WORKING WITH WALLFLOWERS

Project offices benefit from having a wide range of personalities on the team. Different people bring different dispositions and interaction styles. But sometimes those various personalities can also bring challenges. One common obstacle is how to help those project management professionals who are naturally introverted or shy be more engaging—with their colleagues as well as with stakeholders.

wallflower PMO

In meetings

Ensuring open communication flows during project meetings is crucial to success. These group events may see potential problems being raised, solutions brainstormed, opportunities for improvement discussed and evaluated, and feedback on key issues given. Depending on the various members’ locations and the size of the group, meetings are sometimes conducted in person as well as by phone, web, or video conference.

Despite the importance of full participation in project meetings, introverted or shy PMP®s may find it difficult to speak up, to ask questions, to provide information that hasn’t been specifically solicited, or to offer suggestions or ideas. Their hesitancy frequently varies depending on the type of meeting being held—face-to-face discussions might elicit better engagement from some people, while teleconferences may suit others.

Determining the best venue is the first key. The more engaging the environment, the better the group’s participation will be. Providing an agenda is another effective tool, as it provides a clear trigger that it’s time for the more quiet members of the group to step up and provide input or information.

In presentations

For those project teams (and their sub-teams) that frequently host presentations for stakeholders or business partners, getting everyone to participate is important for both clarity and credibility. Those with the most in-depth knowledge of a particular aspect of the project will be in the best position to provide a valuable perspective on issues, and they’ll also be most capable when fielding questions.

Unfortunately, presentations can be tremendously difficult for those PMP®s who would prefer to be sitting in the audience rather than doing the talking. And when the presentations is being given to a large group, it can add a sprinkling of stage fright to what may already be an uncomfortable situation.

Creating a solid structure for the presentation—supported by a good level of detail—should go a long way toward ensuring the quiet PMP®s in the group are relaxed enough to put their full energy into participating. This eliminates many of the concerns often associated with freeform discussions, as well as worries that critical data points may be forgotten or misstated.

In discussions with stakeholders

Cornering a member of the project team in the lunch room and peppering them with questions is a popular stakeholder tactic. While mildly disruptive to most PMP®s, it can be truly unnerving for those individuals who don’t like confrontation or who tend toward the quiet end of the spectrum.

Developing a standard response for these cases is not only an effective way to deal with these informal interactions, it can also quickly defuse those situations where a stakeholder may be upset or bordering on combative. In addition, a go-to reply enables the PMP® to provide detailed—and accurate—responses.

First, an apprehensive PMP® should let the stakeholder know they want to provide good answers. This puts the conversation on a more even keel, where both parties can participate in the discussion as partners rather than possible adversaries. Next, make it clear you’re determined to offer a thorough response but that you also want to ensure any information you provide is accurate. Lastly, set up a time with the stakeholder to discuss the matter further, once you’ve had a chance to gather the necessary data—and your thoughts.