An Introvert’s Guide to Groups (part 3 of 7)

By Tom Davidson

Here’s my third installment on An Introvert’s Guide to Groups, this one about managing the team’s process

After my first camping trip as a patrol leader in my Boy Scout Troop, I was complaining to my Dad about how hard it was to get people moving in the same direction. He sat me down to give me my first management advice ever: “Son, leading people is like shoveling smoke. Just when you think things are going in one direction, they leak out and go another, but it’s your job to provide direction anyway.” 

His insight has been valid in every management job I’ve had in 40 years since that day. Working with groups is one of the most difficult challenges leaders face, and it can be even more difficult for introverts who tend to stay to themselves, think things through, and have a hard time interrupting others, particularly extraverts!  

Here’s my third installment on An Introvert’s Guide to Groups, this one about managing the team’s process. 

Principle #3 – An Introvert’s Guide to Groups 

Establish a process (or flow) for the event and follow it with reasonable flexibility. There are hundreds of ways to be successful in a team process but there’s one sure way to fail, which is to not have an agreed upon process. 

In any group, there are three things that need attention at any one time. They are content, people and process. While most team members focus on the content, it’s your job as the leader to attend to the people and the process. If you don’t do it, probably no one else will. 

Therefore, here are three things you can do to get the process on track and keep it there: 

1. Remind people of the objective. In Scouting (and orienteering terms) the objective is the destination, but in work teams, the objective is usually a decision or recommendation to others. Without clarity about the objectives, team members will all head out in different directions and wonder where everyone else is going! Don’t assume everyone is on the same page about the objective. Unless you make sure, I promise they won’t be. It’s the nature of people and teams, so it’s your job to clarify or, if necessary, change the objective.

2. Lay out a road map. Imagine starting any journey without at least some idea of how you’re going to get where you want to go! You’d waste time, get frustrated, and probably get lost! Yet work teams do this all the time. In terms of teams, a road map is the path you intend to follow. While you might run into roadblocks and have to make detours on your way to the objective, you will have even more difficulty (and waste time and talent) if you don’t at least start out with a process or methodology for how you will proceed. So as an introvert, speak up early, even if it’s to ask, “How are we going to proceed?What you need is an agenda, a process map, or a flow chart of some kind, anything that indicates the path you will follow. It’s even better if you can get general agreement or consensus on the methodology, because then more people will help you get there. 

3. Stay on course. As with any journey, unexpected things come up. The original path is blocked, or you might run into some terrain or other conditions that get in your way. Don’t be discouraged. This is the nature of travel, teams and teamwork. First, recognized that barriers and detours are normal. Second, surmount the problem by dealing with it then, putting it off to another meeting, or revisiting the path forward. Third, keep pointing to the destination (or objective) so that people do not become disoriented or discouraged.

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