Secrets to a Successful Introvert-Extrovert Team

If you had to guess, which of the women in the photograph to the left is an introvert and which is an extrovert*? Can you tell?

If you subscribed to the myth of introverts being antisocial, neither looks the role. However, if you were better informed and knew that the main difference between introverts and extroverts is where they draw their energy—introverts from their solo time and extroverts from their social time—you’d look further.

In fact, each of these women views the world from a different perch—and in some ways from a different planet. But does that have to mean interplanetary warfare?

Meet Adelaide Lancaster and Amy Abrams, co-founders of In Good Company Workplaces, a community workspace I belong to in New York City for women entrepreneurs. I invited them here to share their secrets for their successful introvert-extrovert partnership.While, of course, other aspects of their personalities come into play, we’ll focus mainly on the introvert-extrovert piece.

NA: What aspects of working in an introvert-extrovert partnership do you enjoy most?

AL: I love that Amy excels in areas that I don’t enjoy and I generally feel apprehensive or anxious about. It can make things a lot easier when your partner gets jazzed up about things that make you cringe. It is really astounding to try something and perform well and then have your partner try it and really shine. And vice versa: some tasks or parts of the process really overwhelm Amy, and they fit right within my natural inclinations.

AA: I love anything and everything that has to do with interacting with people. I really enjoy the sales and marketing aspects of the business. I find people endlessly fascinating and speaking with people all the time helps utilize skills that come naturally to me and that I enjoy immensely—connecting people, facilitating growth, encouraging people. I enjoy speaking to the press because I love storytelling and spontaneity. [Reader: Guess who’s the extrovert?]

NA: What are the biggest challenges?

AL: People typecast us a lot. I would imagine it is a similar challenge as that experienced by siblings and twins. I become known as the detail/data one and Amy as the social/friendly one.

AA: If I have lots of work to do that does not involve interaction with people, I quickly become bored, tired, and distracted. I have to work hard to break up tasks like writing and make sure I am around people when doing those tasks.

AL: Every once in a while we check in with each other and say things like, “I know I’m not a social butterfly, but I can still carry on a conversation, right?” Or, “I know I’m not the most structured person, but I can still meet a deadline, right?” I think it is also challenging because we celebrate and express things differently. After working together for over five years, strong communication really helps.

NA: How do you divide up the tasks of running a business to play to your respective strengths?

AL: Amy does our sales and most PR interviews. I do our books, billing, operations, and membership management. When we have a big project or new initiative to work on, we strategize and brainstorm together and then generally I put the project plan, structure, and deadlines in place. Amy usually needs to carve out time to be creative and unstructured, so we have systems in place to capture those notes and thoughts and integrate them into the next strategy call. We typically make decisions together, though I’m usually happy to slog through the research to develop choices.

Also when we talk or present together, we always have Amy start because she brings such great energy and warmth to the program, talk, or event. She will usually start out quite enthusiastically, whereas I start with the facts.

AA: We are both capable of doing each other’s aspects and have had to do so in the past—which is a great reminder of how much we appreciate the work the other person contributes. But we try to tackle projects with clear roles in mind based on our preferences.

NA: Share an example of how else you operate differently.

AL: After much work and lots of pins-and-needles waiting, we learned that we secured a book deal. We were both elated. I sat down right away and mapped out this gigantic project plan that probably had about 10 Excel tabs. The e-mails were firing and the lists were being formed. Meanwhile, Amy—in her head—had already thought of about 30 people to thank in our acknowledgements, which won’t be written for at least 12 months, called and talked to every member of her family and her husband’s family, and probably numerous friends. She then called me to tell me everyone’s reactions, which were hilarious. I hadn’t even told my husband yet.

NA: What have you learned about working together as an introvert-extrovert business team?

AL: Our business is 1,000 times better because of both of our contributions.

AA: It is incredibly important to recognize our different natural preferences and to use them to our advantage. We have worked hard to divide the work load based on our preferences. It makes it easier to hand off tasks to one another, understanding that the other person will do them better and enjoy them too!

NA: Anything else?

AL: The funniest extroverted thing about Amy is that she gets lonely walking to the subway and is on the phone the second she walks out the door until she goes down the subway steps. Since we have a shared phone plan, we can easily compare minutes at the end of the month. The ratio is usually about 1 to 4. Sometimes I tease her and compute the minutes to days and send her an e-mail to let her know how many days she spent on the phone.

AA: Over the years, we have focused on communication to make sure that we understand one another and are always sensitive to the fact that we experience the world differently based on how we are wired. We feel this is an advantage and always work to see the benefit of our differences.

[Reader: Did you guess which woman pictured is Lancaster the introvert? In fact, I don’t think the photo offered any good clues. Had the image been a video at a crowded conference, it might have been easier to guess by seeing the two women in action—probably Lancaster deep in conversation with one person while Abrams is working the room like she’s running for mayor. In case you haven’t already clicked around on In Good Company Workplaces‘s Web site, Lancaster is pictured on the left next to Abrams. In an upcoming post I’ll share some tips to help introverts and extroverts work well together.]

*Also spelled “extravert” by Carl Jung and the communities of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and other personality assessments such as the Five Factor Model.

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