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This month we've focused strategically on employee recognition and appreciation. We've explored why personal insights and personalization is important in:

Now it's time to examine the "how." How do you show employee appreciation in the most beneficial ways? Is it difficult? Is it worth the effort?

Before we dive into the “how” let's acknowledge the “why”.

Why is Proper Employee Recognition Important?

A recent survey discovered that 55% of respondents said they were planning to switch jobs. Why? Their number 1 reason was lack of recognition. Another survey, this one by Recognition Source, shows 69% of employees reporting they would work harder if they were better recognized.

People want to be treated like they matter. We can see employee recognition is strongly linked to job performance, retention rates, and turnover. With the excessive costs associated with replacing a seasoned, trained employee, a little recognition and engagement can go a long way.

So, let’s break down how to do this. First, it helps to know your team. Our behavioral assessment is an ideal way to uncover personality traits, strengths, and challenge areas that could take years to identify. With a variety of reports to fit any need, including building an employee recognition strategy, you’ll be ahead of the curve in no time.

Top 5 Ways to Appreciate Your Outgoing/Social Employees

  1. Put achievements on display: It's simple and shows employees you notice them. For example, a daily sales tracker or leaderboard is a terrific way to highlight current wins and promote friendly competition. These can be in person or online, depending on your office setup, and can be a fun way to let colleagues get in on the praise.
  2. Be vocal: Call out an individual's big wins or achievements in company-wide meetings. If a colleague praises a coworker in a meeting, let that coworker know. During our Omnia Sales and Service meetings we schedule 10 minutes to shout out wins and achievements. It’s a fantastic way to brag on yourself or a colleague and wrap up a meeting with positive energy.
  3. Go public with your appreciation: Go beyond company meetings by highlighting achievements to customers, partners, and principles through signage or social media. Take a photo, share how they earned this award or acknowledgement, and talk about how much you value their effort.
  4. Have a lunch and learn: It's a little out of the box, but trust us, social people enjoy sharing what they love. In fact, most of us like a chance to let others know interesting things about ourselves. Set aside a time when a team member can share a hobby or interest, skill or technique, with the team. It's a fun way to get to know each other and learn what you may never have thought to ask about.
  5. Write a LinkedIn recommendation: It's personal, meaningful, and an endorsement for someone's hard work. This is an underrated gesture that communicates your appreciation of a team member, but also that you care about their future success—even if it's not at your company. Plus, it's free. LinkedIn recommendations are the gold star of public recognition because it's truly public.

Top 5 Ways to Appreciate Your More Reserved Employees

  1. Survey your staff: Ask your employees how they would like to be recognized. You may be surprised, but you can feel confident that you reward your team with something they value.
  2. Thank you notes and cards: A physical, hand-written note thanking a staff member for their work can go a long way in a digital world. Whether it's a simple post-it note or a quality piece of cardstock, placing this on their desk or mailing it to their home office can be a huge esteem boost.
  3. Do paid charity days: This can be individual or part of a thoughtful team building exercise. Survey the team for common goals and interests. Match up small teams or encourage charity days to show employees you appreciate their work in and out of the office. Of course, make sure your staff is paid for this day. Otherwise, you don't recognize them as valuable – you simply force them to give up a day for free.
  4. Say "thank you"! It's easy, free, and quick, but often overlooked. Some business owners take for granted that employees are there to do the work. A thank you is such a straightforward way to show appreciation. Studies show there's a noticeable difference in attitude between a staff whose boss genuinely thanks them compared to one where the staff never hears praise. While not everyone needs a "thank you" to do a respectable job, it won't hurt. Plus, it's going to mean a lot to those who do need to hear it periodically.
  5. A hobby-related gift card: Not every "thank you" comes at a cost, but a little gift can go a long way. My manager gifted me an Etsy gift card after a project I tackled as a thank you with a personalized note referencing some things we'd discussed in the past. That was months ago, and I still think about it fondly. Listen to what your employees get excited about and remember one or two little things when the opportunity arises. It goes a long way, trust me.

