A simple strategy used by teachers could help introverts be more successful at work

Office meetingFlickr/HA0521-031Encourage participation from everyone, no matter their personality.

One of a leader’s toughest jobs is figuring out how to manage different personalities.

When you’ve got a bunch of reserved introverts and outspoken extroverts together in a room, how do you make sure that everyone has a chance to do their best work?

Susan Cain, author of the 2012 bestselling book “Quiet” and unofficial leader of the introvert community, recently addressed this issue at the New Work Summit, sponsored by The New York Times.

Cain said that one strategy for encouraging participation among all employees, no matter where they fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, is the think-pair-share technique.

This technique is commonly used in classrooms, and Cain explained that it works just as well in the workplace.

Here’s how it works: You introduce a topic for discussion and ask each person to take some time to think about it and maybe write down their thoughts. Then you break people into pairs to discuss their ideas one-on-one. Finally, you ask the pairs to share their thoughts with the group.

“It really just kind of loosens the gears of people’s thinking,” Cain said.

Introverts in particular benefit from having some time to think privately and prepare before being asked to share with the group. According to Cain, a hallmark of introversion is preferring to think before you speak.

Cain said another strategy leaders can use to run effective meetings is to let the team know well in advance what’s going to be discussed.

Giving people the ability to really think about a topic and come prepared with ideas benefits everyone, she said, including extroverts. “We can all use that, but it gives the introverts time to process in advance.”

By using these techniques, you’ll communicate to employees that you respect their individual work styles. Plus, by giving everyone an opportunity to consider the issues and share their perspective, you’ll wind up with more ideas in the long run.

You can see the full New Work Summit interview below.

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