Project Management | Merit Career Development Blog

Use the Iron Triangle to Frame Your Pitch to Upper Management

Framing information and using the Iron Triangle - time, cost and scope - can be instrumental in gaining support from senior executives for your projects.Framing information and using the Iron Triangle – time, cost and scope – can be instrumental in gaining support from senior executives for your projects.

In their 2002 book, “Selling Project Management to Senior Executives: Framing The Moves That Matter,” authors Janice Thomas, Ph.D., Connie Delisle, Ph.D., and Kam Jugdev, Ph.D., highlight the challenges that project managers face when trying to sell a plan to senior management. The primary issue lies in communicating the benefits of the assignment and approaching the situation with the right frame.

“Framing” is the perspective we bring to decision-making based on past experiences. In her renowned book on the subject, “The Power of Framing: Creating the Language of Leadership,” Gail Fairhurst, Ph.D., says that when we are communicating through frames, we are shaping the reality of a situation.

But framing can have a negative effect when it’s not used with careful thought, so it’s important to choose the proper frame when promoting a project to upper management. By presenting the vital information in a concrete and practical way, project managers can use the Iron Triangle of time, cost and scope to prove to executives how the company will improve its bottom line.

Breaking Through Their Barriers


From CEOs to CFOs, top-level executives are concerned with maintaining profitability. Therefore, they are often wary of using valuable resources like time and workflow in projects that have a potential for failure. When it comes to pitching assignments to them, executives need to understand the positive outcomes that project management will provide the business.

In their book, Thomas, Delisle and Jugdev explain that project management is becoming increasingly important to organizations that are looking to grow within their sectors. Project managers have to present the main components of the project in the right context while managing the realistic expectations of their executives.

The steps of persuasion


When framing a project management pitch for senior leadership, persuasion is an effective tool. In “The Necessary Art of Persuasion,” author Jay Conger, D.B.A., senior research scientist at the University of Southern California’s Center for Effective Organizations, underscored the efficacy of persuasion and discussed four distinct steps that project managers should use for framing discussions with upper management:

  1. Establish credibility
  2. Identify common ground and use it to frame goals
  3. Reinforce position with language and evidence
  4. Connect emotionally.
Successful project leaders position the assignment as a solution to corporate problems. They use executive-level language and concepts that resonate with upper management and present their information using the Iron Triangle focusing on time, cost and scope of the project. Senior executives want business results that can be achieved at lower expense to the company, and by presenting evidence in the right light, managers can ensure that their leaders support their efforts.

Minimizing Communication Breakdowns in Project Management

Business Team Coaching Prevent communication breakdowns from derailing or delaying project management efforts. To do this, focus on the three specific areas that are responsible for the majority of miscommunications in project management.

Successful project management cannot be achieved when team members do not understand or retain material being presented. Project managers face their greatest challenges when dealing with poorly defined requirements and communication. When critical information gets misconstrued during the course of an assignment, significant errors can occur. If found too late, these can result in diminishing productivity, wasting resources and very expensive mistakes that are difficult to correct.

To ensure that project management requirements are met in the initiation and development phases, effective communication techniques are needed.

Managers may face three distinct types of problems during the course of a project: offsets in experience, English as a second language environments and varying employee backgrounds.

1. Experience Offset


Communication difficulties can arise when the project’s participants have varying levels and types of experience relevant to the business world. Entry-level employees may experience challenges when working alongside senior leadership executives and high-ranking associates. And vice versa.

“Communication is more than just the transmission of messages, words and ideas; it embodies the creation of meaning between individuals,” says John Juzbasich, CEO of Merit Career Development. “To do that we rely upon our experience to create and construct meaning from the words we hear.”

Often, new employees and veterans engage in conversations that appear beneficial and productive initially, but they may walk away with different understandings of what transpired.

What to do. Leaders should assess - and address - this risk upfront during the planning stage of the project. Finding ways to cross-train team members ensures that information is being delivered adequately and concisely throughout the assignment.

2. ESL environments


Every project management team can encounter English-skill level discrepancies, especially within companies working in a global environment. When employees are unable to understand one another at a basic level, communication becomes futile.

What to do. Rather than attempt to navigate vocal challenges, leaders should utilize chat technologies that allow for translations. This can facilitate ESL environments and prevent any breakdowns in communications that might interfere with the success of the project.

