all introverts and don’t like to meet! He had to push himself to schedule calls with his remote group. Introverted leaders can see the benefit of drawing from the synergy of teams but do find the experience draining.
It is most important that introverted leaders allow enough time before and after meetings to energize and recharge. Breathing space will help you to function at your best. Also be sure to meet participants by phone or in person. Connecting one-one-one is a strong suit and you will have a better understanding of who is on the call when you speak “off-line.” This is true for after the call as well, if there are unfinished items or you are unclear about next steps.
So with a little planning and sensitivity to the needs of introverts, conference calls can be a tool for gathering the best from your entire team.
There are more suggestions for introverts and meetings in my book The Introverted Leader: Building On Your Quiet Strength.