Project Management Strategies for the Socially Challenged
I’ve said before that project management is more about handling people than anything else. But not all of us are outgoing, outspoken, and self-confident. On the contrary, some of us are quiet, introverted, and insecure. Personally, I tend to fall on the shy side of the tracks.
So how can you be an effective project manager if you don’t deal well in social situations, or with people in general? Are you doomed to always play second fiddle to those fabled “people persons”?
Absolutely not! Social skills are important to effective project management, but you don’t have to act like a presidential candidate to get things done. Here are some project management strategies you can use to work through your social hang-ups:
Don’t Force Yourself to Make Friends
You’re there to do a job, not to win a popularity contest. If making friends doesn’t come naturally to you, then don’t force yourself to do it. Focus on the work, and don’t succumb to the pressure to socialize. Approach people at your own pace, in the manner that’s most comfortable to you.
Caveat: Just don’t be a jerk. That serves no purpose and will impact the team’s morale.
Gain Loyalty by Being Effective
So if you’re not going out of your way to socialize, how do you build loyalty within your team? How can you get them to respect you as their leader and manager?
You do it by being effective at your job. The team may not become close to you on a personal basis, nor will they bond through friendship, but they can respect your skills and achievements. Show them that you were placed in a leadership position for a reason, and you’ll be able to lead them to success even when you’re not the charismatic type.
Be Frank, but Fair
I used to have a problem giving people bad feedback or confronting them about unacceptable behavior. Part of it was conflict aversion on my part, and another part was a fear of hurting their feelings. As you can imagine, this seriously hampered my ability to lead, and my projects suffered for it.
Eventually, I learned how to be frank while being fair and respectful at the same time. A large part of it was keeping it professional—even if the other person was taking it personally (and it happened a lot), I made it clear that I was talking about job-related performance, and not their personal qualities. They didn’t always listen, but it made it easier for me to communicate (which was more important).
So even though you may not be the smoothest conversationalist, or the most approachable of people, you can still function effectively as a project manager. And who knows? After you spend enough time around the right people, you may wind up making some close friends after all.
Image credit, Flickr, Mario Vercellotti
Patrick Icasas is a former marketing project manager with 7 years of marketing and PR agency experience, managing creative projects for brands such as Nokia, Verizon Wireless, and Adobe. He now spends his time helping people make the most out of their project management software and entertaining his 5 year old daughter.