3. Varying backgrounds


Some of the biggest communication problems arise when team members are trained in different areas of the business. This happens frequently when cross-functional teams are tasked with company-wide initiatives and represent IT, HR, Finance and Customer Relations, for example. Employees within these different niches may struggle to communicate, since they may have language or jargon that is unique to their work.

Project managers have to be sure that nothing gets lost in translation between disparate functions. They must seek to understand the meaning of the communications presented by each team member and develop effective language skills that will be understood and relevant to all.

What to do. Kick-off the team initiatives on the right foot by providing insight into the objectives, backgrounds and contributions made by each area represented. Visuals may help clarify this important step in the communication process.

Other Important Tips to Assure Better Communications


Through techniques such as open-ended and clarifying questions, restatement, reflecting and paraphrasing the project manager’s instructions, team members can develop a clear understanding of the message and project requirements.

The end-users should be the focal point of the message, not the sender. The manager should be looking at the big picture in addition to the minute details. Too many project leaders put communication at the bottom of their priorities, which can lead to short messages that are difficult to interpret.

Merit Career Development provides a range of project management workshops that are managed by experts to yield the greatest results possible. Each one delves into its specific topics with in-depth tools and techniques to ensure that communication flows freely between participants. Every workshop can also be customized to meet the training needs of companies and tailored to specific environments. Review a course list or contact Merit to speak with a professional today.

Risk Management in the Biotech and Pharmaceutical Industry

Risk Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry The biotech and pharmaceutical industries are no stranger to risk - organizing clinical trials for medications that may never reach the open market due to inefficiency can place a significant financial burden on companies. When it comes to managing them, identifying procedures can be essential to avoiding or minimizing the financial impact of risks.

The Economist Intelligence Unit conducted a survey of senior management executives in the pharmaceuticals and life sciences industry regarding risk in their respective companies. The 65 responses were combined with those of an earlier survey of 353 executives in a wider range of other industries. It mainly focused on North America, with 65 percent of respondents hailing from the region, but also included international areas such as Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America.

Management is C-Level
According to its findings, the EIU reported that the ultimate responsibility of risk management was falling on CEOs, CFOs, CROs and general counsel. The survey found that the senior executives could be doing a better job of defining the company's interest in risk, ensuring that information gets to the appropriate people for assessment.

Most Time Spent on Compliance
Following controls and monitoring, compliance takes up most of their time with risk management. However, this leaves managers and executives with less freedom to watch for emerging threats that could create financial hardships. As a result, companies are failing to spread risk awareness throughout their organizations.

Mismatch Between Barriers, Risk Processes
The results showed that two-thirds of respondents had no intention of recruiting a chief risk officer, with less than one-third saying their organization has one on staff already. While breaking down the risk management silo may have been beneficial, the lack of awareness diminishes an organization's ability to understand new risks.

The Benefit of Third-Party Training
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, quality systems are becoming integral to the pharmaceutical industry. In turn, risk management is a valuable component of an effective quality system.

The biotech and pharmaceutical industries can greatly benefit from outsourcing their risk management training to third-party experts. Merit Career Development offers courses specific in project risk management for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. For more information, click here.

The EIU study underscores the advantages that extra training can bring to risk management in the pharmaceutical industry. With a healthy roster of subject matter experts, Merit can help executives not only manage current threads but also look ahead to potential emerging risks.

The Blended Project Plan

Why Using Just One Methodology Isn't Always the Answer


Blended Blue AbstractAs projects become more sophisticated in nature and content, a host of project management methodologies have been developed to address the needs of managing these complex projects. From the early years of CPM/PERT to the current complex computer-based project management systems, we are still mired in a high percentage of failed projects. Twenty years ago, the failure rate of IT projects was 87%. Today, despite an increase in project management knowledge and methodologies, the failure rate has only dropped to 82% (Standish Group, 2009).

While project management tools and methodologies have improved vastly, the tools do not support the speed of business change. Ironically, this fast-paced and changing environment is driven by the hyperbolic increase in technology.

Despite the hundreds of project methodologies and tools available – and many home-grown methodologies developed by independent PM organizations (PMI®, IPMA, et al) – the success rate remains low. To combat this low success rate, we create even more specific and directed project management processes.

For example, on change control and requirements, for companies that adhere to and enforce a strict requirements and change control process, there has been no appreciable change in the success rate. New methodologies such as Agile serve to further complicate the landscape. All of these methodologies have proven successful in limited and controlled environments; however, when pressed into a general and expanded business world, we continue with this abysmal failure rate.

