Two Businesswomen Meeting Around Table

(This is the second blog post in a series of Management Tips pertaining to behavioral attributes and the importance of self-awareness. Read the first post here.)

The Situation: A newly appointed leader of a Learning and Development team calls a last minute meeting. At the meeting, the leader of the team introduces a brainstorming topic and expects a lively discussion to commence.

What Happens Next: Instead, her team remains quiet and does not produce the quality ideas the leader knows her team is capable of. Rather than walking away from the meeting with a number of great ideas, the leader walked away frustrated and subsequently scheduled corrective feedback conversations with her team.

In these conversations, the leader coached her team that they needed to speak up in meetings and stressed the importance of providing a response when requested. As a result of receiving this feedback, her team now shouts out any number of ideas, no matter how irrelevant and ridiculous they may seem, just to appease their leader. This team is clearly not reaching their maximum potential given the current situation.

Management Tip – How Can this Manager Improve Results? Let’s look at this scenario from an Emergenetics perspective. The leader of the team is most likely in the third-third of Expressiveness – gregarious and outgoing. She is comfortable processing ideas and thoughts externally and expects her team to do the same.

Chances are many members of her team lie in the first-third of Expressiveness – more quiet. Brainstorming on the spot is not a natural preference. The leader did not give these team members enough time to process their thoughts internally, therefore squashing their natural brilliance.

Management Insight: While Expressiveness is about the outward display of emotions, it is also about how one processes information.

  • People in the first-third of Expressiveness often process their thoughts internally. They choose their words carefully and what comes out of their mouth is exactly what they mean to say.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, people in the third-third of Expressiveness often process externally. They say the first thing that pops into their head and those in the conversation are along for the ride until the speaker ends up at their conclusion.

Both sides of the Expressiveness spectrum are equally valuable, but what can be done in this situation to ensure every member of the team feels honored and the best ideas come to the table? Here are some ideas on how to capture the strengths from both ends of the Expressiveness spectrum:

Tips for Managing Internal Processors:

  • Schedule meetings in advance and provide an agenda of topics to be discussed. This allows for internal processors to think through their ideas prior to the meeting and results in more productive discussion during the meeting itself.
  • When introducing a new topic, allow for a few minutes to brainstorm or people to think through how to approach it before starting a discussion.
  • Provide time to think internally before giving a response. If someone doesn’t immediately speak, don’t assume they don’t understand the question or that they’re not engaged. Rapidly firing additional questions or trying to explain the topic in a different way will not yield better results.

Tips for Managing External Processors:

  • Impromptu brainstorming meetings are OK and may actually give this person energy, depending on their thinking attributes.
  • Provide flexibility for them to posit several different opinions and thoughts as they’re thinking about the situation at hand. It may be helpful to confirm their final opinion at the end of the conversation to ensure clarity of the final outcome.
  • Look for clues that they want to speak, as their energy may express itself in another way; look for foot tapping, pen clicking and other cues that they may have something to share.

No matter what your team looks like, managing a team is about managing cognitive diversity. Harness the wisdom of the group through a team brainstorm exercise.

  • Post paper on the walls or on desks around the room. Ask individuals to take a few moments to walk around the room and contribute ideas to each page. Afterwards, lead the group in a discussion through the gallery walk.

All in all, being aware of a person’s level of Expressiveness can help you understand how to approach them and produce the most effective results and idea sharing, both in a one-to-one and group setting. Even if you do not definitively know the preferences of each member of your group, try out some of the techniques above at your next meeting. The results may surprise you!

Read more about the importance of understanding your behavior preferences here.
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