Over the last couple of years, for better or worse, a lot of us have been given the opportunity to tap into our introverted sides. And whether that was your M.O. before the start of the pandemic, or you’re finally embracing the quiet life, managing an engineering team as an introvert can have its own set of challenges to tackle.
As an introverted engineering manager, you can thrive in the role by playing to your strengths, while also embracing smart strategies to handle the parts of management that have a tendency to drain your energy.
Levering your strengths as an introvert
Among the many superpowers of introverts are the tendencies for empathy, thoughtfulness, and calmness. The ability to sit and listen to what others, including your team, have to say is more powerful than you think. When you’re writing code, often it takes some time to sit with a problem before you can really understand it; the same goes for people. Carefully considering decisions and thinking through challenges, both interpersonal and intrapersonal, can build trust that your decisions are coming from a good place. And when your cooler head inevitably prevails in heated situations, the stability of your leadership increases in strength.
Manage extroverted tasks strategically
It’s inevitable that, as an engineering manager, you will have to engage in things that absolutely sap your energy. Being strategic with the things you tackle, as well as delegating appropriately, can mitigate that drain and reserve your energy for when you really need it.
Delegate when and where you can. Rather than tackling mentoring yourself, pair up senior engineers with their more junior counterparts. If someone on your team is the lead on a specific project, have them run point on it for the associated meetings. When you do have to lead meetings or give presentations, give yourself ample time to prepare, creating a script or talking points to keep yourself on track.
Even with meetings delegated and prepared for, it’s important to build time in to recharge. Blocking off periods to work alone, without distractions, can help you re-energize for your more extroverted tasks.
Cultivate relationships authentically
Building and maintaining good relationships with the team you’re managing is an important piece of the managerial puzzle, but is also one of the more challenging things to face when you’re an introvert. Even for the most extroverted among us, a work happy hour can feel daunting. Connecting on a 1:1 basis is always going to feel less taxing, and helps to build good rapport with individual team members. Expressing genuine interest in those conversations, the details they share, and noting the way they communicate goes a long way in strengthening those relationships. It may not feel natural to share too much about yourself, but opening up about work and some of your related personal experiences is another great way to build trust.
Leveraging your strengths, being strategic about how you spend your working hours, and cultivating good relationships with your team are just a few of the ways you can help build your suite of management tools. Your strengths position you well for technical leadership roles, and when you have the freedom and insight to manage your energy and tendencies effectively, you’ll thrive in that role.