I recently listened to a podcast from Fast Company - Secrets of the Most Productive People – about Introversion and Extroversion.
There are many misconceptions about introverts and extroverts – the biggest one being introverts are shy, extroverts are not. The reality is that shyness has nothing to do with introversion or extroversion. Whether you're one or the other depends on how you draw your energy source.
I read Susan Cain's book, Quiet last year and it really spoke to me. I get my energy from being alone and doing solo activities. I would prefer to be left to my own devices to read on my own, go to the movies on my own and quietly sit in silence looking out of the window. That's when I get clarity, get my best ideas and come away feeling refreshed. Unfortunately, the modern workplace isn't built for people like that. Don't get me wrong, I'm a people person too and I'm not shy in the traditional way the word's used - I love to chat and get personal (but my preference would be intimate chats or small groups) I like a party and networking but then I need to go home and rest. I can get overstimulated and need to recharge. The podcast talks about ambiverts and about how most people are somewhere on a scale between introvert and extrovert and we draw our energy in different ways - I can identify with that. Getting my energy means I need a good balance so it’s essential I make time in my day for replenishing my energy.
The reality of the modern workplace is that it's not catered to different kinds of people. Open office environments can feel too loud and there seem to be fewer places for quiet. Wherever you get your energy from, you need to find a rhythm of working that works best for you. And we need leaders and managers who are empathetic to different working styles and can help their teams and individuals work at their best.
Here are a couple of practical actions you can take to help both yourself and your teams address it:
1. Boss your Meetings - Back to back, long meetings can be a drain on energy sources for Introverts and Ambiverts. If I’m in too many back to back meetings I start to lose concentration and focus - and if I let others rule my diary then I would be in back to back meetings all day long. If you are more on the introverted side don't fill your day with meetings, and block out time in your diary for quiet working. Managers, consider the number of meetings you are putting in and whether this is productive for the energy of the team. Do 15 minute meetings and do them standing up. Take the advice of Bruce Daisley in The Joy of Work and consider working meetings (where you get stuff done in the session - less talking, more doing).
2. Quiet Work - The modern open plan office can be a challenge for people who get their energy from quiet time. I made a conscious choice 18 months ago to come in at 8am and have my two hours of quiet work time before the office gets loud and busy where I look at my priorities, get to the important stuff and start my day with good energy. I usually sit in a meeting room or in a quiet place in the office where I won't be disturbed as I find sitting at a desk is not good for my focus and energy. Find a suitable time in the day where you can do this, and at a time that suits you. Block it as a meeting in your diary that can't be moved and stick to this way of work consistently over a week - how does this impact your energy? A great leader shouldn’t expect presenteeism - so if you aren't at your desk managers and leaders who are productive trust their people to get the important work done. But once your quiet work is done, recognise that you need to make time for being with your colleagues, talking and collaborating - so carve out your diary and make time for that too. But get that balance right - and make it work for yourself. You many need several times in the day when you need to work quietly in a different part of the office, turn off your notifications or could benefit from a quiet walk. So what’s stopping you? Let your teams know, put it in your diary and boss your time. Nothing changes until you change.
3. Get your energy fix – And I don't mean have a Red Bull. Those who get their energy from being around people can find that quiet offices drain their energy. So if this is you, think about how you can still get what you need to be productive ie if you need to talk to get energy call a friend, have a coffee break and book in chats with your friends and colleagues in the office. Think about how you can get your fix to help you work better and be more present for everybody. But also being mindful of those around you who might not get their energy in the same way as you.
4. Don't feel guilty - Do what you need to do to fuel your energy. This is the ultimate in self-care. Don't feel guilty about taking that solo walk around the block, eating your lunch alone or booking in a coffee and a chat with a friend during your working day. Taking steps to improve your energy during your day is probably going to mean the difference between you being present and productive, or not.