We don’t need another new methodology
We need a more adaptive approach whereby the project is planned and managed according to the project directives and the needs of the business. The Blended Project Plan approach allows project managers to adapt various project management techniques to different components of the project. We can “chunk” the project to “match” a suitable project management methodology.

For example, at a recent client site we had three distinct groups present during our introduction to Agile. One group thought that it might work but preferred their current process. The second group completely supported the approach, and the third group stated that not only would Agile not help them but neither would their current process. The first group was responsible for building the hardware, the second group developed the software, and the third was responsible for the contractual implementation of the system. So we developed a Blended Project Plan under one project manager where the hardware development was managed with a traditional waterfall approach, the software development used Agile, and the field deployment team used a contract-based methodology.

The Project Management Officer implements and enforces PM standards based on a well-intended corporate policy; however, the strict adherence to these standards often stifles the project with unneeded, distracting, and cumbersome practices that unintentionally do not provide added value to the project plan. Adapting various project methodologies to specific “chunks” of the project provides for more flexibility and added value.

A parody that can be used to help explain this is the old Risk Management adage of known/knowns, known/unknowns, and unknown/knowns. This can be expanded to:

  • We know the requirements, and the approach to complete the task is known and standard.
  • The requirements are known; however, the process is dependent on project constraints.
  • The project requirements are not well-defined or fully understood, but once they are detailed we know how to implement

Broadly, this can be fitted to the standard project management process simplistically consisting of:
  • Standard Waterfall - sequential processing of project tasks
  • Compressed/Accelerated - overlapping of project tasks
  • Agile - spiral development

The project components can be better managed with the Blended Project Plan approach. The chunking of the plan allows the application of different measurements and controls that are in tune with the development process. The process to develop software is not the same as the process to implement hardware; however, we try to manage them using the same process. A Blended Project Plan eliminates the “one size fits all” mentality when trying to manage projects. The standard waterfall methodology contributes to understanding the critical path and the overlapped tasks impact project costs. The use of a spiral development methodology helps to control user requirements.

The roles and responsibilities change for the PMO, the project manager, and the business partner; however, the Blended Project Plan provides a greater degree of flexibility to ensure the successful completion of the project.

Merit Career Development provides project management training to fit your needs. From the fundamentals to PMP exam preparation, we can help you improve your project management skills. Whether it’s self-paced online learning, instructor-led virtual or classroom training, or exciting simulations, Merit provides quality, innovative and interactive professional education.

Learn more about Merit's project management curriculum here.

3 Reasons Why a PM Credential is Essential

PM CredentialsWhether you're yearning to get a real job or a better one, the struggle to make your résumé stand out from the competition can be a demoralizing impediment to landing the right position. Portraying your skills and value to a company in a unique way without a long job history can seem nearly impossible. However, developing your skills in project management can make you a sought-after asset ton any organization. Becoming a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® is a relatively and inexpensive way to unlock better jobs and significantly higher salaries in almost any industry. This certification will build skills to effectively manage a project from planning and projections to execution through completion.

For those who hold a CAPM certification, earning the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification will allow you to further distinguish yourself and display your mastery of the subject. This leading certification carries a significant increase in annual salary.

1. Vast Job Opportunities

Glassdoor.com, a leading job listings and information website, has over 300,000 active listings for project management positions nationwide. Project management skills and knowledge are also applicable outside the borders of the US. Skills in project management benefit practically every facet of every industry. From IT, to banking and finance, sales, medical services, human resources, and research positions; project managers are in extremely high demand. Developing your skills in project management will grant you increased access to any industry that interests you.

2. High Perceived Value

A survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit saw the majority of international executives identifying project management as "the single most important skill for their current and future success." The US News and World Report has also ranked project management in the top three of most desired skills sought by employers. The demand for these skills means that a recognizable project management certification will distinguish your résumé from the competition in a way that a typical 4-year college degree cannot. No matter the industry, a CAPM or PMP certification will identify you as a necessary leader and team player who is focused on the efficient completion of assignments.

3. Greater Salary Potential

Glassdoor's salary tracker also shows average Project Manager salaries range from $26,000 to over $100,000 with multiple postings in excess of $200,000 annually. Simply obtaining your CAPM or PMP certification will increase your real and perceived values and have a direct effect on your income.

