Introvert. Sensing. Thinking Judging – ISTJ.
That is one of my labels.
If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, you will instantly relate to those four letters. And if you are a manager, who has used the technique to find out more about the make-up of their team, you might have some ideas about my preferences and how I like to be treated in the workplace.
For those who have never heard of Myers=Briggs, it is a way of categorising people’s preferences by using 16 personality types. It takes into account the way you process information and how you like to receive communication.
What does it mean to be an introvert?
Speaking to someone recently, who loves to gesticulate wildly whilst talking, they commented that it must be difficult for an introvert to demonstrate passion.
I have plenty of passion but I don’t tend to talk with my hands. My preference is to let my words express my thoughts and feelings. I speak with authority, not speed. This perhaps makes me appear more considered than charismatic. Does that mean I am less passionate? Not at all.
It is all about scale
Introversion doesn’t equal shyness. We might label those larger than life characters we come across who dominate conversations and entertain a room full of people as extrovert, but it has nothing to do with one’s loudness. Introversion simply means you prefer to gain your energy from being quiet and reflective. You will probably opt to stay home rather than go to a party if you are feeling tired. The extrovert on the other hand, recharges their batteries by being in the company of others.
As with most things introversion and extroversion is a sliding scale. And we all have the ability to be at different positions on that scale on any given day. So does it matter? Should we subscribe to labelling ourselves in these ways?
There are not that many occasions where I need to announce that I am an introvert. But as in the case with Myers-Briggs, if whole teams go through the process and share their findings, it can be a useful way of teasing out how and why our view of the world, and hence, the way we act in the workplace, differs to our colleagues.
Armed with such insights, teams can learn to adapt the way they interact with each other. And this can enhance communication and productivity, as well as creating a more harmonious and pleasant environment in which differing personality types can flourish.
Managing diverse groups
As a manager, the more understanding you have of your team members, the easier it should be to adapt your leadership style to meet their needs. Awareness of how people differ to you is the first step to being able to communicate effectively with them.
Being able to characterise people by using the 16 personality types from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator might open your eyes to the differing ways in which people use their judgement and perception to make sense of the world but you also need to be mindful of other indicators.
Just how diverse is your team?
What comes to mind when you think of diversity? Possibly gender, age, religion, race, sexuality, ethnicity, education and disability. But what about neurodiversity? The way in which our brains are wired. Have you ever stopped to consider what it is like to be dyslexic in the workplace or be on the autistic spectrum?
Do you know if this applies to any of your team members or colleagues? All of these conditions will be covered by legislation but that doesn’t mean that you will automatically know if someone identifies as autistic, for example. It is the choice of the individual whether they choose to disclose this information. Some will, as they will be keen to benefit from any reasonable adjustments that can be made in the workplace to help them. Whilst others may be more reticent to reveal the information for fear that they might be penalised or become the focus of unwanted attention.
15% of the UK population are wired differently
Is this you? Are you a business owner or an employee who is neurodivergent? Around 15% of the UK population are. Do you identify with a particular label such as ADHD, dyscalculia or dyspraxia?
Just as introversion has nothing to do with shyness, conditions such as dyslexia have nothing to do with intelligence. Many dyslexics are highly creative. They may be good at problem solving and storytelling but struggle with reading, spelling, memory and processing information. Simple adjustments such as using coloured overlays on top of the written word can make a world of difference.
Recognising areas that may be problematic
Some people like to focus on the big, strategic picture whilst others are more concerned with details. Similarly people whose brains are wired differently, will have their own foibles.
“People with ADHD can be good at completing urgent or physically demanding tasks, pushing through setbacks and showing a passion for their work.” (ACAS.org.uk)
They will also appreciate being able to identify times in the day when they are at their most productive. This could be first thing in the morning or midnight. Having flexible working arrangements is vital.
Working from home
The current trend of working from home will be ideal for some who enjoy working in isolation and peace and quiet, whilst others will struggle with loneliness and feelings of exclusion.
People on the autism spectrum often struggle with picking up social cues and may need others to point out when they are required to give an answer or respond in a certain manner.
Deadlines are easier to hit if you understand the concept of time.
Visual reminders, emails or colour coded files may be necessary cues to help people remember important information.
When it comes to planning, mind maps may be more useful than linear timeline projections.
So how do you deal with all these differing needs?
Sue Sanford is an experienced coach. She explains: “I specialise in working with individuals with neuro diverse conditions (Autism, ADHD, Dyspraxia, and Dyslexia and tic conditions) and others who experience challenges with cognitive ability as a result of chronic illness, stress and anxiety or other long-term health conditions.
“I have helped numerous business owners and employees who identify with such conditions be their genius self by implementing small changes in the workplace. Whilst many people are happy to accept a label for their condition so that they can access adjustments to their working environment, we shouldn’t let such labels define us.
“We are all individuals with our own challenges and personal histories. Often good management practice is all that it takes for everyone to perform at their best in the workplace.”
What can you do as a manager and leader, to ensure you are giving all your team members the best chance of performing to their best ability?
- Communicate clearly and not just verbally, use a range of media to support your message
- Always be open and receptive to your staff. Be willing to listen to their concerns.
- Build relationships. Not everyone will feel comfortable to admit they have specific issues or need additional equipment or different ways of working.
- Be vigilant. Notice how people behave in different scenarios. Do you have a team member who opts out of social gatherings or doesn’t participate in team meetings?
- Treat each person as an individual and don’t make comparisons or assumptions.
- Monitor workloads. Some people will thrive under what others regard as pressure, yet struggle with tasks others might see as routine and boring
- Check-in with your staff on a regular basis and make sure you know how they are really feeling – don’t accept ‘fine’ or ‘OK’ as an answer.
And whether you identify as an introvert, as someone with dyslexia, or on the autism spectrum, use the label to help you access the help you need so you can enjoy your life and work the best you can.