Danica Murphy: Leading hybrid teams needs a personal touch
IMI Associate Danica Murphy says managers must be attuned to team personalities to prosper.
The need to effectively lead teams in a hybrid context is not exclusively a result of the pandemic. While the pandemic accelerated the trend towards more independent, flexible and remote working, the direction of travel has been moving this way for some time.
In his book, The Future Leaders, Jacob Morgan synthesised 140 CEO interviews and nearly 14,000 employee surveys, conducted before the pandemic, to identify the characteristics of the leaders of the future. These must-have elements include empathy, self-awareness, humanity and energy (1). For leaders managing in a hybrid workplace, these traits are the keys to unlocking optimal retention, engagement and potential in their distributed teams.
In order to apply these characteristics effectively, managers must understand the impact that the hybrid workplace has on their team members as individuals. In doing so, leaders can help workers to stay focused and energised regardless of their in-or-out-of-office setting.
Although there are many ways in which leaders can model self-awareness and empathy, understanding how the introversion-extroversion personality traits come into play in the workplace has interesting implications for how best to lead teams and support individual employees.
It is important to step away from the overly simplistic (and incorrect) definitions of extroverts as “chatty” and introverts as “quiet.” Many people relate these terms to the ways in which individuals interact and communicate with others, when in fact both terms refer to what is going inside of us, specifically how we energise and manage our energy reserves. (2)
Extroverts draw energy from and focus their own energy on the outside world of people, things and activity, whereas introverts draw their energy from and focus their energy on the inside world of their own thoughts and reflections. These traits generally work on a spectrum, with most people experiencing elements of both and very few people living exclusively in one of these two camps. (3)
The impact of post-pandemic fatigue and burnout on employees’ energy levels means it is critical for managers to understand how to best support their team members as individuals to refuel and keep the tank full throughout the day and week. So, where should leaders start?
It is important to understand your own personality style in order to know how best you can support yourself and collaborate with others. (4) Knowing what motivates and energises you, what your strengths are, and how you can re-energise throughout the day equips you to focus on these same needs in those around you. If you are exhausted, you simply will not have the focus or capacity to listen, be present and support your team members.
The next step is to roll the DICE…
Discover: The most important thing managers can do to ensure the needs of extroverts and introverts are being met is to talk to those individuals. You can use assessments such as the MBTI, but even just talking through preferences and needs can reveal what aspects of in-office or at-home settings energise and drain your team members.
Encourage and facilitate open and honest conversations with colleagues about their preferences, energy levels and recharge strategies. (5) Make sure that employees feel comfortable having these discussions and at no point do they feel as though these conversations are intended to put them on the spot. You are simply discovering how to best support them to stay energised.
Include: Ensure everyone’s voice is heard – either online or in person. Introverts may be slower to contribute to discussions and disinclined to do so if they feel they will be spoken over. It is the role of the manager to ensure that everyone is given equal opportunity to contribute to discussions by encouraging the use of chat functions, asking questions and encouraging follow-up and feedback after meetings. (6)
Connect: Encourage social connections, particularly for roles which require less collaboration and interaction. Promoting the use of breakout rooms or other virtual chatroom functions and, where safe and appropriate, in person-meetings or catch-ups helps to re-energise extroverts and re-establish morale and trust between individuals. (7) This may be more draining than energising for introverts, so it is important to make sure individuals feel equally comfortable declining to participate in these social sessions.
Embrace: It is critical to call out the value that having both extroverts and introverts working together delivers for team performance. Managers can create a model to value the strengths of each, allowing employees to understand how these personality traits can complement one another in dealing with the increasingly complex challenges faced in the modern workplace through creativity, innovation and collaboration. (8)
Ensuring complementarity and diversity results in better organisational and individual outcomes (9) and as such putting these supportive practices in place is integral to prevent burnout, promote wellbeing and foster productivity in this fast-paced, uncertain and evolving context.
Danica Murphy is an Associate faculty member at the Irish Management Institute and a psychologist, qualified accountant, chartered director and founder of PRISM. She is an internationally recognised expert in the areas of executive coaching, team alignment, change management, training and facilitation. She leads and supports programmes in the IMI aimed at high performance leadership development across industries and business sectors.
This article was first published in the Irish Examiner on January 20th, 2022.
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(1) Morgan, J. (2020). The future leader: 9 skills and mindsets to succeed in the next decade;
(2) Lawrence, G. & Martin, C. (2001). Building People, Building Programs ;
(3) Petric, D. (2019). Introvert, Extrovert and Ambivert. DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.28059.41764;
(4) Kempf-Taylor, M. (2020). Personality Styles: Why They Matter in the Workplace. Economic Alternatives, 1. 148-163. DOI: https://doi.org/10.37075/EA.2020.1.08;
(5) Knight, R. (2015, November 16). How to Be Good at Managing Both Introverts and Extroverts. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2015/11/how-to-be-good-at-managing-both-introverts-and-extroverts;
(6) Knight, R. (2015, November 16). How to Be Good at Managing Both Introverts and Extroverts. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2015/11/how-to-be-good-at-managing-both-introverts-and-extroverts;
(7) Dhawan, E. (2021, August 19). Managing Introverts and Extroverts in the Hybrid Workplace. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2021/08/managing-introverts-and-extroverts-in-the-hybrid-workplace;
(8) Kempf-Taylor, M. (2020). Personality Styles: Why They Matter in the Workplace. Economic Alternatives, 1. 148-163. DOI: https://doi.org/10.37075/EA.2020.1.08;
(9) Blevins, D. P., Stackhouse, M. R.D. & Dionne, S. D. (2021). Righting the balance: Understanding introverts (and extraverts) in the workplace. International Journal of Management Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijmr.12268