At work, those who lean more introverted may feel disadvantaged when their networks are crawling with extroverts all connecting to each other. But extroverts, less likely to be exposed to introverted peers, are disadvantaged, too–missing out on great collaborators who have different strengths and talents than they do. In other words, while many of us fall somewhere in the middle, those two poles tend to draw us further apart–even though we’d probably be more creative and productive working with a more diverse range of personality types.
So what can be done about it? There are a few ways to embrace your ambiversion in an introvert/extrovert world.
Manage Your Weak Spots, Play To Your Strengths
For starters, says Gino, just “knowing your type when it comes to personality is important, because by increasing our awareness of where we stand in terms of introversion and extroversion, we can develop a better sense of our tendencies, manage our weak spots, and play to our strengths.” If someone knows they skew more extroverted, for instance, they can become more aware of their tendency to dominate conversations, and work to give others the floor more often–especially as leaders.
Maresa Friedman, founder of the Executive Cat Herder, a strategy firm, has learned to do this herself. Like Lenier, she’s usually mistaken for a clear extrovert despite often being “happier at home with a book, not talking to anyone.” Sometime in her twenties, Friedman started noticing her more introverted coworkers getting passed over for promotions and opportunities “because dominant voices that were constantly heard were from the extroverted people.” So she figured she could be strategic about it.
“I began taking notes of things my peers and supervisors did that got them promoted,” Friedman recalls, and before long she wound up with a list crammed full of extroverted attributes. She decided simply to imitate them–and it worked. “I started adapting some of my behavior accordingly and, surprisingly, watched as my career took off.”
In retrospect, Friedman realizes she was doing what Gino suggests: “I consider the ‘extrovert’ behavior I have had to adapt for business to directly correlate to sales and revenue growth,” Friedman explains. “I consider my ‘introvert’ behavior, like reading, listening to world music, et cetera, to be the basis of my sanity.” She’s an effective ambivert because she knows when to lean into her strengths on one side of the continuum (and when not to) and how to fill in the gaps on the other.
The Art of Strategic Ambiversion
In 2011, Gino published research she conducted with Wharton Business School’s Adam Grant and Dave Hofmann of UNC that found that “introverts can actually be better leaders than extroverts,” Gino explains, particularly when their employees willingly share input and ideas. What’s more, extroverted leaders can struggle to manage other extroverts because they may be less likely to embrace those who take initiative and make their voices heard. Introverts, on the other hand are “more likely to listen to, process, and implement the ideas of an eager team,” says Gino.
Leaders can use this information to adapt their style to the type of group they’re leading. “With proactive employees, leaders need to be receptive to the team’s ideas; with a more passive team, leaders need to act more demonstratively and set a clear direction,” says Gino. In other words, the ability to adapt–similar to the strategic ambiversion that Friedman practiced–is the real key.
When you realize that Bob isn’t speaking up in the meeting because he’s introverted in situations like this, not because he’s devoid of ideas, you can help him find other ways to contribute. Maybe that means talking to him one-on-one before the meeting, or giving him time to digest the information before sending a follow-up email with his input.
Knowing how to adapt your behavior in the workplace first requires knowing where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, though–and recognizing that it is a spectrum in the first place.