Management Myth #7: The Talkers are Competent

I don’t know how many managers tend to be extraverts (in the Meyers-Briggs sense of the word), but I suspect more managers tend to be more extraverted than introverted. If you’re not sure which one you are, ask yourself this question: Do you need to speak in order to think (extravert) or to think before you speak (introvert)? If you’re the kind of person who says, “Let talk it out,” chances are good you’re an extravert. If you’re the kind of person who wants to think about a problem before discussing it, you’re probably an introvert. YMMV.

Especially for less technical managers (see Management Myth #6), it’s easy to confuse speaking ability with competence. But facility with language does not reflect technical ability.

As a manager, you will have to judge how well people are doing, and you may have to evaluate them. Your weekly one-on-ones will help you judge how well a person is doing, where you look for data, not just conversation about status. You can provide feedback (and we recommend that you appreciate something every week). If a person needs coaching, you can coach in your one-on-ones. (The evaluation part will be those dreaded yearly reviews. Blech.)

Don’t let someone’s ability to speak well confuse your judgment of their technical abilities. (And if you’re not a technical manager, learn the product and how the product is created so you can have reasonable conversations about how your staff is working.) Listen to what people say in your one-on-ones. See what they accomplish and when. See when they are stuck. Use this kind of data to determine how well a person is succeeding. Then you’ll know if all they have is hot air, or if they are competent.

4 Replies to “Management Myth #7: The Talkers are Competent”

  1. Thank you, a point well worth making. As a poster-boy introvert, I am all to aware of how extraversion is valued and how credibility and competence are often tied to perceived extraversion. However, please be cautious about conflating introversion with lack of facility for language. In casual conversation it may seem that that an introvert is not able to express herself well verbally because she tends to speak more slowly, dredging ideas out of long-term memory and over longer neural pathways. In contrast, if you get her on a topic that she’s excited about or is very familiar with, you’ll have a hard time shutting her up.

  2. Somehow I think that the rule of the day is “extroverts are good speakers” and “intervoerts are bad speakers”. Far from the truth especially the latter half.
    And for me a good speaker is one who is a better listener and speaks to the point.
    As Johanna pointed out, environments where evaluations are flawed only encourage “so called” good speakers who are considered competent.
    A very good post except the “unintended” suggestion it makes ” Introverts are flawed speakers”.

  3. I’ve lost technical “face” with managers on exactly these grounds. For example, I was discussing a technical issue with another engineer and the manager stopped in and noticed that the other guy was talking more. The manager wasn’t around for long enough to see that I was waiting for the enginner to finish assembling his thoughts so I could tackle them all at once…

  4. Will — from what I hear, there is a whole category of bad bosses whose defining characteristic is lack of patience / snap decisions: they don’t take the time to gather data before making a long-lasting judgment.

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