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Reintegrating the team effectively after lockdown

open plan office, people working an office, returning to work after lockdown

With so many people hankering to get back to working face-to-face now that lockdown is being eased, there is one group who are less enthusiastic: Introverts.

With up to 47 per cent of people in the UK identifying as introverts, they are present in every walk of life and often drawn to work in tech as it can allow them to play to their strengths.

Some of the many myths and misconceptions about introverts are that they are shy, arrogant, boring, tongue-tied and lonely with no friends or social life.  The reality is that introverts may be quiet because that’s what they need to recharge their mental batteries. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist, explained that the difference between introverts and extraverts is what drains and charges their mental batteries. Extraverts rely on interaction, active experiences and change to be energised, the very things that can drain an introvert. Their communication processes are different too in that introverts have the more considered and slower paced ‘think-say-think’ approach whilst extraverts tend to have a stream of consciousness, or ‘say-think-say’.  Unless people are aware of these differences, it can lead to people assuming that the introvert has nothing to say for themselves, no opinion, no contribution.  What’s more likely is that there hasn’t been enough thinking time or space in the conversation for an introvert to get to the ‘say’ part of their process. Consciously make the space, in a positive way, and you’ll often find that the quietest voice makes the most profound contribution.

It’s a sad fact that some really talented introverts will get overlooked for promotion because they are less likely to push themselves forward, hoping instead that their work will speak for itself. It’s part of the recognised extraversion bias as people mistakenly think they lack drive and ambition. Full integration and understanding this aspect of neurodiversity is an essential part of the diversity, inclusion & equity agenda.

The team-building misnomer

Listen to the chatter in some of the introvert groups and there is already a sense of impending doom about the ‘team-building’ that might take place once workplaces open up.  These types of activities are typically enjoyed by the extraverted team members as they usually involve the forced interaction and active experiences that recharge them.

Within the team, introverts are often considered arrogant and too serious when actually they just dislike small-talk, preferring instead fewer but meaningful conversations.  This means they don’t often engage in the social chit-chat and will tend to keep their heads down in an attempt to maintain their focus and preserve their mental batteries.

Many introverts have learned how to extravert in order to fit in with the norm but the price they pay can be too high.  It includes overwhelm and even burn-out, which seriously affects their wellbeing.  They’ll need to replenish their batteries just to get through the day and ultimately, feel deep sense of not being enough, as it’s only by pretending that they seem to be accepted.

Extraverted managers don’t always understand or even believe that people don’t enjoy the ‘fun’ stuff. The truth is that some might check to see if they have any annual leave left or even consider taking a ‘sickie’ on the day. The lack of understanding just compounds the bias and does nothing to integrate a team in a meaningful way.  Some people will be worried about their jobs and prospects following the lock-down, especially if they’ve been furloughed, so may feel backed into a corner, imagining they have no choice but to join in. If that happens, the results won’t be what you’re hoping for.

Having spent the last few months in lock-down, teams will benefit from establishing new norms of behaviour.  A useful process to remember here is Bruce Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming & Performing model of group development. Nothing will be exactly the same again and it’s been long enough for old habits and patterns to have been forgotten. The chances are though that introverts have quite enjoyed their lock-down experience and will be in no hurry to return to the workplace, especially if they have a quiet household. So true integration is likely to be a challenge.

So how to genuinely reconnect the whole team?

The following series of recommendations are going to enhance the likelihood of success.

  • Establish your desired outcome. In order to re-establish connection, are you looking for improved communication, reconfiguring workloads, establishing new working practices, rebuilding trust? Make it meaningful so that everyone can see the value.
  • Don’t try to make it ‘fun’ or even badge it as such. What people consider fun is very subjective and if you’re serious about integrating the whole team, don’t alienate half of them! Use exercises that positively explore the difference between extraversion & introversion so that understanding is enhanced, and the diversity within the team can be valued.
  • Consider exploring what each team member has found positive and challenging about their lockdown experience and use that to shape your team’s new norms. Tuckman later added mourning to the process, so letting go of the past and ‘what was’ is important for the healthy development of a team.
  • Design something that will really unite the team and improve trust, avoiding the old physical trust exercises. Patrick Lencioni names the lack of trust as being the foundation of a dysfunctional team. Creating a safe environment where everyone feels able to speak up, to admit to mistakes and to ask for help is the goal here. Take the time to establish people’s true strengths, rather than just what they’re good at, so you can enable them to play to those strengths wherever possible.
  • Be mindful of the introvert’s ‘think-say-think’ process, so give plenty of notice and allow sufficient preparation time. They don’t like things being sprung on them at short notice or being asked to make a decision without thinking time.

In Conclusion

Get underneath any assumptions and misunderstandings that may be present about introverts in your team.  There is no good & bad, just different. Engage the whole team in co-creating how integration and reforming might happen in an inclusive and meaningful way.  And, remember to listen to everyone’s views and voices for balance and equity.

Joanna RawboneAbout the author

Joanna has spent more than 24 years working with 000’s of international clients through her own training & coaching consultancy, Scintillo Ltd. During this time, and through her own earlier experiences, she has seen just how problematic the Extraversion bias in organisations is. It negatively impacts employee engagement, retention and productivity. It also impairs the physical and mental health & well-being of employees with the obvious consequences.

