Executive Podcast #215: The Introverts on My Team Seem Disengaged
November 24, 2022
You may think of Extroverts as loud and charismatic and Introverts as quiet and reserved. But that is a stereotype. Extroversion and introversion refer to where someone gets their energy. The difference between an extrovert and an introvert is extroverts are energized through socialization and collaboration, whereas introverts receive energy from alone time or in social settings with much smaller groups.
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Welcome to the Maxwell Leadership Executive Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a Maxwell Leadership facilitator and coach.
And I’m Chris Goede, Executive Vice President with Maxwell Leadership. Welcome and thank you for joining. If you’d love to leave a comment or maybe even a question you’d love for Perry and I to unpack in one of our future sessions, please visit maxwellleadership.com/podcast. There, you can fill that form out. Leave that comment there. Matter of fact, that’s where today’s topic comes from, one of our listeners, which we’re grateful, or one of our viewers on YouTube. And so, we’re going to talk a little bit about his question and unpack that for them, just from what we’re learning and what we’re going through. Also, if you want to download the learner’s guide, maybe you want to submit a form to talk to one of our team about how we might be able to help you through facilitation or through some of our coaching, don’t hesitate to do that there as well.
Well, today’s topic is titled The Introverts on My Team Seem Disengaged, and it may be more than just the introvert. But maybe on this question, we’re going to stay right to the question that we see. And this comes from Jim, one of our listener viewers who works in a occupation, where his team is made up of a lot of introvert personality types. And Jim mentioned that his manager was concerned that Jim has a disengaged team. And Jim thinks, “Well, they’re all just introverted,” which could drive what looks like to be a disengaged team. But wondered if there was something that he was missing. I love this. He’s asking, saying, “What am I missing?” So in the light of a recent conversation that we had here on a previous episode about quiet quitting, it’s definitely something that we want to pay attention to. And maybe just give you some of our insights on where that may be coming from.
Well, it’s definitely an interesting question, and probably a great place to start would be, what’s an introvert? And what’s an extrovert? I used to think that, because you and I are flaming extroverts and it was like loud and out there and charismatic and all this. Introverts were that quiet and reserved type. While that may be some characteristics, that’s not the definition how you would see that. And this really was a big learning for me, because we teach a lot with our Right Path temperament surveys we do and assessments. It says, “Are you an introvert or an extrovert?”
And what I’ve learned is that it has to do with what is the source of your energy? Your energy renewal? And so, for extroverts, like us, we are generally energized by being in social situations with people. An introvert would prefer to be quiet or with a smaller group or even on their own, a quiet place, where they would renew their energy. And so, for me, the difference is all about energy renewal and where you get your energy from. And so, you’ll see us being social and wanting to mix it up with people. My wife’s an introvert, and while she’s very outgoing and very pleasant, very delightful, can mix it up with anybody, she has her limits on that. And then, she wants to recharge, privately and quietly.
Yeah, I love that you brought that to attention, because a lot of people initially, when we talk about this, to your point, they just go to, “Well, how talkative are they?” And it’s not, and they are, but it’s not. Because we know some incredible introverts, that are very social and have a need for that and have a learned behavior that they develop for that. But where do they get that energy from is really, really good to think about, when it comes to your people. Now another great reminder, and I think even Jim mentioned this, was that he was adopting kind of, what we call, the platinum rule, which is treating people and leading people the way that they need to be led, not the way you want to be led or the way that your manager, in this case, that Jim’s talking about, thinks that they need to be led.
But it’s, how do they need to be led? And to Perry’s point, we use a behavioral assessment called Right Path. And that allows us to see different temperaments and talk a little bit about that, in order to better lead those individuals. But we’re going to talk about today, how do we ensure that our introverts and our extroverts are engaged and being led well, so that there’s not a perception? Because that’s what it is. It’s not an intent of the individual. It’s a perception by others in the organization, that they’re disengaged.