CAPM vs PMP

  CAPM PMP
Who Should Apply Entry-level employees or those with little project management experience For CAPMs or experienced Project Management Professionals
Experience Required No experience required Minimum 4,500 hours of project management experience and 35 hours of Project Management education
Certification Maintenance Retest after 5 years Achieve 60 PDUs every 3 years to maintain a current knowledge of project management issues and strategies
Benefits
  • Access to multiple industries and lucrative employment
  • Salary increases and résumé distinction
  • Introduction to the field of Project Management
  • Résumé distinction through proof of subject mastery
  • 12.5% increase in salary vs those in equivalent position without PMP certification
  • Maintaining a current and multi-industry knowledge of Project Management

The CAPM examination can further facilitate your achievement of the more prestigious and financially rewarding PMP certification.

According to the Project Management Institute, which awards the CAPM and PMP certifications, they both focus on:
  • The skills to initiate a project
  • Project preparation and planning proficiency
  • Executing, monitoring, controlling and completing a project
  • Estimating activity costs
  • Planning for quality at every stage
  • Performing quality assurance
  • Hiring, leading and managing a project team
  • Foreseeing and planning for the unexpected

For more information on the PMI or the CAPM/PMP certifications, visit www.PMI.org.

CAPM and PMP Test Prep

Successful CAPM and PMP candidates typically use multiple study aids to prepare themselves for the exam. Although many business schools are incorporating CAPM and PMP test preparation into their classes, standalone assistance is also available. For more information on the CAPM or PMP certifications and effective test preparation, please view our project management courses or contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com

PMP and CAPM are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

Learning Through Play Enhances Employee Engagement

Chess BoardThrough gaming and play, employees can experience positive emotions that enhance their learning retention rates.

Regardless of age or experiences, we all play games in some way or another. But games aren't just about play; they educate. From smartphone puzzle-oriented hits like Candy Crush Saga to games of "peekaboo", in which infants learn object permanence, games and learning have gone hand-in-hand for thousands of years. So what happens when you take learning through play and apply it to online training courses?

Beyond Childhood Games

According to many historians, the adoption of a "game" called Kriegsspiel by the Prussian officer corps was instrumental in Prussia beating France in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Derived form the German word meaning "war play", Kriegsspiel was designed as a training system for Prussian military officers in 1812. War and simulation have a much older history thourgh: Chess, one of the oldest games still in existence, was used throughout the Middle Ages and the Reniassance to teach noblemen war strategies. Battle tactics were part of their jobs, and the most efficient training was often through play. The famous back-and-forth nature of a "Socratic" dialogue has parallels in tennis, fencing and other sparring games.

Today, thanks to the technological advancements in smartphones and other mobile devices, almost everyone has become a "gamer". The term might carry a stigma with business professionals, but used as part of an effective training regimen, games can make a huge impact on employee retention and performance.

Empowering Employees Through Play

Game designer and author Jane McGonigal has found that play can create a sense of hope and empowerment. According to her research, gaming produces and heightens positive emotions when individuals are participating and feel engaged. Emotions are one of the most effective tools training instructors can leverage. The late Jim Spaulding, technical instructor at Merit Career Development, believed that evoking emotions from students is essential to improving learning retention and employee engagement.

According to a recent Gallup poll, the 87 percent of workers who currently feel disengaged at their jobs could potentially cost companies trillions of dollars in lost productivity. Play might be the key to changing these attitudes and re-engaging employees.

McGonigal feels that gaming can create behavioral changes that lead to better performances from employees. Her research found that two areas of the brain "light up" when a person is actively engaged in gaming: the caudate and the thalamus, the goal-oriented rewards center of the brain, and the hippocampus, where learning and memory reside. These two parts of the brain are the lynch pins of retention, marrying motivation and memorization through emotional response and other stimuli.

Employees can only improve their skills if they're engaged and attentive during training. By designing courses where learning happens through play - rather than drilling information through presentations - senior leaders can ensure that their associates are gleaning the most meaningful lessons possible through training.

Review a course list or contact Merit today for more information

Independent & Hardworking, Gen X Wants Balance

Gen Xer

Managing Different Generations in the Workplace: Part One



The eclectic mix of employee personalities and working styles can be challenging in itself. However, with roughly three different generations working together at one time, multiple perspectives, and varying levels of experience, compound the complexity of training.

Generation X - birth dates ranging from the early 1960s to the early 1980s - has worked for more than two decades. With Generations Y and Z entering the fold, what's the most effective method of communication with this cohort? As the first of a four-part series, let’s break down Generation X.

The Concept of Authority



According to annual surveys administered by the Longitudinal Study of American Youth, Gen Xers are defined as people who are highly educated, active, balanced and family-oriented. The study gathers data using various questions and responses from roughly 4,000 participants who were surveyed each year from 1987 through 2010.