Winning solutions for every type

  1. Give employees a real choice and a real voice: Build a strong culture by encouraging employees to speak up and have management listen. Does your staff get to choose any projects they work on? Do you actively listen to their ideas or concerns and act on them when possible? Genuine appreciation is foundational.
  2. Give rewards that are career-based: This doubles as a bonus for your business as well. Sending employees to leadership training or an online business-related class, even if not directly related to their current job tasks, shows your employees you're invested in them and their careers.
  3. Encourage continuing education: Whether you help offset educational costs or provide time off to attend educational events, you're showing you appreciate them so much you want them to keep growing in their careers.
  4. Highlight how your business has a positive impact on the community: Whether through green energy initiatives, matching donation programs, or volunteer hours (consider combined with #8 above), let your employees know the work they do is appreciated by you and by the community.

Now you know why employee appreciation is important for retention and productivity and how it affects your company culture and bottom line. Adding personalization through behavioral assessments, team surveys, or even town halls, you can make sure your team is engaged, valued, and recognized for the work they do.

Remember, everyone appreciates praise, but not everyone appreciates it in the same ways. Understanding and implementing recognition in personalized ways will have positive effects.

Imagine. It’s Valentine’s Day. Cooking isn’t necessarily your strong suit. But, in the interest of romance, you decide to cook your significant other a beautiful gourmet dinner. You do your research, pull recipes from various sources, and nearly lose your nerve more than once given the amount of steps, potential for error, and mountain of dishes this endeavor will require. You hate dishes, ‘cause who doesn’t? Still, you just know your valentine will be blown away by your effort alone, and if it turns out wonderfully, that’s icing on the cake. You even bake the cake. This is a Valentine’s Day gift that will go down in history; you’ll be lauded at parties (when we get to go to parties again) and praised for weeks, maybe months, to come, which is just how you like it.

The day arrives. You made a giant mess, felt extremely frustrated more than once, burned at least one thing that you may need to throw away, and couldn’t figure out what “fold in the cheese” means. Still, the dinner turns out better than you ever could have imagined. Everything is mostly delicious.  Your valentine looked impressed upon sitting at your impeccably set table, gave a few “yums” throughout the meal, and said, rather blandly in your now gourmet opinion, “That was great.”

What?!

No exclamation of “WOW, you did this all for me? I know cooking isn’t your thing, I’m so incredibly impressed, I can’t wait to tell everyone how thoughtful this was!” No thank you, no giant hug, no exclamations of pure delight with every new bite. Sure, you know your valentine is great and tends to be a bit reserved with praise. But still, it stings. Not only did you work hard, you worked hard outside of your comfort zone. And frankly, you love exuberant praise, preferably in front of other people. You know, so they can praise you too!

The fact is, people need recognition, personally and professionally. We need it to feel energized and engaged at work. An engaged, energized workforce means higher productivity, better employee and customer satisfaction and ultimately higher profits. It’s a win-win. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, think about showing the love to your employees, if you don’t already.

Why? Gallup’s State of the American Workforce report says that 51% of employees are not engaged and that one of the best ways to engage employees is to recognize them for their work. The report also states that only 3 in 10 workers “strongly agree that in the last seven days they have received recognition or praise for doing good work.” Ouch.

The data shows that people who feel recognized are more energized. It’s counterproductive to think that employee recognition is unnecessary. We could ask ourselves, “What happened to doing a good job because you are getting paid?” or we could ask ourselves how to get an even better job from everyone by understanding the nuances of individual needs. It’s why managers who understand how each person on their team ticks get better results, more loyalty and less turnover. For example, when you know one person loves verbal recognition, while another prefers a private pat on the back, you can manage and motivate to those preferences. Each employee values you as a leader because you worked with their preferences rather than leading one way.

Effective managers know that they can’t lead in a “one size fits all”, “my way or the highway” way. That’s a lot of ways to get nowhere. Instead, use the Omnia Assessment to navigate the personal preferences and nuances of your team. When your strongly social salesperson tops the leaderboard for sales, you know a public celebration is just the ticket, preferably with the chance for her to give a speech. On the other hand, your reserved bookkeeper might cringe at the thought of giving a speech but does want the team to know how his accomplishments moved the team forward. Think about a shout-out in the company newsletter, along with a personal, private word of thanks from you.

Personalization is key. Not only in how you provide the recognition based on personality type but also in the messaging. Competitive people like knowing how they rank, analytical people want the facts, big-picture types prefer broad strokes, while meticulous planners want to hear all the details.

Recognition should be meaningful to the individual. You could even recognize people for achieving personal goals, like finishing a marathon or learning a new language. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition as well to create a culture of appreciation.

