In search of ambiverts
Finding, engaging, recognizing and rewarding employees who make a difference.
Would you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert? This question often arises in HR settings. But have you ever heard the term "ambivert"?
It's a term coined in the forties by psychologist Hans Eysenck whose research focused on inherent personality characteristics and social temperament. Recently, it's been popularized by interesting work from organizational psychologist Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg. An ambivert is neither an extrovert nor an introvert, but rather they exhibit both characteristics depending on the circumstances. Grant suggests that ambiverts are valuable in workplace settings because they have the social skills and organizational intuition to know which characteristic will work better under specific conditions.
Buzz Feed has published an introvert/extrovert quiz, reflecting that actually most people are somewhere in the middle—and this is right where the ambiverts live. It is likely that the majority of your employees settle here as well. This could be good news if you are able to recognize your ambivert employees and find ways to engage and reward their performance accordingly.
Ambiverts are social chameleons that are both flexible and balanced. Grant suggests that ambiverts are especially skilled in sales, moving a little over 50% more product than the average sales person. Excellent adaptability leads to sales effectiveness. So, how do we leverage this information in the workplace to foster growth and optimize outcomes? We need to find ways to identify ambiverts, engage them and reward them. We want to keep this class of keepers! When we can adjust incentives, recognition and rewards to better fit their work style, we can help maximize their contributions and elevate retention.
Ambiverts adapt, adjust and evolve to achieve results.
Adam Grant told the Wall Street Journal*, "Ambiverts are like Goldilocks—they offer neither too much or too little". This flexibility helps them juggle different tasks. They're reactionary, but aren't impulsive. They can easily command a room, but they also make a point to take time and reflect. Encourage this flexible ambivert behavior whenever you find introvertedness or extrovertedness is taking over. Offer new, differentiated tasks to help them maintain their natural ability to balance.
Ambiverts have the social skills to work through challenges.
Ambiverts thrive in large groups as well as solo activities, so they can collaboratively work in a variety of environments. Comfort is key, especially when there is conflict, criticism or strain. In these situations, ambiverts are able to keep a cool head without the over-confidence of extreme extroverts and can thus resolve situations rationally. Even more, they can better empathize with coworkers because they understand both sides of the intro-extro spectrum. Mixing up assignments to involve cooperative teams, one-on-ones and even off-site gatherings will help them exercise their skills in diverse social settings and gain valuable experience. Ambiverts like challenges. They'll be motivated to diligently solve problems no matter the "social" circumstances.
Ambiverts can flip-flop easily and get lost.
Ambiverts don't always know what they want. This is why it's important to recognize, incentivize and reward them when they're exhibiting more of one side of the spectrum in the same way—and let them work through their middle position on their own. Look for the times where one side is helping them solve a problem or is moving the ball forward and note their social interactions. Rewarding your ambivert employees based on which side of the spectrum they're on will help them feel good about the route they chose.
To reward extrovert behavior in an extrovert way, acknowledge accomplishments in the presence of coworkers or leadership. Social recognition reinforces extrovert behaviors. Conversely, when ambiverts are showing more of their introvert side, like pounding out an essential report by grinding in their office all day, offer more personal, quiet rewards like a personal note or small gift. Pay attention, be responsive and you'll experience the benefits.
Ambiverts grow up to be great leaders.
Organizations must continuously work to cultivate emerging leaders within the ranks. Look for your skillful ambiverts. They are a group with highly attuned social skills, confidence, empathy, strong work ethic and adaptability. Ambiverts are instinctive. They process information accurately and carefully measure their behavior based on circumstances vs. personal needs.
Ambivert employees are often great communicators because they both listen and talk. When they listen, they internalize and reflect as you'd expect from an introvert, but they are able to speak up and give direction like a true extrovert. The more you're able to optimize ambivert performance with context-sensitive rewards and recognition, the more you'll boost workplace collaboration and productivity. Your company will reap the benefits of having many ambivert leaders who are anything but "middle of the road".
*Adam Grant, Wall Street Journal.