Overcoming Shyness As A Project Manager

Project managers can be shy, which seems impossible but it does happen. If this is you, this article has a few tips to help you deal with it and become an effective shy project manager.

When you work in project management you meet all kinds of people. Confident people, funny people, cocky people and of course shy people. Shy people tend to be a little introverted, quiet and prefer to work as an individual rather than in a group. Project management training teaches you how to bring the best out of everyone, shy or not. But what if you as a project manager, suffer from shyness?

It might seem improbable to many that a person in a leadership position could be shy. Project managers are meant to be confident, outgoing and bold aren’t they? Can a shy project manager be effective?

The first thing to recognise is the fact you are going to face a lot of challenges in this position if you are shy. Management of people will not come naturally to you, even if you have a professional qualification such as the APMP or PMP certification these technical skills will not help you with your people skills. You will have to actively self reflect and work on other skills daily, something you already have to do as a project manager anyway so your personal workload will not be small.

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If you are a project manager struggling with shyness, or you’re working your way through project management training to become a project manager, here are a few challenges you will face and how to get through them:

Bonding With Your Team

In project management you will work with lots of different people, and it should be as simple as introducing yourself and getting to know them and then pushing forward with planning the project management framework. If you’re shy, it really isn’t that simple. You may feel stressed, anxious and desperately trying to appear unawkward. These people are looking to you for leadership, how on earth can you break the ice and be shy?

The first thing you need to do is summon a bit of inner confidence and accept that you will be pushing team bonding in your direction, not in the way people might expect or want it to happen. You could get to know the team individually at first and then perhaps communicate with the group via a planner or email list. Set up meetings with each team member letting them know what you want to talk about and what you expect them to ‘bring to the table’ during the meeting. That way you avoid the blush inducing introduction in front of the entire team, and you get to sit and listen to each team member individually, breaking you in gently and enabling you to get comfortable with them before moving forward with group tasks.

Difficult Conversations

No amount of project management training can prepare you for difficult conversations, which makes them even more difficult when you’re shy. When someone is underperforming or behaving badly, they will need a direct and sensitive chat from you. These types of conversations are difficult for all project managers but for shy project managers, they can be completely terrifying.

If possible, when approaching your first ‘difficult conversation’ see if a mentor or trusted colleague at the same level of authority can guide you through these situations until you feel able to confidently initiate them yourself. Seeing another person calmly and competently deal with a difficult conversation will enable you to learn how to do it well, and provide you with the confidence to initiate it yourself. As a general rule, the more difficult conversations you have the easier they will become because you won’t have that fear of the unexpected.

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Being The Boss

You are a project manager, you will need to be the boss and lead, there’s no way around it. You will need to delegate tasks, lead troubleshooting sessions and set goals and you will need to effectively encourage your team continually. When you’re shy, being the boss will not come naturally, and will seem daunting.

First you need to get comfortable with your team as above, that will make you feel more confident about leading them. After that, you need to invest time in preparing. You will receive questions, challenging attitudes and all kinds of issues from various people and circumstances – not just your team. Project management is a topsy turvy, turbulent world, so the more prepared you are the better, even if you’re simply prepared for the unexpected. Some things you cannot prepare for but others you really can. If you’re delegating tasks or setting time frames, your team may question your approach – have answers ready for if this happens. Confident and outgoing project managers can think on their feet and answer questions thrown at them, shy project managers may struggle to think on their feet because of the pressure of the social interaction and will therefore have their authority shot down. The more prepared you can be, the more confident you will feel in responding to any questions or issues.

Remember, although it might seem like the highest mountain to climb, you really should think about the amazing view you’ll get when you do reach the top (and you will!). Project management is an amazing career choice and having a growth mindset will get you far, shy or not.

Still think you need more training? Book yourself onto some project management training courses and boost your skillset.

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