And so, the question is, what can we do? I have a few ideas. I don’t know if it’ll be five, but we’ll wait and see. The idea was, my first one was, can you help establish boundaries? Great word. If you’ve not studied this, I highly encourage it. But boundaries, just like the fence around my yard says, “what’s my responsibility? And what’s not?” Boundaries help me understand where I can operate in. And I’m thinking about boundaries in a energy management sort of way. So for an introvert, I may want to ensure they are not asked to do excessive amounts of group work or excessive amounts of social things, lasting a long time, giving them opportunity to set a boundary in time, but allow them to come in and out. Again, introverts are fantastic. The ones I know are fantastic group working people.
I just need to be aware that they may exhibit these, what Jim said, these disengaged signs, but they’re not. They’re pulling back on that. A boundary for an extrovert might be to not allow them to have too much alone time, not too much go work on your own type of thing. Make sure that they have some opportunity for social interaction, maybe work in bigger groups, collaborate, allow them to share their voice. But I learned this lesson with my wife is that, we go to social events and I thought she would always want to leave. And I said, “Why you killing my mojo? I’m in my space. I’m rocking.” But I started thinking about it. We did a Right Path on her, and it showed that she was introverted. But she’s, like I said, very delightful, mix it up, very conversational. Everybody likes her, but she wants to go late to the event, stay for an hour and then, leave. I want to go early, help set up, stay for the entire event, help clean up and then, go out afterwards, if you’re up for it.
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And I thought, “Why you killing my mojo?” No, she wasn’t. She went, was very delightful, mixed it up, very outgoing. And then, she reached her limit and now, she wanted to go home, put on pajamas, and watch Netflix. And so, for me, it was understanding that really changed my perspective on who she is and what she stands for. It was, she’s not trying to be rude or get out of anything or make me look bad. That’s just her living to her temperament. And I can support that now, by saying, “Yeah, we don’t need to go right at the start and we don’t have to stay to the dying end.” I can set some boundaries in there, to help say, “this will make her in her strength zone. And I’ll get mine too.”
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Another idea I was thinking about was from the content that you helped create, which was inclusive leadership. And in there, we talk about, not everybody’s going to be like you, Perry. Not everybody’s going to…
Hard for me to write.
Want to stay, get there early, and stay late and then, go out afterwards. So we often judge people. I think that some people are like, “Well, that’s a strong word,” but it’s really what we do in our mind, that don’t act just like us. And that is where we’re talking about. But you have to lead people the way they need to be led. You got to lead inclusively. And so, as an extrovert, are you projecting your expectations? So in Jim’s case, is his manager projecting maybe that he’s an extrovert onto his team? And not necessarily that it’s right, wrong, or different, it’s just because they’re not acting like him. And he doesn’t necessarily understand that. And so, you need to make sure that you protect your team from that. Your team has to be and feel like they’re welcome, they’re valued, as they are, as they’re wired, as they’re created.
You need to make sure that they feel safe and they belong on that team. And so, that they are sitting there and they’re going, “Hey, I’m welcome here. I want to give everything that I possibly can, and this is who I am. And they respect that, they value that, and they have hired me for that reason.” Versus trying to change them and to become an extrovert. And so, again, it doesn’t make it right, wrong, or indifferent, that they’re introvert or extrovert. You just need to lead them accordingly, so that we are going towards the same goal of the KPI of the enterprise of the organization.
I think this is a really big deal that my like me bias says that I’m looking for you to be more like me. And that’s not inclusive. That’s not what we want. So I want you to be free to be who you are. One idea that has rocked me lately was the idea, because you used the word “belonging.” We talk about that in inclusiveness. Do the people on your team feel like they belong? And then, I just read, I think Brene Brown said the opposite of belonging is fitting in. And that, oh man, that hit me hard. I go, “Are the people on my team, do they feel like they belong? Or are they trying to fit in?” And why that’s a big deal is that, if you are trying to fit in, you’re not being authentic, you’re not allowed to be you. You’re trying to be what I think you should be.
And now you got introverts trying to be extroverts or extroverts trying to be introvert. No, I need you to be who you are. That’s where I get the full value of the diverse nature of your makeup. But if everybody feels like they belong, they can just be themselves. And now, I get the full advantage of that. So that really got me big. Another one I’ll just throw out, see what you think about this, but I notice that extroverts are natural initiators. They kind of push and start, but introverts could be more natural responders. And that, again, if someone’s not a natural instigator, an initiator, they don’t start the conversation necessarily, but they participate beautifully. Can I help with their initiate? Can I ask more questions? What are your thoughts on initiating versus responding?