The LSAY is a project funded by the National Science Foundation that began in 1985 and is designed to measure the development of student attitudes toward achievements and career paths in a range of subject areas. The participants are surveyed during middle school, high school and the first four years of post-high school.

Forbes magazine explained that Gen Xers view their superiors as experts whose work experience and skill levels demand a high level of consideration and respect. They believe that being an authoritative figure in the workplace is a substantial achievement and earned through hard work and dedication. They also like structure and direction from senior leadership but are self-reliant when completing a task.

The Perception of Balance


According to Training magazine, Gen Xers strive to find a balance between the office and home. Because baby boomers are usually loyal to their workplace, Gen Xers might view their older colleagues as workaholics who are afraid of change and lack adaptability. Being brought up during a shift in technological advancements, Generation X learns from a range of modalities – from traditional, instructor-led training to online classroom environments.

Leaders should understand how Gen Xers operate and incorporate various methods to effectively engage them in the training environment. These include a mixture of visual activities, like PowerPoint presentations combined with virtual quizzes and polls. The best communication balance for managers is to provide adequate feedback to Gen Xers: It can serve as a viable motivator for continuing - or improving - their strong work ethic.

The Power of Engagement


Caught in-between two very different generations - baby boomers and millennials - Gen Xers are a blend of the old and new guards. They can endure the nitty-gritty grind of completing projects, but they also appreciate working autonomously on various assignments.

Knowing this, managers should leverage the Generation X motivators and accommodate their unique perspectives on the workplace. Direct and immediate feedback keeps them engaged and happy, contributing to the company’s success and maintaining high employee morale as well. For example, exploring monetary bonus plans for completing assignments can provide Gen Xers with the encouragement they need for optimal performance.

To work efficiently on bolstering productivity and engagement, managers need to understand the characteristics of Generation X. But with Generations Y and Z in the workplace as well, they have to accommodate for varying personalities. Stay tuned for our next feature on the Millennials and their own specific intricacies.

Review a course list or contact Merit today for more information.

To Manage Your Stakeholders Effectively, Start with a Communication Plan

The difference in project plan outcomes with and without a good communication plan is a real eye-opener for managers. When well-executed, the workflow of a project can advance seamlessly among stakeholders and break down departmental communication silos. Managing project stakeholders is critical to the success of every project. The first step to developing an efficient and effective communications plan is to assess the individuals on the team to determine who are the most essential team members for the project.

Building the Grid


Throughout their training and certification, project managers learn about the communication plan process and the role it plays in effective project management. Without a plan, communications can be disjointed and fractured, creating the potential for conflict and miscommunication. Because stakeholders often consist of contributors from different disciplines and functions, managers should conduct a thorough analysis of their team to determine the right talent for each aspect of the communication plan.
Stakeholder grid
One technique is to build a plotted grid that conveys each stakeholder’s relationship to the project. Doing so facilitates the categorization of individual employees, determining where his or her efforts will be most effective for the project. In the grid, the X axis identifies the level of interest, or how much the stakeholder will be affected by the outcome, and the Y axis signifies influence, or how much he or she can impact the finished project. Each quadrant, measured from low to high, would help measure the specific value of each project team member and develop the framework for the communication plan. Using the grid, leaders measure how much members of a team will contribute to the success of the project. Employees with high levels of interest and power would be more effective than members with lower levels of these attributes, while those with mixed levels can still positively influence the assignment. From there, managers must decide who will be included in the project.

Managing Stakeholder Expectations


Stakeholders can vary in terms of influence and interests. While the team assignment itself could drive completion, many factors can impact the project's success. Several warning signs can point to project management trouble, such as missed deadlines and conflicts among stakeholders. To combat these challenges and break down communication silos, project managers must actively follow their communication plans to the end. It is the only way to keep stakeholders in check and ensure that the project's needs are met in an efficient manner. Regular meetings - both virtual and in-person - can keep everyone up to speed on progress and serve to better manage stakeholders' expectations.

