Project Management

The Introverted Program Manager: How to Harness Your Strengths

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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?

Posted by Sree Rao on: April 12, 2020 02:28 PM | Permalink

Comments (20)

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Thanks for sharing, very interesting article.

I enjoyed the article and appreciated reading the last part about being authentic to yourself.

Recently I have become upfront about being introverted when I am meeting with someone for the first time. Sometimes I learn that the person is also an introvert or is extroverted. From there, we are either breathing sighs of relief (both introverts) or with an extrovert, we understand at least on a surface level where we might differ an get on with the meeting/agenda etc.

Good article and sound advise! The repeated refrain for introverts to be prepared for meetings, and that "we" tend to not be the first within a group to speak up, is consistent with my long held belief that: introverts think to speak, while extroverts speak to think. Thanks!

This is the kind of beautiful article that is out of the ordinary.
Clear and intelligent, we have many such papers.
But opening unusual doors and consolidating community sharing is so precious.
Thanks PMI guys 👍

Very useful article. Thanks

Good article with very useful tips. Thanks for sharing.

Very well written, as an introvert, I appreciate your practical suggestions for holding meetings. Thanks for your insights.

Nice article, it was like you were describing me.Thanks for sharing.

Very useful information.

I enjoyed reading this article. Being an introvert (article also describing me), I will be putting some of the suggestions to practice in my next program.

Thank you for sharing this advice.

I am an introvert as well and have from a professional perspective learned extroverted abilities. The way I do this is thru planning and preparing... it was good to hear that I am strengthening my skills correctly. There is always work to be done and I love training and reading to help me understand how to help myself and others.

Thank you for sharing.

I have personally helped introvert team members by recognizing their talent and bringing them to the foreground. So being an introvert manager, you should be able to spot and help other introvert peers or team members to get the right visibility. Usually since they are the quiet lot in groups, they go unrecognized, their voices go unheard of and their presence doesn’t get felt. Due to this, not only the person will be under loss , the project also suffers from not getting the right inputs from competent people.
Sometimes it helps to separate out the silent set (of members from the team) and conduct discussions so they don’t have others taking the center stage and they open up.

I appreciate this article because sometimes I feel like the skills required of a PM are contradictory to my introvert personality. Thank you for some excellent tips that do not insist on compromising one’s authentic self.

Very interesting article! Introverts can network well virtually, which can be a strength in our globalized world.

Thank you everyone for your comments. Ramadevi, totally agree with your feedback and a great idea to have a meeting with just the introverts.

My pleasure. Thank you.

I enjoyed reading this article, great job. I've read not so far time ago in Forbes that 70% per cent of CEO's are introverts. I totally agree that managers-introverts should capitalise on their strengths rather than try to develop extroverted qualities.

Great article. I'm excited to read there are more introverts like me out there. If anyone is interested, there is a good book called Quiet by Susan Cain on the topic of introverts.

Much appreciate your views on this topic. Many thanks for sharing.

Very informative and well articulated article! Thanks for sharing it, Sree Rao

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