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Several years ago, in my “Managing Yourself and Leading Others” executive program, one of the participants, Sharon, shared a story about managing someone with a style different from hers. 

Sharon’s organization had an open office format with long tables, arrayed in rows, where people worked side by side (and back-to-back). Sharon’s right-hand person, the one she relied on most for helping her evaluate ideas, was in the row and seat right behind Sharon. When Sharon had an idea, she turned around to tell this employee and get their insights. This employee would often give Sharon their initial thoughts on the idea and then, several minutes later, come back to Sharon with further, more refined thoughts and insights. 

After a while, Sharon, who is an extrovert, realized her thinking partner was an introvert and, knowing that introverts like to think about an idea before discussing it, changed her approach. From that point forward, when Sharon had something to discuss, she would send them a text, mentioning the idea and asking if they could talk about it a few moments later. This gave her introverted employee more time to think through the idea, including pros and cons, and their discussions became both richer, more nuanced and more effective.  

As Sharon finished her story, another person raised their hand to comment: “Why did you do that? You’re the boss and they work for you—they should adapt to your style.”

And that’s when Sharon said the most important part of her story: “No, my job as a leader is to get the best out of people. In this case, it was a small adjustment on my part that had a big impact on this employee, their effectiveness and our results.” 

It was a great reminder for all of us in the room. 

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