When you take the famous MBTI personality test, it always starts with introversion and extroversion. According to the psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung, introversion and extroversion are the foundation of personality, the building blocks that influence the way we live, work and interact with others. Introverts are attracted to the inner world of ideas and emotions, while extroverts are attracted to social life and activities.
To find out if you are an introvert or an extrovert, simply ask yourself how you recharge. Introverts tend to recharge their batteries when they are quiet and alone, while extroverts find energy in contact with other people.
Of course, the reality is not so simple as we can all switch from introversion to extroversion - and vice versa - depending on the situations we face. As Carl Jung rightly put it: "There is no such thing as a pure introvert or a pure extrovert. Such a man would be condemned to spend his life in an asylum.” To avoid putting individuals into boxes, critics of the MBTI, such as researcher Adam Grant, prefer to speak of a "continuum" or "traits". We tend to lean towards introversion or extraversion.
How do introversion and extroversion translate into the workplace? How can you recognise the different profiles in your company and adapt your management to the personalities in your team?
Introverts VS extroverts: different behaviours at work
Generally speaking, extroverts are naturally more active, expressive and sociable, while introverts are more reserved and discreet. You can recognise an introvert or extrovert by the way they relate to team work, the way they approach a subject and the way they act:
- Team work: extroverts like this way of working. The collaborative energy stimulates them and encourages them to excel. Exchanges and meetings, whether they take place in daily meetings, open workspaces or team building, motivate them. On the other hand, introverts, who are more reserved and less talkative in groups, need solitude to concentrate deeply. Indeed, more independent than extroverts, introverts perform much better working alone in a quiet place than in a noisy open space. But beware: introversion is not to be confused with shyness. Shy people avoid social interaction out of fear and anxiety.
- The way they approach a subject: introverts prefer to concentrate on one activity in order to solve one problem at a time, taking the time to process the information by analysing what their brain has just stored. They are therefore analytical and critical: a quiet force, who is naturally in the process of thinking about a subject and going deeper. The extrovert, who is easy to get along with, is more multi-tasking, likes to discover and do lots of activities.
- The way they act: the extrovert is gifted for improvisation, he has a certain taste for spontaneous action, whereas the introvert must observe situations before taking part in them, he analyses before acting, he is looking for meaning in what he undertakes. For them, brainstorming sessions and collective thinking can be obstacles.
Of course, each personality enriches the company in its own way. Calm, sensitive, diplomatic, the introvert is often someone who listens actively. Communicative, curious and active, extroverts express themselves more easily. However, it is necessary to ensure that these qualities do not, when misused, hinder relations between employees and the company's performance.
Indeed, if not careful, an introvert :
- can appear distant, cold and disengaged
- become isolated and have difficulty delegating
An extrovert :
- may be too strong-tempered and appear not to listen
- act too quickly
How can you adapt your management to these different profiles?
As a manager, the best thing to do is to take the time to understand how the personalities in your team work so that you can adapt your management.
Faced with introverts:
- Trust their need for independence and give them the time and space to work quietly on their own and try to solve a problem on their own.
- Choose the mode of communication that is most in tune with their habits. For example, most introverts prefer to discuss things in writing, rather than verbally.
- Ask them questions, encourage them to speak up, in a supportive atmosphere and in small groups, as they will find it more difficult to express themselves in front of a group. Don’t confuse lack of participation with lack of investment.
- Respect their need for a peaceful and quiet environment, where they will not be overstretched.
When dealing with extroverts:
- Take time to give feedback, recognition and attention.
- Accept their need to express themselves out loud. To do this, plan time for them to explain their ideas.
- Value their energy and positive momentum by offering them the opportunity to lead certain meetings, team building sessions or gatherings.
As a manager, there is one thing to remember: if you don't know what an introvert thinks, you haven't asked them. If you don't know what an extrovert thinks, you haven't listened.
The new work organisation has put introvert managers in the spotlight
In the age of socialising, extroversion is a priori better perceived - in everyday life as well as in professional life - than introversion. To be successful, it is indeed good to be sociable and charismatic, to put yourself forward on LinkedIn, to know how to network, to be bold, to be a good speaker... As Anaïs Nin, the 20th century American writer, once said, "our culture has elevated to the rank of virtue the fact of living like extroverts".
For some years now, the power of introverts seems to have seduced companies, which are looking for managers with soft skills. Published in 2013, the book Quiet (The Power of Discretion: The Power of Introverts in an Overly Talkative World), by the American Susan Cain, marks the beginning of the "silent revolution" of introverts. In this book, which remained on the US bestseller list for almost two years, she demonstrates, through surveys of psychologists, anthropologists and sociologists, the value of introverts, whose creativity fuels business, the arts and politics. Her TED talk has been viewed nearly 30 million times. It is enough to read the titles of the articles circulating on the internet today ("The renewed virtues of introverted managers", "Introverts counter-attack", "Why companies should recruit introverted managers now") to feel the revenge of discreet natures, too long associated with shy, silent and solitary personalities, and therefore, a priori, incapable of being leaders.
The health crisis and the development of teleworking seem to have confirmed this trend and put introvert managers in the spotlight, even if extrovert managers, natural leaders, gifted at inspiring and engaging the troops, remain highly valued. "The remote environment requires a return to the fundamentals of management, where substance takes precedence over form," says Romain Zerbib, a teacher and researcher at the Essec Imeo chair. "At a distance, we favour a culture of results, and therefore trust", he explains. Behind the screens, these managers reveal themselves: they are more comfortable leading a videoconference, since the meeting is essentially more structured and the floor can be more easily distributed. In the age of remote working, introvert managers are almost more popular: patient, empathetic and attentive to the ideas of his or her colleagues, they respond to the need for freedom in the organisation of work of their teammates, who are looking for flexibility and direct contact. This freedom also supports creativity and innovation among employees. Motivating teams is therefore less a question of seduction than of authenticity.
Generally speaking, the effectiveness of managers, whether extrovert or introvert, is no longer in question. Companies are obviously winners if they support both types of temperament, each of which in its own way drives teams and projects forward. Jennifer Kahnweiler's book, The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results, confirms that both introverts and extroverts are capable of managing and achieving good results. Or are the new stars of management the "ambiverts", those highly adaptable individuals who are neither extroverts nor introverts, but rather a mixture of both?
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