This is how to manage the extroverts in your team in a WFH world. By Virginia Henningsen.

I have been working with a few founders who are having challenges in motivating and engaging some of their team members while they are working from home.  And they have been surprised as these are the team members who are usually quite high energy.  So lately I have been talking with them about where their team members may (or may not) be getting their energy from and we have discussed the concepts of introversion and extroversion.

Introversion and extroversion are on a continuum, with introversion at one end and extroversion at the other, and even though I specialise in personality in the workplace, I don’t see people as wholly one or the other.  I think depending on what situation we are in, we may report being more introverted or extroverted.  Also, as we progress through our lives, we move between the two ends of the continuum – sometimes identifying more with introversion, or other times identifying more with extroversion.

That being said, generally, if someone at the moment really identifies with being extroverted, they do need a little more time and attention from their managers while we are WFH.  But before we look at the lonely extroverts, let’s have a quick look at the other end of the continuum.  If we have extroversion at one end, the other end is introversion.

It’s interesting, that even in the non-psych business world, lots of people seem to now know quite a lot about introversion. We have seen the profile of introverts skyrocket in the past few years with high profile business introverts leading some incredible movements and businesses and it’s been great to understand them in much more detail through their interviews, podcasts and the books they are writing.  My sense is that people who identify more with introversion, are actually relishing the opportunity to work in a quieter workspace with some solitude, as long as they can keep the constant Co-Vid 19 alerts and their reactions under control, and also unmute themselves when they can contribute to a group discussion (as opposed to staying muted with no video for the entire meeting!)  Yes, we have been working on encouraging some people to use their video and microphone a little more.

So I think now is the time we can talk about extroverts, we don’t normally have to worry about the extroverts in traditional businesses, they are out there getting to know everyone really well, building relationships with zero delay, they always speak up, they always offer their opinions and views, they lead discussions, energise work social events and they tend to always get their needs met – but they are the ones who might be struggling a little bit more now.

Extroverts have high levels of sociability and high levels of social confidence so they are very comfortable meeting and mixing with new people and draw almost all of their energy by interacting warmly with others.  They like to be noticed, to stand out and to be consulted for their views and opinions, and can sometimes feel offended if not asked for their input.  They are motivated and energized with all kinds of positive feedback and simply derive energy and motivation from spending dedicated time with their managers and coworkers.  

With regard to WFH though, extroverts aren’t getting any of those needs met in the way they are used to in a traditional business/work setting. I know lots of businesses and startups are doing this – ensuring regular contact via Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom and booking these in on a regular basis. Agile ‘standups’ and their many practical variations translate to remote working quite well from a team perspective, but more is needed for our extroverts. A formal one-on-one planning discussion perhaps at the start of the week and a less formal discussion at the end of the week to review the week’s activity is a good start if you’re not doing this already.  If you were doing this before and have found yourself letting some of these meetings slip, it will be important to reinitiate them and maintain this schedule of catch-ups as the weeks go by, especially as extroverts may be easily demotivated when they lack attention.  

Extroverts may also need clear goals and expectations for this new way of working each week as comfort levels increase and new priorities or the expected pace of working may change. Extroverts will need this to be explicitly explained to them.  Because our extroverts really like kudos and to stand out when they have achieved something important, they really need to know where to focus their time and attention so they can receive rewarding feedback from those around them.    A few extra conversations or check-ins per day might be needed and this will keep them going when the going gets tough way more than a “pep talk” when there is a downward turn in productivity.  You want to get ahead of the curve here!

Let all of your team know you are there for support, but especially for extroverts who actually need to talk to and interact with others. Let them know they can reach out for a second opinion or a sounding board at any time.  Be prepared to be there for them to keep motivation and energy high.   Respond to them quickly via whatever communication channel you use, just as you would if someone walked past you in the office and asked you a question.  

Finally, most extroverts also draw energy and motivation from public kudos and recognition, so positive feedback is recommended as much as possible.   Of course, it has to be genuine and authentic, so find opportunities to provide quick feedback on work that you have seen or progress they are making. You can do this either one on one when you have your next chat with them or during an online team meeting, which they are likely to find very energising. 

In my opinion, in the startup workplace, we really do need to look out for our extroverts a little bit more right now.

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