Leadership advice

How to meet the needs of introverts and extroverts from a social distance

Advice from Jill Geisler, Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago and Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership

There’s a lot of stereotyping around introversion and extroversion on any given day. It can get worse when we apply that thinking to working at a “social distance.”

To start:

Don’t assume that Introverts are shy or anti-social. They lead meetings, teach classes, make speeches and anchor newscasts (yes, of the many anchors in my leadership seminars who took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, twenty-five percent were introverts.) But they get their energy from the life of mind. They like time to think and prep – and they recharge their batteries with quiet time to do so.

Don’t assume that extroverts are “always on” and eager to mix, mingle and chat. Extroverts get energized by connections with people, but they need “down time,” too. They may be among the first to speak in your meetings and may speak more than others, but they don’t necessarily want to be your “social chairperson,” assigned to plan all the team’s get-togethers.

Some tips for managing introverts and extroverts from a distance:

  • Ask people what they need from you. Don’t assume the introverts want fewer check-ins than extroverts. Silence can lead to misunderstandings.
  • Zoom meetings can exhaust introverts AND extroverts – for interesting reasons. They differ from in-person sessions, where people can move more freely, read body language, make eye contact across a meeting table to express support, and speak without having to “unmute” first. Build breaks into long meetings so people can stretch. Try to avoid back-to-back sessions so people can clear their heads. 
  • Don’t assume that your extroverts always prefer on-camera meetings. Phone calls provide more options to multi-task (come on, we all do it) and move around. Mix things up.
  • Agendas help everyone. They let introverts plan and keep extroverts on task – and help ensure that meetings don’t run longer than they need to.

Finally, remember what I teach managers about personality types: They explain you, but they don’t excuse you. We’re all capable of tapping into the best of our personality preferences when they benefit our team, and modifying our behaviors when they don’t.

Have questions? Ask away.


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