Of course, it’s easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of work and home life to look for opportunities to recognize individual achievement. As managers, we get preoccupied like anyone else. The best thing you can do is make it a job task and a regular habit, just like completing a required monthly report or turning in your expenses. Set reminders, put it on your calendar, or use whatever works best for you to develop that habit. Remember, when you go the extra mile for employees, they will go the extra mile for you.

Also, if your valentine makes you a gourmet dinner, recognize the effort… gush, rave, give a toast.

If you haven’t heard, 2020 has been a tough, crazy, roller-coaster ride of a year. I know, I know, I realize that’s all a big… understatement. Unfortunately, there’s still so much uncertainty surrounding our personal and professional lives. COVID cases in the United States are surging once again, creating anxiety for many. As we end this rather strenuous year, we are left wondering what 2021 has in store for us. 

In 2020, we experienced a myriad of personal challenges. Many people lost their jobs or had their hours reduced, and a variety of businesses suffered. If you were lucky, you got to work remotely for the first time and discovered that it worked really well on an individual level and business. They were relieved to keep their jobs for other remote workers but felt alone and disconnected at home. Others had to figure out how to work alongside their spouses, roommates, and children… all day.  

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your business operations in our new reality, your company’s actions are more important than ever and will have lasting effects on your employees. Are you, as a company, ready to keep your workforce engaged and keep morale high?

Make Mental Health a Priority

It’s been a stressful year, and anxiety is on the rise with all of the unknowns. Factor in the holidays, and now is the perfect time to help your employees take care of their mental health and physical well-being. According to a survey by Everest College, 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress, and that was pre-COVID. When employees are worried or anxious, their work suffers, and productivity falls. Here are a few suggestions to help employees: 

Be Flexible 

Every employee’s situation is unique. You could have employees tending to children who are doing school virtually. You might have some employees who are taking care of elderly parents. Others might be home alone with no one to talk to.

Therefore, being flexible can mean different things to different people. Those who are night owls may feel at their best working from 1 pm to 10 pm. For early risers, they may want to work from 5 am to 2 pm. Employees with children doing school virtually may want to go from 5 am to 9 am, break until 3 pm, and then work until 7 pm. 

Of course, this all depends on the flexibility of the job itself. A customer service role with fixed hours for customers might not lend itself to that kind of flexibility. Still, there may be other ways to stay flexible that alleviate employee stress and make sense for your business. The important thing is that the solution is a win for both the employee and the company factoring in your business needs and constraints. Some ideas include: 

Encourage Communication

Communication is an integral part of any relationship, and that includes employer and employee. Be open with your employees. Let them know how things are going and about any changes you are looking to implement. Ask them for suggestions (and allow them a way to submit them anonymously). 

Use your communication methods, like emails, video calls, Slack, and Teams, to update your employees on how things are going and what you are doing to protect their health and safety. Divulge what information you can about how you plan to continue to provide your product or service to customers.

Emphasize face-to-face conversation. Now that everyone is home (sometimes alone), it may only take a simple 5-minute Zoom call to check-in, see a smiling face, and know that they are cared about and valued as an employee.

Promote Career Development

Working from home has its benefits, and saving time on commuting is one of the biggest, whether that means 30 extra minutes to spend with your family or 15 minutes additional sleep! Career development and learning is a great way to spend some spare time. Encouraging your employees to engage in professional or personal growth will add to their enjoyment of their day. 

There are many different learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare, or webinars for those interested in learning. Employees who are willing to take business-related courses should be encouraged to do so during the workday as long as it does not interfere with their duties. 

Little Extras Go a Long Way

While your employees are still working, it doesn’t mean their spouses or partners kept their jobs. Helping your employees in any way will show that you care about them as people and not just employees.

Some ideas might include a gift card to a local grocery store, covering the cost of home delivery meal services, or giving your employees a stipend to make working at home more comfortable. 

If higher-ticket presents are not possible right now, then think smaller. Your employees will still appreciate small personal gifts. For example, a bag of popcorn and two sodas make a great movie night. A bottle of wine, cheese, and glasses would make an excellent date night for the employee who just got married. For the employee who has young children at home, an age-appropriate toy for their child (nothing that makes noise!) would be cherished.

James K. Harter, Ph.D., put it best when he said, “In good times, employee engagement is the difference between being good and being great. In bad times, it’s the difference between surviving and not.”

