Managing People When You’re Not A “People” Person

As a PM, you know that project management almost always involves a lot of “people management”. However, not every effective project manager has a particularly charismatic personality. For example, you might be a great strategist, highly focused, patient, organized, self-disciplined, and determined to succeed. These are all qualities that go into making a good PM. One important attribute missing from that list is “likability”. That’s because you don’t really need to be a people person to do your job well. What you do have to be is a good communicator. People skills are called “skills” for a reason. They are something you can learn – you don’t have to be born with this talent.

Perception is Reality

If you tend to run into problems with people responding negatively to you, there are steps you can take to change this. You won’t need to transform your personality either. You just need to alter how people perceive you. That’s about communicating the best aspects of yourself – your strengths rather than your weaknesses.

For example, if you tend to be a very literal person, you may have difficulty understanding what people are really saying when they beat around the bush. This may give you a reputation for being a poor listener (if you make mistaken assumptions about what people mean). Or, you could be thought of as brusque if you tell people to “just get to the point already!” Using communication skills such as reflective listening allows you to clarify what’s being said while making the other person feel valued and respected. Then, you get the information you need and they come away thinking you’re a great manager to work with.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Every individual has a different communication style. However, these tend to fall into one of a few categories. An assessment program such as DISC can help you learn to recognize these behavioral patterns in yourself and in others (Dominant, Influential, Steady, and Conscientious). This is very helpful when you are managing a large, diverse project management team.

For example, a Dominant person may want to address factual issues relating to a project rather than focusing on how a particular decision makes others feel. An Influential individual responds when you start out with friendly conversation before giving instructions for a particular task. A Steady person appreciates being given clear objectives to accomplish on a project. Conscientious people should receive early warning of any upcoming changes to scheduling or procedures so they have time to adjust.

What Can You Expect?

The benefits of learning people skills extend into every aspect of project management. You will know that you are building your ability in this area when:

  • You experience fewer misunderstandings with all groups of project stakeholders
  • Team members ask plenty of questions and participate fully in meetings
  • You find out quickly whenever a problem crops up
  • Peers and superiors follow your recommendations more frequently
  • Subordinates carry out schedule activities more effectively with fewer errors and delays

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