How can introverts and extroverts bring out the best in each other?

The differences between them can cause real problems on a project. Here’s a guide to spotting issues early and what to do.

There are a number of common myths about introverts and extroverts, such as:

  • Introverts can’t speak in front of an audience
  • Extroverts are better at building relationships
  • Introverts come up with the better ideas, eventually
  • Extroverts are better leaders

The truth is, it’s probably a little unfair to label people and make assumptions about their qualities through what we know of them at work.

I’m sure we’ve all worked with people who for some reason just don’t do things the way we do.  Most of the time, this isn’t a problem, we just get on with it.  Everyone is different after all.

Many of us are a mixture of the two types, but what happens when you’re in a small project team where the characters are really at the polar opposite of the introvert / extrovert spectrum?  In some cases, this can cause a little tension and hinder the success of your project.  Consider these scenarios:


  • The introvert  may – Sit on it for a while; either hoping it goes away, or waiting for the right time to give it.
  • The extrovert may – Provide it immediately and often expect an immediate response


  • The introvert may –  Be uninvolved in discussion; need to to reflect
  • The extrovert may – Jump in with lots of ideas, and will expect the same from others; be vocal


  • The introvert may – Be happy with sending emails and meeting occasionally
  • The extrovert – Will be bored with too many written details and will want to do everything face to face


  • The introvert may – Spend time alone building the most viable plan
  • The extrovert may – Occasionally get bored and just want to get on with it

I believe we should embrace the fact that we approach challenges in different ways and behave differently.  We can learn so much from each other just by reflecting on how our colleagues operate.  Introverts often excel in areas where extroverts struggle, and vice versa.

So what about the scenarios above?  Here’s how potential tricky situations can be resolved:


Establish a way of working, or project team charter up front which encourages everyone to play by the rules.  Always ensure there’s logic and reasoning behind any feedback and that it isn’t simply based on emotion.  Give time for a response – the introvert will often want to reflect on it before responding.


Give time to prepare beforehand; set the parameters.  Structure the meeting giving everyone opportunities to participate.  Maybe include a break for further reflection allowing the introvert time to consider.


Schedule regular calls for the project team to avoid any preference towards ‘hiding behind emails’.  Extroverts should ensure that emails are read, not just skimmed to avoid missing any crucial detail, and then responded to.  Keep control of team meetings ensuring they are not dominated by the extroverts.  Ensure that introverts are given opportunities to contribute.


Ensure everyone is involved at the outset; discuss the plan collaboratively.  Than give the introvert time to develop the plan, set the deadlines.  Always replay it back to everyone for a collaborative consensus. Ensure that clear roles are defined based on personal preferences.

It is important to recognise our different natural preferences and to use them to our advantage.  It sounds straightforward, but by simply dividing the workload based on your team’s preferences will not only make your project team far more productive, but make for happy project team members too.   It’s simply a case of adapting to an environment that others live in as well.

I would love to hear of any examples you may have…

Getting people up to speed during business change

The way in which we access learning has changed fundamentally since the days of “chalk and talk” training courses.

Organisations and individuals are no longer prepared to give up a day of their time to attend a course, where only a small percentage of what they learn is what they actually need to know.

Instead, we are accessing learning in ways that fit in with our daily lives; via YouTube, Google, modular eLearning we can complete as and when convenient and bite-sized “lunch and learn” classroom sessions.

This is exemplified by the “J3” approach: “Just enough, just in time and just for me”. This is the approach that Afiniti adopts when designing our learning interventions.

Just enough

The learning is customised to provide just the content that is necessary to cover the requirement.  What constitutes “enough” will of course vary by person and role; this is covered by “just for me” below.

Just in time

Access learning when you need it.  Many traditional learning roll-outs result in those at the beginning of the business change programme receiving their learning well before they need it, resulting in the need for refresher courses etc.
By targeting learning to just what is needed, it can be shorter in duration, so rolled out quicker resulting in less delay between delivery and point of need.  Use of rapid, modular eLearning and user guides, both published online, can also allow people to refresh their knowledge themselves as and when they need to.

