There are various personality types who become Project Managers - one of which is shy or introverted people. Over the years, I discovered that I'm one of these shy Project Managers because I enjoy being around people but also need to have my alone time.
If you're a Project Manager and you consider yourself shy this is not a bad thing at all. What follows are 7 tips for shy Project Managers that helped me through my career.
Ask questions during meetings - especially to challenge
While you're in a meeting where others are talking, don't just stay quiet for the whole meeting. Listen carefully for opportunities to ask questions. You want to do this so that you get used to speaking up in meetings.
Also, get used to clarify estimations from teammates. For example, if a software developer estimates 5 weeks to complete a task, ask questions to understand why.
Practice getting used to speaking up in meetings so that your sub-conscious hesitancy goes away. Don't stay completely quiet in meetings expecting things to solve themselves.
Get a mentor for tough conversations or negotiations
As you go through your meetings, identify people who seem to be very good at negotiating or handling escalations. Ask this person if they could mentor you on how you can get better at handling negotiations or escalations.
This will be very beneficial because you will ultimately be dealing with an escalation or handling a negotiation. An example is if a vendor is generating a Statement of Work (SOW) for added scope which will add costs to the project. Your project sponsors and Subject Matter Experts (SME's) strongly disagree with the charges. You will need to set up a call where a negotiation takes place to ensure everyone is in alignment with the SOW to be generated.
Send clear meeting agendas
When arranging meetings, it's professional to ensure that each call has an agenda. The added benefit of this is that you know exactly what to talk about in the meeting. You won't run the risk of not knowing what to say or developing "brain freeze."
For example, you need to arrange a meeting where two technical support teams need to discuss how to tackle a technical implementation. Leveraging your agenda, you can open up the call and then turn it over to he owner of the first agenda item. From there, let the SME's discuss the technical stuff. However, make notes of any risks or next actions and do not walk away from the meeting until you understand both.
Asking for clarity on risks or next actions gives you more opportunities to get used to speaking up in meetings.
Anticipate meeting questions and be prepared
This is especially true when you are presenting in a status call. Before attending the call, make notes on the presentation as to what you'll say and think about the follow up questions that senior management will have for you. Have answers prepared so you are not caught off guard.
Giving status to senior management should not be torture. See this as an opportunity to present to the leadership and for them to know your name. Remember that one of the ways to "move up the ladder" is to take on the most difficult, high-visibility projects.
Speak up in the PMO Governance calls
If you work within a PMO, there may be training or governance calls with all the project managers within the PMO. On this call, you may have representatives from the business units or managers from the IT group.
Ask questions if you don't understand something or speak up to challenge what was said. Consider this an opportunity to speak up and practice talking in front of many people. The more often you do this, the more you will feel comfortable.
Volunteer to train your team
As you do your work, you may leverage tools to make your job easier. If this is the case, share this information with your teammates.
For example, if you were able to quickly analyze your project financials using MS Excel pivot tables, share this with your team. Volunteer to demonstrate at the next staff meeting. You'll gain practice speaking in front of people and your manager will notice your extra efforts and the extra value you bring to the team.
Practice assertiveness one person at a time
As the Project Manager, you are accountable to have the project finish on time and within budget. Along the way, people you need results from may become difficult or not perform well. This is the perfect opportunity to practice being assertive.
Start by telling the person how critical their role is on the project and how their actions help facilitate this. Tell them about the benefits the organization will realize by this project completing on time (you can get this from the project charter). Depending on the response, you may or may not need to escalate but you have the perfect opportunity to assert yourself.
Speaking up more frequently takes practice and is a tool that needs to be developed. If you put yourself in situations where you can practice speaking more you will have less hesitancy to do so. Practicing this skillset is like playing a sport. The only way you'll get better at it is if you continue to practice it.
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