Working styles – why take a Goldilocks approach?
Updated: Sep 28
As we ready ourselves for an extended period of working from home, what does it mean for team members with different working styles? Introverts and extroverts cope with WFH differently - how do you play to their strengths so they can do a great job?
Francesca Gino from Harvard Business School studied the differences between introverts and extroverts in teams. Broadly, extroverts “gravitate toward groups and constant action, tend to think out loud and are energised and recharged by external stimuli”, while introverts “dislike noise, interruptions, and big group settings”, preferring “quiet solitude, time to think before speaking (or acting), and building relationships one-on-one”.
Such definitions can help us understand the broad differences, but a more useful distinction is what your preferences are relative to the people you work with. Colleagues James and Hannah both call themselves introverts, but Hannah is much further up the introversion scale than James, so to work together effectively they need to understand the individual differences in their working styles.
Here are two ways in which working styles can differ:
Speak first/think first
Think of a member of your team – how do they generally take part in team discussions? Do they speak up early and often? Or do they hold back and speak only when they have heard from others? The first style, known as ‘say-think-say’, suits those of us who develop our thinking by articulating our views and ideas out loud, and then refining it. Those of us with a ‘think-say-think’ style, on the other hand, prefer to hone and refine our thoughts internally before voicing them. The risk is that the discussion has moved on before these thinkers have been able to contribute.
To get the best from both styles:
Share information before the meeting to get a more considered response
Encourage the use of the ‘chat’ box to share thoughts without interrupting
Develop good meeting etiquette, e.g. turn the mic off when not speaking or use the raised hand symbol
Invite contributions during the meeting from those who haven’t spoken (but don’t put them on the spot at the start)
Encourage questions and check assumptions to help hone the thinking
Ask for further thoughts after the meeting – don’t assume the thinking is complete
What seems to energise your team member? Are they buoyed up by interacting with others? Or are they most enthusiastic when they have had time to deep dive into their work, away from distractions?
To get the best from both styles:
Ask each team member what balance of uninterrupted time versus interaction they need to be productive
Encourage team members to block out time for “deep thinking” about their work
Vary the type of interaction – using 1-2-1 check-ins and smaller groups, as well as team calls
Use written as well as spoken communication, and asynchronous as well as synchronous
Create time for virtual team socials, for those that want it – but make it optional!
Most of us enjoy interacting with colleagues, it’s just that our thresholds are set at different levels. Even the most extroverted types will feel overloaded after one too many Zoom calls. To play to the strengths of everyone in the team, we need to think beyond introvert/extrovert stereotypes and take a Goldilocks approach, figuring out what is ‘too much’, ‘too little’ or ‘just right’.