Yeah. I think, what I love about that is that, when you’re leading extroverts, they’re going, to your point, they’re just going to tell you.
It’s like herding cats.
Yeah, they’re just going to talk about lots of words, where the introverts are opposite to that. Here’s what I would tell you, in regards to that. As a leader, it’s your job to make sure that everyone speaks up at the right time. We talk about this even as a facilitation kind of belief and technique in our world is that you want to make sure you’re inclusive in how you lead the room and how you facilitate different things and you get their voice. Now, so here’s what you need to do. You need to understand, “Okay, what side are they on?” And in Jim’s case, since we’re unpacking this a little bit for him, he has a team of introverts. Well, maybe the perception of that is happening and they feel like they’re disengaged, because they’re going to meetings with Jim’s manager or leader. And maybe they’re not participating verbally as much.
Maybe they don’t seem engaged in those meetings, whatever it might be. One of the things that I do, and I would encourage you to do when you have a team of introverts, is, when you’re putting them in a meeting situation, give them time to prepare for the topics that are going to be covered. So Jim, in this case, I’d love for you to go to your leader and say, “Okay, when do they feel disengaged to you?” “Oh, when we have meetings.” “Okay, great. Our next team meeting, what I’d like is I’d like an agenda ahead of time and I would like to then give a couple days, if you don’t mind. I’ll give it to the team to come prepared to discuss.” Because that’s really what’s happening right there. A lot of introverts won’t speak up. They have great ideas, but they keep it to themselves, unless they’ve maybe had some time to process it ahead of time.
And then, always, during those meetings, once you’ve done that, invite people to speak up. And it’s going to come out and it’s going to happen. And then, that leader’s going to see that it’s engaged. We have a team member on our team that I’ve worked with her for years, all of us, she’s very comfortable with our team. Sometimes she’s got nothing to say and it’s oftentimes when we catch her off guard. Now, if we give her some time to prepare or said, “Hey, will you look into this and then report back?” We’re like…
Yeah, “where’d that come from?”
“That’s gold. Start speaking up.” But you got to help them. Lead them the way they need to be led and develop a process or a system where they may be weak, which is help them ahead of time, give them questions, figure out what the intel is, what do they need to report on, what do they need to speak on, so that when the time comes and they are interacting with your leader, they feel very engaged.
Fantastic. The last thing I’ll let you wrap up is, I wouldn’t write off disengagement symptoms as just introvert-extrovert things, without checking the pulse on things. “How is overall morale? How is buy-in? Are they bought into you? Are they bought into the mission? Are there any of these quiet quitting symptoms of overworked and underappreciated?” I always want to know the answer to the three questions every follower is asking about me. “Are you trying to help me? Do you care about me? Can I trust you?” If all those are checking out, maybe it’s an introvert-extrovert thing, but don’t say “I have a bunch of introverts.” No, you may have other problems.
Yeah, I think it’s a fantastic point. Yeah, Jim, you have to remember this. Your team needs to be performing. Your team needs to be connecting with each other and interacting with each other. And although they’re introverts, they can do that. You’re all going to the same KPIs. And if those things aren’t happening and you feel some things there, then there might be a disengagement issue that you want to figure out, where is that coming from? But if that’s not happening and you have your pulse on the team and you’re continuing to produce and you feel like the morale with the team, to Perry’s point, is strong and the buy-in to the vision of where the organization is going and the part that they play is strong, then it may just be a communication thing and you got to help them with that.
And so, I would just encourage you think about the fact that, to Perry’s point, about the three questions and make sure that they all feel that way. And then, have conversations with your leaders or people that maybe have a perception that they’re engaged, I’m sorry, that they’re not engaged, that that’s really not what’s going on, and that they process a little bit differently, and to give them some time to be able to do that.
Fantastic. Well, thank you, Chris. And as a reminder, if you want that learner guide with these points in there, you can grab that, as well as leave us a question or a comment, learn about our offerings. All that at maxwellleadership.com/podcast. We love hearing from you, and we’re very grateful you’d spend this time with us. That’s all today from the Maxwell Leadership Executive Podcast.