by Matt Monge
In this post, we talked about how introverts sometimes get a bad rap, particularly in the workplace. I think we should take it a step further though.
I think a strong case can be made that not only is it OK to be an introvert or to have introverts on our teams; but just like there are advantages to being a bit more extroverted, there are also certain advantages that introverts have.
But wait, Matt. You’re always rambling on about culture fit. We’re trying to cultivate a positive, creative culture. Does this mean we should compromise our organizations’ values if introversion appears to run contrary to those values?
Well, unless your organizations’ values include a particular decibel level and outward display of a specific type of gregariousness, then it really doesn’t matter if someone’s introverted or extroverted. Both introverts and extroverts can have great attitudes (and bad ones). Both introverts and extroverts can be creative (or not as much). And so on.
So what are those particular advantages that many introverts in the workplace seem to have? What are some of those invaluable things that introverts bring to their teams and organizations?
1. While they may not especially love being in large, loud groups as much as others, they’re generally very good one-on-one.
2. They see things others can’t. They think about things differently, which allows them to see issues from different angles and pick up different nuances and dynamics.
3. They’re often wicked smart. Know what they’re doing when they’re sitting there not talking? They’re thinking.
4. They listen and observe well (even if it might not look like it sometimes). They listen. They observe. They conceptualize. They reason. And the whole time they’re doing that you may think they’re in La-La Land.
An aside for the sake of illustrating what I mean: I had a professor once a long time ago who looked at me during a class, stopped in the middle of her lecture, and in front of God and everybody asked if I was paying attention. “Yes. Why?” I asked. “Well you’re just doodling in that black notebook,” she said. “That is me listening,” I said as I held up my little book so she could see the ideas and boxes and arrows and thoughts and correlations and so on.
The point is that everyone listens and absorbs differently. As folks talk, I’m usually scribbling stuff down–thoughts, ideas, follow-up questions, tangential ideas I don’t want to forget, and so on. I’m also connecting things (literally with lines sometimes) and sort of putting it all together visually into one, big, tangled mess of ink that makes perfect sense to only me. I do that so that I do make sure I’m getting everything my teammates or whoever else is saying.
5. They may bring an unorthodox perspective. And you need that. I say this a lot, but I’ll keep saying it: Why on earth would you want a team full of people who are wired the exact same way? Don’t misunderstand. I’m not discounting culture fit at all. But one of those myths about culture is that everyone has to express a shared value in the same way. That’s just not the case. Your fun won’t be my fun, and that’s good! Your ideas won’t be my ideas, and that’s great! Thank goodness for variety. Thank goodness we’re not all “normal,” as if there were any such thing.
6. Many introverts are able to conceptualize and explain things in ways that seem off at first, but then….click. So wait for it. They may take the scenic route, but they’re probably going somewhere cool.
7. They’re self-reflective. They spend lots of time looking inward, and as a result they know themselves pretty well. This one’s a double-edged sword of course, since they can be painfully aware of their own imperfections, both real and imagined.
8. They tend to become passionate experts in areas of particular interest to them. When they’re passionate about something–and yes, introverts are just as passionate as anyone else–they’re going to invest enormous amounts of mental, emotional, and whatever other kind of energy necessary to have a deep and broad understanding of that thing. If you listen to them talk about that thing for a few seconds, you can hear it coming out.
Obviously there are more we could list, but let’s hear from you! What other advantages do introverts bring to teams and organizations?