I had the pleasure of attending a talk yesterday at Hubspot's Inbound 2012 by Susan Cain, Bestselling Author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking.
The audience, which seemed to be a good mix of introverts and extroverts (Susan asked for a show of hands), learned a great deal from the author about the power of personality styles in the workplace. This had me thinking about diversity in the workplace, and how so often when we think of diversity, we think of gender, race, religion, and age differences.
But have you ever thought about personality style as a workplace diversity? I hadn't.
One example that Susan used was that of a corporate brainstorming meeting. She asked us to envision a team sitting around a table working off of a previously delivered agenda. She suggested that the extroverts were more likely to come to the meeting bursting with their thoughts and ideas about this agenda, while the introverts were more likely to wait for their turn to talk--a turn that may never come!
Okay, I know what you're thinking. But don't leave me just yet. Susan says this is NOT to suggest that all extroverts are blow-hards and that all introverts are shy and meek! Her research has shown and her opinion is that extroverts and introverts think differently from one another and act differently from one another in the workplace and that we should nurture these personality styles. Extroverts tend to be more comfortable talking in a group, whereas introverts are more comfortable in one-on-one settings (think Randi Zuckerburg vs. Mark Zuckerburg).
So back to our meeting. We can see how in this circumstance, it is possible that the ideas of the introvert may never have been discussed. What a potential loss! Can/should department heads and team leaders think proactively about personality styles and how to incorporate those personality styles into the team environment?
Some solutions may be as simple as preparing agendas that offer each team member equal amount of time to discuss the ideas that they would like to bring to the table or offer them the opportunity to submit their ideas electronically before the meeting.
If a company wanted to delve deeper, though, mentoring can play a huge role in fostering personality styles and diversity in the workplace while developing talent and contributing to the bottom line.
Some companies may choose a one-on-one mentoring program purposely matching introverts with extroverts. Others may choose group mentoring as a tool to mix personality styles and diversities together to work together.
Employees are a company's most valuable asset. Understanding their personality style and fostering those styles through mentoring may be a fresh approach to employee loyalty, employee retention, and return on investment.
I would like to thank Miss Cain for offering this unique perspective. She delivered a speech which was pleasant and thought provoking on many levels, while keeping her audience interested and engaged--a feat I am sure was a challenge for a self-proclaimed introvert!