The most important aspects in supporting your employees and boosting morale right now are to embrace empathy and remain human. The COVID pandemic has been an unprecedented event, and there is no “right” way to handle it.

At the end of it all, your team will remember how they were treated through the tough times. During any crisis or challenge, how you serve your employees will go a long way in determining if they jump ship as soon as they can or remain loyal and engaged once things turn around.

People likely feared it after watching movies about it - but deep down, never imagined it would truly happen. Even when it started to happen, a lot of people were saying “not us” or “not here.” Boy, were we wrong! COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020, and the world, as we knew it changed.

Business leaders had to adapt quickly. Teams that had never worked remotely were suddenly quarantined at home and forced to figure it out independently. Employees looked to their leaders for guidance in this unprecedented time; many feared they’d lose their jobs, and for many, that fear also became a reality. Over six months, more than 60 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance — that's more than the number of claims filed during the 18-month Great Recession. (Business Insider October 8, 2020)

Difficult and painful as it has been, tough times make us grow and learn. Here are some of the biggest lessons leaders have learned through the pandemic:

Remote Work Can Work  

Many leaders dismissed the idea that remote work would be sustainable. They weren’t convinced that people could get as much done at home as they would in the office. They knew that if their employees went remote, they wouldn’t be able to micromanage them the way they would in the office. 

A lot of leaders had to give up that control, in a sense, when COVID struck. Happily, most leaders found their employees stepped up and worked beautifully at home when push came to shove. This had a lot to do with employees being less stressed. They didn’t have to spend time commuting, and they could be close to their loved ones. Leaders were also pleasantly surprised to discover that they could effectively manage a remote workforce. 

It’s great news that this new way of working is working because for many, we aren’t going back to our former office environment anytime soon – possibly never. (NYTimes.com October 13, 2020) 

Transparent Communication and Emotional Intelligence are Critical

Leaders have also learned that transparent communication and emotional intelligence are more important than ever. When you don’t have your team working right in front of you, it’s critical to be more open about what is going on. This includes updating the team on company numbers so that they truly understand how things are going within the business.

Additionally, during meetings and one-on-one coaching, it’s now clear that asking how an employee is doing is truly important -- not just a formality. Leaders don’t need specific details, but if their employees have a hard time, they need to be aware. That way, they can figure out a way to help. This protects the team’s productivity and makes the employee feel cared about, important, and heard. As a result, that employee will be more engaged and loyal in the future. 

While work at home has offered more flexibility – studies find that this pandemic is wreaking havoc on stress levels caused by concern for our families, managing classwork while our children learn online at home, and we juggle competing schedules with our new home office mates. While we’re all doing all of this juggling, we’re also working longer days.  (Harvard Business School September 14, 2020

Checking in regularly with your employees and making sure they are “OK” goes a long way. Empathizing with your remote worker’s unique circumstances is more important than ever. Help your employees by focusing on output rather than the number of hours worked and coaching and recognizing work quality rather than the time taken. 

Take time to laugh over our humanness and celebrate our imperfections. Since everyone is at home, leaders and team members alike learn about each other’s lives outside of work. Sometimes, video calls can result in embarrassing or awkward moments. Anyone who has had something go “wrong” on a Zoom video call can relate. Babies cry, dogs bark, and cats will walk right in front of the camera. While folks may blush for a moment, it’s not a catastrophic event. Now, most people just ignore these minor distractions. We’re all human, and we’re all giving each other some grace.

New Technology is Our Friend

In the past, some companies would roll out new technology slowly. The process would include extensive beta testing and troubleshooting. Those times are gone. Now, leaders need to take quick and decisive action. 

Any company that didn’t have chat software needed to make a swift decision, implementing one as soon as their employees went remote. Businesses without cloud storage had to make that change quickly as well. There wasn’t time to make sure it was perfect. Leaders now realize that this is ok. Done is better than perfect (if there’s such a thing, anyway). The rapid changes also forced “technologically shy” employees to just jump in and not be coddled, which is a good thing for their growth and development.

In fact, a recent McKinsey study asked executives how long they expected it would have taken their companies pre-pandemic to digitize 12 different activities and how long it actually took them once the coronavirus hit. When it came to remote working, companies moved 43 times more quickly than executives thought possible. Technology and collaboration tools are a positive addition to our work cultures.

