Though project managers have many different personality types, many often think of project managers as extroverts who love getting out among teams and chatting with everyone. This is not always the case, though. There are of course project managers with introvert characteristics who love the profession and are great leaders.
But because project management relies heavily on communication and collaboration with others, much of the work can be exhausting or draining for the introvert.
If you consider yourself an introvert and have shied away from project management as a career choice, I’ve got great news: there are introvert characteristics that are valuable to project managers and leaders.
If you consider yourself to be a project manager with introvert characteristics, read on for helpful strategies.
Project Management Requires Lots of Interaction with Others
Much of project management involves driving communication of various types:
- pulling together information for the project plan
- communicating status
- facilitating project meetings
- communicating with team members throughout the project, not only during planning but while executing and controlling the project as well.
So much interaction with people. It can be exhausting.
Or even worse, it can anxiety-provoking. To better understand the introverted project manager – even if this is you – I’ve listed some traits below.
I referred to Susan Cain’s assessment survey on her website, Quiet Revolution. Here I learned that introverts experience the following:
- feel drained after time in large crowds
- work best in quiet environments
- are cautious or patient decision makers
- can feel overwhelmed with too much external stimulation
Additionally, Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D., shares the following about introverts in her Psychology Today article “Nine Signs You’re Really an Introvert“:
- “You enjoy having time to yourself.”
- “Your best thinking occurs when you’re by yourself.”
- “You lead best when others are self-starters.”
- “You prefer not to engage with people who seem angry or upset.”
Introvert Characteristics of Great Leaders
If you identify as an introvert, good news! You have traits that make you a great leader. From this Forbes article by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, “Why Introverts Make the Best Leaders,” I pulled the following list of introvert characteristics that can be advantageous.
Introverts tend to do the following:
– Think before talking – “Learning by listening, not talking, is a trait that introverts consistently demonstrate.”
– Think more deeply than superficially – “They are drawn to meaningful conversations, not superficial chitchat, and they know how to ask great questions and really listen to the answers.”
– Exhibit calm – “In times of crisis, they project a reassuring, calm confidence.”
– Prefer written over verbal communication – “This comfort with the written word often helps them better articulate their positions and document their actions.”
– Enjoy time alone. “…regular timeouts actually fuel their thinking, creativity and decision-making and, when the pressure is on, help them be responsive, not reactive.”
Tips on How to Honor and Work with Your Introvert Characteristics
Though I identify more as an ambivert, I can relate to many of the introvert characteristics. I reached out to other project managers who identify as introverts to find how they best operate. I’ve gotten suggestions on how they work best and honor their introvert characteristics.
Lance works for a large international consulting firm. He shared these tactics that work well with his introvert tendencies.
- “I am at my best when I can process things in the peace of my office.”
- “I try to work most things out via email and meeting one-on-one with stakeholders and team leads rather than in large meetings.”
Andrei Radu, PMP shared some of his strategies:
- Hold one-on-one meetings when possible
- Keep meetings short when possible, with the agenda sent out ahead of time
- Book 30 min once or twice a day of “me” time for writing meeting notes, etc. – this provides time to decompress
- Communicate via phone instead of e-mail because of my tendency to go over an e-mail 3-4 times before I send it while a call is over with faster
- Schedule long or difficult conversations or meetings for the morning when my batteries are almost full
- Have non-work conversations with people also helps recharge the batteries even though they involve human interaction
Others confirmed the above suggestions, with these additions:
- Communicate through email when possible.
- Break down big meetings to smaller groups or one-on-ones.
- Have specific agendas for meetings (a good idea anyway).
- Be more task-based or data-based in managing resources and reports. Focusing on action plans and data help to keep focus.
- Schedule time to do non-people management work to allow a chance to recharge.
Some additional tips I gathered from an epic post written by Blaz Kos “A Success Guide for All Introverts“:
- Occasionally try things outside of your comfort zone.
- “Do meaningful work and take credit for it. You need to see your contribution to the world and how you add value.” To this point, see my post on how you add value as a project manager.
- Share your good ideas with others.
- Follow through on your great ideas.
- Play to your strength of being aware of things that others might miss. Use this in valuable ways.
Embrace that you have great listening skills, great attention to detail, and a desire to look more deeply at issues for greater understanding. Take time to recharge and work in a style that lets you bring your best to the table.
To end, I’m sharing some of my five favorite inspirational quotes for introverts.
- “Don’t underestimate me because I’m quiet. I know more than I say, think more than I speak and observe more than you know.” ~ Michaela Chung
- “Quiet people have the loudest minds.” Stephen Hawking
- “Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone—that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.”~ Nikola Tesla
- “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” ~Susan Cain
- “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
If you found this helpful, or know of someone else who would find it helpful, please share!
And if you have other tips that work for you, share in the comments below! I know others would find it helpful!
Great article! Really helpful.
I just realized that I am an introvert project manager…I feel much better now !!
I hope you realize that as an introvert, you’ve got some great qualities you can leverage as a Project Manager! Embrace it! 🙂
Just came across this article. Wow I relate to pretty much all of the above.
It’s nice to see that us introverts can still succeed at being a PM.
Michelle – Absolutely! Knowing how you work best and what you need to thrive is key. Introverts have strengths they bring to the table that are real assets to the project and team.
You might be interested in this article on Emotionally Intelligent Leadership. It’s a long one – but gives some great insight and will likely resonate with you as an introvert.
Great article! I relate so much to what you’ve covered here.
Thanks, Elizabeth! There are times when I do, too! I definitely recharge with quiet time and often need quiet time to more thoroughly process information. Introverts tend to have great listening skills, too. That’s definitely an advantage as a PM!