Introverts: Give yourself a push
In a typical meeting, three people do 70% of the talking. During her Masterclass at the IMI, Susan Cain advised introverts to give themselves a push and get involved earlier. Before you get to the meeting, compose your thoughts about what point you might want to make or what question you could ask.
By speaking up early, introverts can redirect the conversation and set a new agenda. Ideas that are advanced early in meetings tend to be the anchoring ones, Susan explained. There is an added benefit that meeting attendees who speak up early are more likely to have attention paid to them as the meeting progresses.
Extroverts: Curb your enthusiasm
For extroverts, Susan advised a more reserved and patient approach - to curb their enthusiasm when possible. As extroverts tend to be dominant personality types, she said, there is often a temptation to speak up and make their presence felt at meetings. It is not uncommon, she added, to see some extroverted leaders hiring coaches to help them speak less at meetings.
Plan ahead and think ahead
One of the best ways to make the most of meetings is to not just plan ahead, but to think ahead as well, Susan said. Introverts tend to prefer to formulate their ideas in private before sharing them, while extroverts are more likely to share their ideas quickly, without fear of judgement. By using the think-pair-share method, which has its roots in education, leaders can find the middle ground for their teams, leading to more valuable contributions.
This method involves encouraging each team member to think through things quietly on an individual basis. Once everyone is prepared, pair team members up so that each person can share their ideas with the other person in a private setting. When it is time to share with group, the research shows that people are much more likely to participate having completed these steps. This is a powerful yet straightforward way of getting the diverse personalities on your team on the same page, she added.
Beware the conformity trap
A common pitfall that teams fall foul of in meetings is the so-called conformity trap, according to Susan. Our human nature dictates that being the lone dissenter in a group can trigger a fear response in our brains; from an evolutionary perspective, in other words, we are designed not to want to be the voice in the wilderness. As a result, we have a tendency in group settings to conform, a common phenomenon which can be dangerous.
There are ways to mitigate this problem in your teams, the first of which is to appoint a person to play devil's advocate. That team member will be empowered to offer a counterpoint in discussions in a socially acceptable and risk-free way, promoting constructive dialogue in the group.
Brainwriting is another powerful technique that can avoid groupthink. With this technique, meeting attendees are asked to write down their ideas in a 'post-it' style sharing platform. The ideas are then collated by the team leader and shared at the same time, reducing the risk of one voice or idea monopolising the meeting.
Susan Cain is a renowned speaker and New York Times bestselling author of Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking. She recently held a Masterclass at IMI on ‘Quiet Leadership – How to Harness the Strengths of Introverts to Change How We Work Lead, Learn and Innovate‘.
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