What do the following successful people have in common? And why is it important?
- Abraham Lincoln
- Eleanor Roosevelt
- Bill Gates
- Dale Carnegie
- Warren Buffet
- Johnny Carson
- Tom Hanks
Each of them are introverts. About one-third to one-half of all people are on the introvert side of the spectrum from introversion to extroversion. Yet our culture places a higher value on extroversion and often doesn’t understand the strengths of the introvert. This has been our experience with farm equipment dealer managers — too many of them are extroverts.
We see that this misunderstanding often results in “a colossal waste of talent, energy and happiness.” The quote comes from “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, 2012, upon which many of the insights in this article are based. In our work with dealerships, we find explaining the differences between introverts and extroverts is helpful for both new and experienced managers to get the most from their employees. The better you understand the differences, the better you manage.
The Introversion-Extroversion Spectrum
Each of us is a mix of the behaviors of introverts and extroverts. Very few of us are all one or the other.
Extroverts prefer more stimulating environments. They seek out situations in which they can interact with others because it’s essential to how they process information. Extroverts have to engage in a dialogue in order to process information and make decisions.
Conversely, introverts prefer less stimulating environments. They use all their senses to process information. They observe everything around them and use many data sources. All these inputs allow introverts to gain insights, arrive at conclusions and make decisions — most often without the need to interact with others. Introverts don’t feel the need to share their conclusions.
A key to understanding the difference is to ask each type how they recharge — what they do to recover after a stressful situation or when they are tired. To recharge, extroverts seek out other people. Introverts prefer to be alone or with someone they trust.
Two key points will help you understand the differences. 1. Because introversion and extroversion are on a spectrum there are some people who are equally one and the other. Ambiverts are in the middle and exhibit behaviors of both. 2. Shyness and introversion are different things. Shy people are not comfortable with one or many people. They often fear social interaction. Introverted people aren’t afraid to interact with others, but they need to recharge alone.
None of this is black or white, but there is some self-selection of introverts and extroverts in the professions they choose. People who choose to farm or choose technical jobs are more likely to be introverts. These jobs offer less stimulating environments, often work alone and in order to be successful they must process a lot of information using all the data around them.
If you are a more extroverted dealership manager, it will behoove you to better understand the characteristics of your customers and important employees and their motivations.
Working with Each Type
How to Care for Introverts:
- Respect their need for privacy
- Never embarrass them in public
- Let them observe new situations
- Don’t interrupt them
- Give them advance notice of expected changes in their lives
- Give them 15 minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing
- Reprimand them privately
- Enable them to find one best friend; don’t push them to make a lot of friends
- Don’t try to make them extroverts
How to Care for Extroverts:
- Respect their independence
- Compliment them publicly
- Accept and encourage enthusiasm
- Allow them to explore and talk things out
- Thoughtfully surprise them
- Understand when they are busy
- Let them dive right in
- Offer them options
- Let them shine
As you read these lists, you’ll likely recognize yourself more on one list. This should confirm that your employees require you to have different management styles to be more effective.