Just for me

Only access the learning you need – this involves a modular approach, both to classroom and online learning, allowing the flexibility to just access the learning relevant to you.  It can also involve designing courses that differ by role, e.g. managers and staff, underwriters and administration etc.  Additionally, optional modules can be positioned towards the end of the session to allow those who do not need to know certain aspects to leave the session earlier.
In fact, perhaps we should rebrand our approach as “J4”, since a final aspect is “Just in case”; sustainable resources that exist after we leave the project.  These will include online published user guides, eLearning modules, FAQs, Intranet content etc.

Where it’s worked

An example of this was a project to provide learning to support an HR self-service system for a major publishing house – we created various eLearning modules, published on a learning management system, which allowed managers to check which of their team members had completed the learning.  We also created courses to support managers in approving PDPs and expenses, which handed over to internal learning team, via a train the trainer process, so that new starters could benefit from the training once the project was completed.  There was also an online quick reference guide for people to refer to.

The end result of this project was that globally, over 99% of people across the organisation successfully completed their PDPs, correctly and on time.  The less than 1% that didn’t as it turned out, were all from the same team, and did not complete the eLearning, as their manager did not deem it necessary, which tells its own story!

All common sense stuff, yet all too often the one size fits all style of learning is still being applied.  The J3 approach allows for a more learner focussed, efficient and cost effective method of delivery.


Business Change Newsletter August

Welcome to the August edition of Afiniti’s Business Change newsletter. We discuss how to Make Change Stick: how to communicate change and how to improve performance and increase change capability.

For more conversation on business change, you can join our Change management, communications and learning group on LinkedIn here 

Afiniti is an award winning business change consultancy that delivers change with a people focus, producing sustainable changes in behaviours, mind-sets and working practices.

The new Afiniti website

With a new look and content our new site describes what we do and our experience in managing and delivering change. Please take a look around. We’re always grateful for any feedback so email with your views.

Change Readiness Assessment


Our change readiness assessment uncovers where you are now, establishes the rationale for change and what needs to be done to accelerate change and most importantly make it sustainable.

The assessment is based on our 6Lever™ model, which looks at key capabilities that underpin successful change delivery. Find out more here



Are middle managers seen unfairly during business change?

middle managers

Consultant Anthony Edwards looked at how we regard middle managers during change.

Middle managers often get a bad press but those of us working in business change know that they can be a big asset if involved and engaged the right way at the right time.



In this month’s in depth article, we look at the emotional impact of change and how communication and learning can change mindsets and behaviours.


How do you communicate your Change Story?

Anyone managing a large change programme or project knows well that it can be a complex journey moving from your current business to your future state. For example, you may want to move your employees from their current computers to tablets, or you may want to up-skill staff and equip them with new skills.

Drivers like new market offering, technology change, and restructure can create larger programmes involving changes to the way people work and even the culture of your business.

It’s easy to get your head stuck in the detail. You spend weeks, sometimes months, planning and strategising. Sometimes people forget about the delivery to the end user. Ultimately you know that the company and staff will benefit from your change project. But are they ready for it? How do they feel about it and have they been fully engaged?

Engage them early

Analysing and engaging stakeholders and your user community early is integral to ensuring you know how different people feel about:

  • Change in your organisation in general
  • The outcomes and benefits of your project
  • The journey that everyone will take part in

This knowledge will avoid some potential friction with stakeholder groups and make for more resilient project plans.


A reassuring leadership presence

Leaders have a vital role in reassuring people that the change is needed and beneficial, through conveying the vision and the future state of the business. They play a big role in what Lewin calls ‘unfreezing’  – getting people to start to consider another way of working and loosening existing emotional ties. To encourage people to move forward they have to see more of an incentive to adopting the change than sticking with what they know.


Make them feel part of your journey

It simply isn’t enough telling people about the work you do, they want to be included and feel that they can have a real impact. Letting others contribute to your project can help you share the burden of some of your work, and it can also help you share some of the responsibilities and make for a smoother journey for everyone involved.


