Do you know the colleagues who seem to easily get into conversation with anyone? Always have a story to tell? With which there is rarely an embarrassing silence? Then you very likely have someone in front of you who is more extroverted and who was practically born with a presence in the room.
Are you the taciturn type who eschews bathing in the crowd? Welcome to the club. Scientists estimate that 36–50% of the world’s people are introverted. So far so good. But what if it is part of your job to talk in front of people, to inspire others, to get involved and to convince them?
Introverted product managers and their stakeholders
You probably know it from your own experience, from my competence test for product managers or from books like “Empowered” by Marty Cagan. As a product manager, you cannot ignore the topic of stakeholder management. But what exactly is behind this term?
From my point of view, stakeholder management is the ability to proactively identify those in the company who can provide relevant input for the product or who have to understand the development of the product for business reasons. The product manager’s job is to work with these people to include them in product decisions. It is therefore essential to know when to interact with whom and how to communicate transparently and continuously.
I’ve seen many product managers struggle because they didn’t carefully identify and involve stakeholders in the beginning. And at least as many product managers have the problem that they have not communicated purposefully or too irregularly with their stakeholders.
This can have many reasons. One of them is that there are introverted personalities among product managers who simply find it difficult to establish and maintain these relationships.
What you can actively do as a product manager to integrate stakeholder management into your everyday life with more ease is the topic of the article today.
1. Learn to accept yourself
Introversion can neither be suppressed nor “treated away”. It is part of your own personality. The more openly you are about being more comfortable with being in the background, the more normal it becomes. Start not seeing your trait as a weakness but accepting it as part of you. People are diverse and colorful. For more and more companies it is becoming clear — the more colorful and diverse a team, the better the results.
It is good that we are not all the same, all extroverts and at home on stage, because then it would be very tight there.
2. A new beginning every day
Maybe this sounds familiar to you. There are days when you are withdrawn and days when you surprise yourself because you succeed in small talk without any problems or because you could easily convince in a presentation.
Often this is due to our batteries. If they are charged, for example because it is about a topic that is a passion, there were a few quiet days, many positive experiences contribute to well-being or it was time to do sports, even introverted people can come out of themselves and seem to be extroverted.
Try to find and write down your personal patterns. In whatever format, whether as a diary, mentally or in a calendar. It is important that you clarify what you need to get out of yourself. Then it will be easier for you to retrieve that when it matters.
3. Follow the policy of small steps
We often have an image of how something should be. Let’s come back to the colleagues, who seem to have no trouble speaking in front of the assembled team. It is not uncommon for us to want to achieve exactly that immediately. That this is impossible is often already perfectly clear and yet we are impatient.
James Clear describes an alternative approach in his book “Atomic Habits”. He recommends not to put yourself under pressure, but to play with the body’s own reward system. So instead of resolving to finally get sporty this year, according to Clear, it makes more sense to do at least one small exercise every day. The effect is surprising. You can do one push-up a day with ease. The reward system doesn’t care that it was just one. It was sport that counted. What happens then is very simple. If you stay on the ball continuously, there will suddenly be days when you do more sport. Because the mat has already been rolled out. Or you notice that it’s easy for you. Maybe it’s even just fun. And so the big goal becomes a realistic result that can be achieved in small steps.
That can be applied one to one to our situation. If you would like to approach people more actively and with more ease, then start in small steps. Maybe it’s a loud “good morning” when you walk into the office in the morning. Or a Slack message to a colleague with an update that you would otherwise not dare to send. Maybe you just decide to say something at the next team meeting. No matter what it is. Start somewhere and stay tuned. Your reward system won’t let you down.
4. Find oases of calm
Mindfulness is a big trend, but you don’t have to become an expert in meditation or yoga. It is completely sufficient to develop an awareness of where your limits are and to respect them. In point 2 you have already learned to develop a feeling for the situations in which you can get out of yourself. It is just as important to keep an eye on your own batteries. No one can function with dead batteries and the more empty the batteries are, the longer they have to be charged.
Introverts in particular tend to lose a lot of energy when they are in contact with many people and have many social interactions. It is said, for example, that Barack Obama is an introverted character and that he needed his moments of retreat after every public appearance.
Take the same right and try to figure out how to charge your batteries. And if there are smaller things 10 times a day that contribute to well-being, it is important that you give yourself this space.
Just start today.
You can start right away without going out of yourself. At Miro, for example, there are simple templates for creating a stakeholder map. Or you can create your own format, e.g. as described here.
Personally, I always like to add a personal element to the stakeholder map. I mark people with whom I feel easier to deal with and start there. (The reward system is happy …)
And now get started!