Learning from Experienced Professionals


At Merit Career Development, courses are customized to provide flexibility and meet an organization’s needs. In its experience running effective project management training, Merit has found that many managers were not creating a communication plan, endangering the success of their projects. To illustrate the impact ineffective communication plans can make, Merit had managers run a simulation of a stakeholders meeting without a communication strategy in place. The inefficiencies of this non-strategy were apparent from the start. Merit then had the managers run through the same scenario with a communication plan in place. The differences were dramatic. There was a marked improvement in performance as managers realized the indispensable benefits of effectual planning and were able to better coordinate efforts among the team. Teaching project managers the essentials of developing effective communications plans has become an important component of Merit’s project management training. Merit actively looks to turn on the light bulb for project managers so that the value of efficient communication is crystal clear for them. The solution lies in getting the participants to struggle in the first hour of training in order to understand the benefits of the second hour and the importance of a plan. This can help save time and reduce errors, repetition and confusion among stakeholders and lead to better financial gains for the business. To learn more, review Merit’s course list or contact Merit today.

Click here to find out more about Merit's Stakeholder Management Course

Leverage Personality Differences in the Workplace

Managing introverted and extraverted employees calls for customized meetings and discussions that cater to each personality typeWithin every organization, employees range in personality types from professionally outgoing to socially reserved. Managing a mix of extraverts and introverts can be a challenge, but encouraging each personality type’s strengths and encouraging both groups to understand these dynamics is key.

Extraverts


By nature, extraverts are energized by being around others and that enthusiasm translates as an outgoing personality. Roughly 75 percent of the US population is extraverted.

Common extravert traits:
  • Directed outward toward people and things
  • Relaxed and confident
  • Gregarious, want to be with others
  • "What you see is what you get"
  • Process outward: Speaks to think ("shoots from the hip")
  • Seek variety and action
  • Often act quickly, sometimes without thinking

Introverts


On the other hand, although introverts can interact with people skillfully, over time their energy will deplete faster than an extravert. They then need "down time" to "recharge their batteries."

Common introvert traits
  • Directed inward toward concepts and ideas
  • Reserved and questioning
  • Seek quiet for concentration
  • Need time alone to recharge and think
  • Have valuable contributions, but may hesitate to speak
  • Process inward: Thinks to speak
  • Likes to think a lot before acting, sometimes without acting!

Understanding different perspectives is critical to effective team building


Extraverts often see themselves as actionable people who work successfully with others but they can be quick to implement tactics that are untested or poorly thought out. Introverted employees often view their extraverted counterparts as noisy and impulsive, actively working to solve a problem, but making many mistakes along the way.

Introverts often perceive their thought processes as more complex, and they often think deeply before sharing their thoughts. More outgoing employees might think their quiet coworkers aren’t spontaneous enough or are slow to respond, leaving them hard to integrate into solution-oriented discussions and team projects.

Because each personality type has a different perspective of the environment, managers should approach meetings with each in separate manners to promote success. Catering to both introvert and extravert tendencies serves to facilitate teamwork, creating better-prepared employees, communications and outcomes.

So how do you manage these two different types of personalities?

Extraverts: Let 'em talk


When meeting with extraverts, managers should allow time for discussion without the necessity of reaching conclusions. Extraverts learn and retain information better when there are active conversations. They tend to "think out loud."

During a team meeting, managers should greet everyone as he or she comes into the room and conduct introductions. Because extraverts typically think faster - although not thoroughly -and tend to have shorter attention spans, it's useful to break up presentations with questions and answer or discussion periods and other exercises. After it's over, leaders should allow time for feedback and conversations with presenters to encourage input.

Additionally, putting extraverts into groups and planning active outings can facilitate their professional development.

Introverts: Let 'em think


Contrary to extraversion, managers should allow introverted employees more time before expecting an answer. Because introverts spend more time reflecting before responding, team leaders may want to hold back before asking for possible solutions. Instead of forcing introverts into groups, leaders could sit one-on-one with them.

To ensure that the opinions of introverts are captured during meetings, managers should provide all participants with an agenda and conduct polls before the meeting, especially regarding important matters. Anyone who hasn't responded in discussions can be prompted for input with lead time to encourage eventual participation. Once the meeting has ended, leaders can summarize the next steps and distribute the materials via email.

A useful tip: Always call on introverts last when soliciting comments during or after a meeting. This gives them additional time to consider other participants' responses and formulate their own with more confidence.

Finally, it's important for managers to realize that people who are outgoing aren't always extraverts, and shyness doesn't necessarily indicate introversion. Most people display a range of these characteristics, although they lean toward one type or the other. The optimal brainstorming teams are comprised of people with diverse skills and perspectives.

It's up to managers to engage each type of team member, regardless of personality, to ensure their optimal contributions are realized.

For more information about how Merit Career Development can help with your teams, please contact us.