Sharing is caring

Employees expect you to run a transparent business, and running a transparent project will help you prevent negative opinions from being formed. Ensure everybody knows about what progress you have made. If you fall behind, clearly explain why. This will limit push-back from your employees, and sometimes even help you find new solutions to some of your problems.


Be inclusive

Nobody likes to be left out. Even though different stakeholders will have a different impact on your project and not everybody will be equally influential across your company, you should aim to treat everyone equally:

  • Everybody should have access to some of your project information; even if this may differ in terms of content
  • Everybody should have the opportunity to leave (constructive) feedback and comment


Everybody needs something

Don’t forget that everybody has different needs, desires and expectations. While some of your employees might already be highly engaged with your work, others maybe disinterested. It is essential to find out who they are. Highly engaged end users will have the loudest voices and might overshadow some other crucial stakeholders. And you may have to invest some additional effort into turning disengaged staff into happy customers. Make them proud of your company.


Help them to collaborate and learn

Here we’re talking about making sense of change and having the ability to actively contribute as well as feeling comfortable working with new technology or processes. People can feel like change is happening to them rather than they are part of a journey. Equipping them with new skills is an engagement opportunity not to be missed. If you make the learning social you reduce silos and help people to collaborate and express feedback. It’s the combination of learning and communications that make change stick.


Tailor it for them

Customised learning and scenario based learning both deliver learning that makes sense of change for a learner’s unique role. This needs a learning consultant who knows your business (or can get to know it) and how its people work. People need time to make sense of the new technology or processes – time to learn and time to understand. Allowing people to develop their own solutions and work together with colleagues will mean they gain confidence and the change is embedded more sustainably.

Overall, it’s the meaningful combination of engagement, communications and learning that will really help people actively participate and adopt the change.

Thoughts on the move to Customised Learning

The move to customised learning gives us more opportunity to address individual and business need that ever before.

Some years ago, when asked what I did for a living, I’d say “Computer Trainer”, or “Training Manager”.  This was back in the days of 2-day Word V2 or Excel V4 Introduction courses, as well as 1-day courses in Windows itself, so to some degree the term was more applicable then.  You really were “training” people who had had absolutely no exposure to computers to perform basic functions.  I can still remember the gasps of awe from showing people copy and paste!

From push to pull

As computer-literacy increased, such courses became much rarer; and with greater delegate knowledge came a different emphasis.  The whole paradigm was turned on its head to a pull rather than push approach; “trainees” became “learners”, “trainers” became “learning consultants”.

Rather than the consultant standing at the front of the room at the start of a course telling people what he was going to tell them, he would be asking people what they wanted to know.  Delegates would therefore customise their learning to their particular needs.

This shift in approach has had a number of implications, for both learner and consultant.  For learners, in most cases there is an assumption that they will come to any course with an idea of what they want to get from it.  For the consultant, the implication of this is that they need to know their subject even more fully.  “Sorry, that’s not covered on this course” is no longer an acceptable response!

Benefits for the business

Courses have therefore become more relevant in content and generally shorter in duration.  This approach is beneficial for all involved; organisations get a greater return on their learning spend as delegates learn just what they need to do their jobs more effectively.  Consultants effectively never run the same course twice, since the course content is driven by the delegates, making the consultant role more challenging and interesting.

It also means that when putting together any form of learning for a client, as a learning consultant you really need to get to know not only your subject, but the client and what they expect to gain from the learning you create for them.

Essentially, you need to understand where the client is now, what their issues are, where they want to get to and most importantly, how you will measure that the change has been successful.

The main effect however is that “the course” is now more widely understood as just a small component of the learning process.  This has always has been the case, but that fact was not always recognised.  Since learning is driven by the learner, this can more readily be done outside the classroom.  The 70:20:10 model states that we learn:

  • 70% on the job
  • 20% from other people
  • 10% from courses and reading

With eLearning, webinars and of course the wealth of information available on the Internet, accessing a wide variety of resource to fulfil the 70 and 20 components of the above model is easier than ever.  But the onus is on the learner to go out and find the information they need, rather than to have it provided to them.

So customised learning is now exemplified by the “J3” approach, which Afiniti uses: “Just enough, just in time and just for me”.