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Team Building for Introverts

When it comes to team building, introverts are more likely than extroverts to be forced out of their comfort zones.  Rethink some of your team building activities and you’ll give both introverts and extroverts a chance to shine.

Structure.  Introverts generally prefer more structured activities where there is a natural topic for discussion, like a book club or a class.  Avoid impromptu group brainstorming, charades, skits or any improvisational activity.

Defined Introductions.  Round-robin introductions can be difficult for introverts.  We may not see the value in learning seemingly “irrelevant” details about our coworkers.  We may be reluctant to share personal information or uncomfortable being the focus of attention.  To make introverts more comfortable during introductions, ask participants to share work-related information and limit their responses to 30 seconds or less.

Sharing work related information doesn’t haven’t to be completely impersonal.  Ask people to share their favorite cafeteria meal, their favorite (non-desk) location on the corporate campus, or simply what they like best about their job.

Semi-Personal.  If you have a lot of team members who for cultural or style reasons don’t like to disclose a lot of personal information, use icebreakers that highlight their personal style, not their personal lives.  You might ask team members to show a photo of their first car, workspace, a favorite thing on their desk, or the most unusual job they ever had.

Time.  If you’re working with a new team, give introverts time to get comfortable and meet people naturally before jumping right into a team building activity.

Ancillary Conversations.  Head out to a ballgame or other activity where communication can be secondary, not the focal point of the activity.  This gives introverts a structured topic for conversation and allows them to interact with the team at their own pace.

Advance Notice.  If you’re working on problem solving or other activity that requires brainstorming, introverts prefer to be notified of the topic in advance.  That gives them time to think and research ideas before going public.

Varied Communication.  Depending on the extroverted and introverted nature of your team members, there may be preferences as to the technology you use for meetings.  Vary the types of meetings you conduct so that everyone has a chance to be comfortable (or uncomfortable).  For example, video conferencing might help your Boomers feel more like they’re getting face time, while a work-from-homer might prefer a teleconference and avoid feeling like they’re onstage.  Group chat, wikis or blogs work well for soliciting feedback from introverts.

Similarly, vary your modes for gathering feedback from remote team members.  Use virtual whiteboards during web conferencing to gather anonymous feedback, send the meeting agenda out a day in advance to give people time to gather their thoughts, provide a “public comment” period after a meeting to give those who didn’t get their ideas across during the call a chance to weigh in before a final decision is made.

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