Unless you’re in a tiny startup or mom ‘n pop small biz, large groups are the norm for most organizations. These might be departments, divisions, or teams — and if you’re like many organizations, you make sure these groups meet on a semi-regular basis.
Often these meetings go very much the same way. The most vocal, outspoken, and extroverted individuals state their piece and the rest of the group nods along in semi-compliance. Meanwhile, as you don your manager hat, you may be wondering to yourself what the more soft-spoken or reflective members of the group have to say on whatever topic is being discussed.
And with introverts making up an estimated third to half of the population, this is something that is worth wondering about.
Susan Cain, author of the smash hit Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, pointed out, “Any time people come together in a meeting, we’re not necessarily getting the best ideas; we’re just getting the ideas of the best talkers.”
Like it or not, our world is designed by and for extroverts. The bold, brash, and brazen get disproportionate consideration, sometimes in spite of how deserving they are. Extroverts certainly play an important and integral role in any organization, but they do so from their particular perspective, and sometimes at the expense of introverts who prefer to contemplate things before talking about them.
This is exactly why you should break up your large groups into much smaller ones — try getting groups down to three or four people. By reducing the number of people you make it more comfortable for introverts to share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions without feeling like they’re competing for attention — something they are wont to do. This process will help to surface more ideas and will help demonstrate the value that introverts have to offer to their fellow co-workers.
When small groups aren’t an option, you can still work toward receiving more balanced input from both your extroverts and your introverts through the use of a skilled facilitator. Our facilitated meeting program was designed exactly for this purpose.
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