I once had the amazing opportunity to interview Jack Welch at a Cisco event. For 60 minutes we sat side-by-side on stage, within a few inches of each other, but there was no doubt he was the only person in the room in the eyes of the audience. While his wisdom had the audience captivated, it was his extroverted personality that made the discussion truly fun and engaging. As an extrovert, Welch fed off the audience’s rousing responses to his thoughts – and his occasional finger-wagging at the leaders in the audience about the future of competition. The audience loved it.
Sometimes people mistake the behavior of extroverts as “showing off” or trying to command too much attention. What Jack Welch taught me about extroverts is that their energy rises when they’re connecting with people; extroverts get excited when other people are excited to be with them. As collaborators, extroverts can play a crucial role in group dynamics. Action-oriented by nature, extroverts can compel a group forward – especially at key points of agreement or action.
My colleague Carl Wiese and I decided to devote an entire chapter of our book, The Collaboration Imperative (www.thecollaborationimperative.com), to the importance of personal communication styles and how to accelerate authentic conversations by collaborating in your natural style. We even created a tool to help you improve your inter-personal communication profile:
- Click here to take a quick online assessment to discover your authentic communication style (Click on the green “Take GAC Survey” button). This confidential assessment is a bit like Myers-Briggs and provides a customized profile of your unique communication style; it reveals how you naturally process information, and how you prefer to deliver that information to others. Most importantly, the assessment provides a simple vocabulary to communicate your style to others.
My message is simple: both introverts and extroverts can help collaborative teams move faster and be more innovative – as long as you play to your strengths. We’ve all seen people trying to be someone they’re genuinely not – it’s not only ineffective personally, it can slow a team down. The nature of work today is such that teams come together very fast and disband equally as fast. Modern teams work better when the members of the team understand each other faster.
So for you introverts out there (I’m one of them), here’s what I have learned working with extroverts and how extroverts can turbo-charge collaboration teams. I call these the three “E’s of collaboration”:
- Explain where you are coming from. This is true for introverts, too. One of the most important things we can do as collaborators is to declare our authentic styles to others. The quicker your teammates know you as a thinker, the faster you can play to your strengths in the group. Extroverts need to let the introverts know that their passion, enthusiasm and expressiveness are natural states and nothing else – not over-confidence, not a power trip. We’re often told as leaders to be more vulnerable. Tell people you’re an extrovert; let your team know you can’t help yourself when the group gets excited, you get excited.
- Ease in. Being self-aware of your authentic style is critical to knowing when to leverage your strengths in a group or team setting. Extroverts by nature are enthusiastic and quick to action. But not everyone on a team moves at the same pace. As extroverts, plan ahead for team meetings; examine the agenda and content areas of a team dynamic; try to pinpoint where your extroverted leadership will be most important to advance team cohesion and focus – typically when it’s time to inspire a team to decide something or start execute something.
- Engage the introverts. The single most consistent question I get from extroverts is this: how do I get introverts to talk? I’m sure there are a few psychology books written on the topic, but I’ve found that there is one simple, sure-fire way: Ask a question. You’d be surprised how this elegant gesture of interest can bring someone’s perspective to the forefront of a discussion. Most importantly, acknowledge their thoughts as a means of demonstrating that you also listened to their perspective.
Collaboration can speed up the pace of execution in any organization and that’s why CEOs are so attracted to its potential. Extroverts and introverts alike are wired in their own ways to collaborate. The more in-touch you are with your authentic style, the more effective you can lead your team in the race to execution success.
Let me know your ideas in the comments!