The Introvert and the Team

Public perception of introverts is often misunderstood. An introvert is not necessarily a shy person, rather it is somebody who is energised by solitary activities and who feels drained by a lot of social interaction. Francesca Gino sums it up when she says introverts are ‘generally inward looking and less concerned with the outside world. They enjoy reflecting on their own thoughts and feelings, and they often prefer to avoid social situations’.

An introvert may well dread the idea of working within a team environment. But this shouldn’t be the case. Introverts are essential in any team, and make up around a third of the population. In a large meeting, it can feel as if you will only be heard by being the loudest and pushing forward your point. Many extroverts feel comfortable doing this, however, this may be difficult for many introverts who find that they cannot get a word in edgeways!

Research shows that there is no actual difference in the quality of ideas generated by introverts and extroverts. However, potential problems can be highlighted when introverts need to communicate their ideas in a team environment. For example, introverts may find it difficult to talk openly about their creative ideas. This can then be exacerbated as Extroverts are often disinclined to listen to good ideas, and their loud, outgoing behavior in team environments can lead to the further demise in confidence of the introvert.

Dr Marla Gottschalk has outlined some ideas to help introverts make the most of team-membership. One of her ideas is that introverts and extroverts must build mutual respect, by understanding the differences in the way that they process information. An MBTI workshop, (Myers Briggs Type Indicator), is the perfect way to begin looking at these kind of differences. MBTI reflects individual preferences for obtaining energy, information gathering, making decisions and lifestyle. The first of these four preferences is based around whether you are an Introvert or an Extrovert. By knowing this information about yourself and your team, it helps you to understand how your preferences work, both for yourself, and how you can appreciate differences in other team members.

With mutual respect, team members can successfully work together to contribute to the greater goal. Team building activities can illustrate clearly how this could work. Sophia Dembling discusses how she, as an introvert, prefers to work with a team: ‘we prefer if our contribution to the larger project is something we can do by ourselves, then bring back to the team. We’re most productive when we can focus quietly and independently on a task’.

One teambuilding activity we have developed where introverted team members can really thrive by doing just what Sophia Dembling explains is The Great Pyramid Build. The Pyramid Build event combines a range of different activities and is perfect for team development. At the start of the event, a specified budget for materials is divided between teams but the funding is not sufficient for the team to build their Pyramid. However, the Daily Papyrus becomes available and the teams can play the Egyptian Stock Market to try to raise more funds for their building project. There is also an opportunity for team challenges to be completed too in order to raise further funds. Whilst extroverted members of the team get busy with collaborative team challenges, the introverts are able to take on the role of observing the stock market or planning their construction. The information they gather is then relayed back to the team so that decisions can be made jointly that will determine their overall success of the task.

Our indoor team building activity, Countdown, is another perfect example of a situation where Introverts and Extroverts can work together to successfully complete the task in hand. The activity is based around a box which contains details of 101 challenges and puzzles with a mixture of physical, cerebral and team challenges. As such, there are activities that suit every type of person. From experience we note that extroverted members of the team are quick to take on the physical challenges, such as completing 30 press ups in succession. Introverted members of the team on the other hand, spend their time quietly completing the brainteasers and puzzles. To get the highest score possible in this activity, teams do need to complete a wide range of challenges so the different types complement each other in their pursuit of success.

Introverts and Extroverts are equally essential in a balanced team, and they can work together without the ideas of an Introvert being lost among the crowd. Facilitated team building events can illustrate these team dynamics and help develop teams so that every member is able to contribute to the overall project without feeling drained, uninvolved or frustrated.Image

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