Inclusive, intelligent collaboration is all about having different team members draw from their expertise and unique experiences to put forth their ideas and solutions. This is true across disciplines, whether you’re leading a team in product, design, or HR. But the process in which team members prefer to brainstorm and communicate their ideas can vary tremendously based on their personality types.
You see, extroverts tend to think faster and shape their ideas by talking about them, explains Dr. Mike Bechtle, a former corporate consultant and author of several books on communication, including a forthcoming title Introverts in the Workplace. Extroverts set the pace in conversations.
Meanwhile, introverts have a tendency to think deeper, and shape their ideas by thinking, Bechtle says. They often won’t share their ideas or solutions until they’ve had ample time to think them through.
“It’s usually the extroverts who keep a conversation going, but if they don’t seek out the input of introverts, the discussion will lack the thinking that brings depth,” Bechtle explains.
So, for this magic of collaboration to truly work, everyone needs to feel comfortable to contribute.
The shift to remote and hybrid work, in some ways, has shown potential to create a more inclusive environment. Instead of ideas being tossed around in real-time during a fast-paced whiteboard session in a conference room, collaborative tools like Freehand can level the playing field by allowing team members to leave written ideas on sticky notes or create videos through an integration with Loom.
But how else can you stoke collaboration and lead teams that inevitably have a mix of personality types, including introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts, a hybrid personality type? Ahead, leadership experts share their best advice on how to build a workplace that’s inclusive of different personalities.
Don’t Strive for Consensus
Oftentimes, extroverts will assume that if an introvert has something to say, they’ll speak up. But that’s not always how it works and doing so can create a false sense of consensus among a team which just creates friction down the line.
Introverts often participate well if they’re allowed to put their ideas in writing, Bechtle says. Or they may prefer to hear a brief discussion on the issue then have a second meeting to share what they’ve been thinking about.
“Learn to value the differences people bring to any discussion,” Bechtle says. “You don’t want to strive for consensus, where everyone supposedly agrees, but rather strive for synergy, where different perspectives become the raw ingredients to create new solutions.”
Provide Multiple Formats of Communication and Collaboration
As a rule, extroverts tend to be most comfortable with verbal communication, whether that’s face-to-face or over Zoom, and they thrive in social group environments, explains Matt Erhard, managing partner of Summit Search Group, which helps companies recruit and build inclusive teams.
“Many introverts, on the other hand, prefer one-on-one interactions or non-verbal communication, such as emails, text-based chat systems, or collaborative editing and comments in shared documents,” he says.
Ambiverts are often comfortable in group conversations, but appreciate having non-social communication options, as well.
So, how can you accommodate all of these different communication styles? Erhard recommends providing a range of communication methods between team members ensures everyone has an environment where they feel they can contribute so no one type of personality dominates the collaboration. An example of this could be having an initial brainstorming conversation verbally, he says, followed up by text-based discussion and collaboration in a shared document or project management platform. Or, you could flip it, starting the collaboration in a shared document the following up with a group discussion, giving introverts more space to chime in during the initial brainstorming.
Send Meeting Agendas in Advance
Introverts tend to contribute the most when they’re able to process information independently, Erhard says.
“Being able to review information in advance of collaboration sessions and meetings makes them more likely to contribute because they can come up with ideas in a more conducive, private environment, rather than being expected to do so on the fly in an environment that causes them stress,” he says.
To make this seamless, Freehand has a meeting agenda template.
Don’t Make Assumptions About Personality Types
Introverts tend to be the most misunderstood personality, Makenzie M. Rath, the president, Talent Plus, Inc.
“The word introvert does not mean shy or closed-off,” she says. “Introverts may be extremely friendly people who simply prefer the stimulation of one-on-one conversations to small talk at a large networking event. They will likely form deep connections with colleagues and clients and these relationships may be slower to develop.”
Introverts can think deeply about a topic and consider all facets of an issue before drawing conclusions, Rath says. Introverted employees tend to be excellent written communicators and good listeners. They can excel in an independent setting because they enjoy working alone and “diving in” to their work.
Similarly, there can be some ambiguity over how ambiverts best work, and which traits they draw from extroverts and which ones come from introverts.
To better understand the personality types on your team, tools like the CliftonStrengths Finder can help you discover everyone’s strengths and create teams where people complement one another, says Julie Bonner, director of communications with FreeFall Aerospace, an Arizona-based start-up company.
“For example, all of my strengths are people-related and include empathy, communication, and positivity,” she says. “I need other people on my team to be analytical and probably more introverted. This makes us a stronger organization.”
Allow Team Members to Create their Own Manuals
Recognizing and supporting how different people work best has become a priority for many organizations, especially as companies embrace hybrid and remote-first models. One exercise that can help teams understand one another is to have each person create their own manual that documents their working styles, quirks, and preferences, says marketing professional Karl Taylor. You could also ask those in your organization how they prefer to be recognized. While some may appreciate a group call out, others might feel more comfortable with one-on-one recognition.
“This makes it a lot easier to get to know your colleagues and resolve some social ambiguities before they even get started,” Taylor says.
Along the same lines, leaders should encourage their teams to use “calendar blocks” to show times like working hours, meeting availability, do not disturb (deep work) time, lunch breaks, dog walks, and picking up kids, says Kristin Daversa, senior vice president of people at culture at the award-winning creative agency Big Spaceship.
“Then, crucially allow that time to be protected to the best of your ability,” she says.
Doing this can help create an indistractable workplace.
Brittany Anas is a Denver, Colorado-based freelance writer. She is a regular contributor to publications including Apartment Therapy, Forbes and Men’s Journal and previously was a reporter at the Daily Camera in Boulder and The Denver Post. She worked three years as a federal background investigator before transitioning into a full-time freelance role.