After a talk I gave at a conference, a manager approached me to ask, “How do you do teambuilding with introverts?” Since, in the eyes of many people, “team building for introverts” is an oxymoron, I was curious as to what she had in mind, and suggested we meet later to discuss this issue. (Note: I prefer developing communication strategies for mixed teams – those whose communication styles baffle one another.)

It turns out that it was her senior management that was demanding some action.

She described her team of nine Subject Matter Experts, all of whom were not only highly competent but who loved their jobs. Furthermore, they collaborated beautifully with one another. They all knew and appreciated the strengths of each team member, and were able to interleave seamlessly and easily on projects, handing off tasks to the most appropriate person, and bringing each project in on time. They had never been late in finishing a project – not even once.

Furthermore, they enjoyed what they did so much that they didn’t want to be interrupted, say for social events, which they resented. To disrupt this harmony and job dedication by making such disruption mandatory would have, in all likelihood, resulted in a loss of one or more key personnel.

Our conversation went swiftly from teambuilding exercises to questions she could put to her managers to fathom exactly what they wanted, and why. More importantly, the questions might lead these senior managers to understand why what they were requesting was so bad.

Here are some important questions to ask:

  • “What do you picture is a ‘team’?”
  • “How does a team operate most effectively?”
  • “What are you seeing that makes you feel this team needs help to be more effective?”
  • “What are some of the measurements you would like to see that demonstrate that a team is being effective?
  • “What are some measures of an ineffective team?”
  • “What would you consider to be effective proof that a team had moved further in the direction of greater efficiency and productivity?

And here are some questions to ask yourself: How much money gets wasted in the business world on expensive training events that revolve around forcing people to be outgoing and sociable? How many quietly brilliant people who are very dedicated and excellent at their jobs are plunged into situations that drain their mental energy and sap their creativity? And with full employment, how many are choosing to seek employment elsewhere, with your competitor, rather than participate?

Lynette Crane and her team at Quiet Brilliance Consulting LLC help smart organizations maximize the value of their Subject Matter Experts by learning how to manage them most effectively.