Tough Decisions Need to be Made Faster

The choice to go remote was a tough decision, but it had to be made quickly. There wasn’t a lot of time to “workshop” the idea. Companies needed to keep their employees safe, and making business operations virtual was the best way to do it in most situations. There was no time for leaders to second guess themselves. 

All changes had to be made quickly -- even though not everyone was on board with every single decision. However, if changes are made with honesty and compassion, they will be better received, despite being difficult to hear and deal with. 

“Times, they are a-changin’,” used just to be something that was said, but it was never as true as it is now! Leaders must adapt or be left behind. This has been a learning opportunity for us all. We have learned how we can still work together even though we are apart. We can still be close despite the distance. Leaders have learned that teamwork, even when done remotely, still makes the dream work! There will continue to be more to learn as we figure out our “new normal.”

How to Adapt to our New Normal?

You can do many things as a leader to support your business needs and your employees during this unprecedented time.

How Omnia Can Help

Hiring, just like everything else, has changed. Let The Omnia Group help your organization hire the best talent to work remotely, lead a team through Zoom calls, and keep morale high! Our behavioral and cognitive assessments are a great way to discover the top candidates for each job opening you have. We also offer virtual workshops on hot topics in hiring and employee development that you can watch anytime! Contact us today!

Final Thoughts

Every decision made after March 11, 2020, dictated our new reality going forward. After a while, it became clear that nothing will go back 100% to the way it was. Things have been irreparably changed. From now on, we all must adapt. Have you learned anything from COVID-19 about leading a team that wasn’t mentioned here? 

Fifty-five percent of the people making their living in sales do not have the right skills to be successful.  Let that number sink in … over half need more coaching. How many are on your sales team? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 14.3 million people are working in sales and related revenue-generating occupations, so that means only 6.5 million of them will be successful. Can you imagine how many unhappy, dissatisfied salespeople are frustrated that they’re not hitting their numbers and are miserable going to work each day?

When I came across this study, I was genuinely alarmed. In fact, the article was called “21 Mind-Blowing Sales Stats”. And blow my mind, they did.  It was a stop what I’m doing and take a huge gulp moment.  And I truly believe it doesn’t have to be this way. These are numbers that can be improved. When people are aligned to a role that best fits their unique personality traits and strengths and is supported by a leader committed to coaching and developing them along the way, they can be successful.  Mindtickle recently published a study that says effective sales coaching can improve sales reps’ performance by 20%.

First, we must embrace the reality that coaching is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, which might explain why it often falls to the wayside. A sales leader must understand the unique traits, strengths, challenges, and motivational drivers for their individual sales reps to coach effectively. The good news is, there is an easy way to enable and coach different personality styles that actually work. Employee behavioral assessments promote a deeper understanding of your sales reps' personality traits. All it takes is ten minutes of your employee's time and a willingness to use the information to modify coaching and leadership techniques based on personality styles.

Once you know the innate individual traits among your team members, you can design action plans for coaching and development.  This data also provides helpful insight into how best to motivate individuals and, better yet, avoid de-motivating them. Let’s look at some examples across a few primary sales personality traits The Omnia Group measures.

Level of Assertiveness: If you’ve got individuals on your team who have an extremely high level of assertiveness, and hopefully you do, you can be comfortable knowing they are typically self-driven with a strong need to win.  It’s likely that these individuals don’t need coaching to make enough calls, get to the decision-makers, and ask for the business.  On the flip side, though, sales reps with this trait can come across as overly aggressive and may have difficulty backing down from deals that aren’t going to happen. To coach this style effectively, take time to observe their sales calls and watch for an overly forceful tone. Listen to how their buyers react to this style.  Use these observations to bring awareness to your sales rep on the impact their behaviors may have on winning over the prospect and getting the deal.

Professionals with a high level of assertiveness are motivated by individual goals and knowing their progress toward those goals. They love seeing their achievements posted on weekly sales standings.  They’re likely to be de-motivated by an overly zealous sales leader who wants to be on every call with them – these folks like to run their own show.  So when you go on calls with them, you need to bring your A-game and make sure you’re adding value to the call.

Another important personality trait to understand is the individual’s communication style.  Some salespeople are highly motivated by being around people and are natural rapport builders. While they can win people over easily with their enthusiasm, they may not be listening closely enough to discern the client’s true need for your solution or identifying the concern that keeps them from buying.  When going over a deal review, make sure you ask these individuals for details regarding the client’s needs and their genuine concerns. Actively engage in brainstorming on how to best follow through to keep the deal moving forward.  Also, be sure they have identified the actual decision-maker and aren’t just relying on a single relationship to get the deal.

