As an introvert in the workplace, I’ve had to learn and practice ways to share my ideas. Team meetings are great avenues for brainstorming, planning and following up on projects, but for introverts, they may be sources of anxiety and discomfort.
I’ve learned I do my best work when I can take time to reflect, develop and present a well-thought-out idea. I can’t always do my best thinking on the spot during a brainstorming meeting, and it can be difficult to interject in a talkative group.
As a team leader, encouraging your whole team to bring their thoughts and opinions to the table takes intentional planning, but has the potential to bring out the best in each team member.
Here are a few tips to cultivate a productive environment for your whole team during your next meeting:
- Send out the agenda early – Getting a meeting agenda out in advance gives your team time to review it thoughtfully. This greatly reduces the anxiety of being put on the spot during a meeting. Sending an agenda in advance gives introverts the opportunity to prepare by organizing thoughts and ideas. I may even gather relevant materials for reference, or write a bulleted list of thoughts to make sure I don’t forget to bring something up.
- Make sure every voice can be heard – Extroverts are normally more comfortable thinking out loud, which is great for brainstorming. To ensure your introverts can interject as well, ask your team for any last thoughts before shifting away from a topic. This creates an opening for introverts to speak up rather than having to compete with others for their voice to be heard.
- Take a break and then follow-up – Even with the opportunity to contribute, some introverts need time to digest and think through everything they heard in a meeting. Schedule time later in the week or put time for follow-up on the next meeting agenda. I often need time to myself after a meeting to get a cup of coffee and review my notes. This extra time for things to settle sometimes generates ideas I didn’t think of on the spot during the meeting. Knowing I can bring them up for discussion later assures me my opinions are valued – whenever they are brought to the table.
This last tip applies to all team members, but is especially important to introverts and to newly forming teams.
- Create a respectful environment – Disagreeing is a natural part of team dynamics. We all have different viewpoints, and a productive discussion can challenge and enhance an idea. But if I make a comment and receive a condescending response, I very quickly start second-guessing my contributions. I’m more likely to hold back during the remainder of the meeting. Sarcastic and condescending comments may be meant as jokes, but they risk isolating team members. Consider agreeing on team meeting ground rules and emphasizing the value of respecting all viewpoints.
Any other tips or advice from my fellow introverts? Please share your great ideas in the comments.
Kaitlyn Boller is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.