6 bad meeting habits which could be silencing introverts
By Steve Duignan, VP International Marketing, LogMeIn
June 29 2018 - Could your meeting culture be off-putting to key members of the workforce? Whether the workplace atmosphere is dominated by a loud CEO, a talkative sales exec or Brenda in accounts, there can often be a clear line drawn in the sand between introverts and extroverts. The issue for the quieter people amongst us - who amount to around third of the population - is that the way companies tend to celebrate leadership and communication, when shoddily managed, lead to them to not reach their full potential. At worst, systemic office culture which favours extroverts can have a detrimental effect on their career path.
However, the qualities of this particular group are slowly gaining the recognition they deserve; particularly the things they can deliver which other personality types find difficult. A relatively recent study by Harvard Business School showed that introverted leaders produce better results than their noisy counterparts, largely because of their ability to recognise other people's strengths and giving them the space to flourish, rather than being talked over or ignored as can often happen to them.
Unfortunately, they don't always thrive in a meeting context. There are, however, things you can do which will help put introverts at ease in your next meeting. It's important to be aware of the common problems which arise in meetings, and how to combat them.
The loudest ideas shouldn't take precedence
There's a bit of a myth in workplaces that since extroverts tend to contribute more frequently and with more decibels than introverts, they're more valuable. Au contraire: they can sometimes create a toxic environment. Be alert for "extrovert-splaining" (an extrovert interrupting an introvert to explain something that the introvert actually knows more about), needless interrupting, and "extro-propriating" (extroverts taking credit for ideas generated by introverts). This is a communication issue more than a personality issue, so if these problems keep happening, ask your best communicators to lead by example. Ask for input from everyone at the table and correct those who habitually interrupt.
Meeting preparation is key to levelling the playing field
Impromptu meetings are part of every day life - for some more than others. However there is a difference between a quick catchup and being unorganised. Introverts don't respond well in meetings they have not prepared for. Send a detailed agenda before a meeting so introverts can plan something to contribute. Even if it's a brainstorm session, many like to think up ideas ahead of time, so let them know what you hope to get out of the meeting and what specifically is expected of them.
Too many extroverts spoil the broth
When a meeting bounces from point to point too fast without giving enough time and consideration to a single point, it's likely you won't hear anything from people who need time to think. Once the team presents the first round of ideas on a topic, set a two minute period for processing and thought. As the meeting leader, ask for feedback, prompting with questions that tap into introverts' natural talents, such as, "are we missing anything?" and, "can anyone sum this up for us?" This will ensure you don't haphazardly jump around topics without taking the time to thoughtfully explore several ideas. If you are an introvert and you need a minute to process, ask for that before you respond. And don't be shy about emailing your ideas after a meeting.
Unlearn bias against people who seem "too quiet"Quiet people aren't bored or not listening. Often, they're processing, organising their thoughts, and waiting for the right time to share. Ask for feedback both during and after the meeting to give introverts a clear opportunity to share their ideas. During a meeting, always keep in mind that when it comes to ideas, quantity doesn't mean quality. Resist the inclination to automatically view the most talkative contributors as the most valuable.
Back to back meetings leave no time for thought
Back to back meetings are never a good idea and should be avoided at all costs. If meetings need to happen, it's only fair you give your team members time to process the information from the meeting before moving on to the next task.
Rushing through unnecessary meetings helps no one
Often, there's nothing worse than being in a meeting unnecessarily, which could have been replaced with a Slack. Including only the essential personnel will gain the trust of your team, who know they are there out of necessity and are more likely to prepare properly. This will make introverts more comfortable, and improve your productivity, too. Don't rush during the meeting, or rush your team. If anyone isn't ready to contribute at the time, let them know that's no problem. They can follow up with you later -and make sure they do.
Keep tangential people out of meetings where possible
While it's good to bring extra people in to a meeting for new ideas, if introverts are not well versed in the topic it will directly affect their ability to consistently contribute. If you're an extrovert or the meeting's leader, be willing to let your participants take their pick of where they participate most based on the topics they're really passionate about. If you're planning a meeting, ask introverts to help you create the agenda.
Using the guidance above will maximise your teams' talent and ensure you get the most out of everyone in the room. It's worth acknowledging that meetings which take place when people are remote working present their own set of challenges for balancing the contributions of introverts and extroverts. Using video conference such as GoToMeeting for these situations is a good way to keep everyone at ease, as being aware of participants' body language and gestures are important signifiers which can help everyone stay focused, engaged, and most importantly, empowered to contribute.