Individuals who are highly communicative and people-oriented may be struggling the most with not being able to make face-to-face appointments right now, and they likely miss collaboration with their teams.  Ensure they have the support to attend virtual networking events and offer up multiple ways to connect with colleagues across the organization.  While a lot of the world is “Zoomed out,” sales reps with this personality trait will likely be energized by virtual happy hour and ice breaker activities.

Another concerning statistic is this one: Over 60% of salespeople are more likely to leave their job if their manager is a poor coach. Coaching, like most skills, requires practice and focused attention. It’s a good bet that the manager didn’t have effective coaching skills or wasn’t hitting the right mark in coaching the sales rep based on individual needs.  This leads me to another key sales trait…

The Need for Autonomy vs. Structure: Sales professionals with a high need for autonomy could have a visceral reaction to a sales leader who micro-manages their activities or a finance department that buries them knee-deep in the weeds of contract terms and conditions.  These sales individuals are not naturally focused on details and resist getting bogged down in them. And yet, we know as sales leaders that these details can make or break a deal. It’s best to arm a big-picture salesperson with a strong support system to proofread their proposals or go over product details with their clients.  They thrive when they have a strong sales engineer, solution architect, or client advisor supporting them and the client through the sales cycle.  They’ll be indebted to the sales leader who gets them these resources, and the deals they bring in will make it worth the investment.

It’s also super important to be consistent in coaching and development across your sales team.  Nobody is motivated when they’re held to a different standard, perceive they have less support, or feel they don’t have the resources to effectively do their job.  Here are some key questions to ask ourselves when it comes to making sure we’ve set up our team for success:

Have I clearly defined expectations?  It’s important that everyone clearly understand what success looks like and what key behaviors and activities are expected across the team. Then, be sure you hold everyone accountable. People notice when someone else is getting away with something they’re not and de-motivated when others don’t do their share.

Have I provided sufficient training? Every salesperson comes with different experiences and skillsets. Conduct a gap analysis and clearly identify what skills need to be developed at an individual level, then provide the training needed to get them there. High-performing sales organizations are twice as likely to provide ongoing training as low-performing ones. (75 Key Sales Statistics That'll Help You Sell Smarter in 2020)

Have I “inspected what I expect”? – Once you’ve laid out expectations, it’s critical to review and make sure the actions are taking place. Provide on-going recognition and praise for the people who are doing what you expect; highlight how these actions led to wins and successes.  For those not doing what you expect – double down on the coaching and explore why it’s not happening.  It may be that more training is needed, or it may be that this person is not up for the job.

Am I adapting to changing circumstances? – Clearly, the goals we set in January 2020 may not be realistic for where we are today.  The best organizations and leaders are agile and adaptive to changing circumstances.  Salespeople are motivated by wins.  Make sure you’re adjusting your goals, expectations, and leadership approach to current times.

And finally – Have I asked for feedback?  Let’s face it, we don’t have all the answers, and we don’t always get it right.  Take time to ask your salespeople what it is that you can do to better support their success.  There may be things you’re doing that you’re not aware of that are de-motivating and having unintended consequences on their productivity.  This can be a tough thing to do. Put your ego aside, listen to what they have to say, look for trends and consistent themes, and, most importantly, act on what you heard.

As sales leaders, we have a responsibility to our business to bring the revenue in, and the only way we can do that is through an engaged,  productive, and successful sales team.  When we take the time to understand what makes our teammates tick, what motivates and demotivates them, and what they need for development, we can provide the specific coaching they need to hit that success.  Just think, we can contribute to millions of people going to bed each night knowing they have what it takes to succeed and happier in their jobs. Let’s get to it.

I stole the following from a meme or maybe a T-shirt: Introverts. We’re here, we’re uncomfortable, and we want to go home.

That about sums it up. I’m often uncomfortable around people, and even when I’m enjoying myself, I’m looking forward to being home. I like socializing, but it’s also exhausting. That’s really the crux of being an introvert. I get tired just thinking about interacting with people.

It can be hard to be an introvert at work because communication is vital in business; heck, it’s vital in life. Our work and personal relationships depend upon it. And the fact is, introverts have a lot to say, but if you aren’t asking in the right ways, it could create unnecessary problems.