 Recognising that it was time for action, Joanna founded Flourishing Introverts, a platform to:

* support those who want to fulfil their potential without pretending to be something they're not.

* educate and inform organisations about the true cost of overlooking their introverts

* promote positive action and balance the extraversion bias

Joanna has a real passion for helping her clients make the small but sustainable changes that really make a difference. Being a functioning introvert, her clients value her ability to listen to more than the words, understand things from their perspective and co-create robust, pragmatic solutions.

If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.

Lockdown & the Future of Remote Working | Adventures of a Unicorn

Wild Code School_remote learning, woman learning to codeUnderstandably, we are all getting a bit neurotic about what the “new normal” will look like post Covid.

We’re all running out of ways to use the word “unprecedented”! Second only to the guesstimates on just how cataclysmic our economic forecast looks, is what Corona-virus has done to our hither to held as irreversible societal and working norms.

As someone that started a new role as Corona-virus hit the UK, I feel well placed to comment on how overnight compulsory homeworking has affected a scaling tech business.

It is probably the stuff of a particularly detailed anxiety nightmare to take on a senior role, spend 10 days with the founder for onboarding, to then be stranded eleven thousand miles and an 11-hour time difference apart. In March this year, this was exactly my personal challenge. Over the past few months, I have come to appreciate the many genuine advantages of a remote team based from home, that I intend to make permanent in my territory.

Despite much anguish and hand wringing when lock down was first announced, I reflected that plenty of businesses have successful teams that do not work in the same four walls. Whilst we have a relatively modest global head count of 20, split across 6 offices in 6 times zones, there are plenty of much larger organisations who are, to say the least, disparate.

Walmart, which has one of the largest headcounts in the world, employs 2.2 million people in 27 countries, which doesn’t seem to have done last year’s $3.8bn of profit any harm. I know many of the investment banks, who are not constrained by budget, have senior leaders that hot desk permanently. More recently, in response to Covid, tech stalwarts Google and Facebook have announced they expect their teams to work remotely for the rest of the year. As I wrote in an article for Fintech alliance, in Spring this year, frankly tech businesses should be a masterclass in managing relationships remotely.

Lockdown has been over-whelming positive from a commercial perspective. Whilst I am sensitive to the devastation that Covid has reeked for businesses and individuals worldwide, we are in the truly privileged position that Coronavirus has positively impacted our turnover. As a digital offering, the majority of the UK population being stuck at home was very helpful, as was a broad distrust of traditional financial infrastructure positively impacting the crypto markets. It has been somewhat surreal that our busiest ever months have been over the lockdown period.

Whilst at time it felt like the four horsemen of the apocalypse were enthusiastically saddling up, personally there is much about full time home working that I will seek to preserve.

Like many people, my schedule gained a whole day a week from not having to commute. Thus, I was able to fill my diary with high quality opportunities to trouble shoot small issues and think deeply about broader strategies issues — hugely useful, of course, when the world is in meltdown and constantly changing.

I will miss encountering a problem, to spend a few minutes walking around the garden with a cup of tea until the solution presents itself. A walk to a grotty third-floor bathroom just won’t achieve the same! I would suspect moving forwards, we will all be picky with our time, and only meet someone physically, if we can justify the travel time, be they 10 minutes or 10 hours away, when a zoom call will do.

In terms of corporate culture, it is now broadly accepted you can efficiently run a geographically disparate headcount. I’ve loved some of the igneous methods that have emerged for keeping morale up, including zoom-hosted team quizzes, “dress up Friday”, and internet broadcast HIIT classes. Frankly, I feel much closer to team members in different continents, now I am acquainted with their living rooms, spouses, kids, cats and lounge wear.

Moreover, it should be a time to shine as people managers, and competent management during the bad times binds people in a way that doesn’t happen when the going is good. I hope, too, that the tech obsession with London wanes — sky high rents, and zero work/life balance in offices long overdue a refurb but considered trendy, is long overdue a reconsideration in my opinion. It is not true that only London based businesses succeed, as the growth of tech hubs in Manchester and Birmingham will attest.

I have a hunch that the business environment will be friendlier and more inclusive. Pre-Covid you would be mortified to have your child or DHL delivery interrupt an important online meeting — now it seems par for the course. We are all entitled to hobbies, relationships and to live in a property/area that we like, and more flexibility in the work environment would go a long way. In my opinion, tech businesses should be trail blazing in this respect!

Adventures of a Unicorn is a business blog written by Katharine Wooller, Managing Director, UK & Eire, It documents the daily life of tech start-up in hypergrowth.

Katharine WoollerAbout the author

Katharine Wooller is managing director, UK and Eire, Dacxi – a digital crypto fintech platform specialising in bringing cryptocurrency to the ‘crowd’.

Katharine Wooller has had a long UK fintech career, as Investment Director at industry leading peer-to-peer lender, and in senior roles at a specialist investment banking SAAS supporting tier one banks, asset managers and hedge funds.  More recently she has held advisory roles for blockchain businesses and is currently MD for a retail crypto exchange. She leads the Women Who Crypto initiative.

If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here