One measure of an effective team is that it satisfies member needs. Along the same vein, management guru and prolific author, Patrick Lencioni has discussed the meaning of team collaboration. In his 2016 book, The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues, he wrote about the three characteristics of an ideal team player – hungry, smart, and humble. That third trait, which includes sharing credit and defining success collectively rather than individually, is one most often associated with introverts. But while introverts have a high likelihood of being “ideal team players,” it is all too common for their quiet, humble contributions to be drowned out.
Team meetings are often where that happens. Here are five approaches that work to counter that trend and bring out the valuable input from those “ideal team players.”
1. Implement a one-minute rule
This rule requires each team member to speak for one minute on a work-related topic they are focused on. One scientist we interviewed structures team meetings so everyone has a chance to contribute for the same (short) amount of time, ensuring that introverts have the same opportunity to be heard as their extroverted counterparts.
2. Pair up
Pat Wadors, chief talent officer at ServiceNow, structures team meetings to be more inclusive by pairing people up. For example, she will ask one person sitting in on the live meeting to “adopt” a remote team member who is participating virtually. They can privately check in with each other via chat or a program like Slack to see if the remote team member needs more explanation or context. The live team member can also advocate for the remote person if they want to make a comment and are having trouble interjecting their thoughts. Pat finds this approach particularly helpful if her team is made up of people for whom English is not a first language or who are, like Pat, introverted and need more time to process information. Additionally, the buddy system helps to increase compassion and understanding among team members and build one-on-one relationships.
3. Create team member user manuals
Consider the creative technique of asking team members to write their own user manuals that help others understand how they like to work. It can include their collaboration style, ideal times of the day for group and solo work, their motivations and stressors, and their interests at and outside of work. Among my clients, user manuals seem to be a growing trend. I believe they are a great tool for introverts, who often prefer written communication, to let their needs be known to the rest of the team.
4. Consider teams of two or three
Introverts often prefer one-on-one or small-group meetings to larger ones. Instead of all-person team meetings all of the time, consider breaking your team up into smaller groups. These groups of two or three can focus on specific tasks where they can then work on their own. Encouraging these smaller groups to take walking meetings may also make it easier for your introverted team members to speak up. Walking while talking helps to get introverts out of their head and facilitates the flow of ideas as they think on their feet (literally).
5. Foster transparency
Consider using a design or system map to get both introverts and extroverts involved. According to Service Design Tools, this is a “synthetic representation that shows in one single frame all the different actors involved in a service delivery, and their mutual links (e.g. flows of materials, energy, information, money, documents, etc.).” You can hang it and allow Post-it notes to be added and moved and notes made by anyone.
Though team meetings are not everyone’s favorite pastime, when we must hold meetings let’s make sure we include everyone in the room or on the call. These approaches may be your key to higher engagement in your organization.
These and many more ideas about team meetings and leading are in my book, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces: How To Unleash Everyone’s Talent and Performance.