Of all the challenges that the pandemic has thrown our way, remote working has proved both a blessing and a curse.  On the plus side: no commute and an entire wardrobe composed of elasticated waists. On the not so plus side: no kitchen chats, and the need to build and manage colleague relationships remotely. 

This last challenge is particularly tough for managers who need to continue to get the best out of their teams despite working from home being a reality for longer than any of us envisioned. Some businesses have seen previously highly motivated and productive team members struggle. As a result, it’s clear that understanding personalities and the factors that drive people are more important than ever before.

So how can managers work to understand their team members and make sure they’re able to motivate them to be as engaged and productive as possible?

Solar or battery powered?

Take a step back to better understand each team member’s personality and what makes them tick. A simple way to define what drives people is to look at whether they’re an introvert or extrovert, a way of defining how they get their energy. A good way to understand this is to think of extroverts as solar-powered; they get their energy externally, by socialising with others – while introverts are battery-powered, needing more alone time to process and recharge.

Although on the surface introverts may seem more suited to home working, in fact, being cooped up at home with others may cause them a high level of stress as they struggle to get alone time. On the flipside, extroverts may find the lack of real social interaction with colleagues difficult.

Talk to your team

Contrary to popular belief, introverts are not necessarily quiet and withdrawn, and extroverts are not always the loudest, most outwardly confident people. For example, introverts often work hard to appear like extroverts, so may seem outgoing at work but need to recharge alone at the end of the day.  Consequently, it’s not always easy to identify who on your team tends towards introvert or extrovert.

To understand what makes individuals tick, have open and honest conversations about how they prefer to work. For example, do they feel more comfortable with video meetings or calls, how many meetings can they cope with in a day, how do they like to work and how do they recharge?

For any colleagues that seem reluctant to share their preferences, provide reading material that will help them develop their self-awareness and offer tips on working practices.

Educate yourself

Once you’ve identified the different personality types, educate yourself on what drives them and what this means for your management style.  Don’t assume you already know everything about introversion and extroversion – make an effort to learn about how personality can impact work preferences and styles. According to Professor Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, extroverts tend to tackle their assigned work promptly and are quick decision makers, comfortable with risk-taking and multi-tasking.1 They gravitate toward groups, tend to think out loud and are energised by social gatherings and shared ideas. In contrast, introverts work more deliberately and slowly, preferring to concentrate on a single task at a given time and avoiding noisy or large group settings.1

Use this information to inform the structure of your team’s day and give them the freedom to work in the best way for them. Work with introverts to ensure they have plenty of uninterrupted work time, trying to limit the number of meetings and calls each day. Empower extroverts to collaborate as much as possible, develop ideas in group settings, even if these are virtual, and interact with colleagues.

Make meetings more introvert-friendly

Research indicates that in a typical six-person meeting, two people do more than 60% of the talking.2 This can be even worse in virtual settings, where people can switch off cameras and disengage from meetings they find overwhelming. To counter this, managers need to set meetings up in a way that ensures introverts will feel comfortable participating.  

According to experts, introverts appreciate time to prepare for meetings and come up with ideas and suggestions.3 When faced with a group of extrovert colleagues, firing off ideas and suggestions left, right and centre, they will often withdraw and stay quiet. Managers can counter this by providing agendas and reading material in advance, giving introverted team members time to formulate their thoughts and potentially even inviting them to provide their input in writing. This will ensure that all team members feel comfortable speaking up, and that contributions come from all personality types.

Encourage extroverts to listen

Extroverts often bring great energy and enthusiasm to meetings, and this should be encouraged. However, it’s also important that they “listen, reflect, and become more open to the perspectives of their more silent peers.”1 Look at who is speaking up and actively encourage those who tend to remain quiet to provide their own thoughts and suggestions (again, ensuring that they’ve been given time to prepare ahead of time).

By taking the time to understand and adapt to the personality types on their teams, managers can ensure that they adapt to the challenges of the new virtual workplace, keeping individuals engaged and enthused, and maximising team talent.

To find out more about how Sovereign Health Care can help your business, visit sovereignhealthcare.co.uk/business

1 Harvard Business Review 2 North Western University 3 Introvert, Dear

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