In part I of our discussion of Extraversion and Introversion I discussed the misunderstandings that can occur between the two. Today, I’ll unpack that further.
Meeting Phases – Balancing Extraversion and Introversion
All meetings in one form or another are made up of three stages:
- Brainstorming Divergent Phase – Gathering of information, ideas, beliefs and assumptions. Wide open throw out any idea or concept, get it on the chart and we’ll see what sticks.
- Prioritizing Convergent Phase – Here we begin to look for patterns, narrow down the focus, combine items, and see if there are some themes that will focus our further work.
- Deciding Phase – Bring it to a conclusion. There’s a lot to understand about decision types and processes. When we get to this phase we’ll talk about balancing each of the four functions, not just the Energizing function.
Meetings may be constructed of all three phases in sequence or any given meeting may be dedicated to any one or two phases with the entire process playing out over several meetings. The point is to be very clear about which phase you’re in and balancing functions in each phase.
The next time you start a brainstorming session (information gather divergent phase), notice the dynamics at work. If you start with a true blank slate (you’ve pulled up the flip chart and are standing there with pen in hand) you’ll notice that the first people to contribute ideas tend to be the Introverted crowd. Isn’t that interesting? If you’ve done your duty and put out an agenda with the topic to be discussed, the Introverts come to the meeting with some pre-thought ideas.
Ask an Introverted thinker when they like to receive an agenda.
- The first answer is “well in advance.”
- The second answer is “at least a day.”
Ask an Extraverted thinking when they look at an agenda.
- The answer given most often is “On the way into the meeting.”
Extraverts just want to know what we’re going to talk about. Introverted thinkers want to think about what they’ll say.
Ebbs and Flows
As the brainstorming session gets underway the first few contributions to the list come from the Introverted thinkers but pretty soon enough ideas are getting recorded that trigger the Extraverted thinkers and now they begin to throw ideas out with such a pace that the Introverts have now gone quiet.
But two things must happen to keep things balanced:
- The Extraverts will eventually run out of ideas and now is the time to ask (and wait for) more ideas. It’s usually the Introverts that now have a chance to contribute further to the list.
- The Extraverts will begin to see patterns in the list and will want to and actually begin to move on to the prioritizing stage of the process.
You must stop this from happening and keep the focus on the generation of ideas for the brainstorming list.
Key to the Balancing Process
Now, here’s the key to the whole process, once all ideas have been gathered, ask the team to stop talking, pick up a pen and write down the three best ideas that they believe just came out of the brainstorming phase of the process.
If you could hear inside their heads you would hear the Introverted thinkers saying something like: “Finally, I’ve got a minute to think through this because I believe there were some brilliant ideas tossed out there. Let’s see, number one is obvious, number two is also very clear, there is actually a three and a four that can’t be missed but I think we can make that one a 2a.”
The Introverts just got more engaged in the process.
Meanwhile, notice the Extraverted thinkers writing down their three best ideas “quietly”. The conversation in their head would probably sound something like this:
“Let’s see, three best ideas? Well, the number one is quite obvious. Number two? Number two? Number two….. Where’s the coffee?” Pretty soon, the Extraverts are over at the coffee pot together.
Why? So they can talk. “Hey, what was your number two? Oh, yea, what a great idea. In fact if we combine that with item D, I think it could be an even better number two.”
The extraverts need to talk to keep their energy up to be able to answer the question, “What were the three best ideas to come out of the brainstorming?”
Ease into the Prioritizing Phase
Now, as you ease back into the meeting
- get the Introverts head out of their lists and
- get the Extraverts back from the coffee pot
you begin to ease back into an extraverted environment.
Go around the room and ask each person what their number one idea was. People are starting to talk again but it’s very structured and very controlled which allows the Introverts to further reflect and think about their list.
And the Extraverts are starting to hear other people’s ideas and you may even see them taking notes for when it gets to be their turn. And now, you’re off to the races. The Extraverts have gotten active again and the conversation is nonstop. Good. Both functions have had an opportunity to energize and get their thoughts on the board.
Now, just be careful to create the same “balancing act” between this prioritization portion of the meeting and the deciding portion of the meeting. The Extraverts will begin to talk about making a decision before the Introverts have had an opportunity to sort out the discussion on prioritization. Make sure there is another moment when you stop the conversation, let people gather their thoughts and get them recorded and contemplated before you move on to the decision making Phase.
Share with us some of your experiences from both side of this equation. What do you wish the other preference type would understand about how you get energized?