Mar 2015 at 10:29

A Guide to Understanding Introverts!

I recently visited a client who proudly walked me around his factory and introduced me to most of his team. As we walked past one particular member who was diligently working away in the corner, I asked the MD why we hadn’t stopped to talk to him.

“Oh that’s Tom, he’s a bit weird and he wouldn’t want to talk to us,” came the reply. 


I dug a bit deeper and it turned out that during the 7 years that ‘Tom’ had worked in the factory, he’d never had an appraisal, a one to one or any meaningful interaction about anything apart from the tasks that were set for him by his boss. Every morning he’d arrive at

8.30a.m. on the dot, put in a good days work and leave at 5.00p.m. He’d do the overtime that was asked of him, nothing more and nothing less but people always felt he was on the outside of the team. No friendly banter, no disclosure of his personal life, Tom had become the butt of many jokes about his muteness, but he neither rose to the bait or complained about the cajoling. Everyone just accepted that he was something of an oddity.

“What about doing a one to one and asking him for his ideas on process improvements or new product development?”

I suggested.

Having first declared it probably ‘a waste of time’ the MD stated that, recognising that it might be time to introduce appraisals for his growing business, he’d start with Tom to, ‘eat the frog before breakfast’ i.e. get the difficult conversations out the way before he moved onto having review sessions with the more fun people who were more like himself.

A week later, I took a phone call from the MD. He was very excited. Tom’s one to one had gone ‘brilliantly!’ Apparently he had loads of ideas around saving money, reducing wastage and even a couple of ideas around r&d for new lines. The boss was astounded and asked Tom why he’d never shared his ideas before.

“You never asked” came the reply.

It’s been amazing what an impact doing behavioural profiling has had on many teams I’ve worked with. Tom’s story is by no means the exception. Working with a pharmaceutical company recently I had one member of staff came up to me and say,

“I’ve finally realised that Alec’s not broke, he’s just different!”

For all of you noisy extroverts out there (ladies and gentlemen, do not confuse confidence with competence!), I hope you find the link here – ‘a guide to understanding introverts’ helpful. The next time someone in your office is sitting quietly, not putting forward ideas, seemingly disengaged, give your mouth a rest, ask a $10 million dollar question and give them time to consider all the options.

Usually, the answer is worth the wait!

Have a great week one and all.

Lily Newman


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