HELLO – There’s an Introvert at the Table

By: Mia L. Hazlett

This is for all the top bosses out there. After many years of sitting in the executive meetings, I’ve noticed one common element, those who talk get attention. They are perceived as “go-getters, initiators, leaders.” While the quiet ones at the table, are deemed passive and shy, or not team players. They are overlooked because they don’t seem driven enough to garner the same attention from their higher ups or colleagues.

The workplace has always associated the assertive verbal extrovert as the only one who can get ahead. The problem with that thought process, there are very few businesses that operate with an entire workforce of extroverts. If a third to half of your executive team are introverts, and you are only responding to the extroverts, you lost the opportunity for your executive team to perform at 100%.

Speaking as an introvert, I need time to process everything I’ve absorbed in a meeting. This is especially impointrovertrtant to me when there is a back and forth discussion. I usually don’t add much because I will not interrupt in a large group, nor will I talk over anyone.

Although I’ve worked for people who find those types of discussions healthy and fruitful, it makes the introvert an audience member rather than a contributor. It’s not because they don’t have anything valuable to add, it’s because the discussion’s platform is not conducive for their personality.

So how can you obtain full participation from your power team?

    • When you email the agenda to the participants, tell everyone to respond with their opinion on the agenda items. It allows those who don’t want to openly add to the discussion to still contribute and for you to see their participation on a different platform.
    • At the end of the meeting, ask if anyone has anything to add about what was discussed. As I mentioned before, I need to absorb all sides of a conversation before I speak on a subject.
    • Do casual check-ins in individual offices throughout the week. I had one boss who randomly throughout the week would stop at his member’s offices. It was a personal visit. He knew spouse’s and kid ’s names, if mom or dad were sick, or a big vacation was coming up. He would casually ask about an agenda item from a previous meeting. He told me he got more out of those one-on-one conversations than any meeting.
    • Chair the meeting effectively. When you notice someone wants to say something, and it seems like a free-for-all, stop the conversation and begin to give each person the floor. If you want a productive meeting, you can’t allow people to interrupt or talk over one another.
    • Make sure those who are contributing are staying on topic. People who veer off on tangents add no value to your meeting.

The quiet member at the table is just as valuable as the outspoken member. Provide different platforms for all team members to participate and you will have the ultimate power team.

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