Introverts and Extroverts

Someone posted an interesting question just yesterday on the LinkedIn Certified Project, Program, & Portfolio Managers group.  “Do you find it tough for introverts to manage projects?”

The preferences for extroversion and introversion are often referred to as attitudes. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment assumes that each of the cognitive functions can operate in the external world of behavior, action, people, and things (extroverted attitude) or the internal world of ideas and reflection (introverted attitude), and thus it sorts for an overall preference for one or the other.

People who prefer extroversion draw energy from action: they tend to act, then reflect, then act further. If they are inactive, their motivation tends to decline. To rebuild their energy, extroverts need breaks from time spent in reflection. Conversely, those who prefer introversion expend energy through action: they prefer to reflect, then act, then reflect again. To rebuild their energy, introverts need quiet time alone, away from activity.  Some summary observations from the research literature include:

  • Extroverts are action oriented, while introverts are thought oriented.
  • Extroverts seek breadth of knowledge and influence, while introverts seek depth of knowledge and influence.
  • Extroverts often prefer more frequent interaction, while introverts prefer more substantial interaction.
  • Extroverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone.

I think you could make a case for either preference being a good fit for project management, with different styles. My Meyers-Briggs type is INTJ, and I seem to do all right. One of my former colleagues is ESFP, and she’s thriving, too. Of course, I couldn’t manage the way she does, and my style would probably put her into therapy inside of a month, but we each get to choose our own styles, so it works.  The key is to understand your preferences, and develop a style that gets the job done, leveraging your own attitudes and preferences, while acknowledging and respecting the different attitudes and preferences of the people you work with.

For more information on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment, check out the Myers & Briggs Foundation website.

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About Dave Gordon

Dave Gordon is a project manager with over twenty five years of experience in implementing human capital management and payroll systems, including SaaS solutions like Workday and premises-based ERP solutions like PeopleSoft and ADP Enterprise. He has an MS in IT with a concentration in project management, and a BS in Business. He also holds the project management professional (PMP) designation, as well as professional designations in human resources and in benefits administration. In addition to his articles and blog posts, he curates a weekly roundup of articles on project management, and he has authored or contributed to several books on project management.

2 thoughts on “Introverts and Extroverts

  1. Dave,

    Not bad, though I’ve only found the last bullet point to be true based on my own introversion. That really seems to be the crux of the matter; where you get your energy.

    However, I think your main point is the real need for new PMs. Figure out your style and strengths and grow from there. The more we integrate the best of ourselves with doing our best, the more world changing we become.

  2. Hi Leam,

    Like most broad generalizations, introvert and extrovert are end points on a continuum. Most of us fall somewhere along the line between the two, and at any given time, our preferences might shift somewhat toward one or the other. In addition, our behavior isn’t just a function of our preferences. I have clients who would probably swear that I’m an extrovert, but my client-facing behavior is driven by my role, rather than my personal preferences.

    Thanks for stopping by – it’s always good to get comments!

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