A program manager must work with several cross-functional teams, facilitate many meetings, and drive and motivate team members to achieve business outcomes.
While this sounds like a great fit for extroverts, introverts can also shine in this role by playing to their strengths. Introverts tend to be good thinkers, great listeners, observant and detail oriented. They are also generally skilled at forming meaningful connections and adept in small groups.
If you consider yourself to be an introverted program manager, here are some strategies you can employ to tap into your strengths as you execute your responsibilities.
1. Meetings: Program managers facilitate a lot of meetings, sometimes with a large group of participants, which can be daunting for introverts. These tips can help:
- Keep the list of participants just large enough to achieve intended outcomes. If the list of participants is long, evaluate if there is an opportunity to break it down into multiple meetings with smaller groups. For example, if you currently have program status meetings with all the program tracks, divide it into multiple meetings with each of the tracks or a smaller group of related tracks.
- Before large meetings, meet with a few key stakeholders in a one-on-one setting to gain an understanding of their perspective.
- Introverts prefer to be well prepared before they speak up. So prep as much as you can in advance of the meeting, including sending the agenda and any reading material. This not only helps you as the meeting facilitator, but it will be appreciated by other introverts on the team, too.
- When facilitating a meeting, be sure to amplify the voices of introverts in the meeting by calling out their names or by having a round-robin format of voicing opinions and asking questions.
- Don’t schedule too many meetings. Block time on your calendar at regular intervals to be alone and recharge.
2. Self-promotion: Advocating for yourself can be one of the hardest things for introverts. Here are some ways to do it gracefully:
- It is important to highlight your accomplishments to your manager. During one-on-ones, talk about the program challenges and how you overcame those challenges. Highlight these to other key stakeholders in smaller group settings.
- Talk about team wins and give credit to the key team members who contributed. Lifting your team up is lifting yourself up, too.
- In program updates or project closure reports, highlight the challenges the team had to face and what was done to overcome those challenges, such as creating a new process or streamlining an existing process.
- Write a blog. This is a great way to share your knowledge, help others and promote yourself. This should be in an introvert’s wheelhouse, since you can do it with self-reflection and in solitude.
3. Networking: As program managers, we have to exert influence without authority. We need to work with different types of personalities and get things done. Networking is key. Here’s how to build and sustain meaningful connections as an introvert:
- Form strong relationships with the key program stakeholders by scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with them.
- Make it a point to meet with one new person on your program team, chosen at random, every two weeks. During these meetings, discuss their concerns and any opportunities for improvement with the program.
- Organize reading clubs or brown bag sessions. Not only will you have a chance to network, but you’ll learn something new, too.
- Volunteer to help with company-sponsored initiatives. You’ll get to network with people across various organizations and contribute to something you are passionate about.
- Keep in touch with your connections at a cadence with which you are comfortable.
4. Communication: Introverts tend to speak up less often than others. If you are generally quiet in meetings or other situations, it tends to create a misconception that you are not assertive. Here’s how to communicate better as an introvert:
- Thoroughly prepare for meetings so you feel confident in speaking up. Make it a point to ask at least one thoughtful question. This helps with getting visibility.
- If you are uncomfortable sharing your views in meetings, make sure to send an email or talk to the relevant people after the meeting.
- When someone does not deliver on their commitments, don’t let it slide. Have a one-on-one conversation with that person, understand why they missed the commitment and agree on recourse. Hold others accountable for their commitments.
5. Motivating teams: Motivating program teams is another key responsibility of a program manager. Here’s how to handle it as an introvert:
- Recognition is key to motivating team members. Be compassionate about other introverts on the team, and ensure there are processes in place to recognize team members based on their contributions.
- Team events are morale boosters. If your company budget allows, organize team events at a scale that you’re comfortable with. If you’re not comfortable organizing, find someone within the team who enjoys organizing events. Alternate between introvert- and extrovert-friendly type of events and attend them to show solidarity.
Lastly, if you are an introverted program manager, be authentic to your true self and stretch yourself in ways that are reasonable. Trying to be something you are not will only lead to burnout in the long run.
What tips have you found most helpful for yourself or for introverts on your team?