There’s a big difference between managing a team of hard-charging, fast-talking extroverts and cautious, patient, meticulous introverts. If you’re managing both groups the same way, half your people are miserable. And let’s face it, it’s probably your introverts. They aren’t telling you otherwise or fighting for what they need. You’ll know someone was unhappy when they send you a resignation email. By then, it’s too late, and you didn’t even know there was an issue.

So, I’m here to speak (or rather write) on their behalf. First, we’ve established that I’m an introvert. I also manage a team of introverts, and I’m in the personality assessment business. It’s up close and personal experience at your disposal. But just so you know, you are getting your money’s worth out of this blog; I also polled some introverts and asked them what they need from their managers. And while nothing came as a complete surprise, it was helpful to get their point of view. They were also kind enough to share their rationale, which I didn’t even ask for. A bonus of working with detailed, introspective thinkers, you get a lot more than you pay for, like this blog. So here we go:

  1. After their initial training, build their confidence in their own abilities and knowledge. Rather than providing the answers when they come to you, encourage them to think through the matter and resolve it independently. This motivates with a sense of accomplishment and inspires self-sufficiency. Create an environment where reasonable mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities rather than disasters; a tall column 8 isn’t going to let themselves go overboard and misuse this leeway.
  2. Cautious introverts hate having to ask questions. They’ll do it because they want to do things right, but they’ll be worried about bothering someone or that they should already know the answer. They appreciate being independent in their fact-finding, so having places they can access answers (procedure manual, shared knowledge center) is really appealing. Still, always encourage questions and be a mentor.
  3. Check-in on them to see how things are going. Cautious introverts aren’t necessarily great at proactively bringing up problems. One-on-one conversations or private emails are where they may feel most comfortable discussing issues, but only if they feel you are genuinely interested, not just going through the managerial motions. Focus conversations on tangible ways they can resolve problems; don’t simply give platitudes. 
  4. Eliminate "brainstorming" from your vocabulary. It can feel more like blindsiding. Instead, ask them to think about a question or problem and get back to you with their thoughts at an agreed-upon time. They will have more and better ideas if they think it over. This turning it over in their mind might even happen outside of their normal work hours, for instance, when they are on their evening walk. Why? Because often they are too busy putting out fires at work to do deep thinking. Introverts do not do their best thinking in spontaneous groups or amid distractions. Plus, they won’t fight to be heard over the assertive extroverts. This is not to say that you shouldn’t invite introverts to brainstorming meetings. Send an email a few days before the meeting to allow those introverts to prepare. They’ll be more likely to speak up when they have had a chance to gather their thoughts.  
  5. Many introverts like to get and give difficult news via email first to promise a follow-up call or meeting. It gives them time to process and tame any emotions. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all situations, but when possible, it’s a great way to pave the way for a productive conversation.  On the flip side, when I ask an introvert to call me or have a meeting, I am sure to include something like: “It’s nothing bad!” Column 2 and 8 introverts go straight to catastrophic thinking.  How do I know? I have an amazing employee, and she once told me that every time I ask her to give me a call, she thinks she is getting fired. 
  6. As a leader, proactively manage your own stress. Be careful not to transfer it to others. If you are on edge or feeling overwhelmed, your introverted employees will absorb that energy the most. They already tend to take things seriously, so the tension can amplify painfully. Introverts internalize stress, even if it isn’t theirs. 
  7. Let them focus. You may want to do it all right now, but resist introducing more than one new challenge at a time. Introverts tend to prefer concentration and mastery over ASAP and "good enough." 
  8. Don’t assume cautious introverts do not want to grow or move up or that they will be fulfilled working the same support job for the next 5 years. They often want to master their work first before they feel confident taking on more or something different. The key is to find professional development goals that stretch and challenge them without overwhelming them. Sometimes they need a little push to step outside of their comfort zone and risk making the mistakes that come from learning. 
  9. Cautious, detailed introverts want to feel that what they do makes a valuable contribution.  Get good at verbalizing to your team that what they do matters. Show them how it ties into a goal or project, talk about the outcome, give status updates, and be specific.
  10. Introverts like praise, especially if they have a tall column 8. But they don’t like to be put on the spot. If they’ve worked hard on something, acknowledge their work. A group email or an email where their manager is cc’d is cool. Just don’t make them get up and take a bow. 

So, there you have it, ten ways to lead a team of supportive introverts. Here’s to making them more comfortable!

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