How to Get the Best From the Quiet People on Your Team

21 Mar 24 | Pete Mosley

Pete Mosley is an expert in working with introverts, quiet and shy people and those who lead and manage them. He is also the author of ‘A Quiet Person’s Guide (to life + work)’. In this latest blog, Pete focuses on approaches that can be implemented quickly, and why quieter people tend to respond more slowly.

 

“Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behaviour.”

– Brené Brown, Dare to Lead

Around about 45% of any given population have introvert tendencies. By implication, you have people on your team who think and process more slowly.

In any given team, there will be faster and slower processors. This is due to differences in the brain. Slower processing is not an indicator of cognitive impairment or lack of intelligence. It’s an indication that that the brain is working in a different way utilizing different neural pathways and different neurotransmitters.

The first step is to reframe this as an advantage. The people on your team who think and process more slowly bring real insight to the table. In the work environment, where prevailing thinking is to make decisions as rapidly as possible, those insights are lost. Simple changes to working culture can bring those insights back to the table and support better decision making all round.

Rather than encouraging introverts to behave like extroverts, encourage quiet people to think things through in their own way. Nurturing this diversity of thinking styles and encouraging everyone to bring their own unique viewpoint creates a richness of thought that often uncovers overlooked possibilities.

In some senses we need to deal with both extremes of input – supporting quieter people to speak up, but also encouraging the more insistent voices – the ones that always speak up – or speak first – to slow down and become better listeners. To ask themselves ‘Why am I talking?’ People who think things through more slowly bring real strengths to the team. Problems are subject to deeper analysis from a wider range of viewpoints. However, in order to harness this deeper thinking, more time needs to be allowed for the decision-making process. Unchecked, this means that a significant number of people leave a meeting after a decision has been made still pondering other solutions – potentially better ways to approach the problem in hand.

This can lead to frustrations and tensions because it inevitably means that the team will return to the issue later when it becomes obvious that the decision was made too quickly, and not based on sound logic.

Here are some tried and tested strategies:

• Give the agenda well in advance of the meeting.

• Allow more time to prepare to prepare for meetings and team discussions.

• Allow information to be presented and distributed in advance, so the ice is already broken. This helps less confident people get over the threshold of anxiety that exists for them in ‘breaking in’ to the meeting flow.

• Allow feedback after meeting – not just in it. If possible, delay really important decisions until everyone has had the chance to really think things through.

• Use meeting techniques such as Nancy Kline’s ‘Thinking Environment’ to create inclusion.

• Set questions and tasks that can be responded to via a variety of learning preferences – not just auditory/text based. E.g. by producing drawings, infographics, video input, checklists etc.

• Introduce an ethos of WAIT – Why Am I Talking? Raise awareness that sometimes ‘getting in first’ is less important than letting someone else get a word in.

• Create the right environment – quiet/highly sensitive people are much more sensitive to the ‘where’.

• Allow as much time as is required. Encourage people to become more comfortable with ‘not knowing’ – at least until all available input has been heard.

• Give permission to respond/behave differently. E.g. build in short bursts of quiet solo thinking time (2 minutes makes a huge difference) prior to feeding back.

• Structure breakouts differently – quiet thinking and chatting in pairs, then groups of four, then back to the main group. This helps quieter souls gain confidence in the validity of their ideas.

The greatest gift you can give a quiet person is time. The return on this investment may astound you.

 

To find out more about Pete Mosley, click here, or contact our team on enquiries@raisethebar.co.uk.

Pete Mosley

Pete Mosley

Speaker

Pete Mosley’s specialism is in working with introverts, quiet and shy people and those who lead and manage them. He helps...