Introverts rule!

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March 15 – AM put an article on introversion in a national newspaper on my desk this morning. It has relevance to the discussion we’re having on developing people. 

It confirms one of my long held beliefs, which is that the almost perpetual demand that people be ‘good team players’ can eliminate candidates from consideration for many jobs where, candidly, being a team player is not necessary and can actually be counterproductive. I’m so pleased that bugbear of mine has been, very slightly, recognised. 

Take our company as an example. Our manufacturing team requires people with two, distinctive skill sets. Making things requires coordinated discipline and willingness to do set tasks in the set down order. It’s, in my view, an extrovert’s job. They’re seeking the team’s approval for doing the right thing at the right time (near enough) to get their satisfaction from their work.

The other part of this ‘team’ are the refurb mob. There I want no such skills. I want people who can look at a problem, accurately assess it, work out what needs doing and no more, and then deliver it at minimum cost. Usually they do the whole thing from beginning to end as a result, and only pass it over for QC testing at the end of the process to make sure it’s fit to be reissued into stock. We demand the same skills from many of our people out on the road. This is introvert work. These are people happy to work on their own, think their way through an issue and not always get anything much in reward beyond the quiet satisfaction of knowing they got it right without much of a song and dance being made about it.

I like the introverts. They’re creative. So long as they understand what I want they get on and deliver it without causing much fuss. And they, most importantly, add a lot of value.

I don’t say there’s no reason for teamwork, because there is. But the idea that the whole world should be made up of team players is wrong, I think. Three cheers for introverts I say. If you want a difficult job done make sure you’ve got some outside your team but in your company.


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By Flash Gordon
15th Mar 2012 17:06

The most intelligent thing you've ever said!

Variety is the spice of life and if we were all the same the world would be a dull place. But sadly if you go for a job interview and say you're not a team player but prefer working on your own.... well keep looking for a job... 

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16th Mar 2012 00:14

Totally agree

However if you are an introvert and want to feel a bit better and you've got a spare 20 minutes, check out the following talk on TED:

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16th Mar 2012 08:54

...and another example

I'm not hugely ambitious. I want a good work/life balance with a reasonable income. I'm not willing to sacrifice home and sanity for the top job even for huge bucks. Ultimately money isn't worth it. But I will put huge effort into doing a good job at the level I am comfortable at.

I didn't get one job as a site CFO because I "wasn't hungry enough for promotion to the group FC role". The firm concerned has about 12 sites with 1 group FC. In my mind with that recruitment policy they will have at least 11 fed-up site CFOs.

Balance is key. Between personality types, skill sets, experience, backgrounds, genders, hungry/content ...

To achieve a balanced team you have to work at it. This includes reviewing with the team where they are and where they want to be. In my experience the difficulty with that conversation is getting both the boss and the junior to be honest. "I'm really committed to this company and want to develop with it" can mean "I think I'm capable of far more now and I'm looking elsewhere" or "I'm happy and don't want promotion but a change of role at this level would be nice".


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16th Mar 2012 12:16

Being an introvert doesn't mean you aren't a team player. It means you don't need the team to feel good about yourself. It means you're more inclined to make a decision that goes against the prevailing group mood.


So introverts don't need shoving off into some quiet technical backwater - though they may be happier there, and should be supported in that role - but neither should they be ruled out of management and team situations. They're also good at forming fewer, but closer client relationships.

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By Flash Gordon
16th Mar 2012 14:10

Team player

Agree with Hazel, introverts can be team players and I think the term 'team player' tends to get misused. I personally don't like working within and as part of a larger team, I like to get on at my pace and have the space. But I'd still be a team player because I'd be working for the good of the team as a whole.  I used to work with someone who I'd describe as quite extroverted but I wouldn't call her a team player because she'd be looking to have the attention on her and wouldn't be bothered about whether the department achieved its goals or not. So I don't think you can automatically fix a 'team player' or 'team anything' tag on someone based on their introvert / extrovert nature - it varies from individual to individual. And bear in mind some people are very extroverted, some are very introverted and the rest fall somewhere between the two extremes. It's not a black or white issue. Far better to get a good mix...

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17th Mar 2012 13:26

Team Player

The CEO could have written:

I like extroverts. They're 'people people'. So long as they're made to feel special, given lots of recognition and a nice car, they get on and deliver leads and sales whilst giving the whole company energy and vitality. And they, most importantly, add a lot of value.

I don’t say there’s no reason for teamwork, because there is. But the idea that the whole world should be made up of team players is wrong, I think. Three cheers for extroverts I say. If you want a good initial relationship made with a new client make sure you’ve got some outside your team but in your company.

But I guess it depends whether you're an intovert or an extrovert...and whether you see everything in black and white rather than shades of grey...

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19th Mar 2012 13:01

Wrong personality trait?

I agree that 'being a good team player' is given as a requirement for many jobs where it is unnecessary, but I'm not sure you have picked the right character trait to distinguish between your two manufacturing groups.

Doing set, and repetitive, tasks is not exclusively, possibly not even mainly, an extrovert trait. It is, for example, a good job for those who are, or who share some of the characteristics of, those with Asperger syndrome, who are certainly not extrovert. They do not need the approbation of the team, they just get satisfaction from ordered and methodical activity.

What you are probably looking for in that job is people who are Sensing and Judging (SJ), in Myers-Briggs terms, rather than those who are iNtuitive and Perceiving (NP). That is to say you want people who will pay attention to the messages of their five senses and will respond to those messages in an organised and methodical way, as opposed to those who are more interested in theorising patterns and abstract connections, and responding to them spontaneously and creatively.


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