Five Types of Extrovert Breaks
Research suggests that Introverts need breaks from stimulation in order to recharge their batteries. On the other hand, based on interviews with over 300 CEO and other C-Suite Executives, it appears that that extroverts need restorative breaks from quiet time in order to feel at their best — in other words, extrovert breaks. You will be a better manager if you are aware of the very real need for your more extroverted employees to take these kinds of breaks and allow them the room to take them. Based on our interviews, here are five types of extrovert breaks:
Managing by wandering around. The first is to simply seek out people in order to socially engage and have a conversation, often business related. This is also a very helpful management technique that is explored in the management best seller, In Search of Excellence. The simple idea is that many great managers manage by wandering around – interacting with the frontline employees rather than merely sitting atop an ivory tower. Authors Tom Peters and Robert Waterman argue that this approach leads to better employee morale, increased productivity, and a great sense of organizational purpose — all important benefits. From an extrovert’s viewpoint, managing by wandering around recharges their batteries while helping them to be a better leader. CEO Chahram Bolouri recalls doing this at Nortel and later as an executive at Air Canada. He recounts that this technique allowed him to keep his finger on the pulse of what was going on in the company, spot problems earlier, and deal more effectively with those problems. It also connected him more closely to his employees and allowed these employees face time with him – all while recharging him.
When meeting people, waiting in the lobby or the coffee shop. Rather than hold meetings in their office so they can keep working till the other person shows up, extroverts tend to prefer waiting in public places, particularly at work, where they will inevitably run into people they know. This gives extroverts the chance to both fill up their emotional tank and widen their business networks.
Always talking to the people beside them on planes. Yes, extroverts are those people. When I say this in seminars or talks, half the audience draws back in horror, so I assure them that if the person beside me doesn’t want to talk I will leave them alone. Many extroverts see getting on a plane as a time to fill up their social battery, and genuinely enjoy hearing about almost anyone’s work. In my experience introverts often enjoy a one-on-one conversation about what they do for a living, their city or other topics where they are very knowledgeable and feel comfortable talking off the cuff.
When eating alone, sitting at the bar rather than at a table. If they’re travelling alone, extroverts sit at the bar to eat, where they inevitably talk to the people who sit beside them. Again, extroverts tend to genuinely enjoy talking to just about anyone. Eric Girard, senior vice president of the National Bank, told how he was sitting with a colleague at lunch at bar in a pizza restaurant and had an engaging and useful conversation with the person who happened to sit down beside them. Startup president and extrovert Natasha Alani, commented, “You really never know who you are sitting next to. Even if the next seat is vacant, at the restaurant bar a person can gain an insightful sense of the staff’s experience, you can observe the team, and there is always plenty of eavesdropping to do. This inevitably results in sparking new ideas, conversations can lead to new opportunities, and passive observation of a busy environment can help me resolve something I’d been contemplating.” Not bad business outcomes from a lunch alone!
Making conversation part of their commute. Most people in North America and Europe commute to work by car or public transit. Many introverts say that they love the commute time as a restorative break between work and home. Tiffany Phelps, a senior development officer at McGill University, says that “I’m an introvert, and like the walk time as a transition between work me and mommy me.” Introverts might listen to podcasts for intellectual stimulation or just take the time to reflect on the day and connect the dots. But for extroverts, the commute home offers the opportunity for a restorative break of a different variety. Meryl Draper, president of a New York City startup, uses her subway commute as a time to share non-work conversation with her fiancée. She admits that she sometimes enjoys alone time on her commute, but most days she and her fiancée make this their smartphone-free time and connect as a couple. As two extroverts, this is natural.
Ambivert David Creighton, CEO of Montreal-based emerging market fund manager Cordiant Capital, likes walking with others, but interestingly, he says he enjoys his solo walks as much as those where we chat. This is typical ambivert behaviour; they have their introvert and extrovert sides and sit on the continuum between introverts and extroverts. David says, “If solo, I won’t plug in to a podcast (or anything) but instead use the time to consider issues. It’s a light form of meditation, where the mantra is focusing on not tripping or getting run over. In other words, your brain has a degree of focus, which suppresses the clutter while at the same time allowing for broader strategic thinking. I have some of my greatest ‘eureka’ moments while hiking or mowing the lawn.” David’s comments illustrate the great value of introvert-style breaks. Extroverts often think by talking things out with others. For an extrovert, talking while walking or riding the subway provides a similar function to David’s walking alone, helping to move their thinking along in the way that is most natural for them.
There are types of extrovert beyond these five but a great manager will understand that an extrovert will, at times, need their extrovert breaks as much as an introvert needs their introvert breaks and encourage them to take them.
Karl Moore is an Associate Professor at the Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University and an Associate Fellow, Green Templeton College, Oxford University. His new book, Introvert/Ambivert/Extrovert Leaders will be out in 2020.