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A Lesson from the Pandemic: How Project Management Skills Lift Introverts  

We in the United States glamorize extroversion – being outgoing, so much so that Susan Cain shook the world  some years ago  with her  book,  “ Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking .”  Why?  Because her premise – that introverts have special gifts to offer society  – is a message we do not often hear.  Certainly, introversion does not sound like a precursor for leadership at first glance! 


After 2020 and now at the beginning of 2021, with the pandemic encouraging us to live online, we are discovering how very useful certain introvert traits can be. In this post, Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Meilin Obinata shares her insights on leadership, introverts, and project management in this pandemic and how her students have acted as leaders in various anti-intuitive ways, and what is possible for you in this current environment.



What is Project Management? 


The Project Management Institute defines project managers:


Project managers cultivate the  people skills  needed to develop trust and communication among  all of  a project’s stakeholders: its sponsors, those who will make use of the project’s results, those who command the resources needed, and the project team members.



alarm clock image courtesy of pixabay.com


While project management may seem only applicable to workplaces but in reality, it is about finishing things on budget, on time. Does all that sound…introvert-friendly?   (Yes, it is!)  Let’s take a look, shall we?   





Project Management as  a Concept Model of  Leadership


At Insight, our counselors often use a scrum-like method in our meetings with students. “Scrum” is a word we in the Bay Area used mostly to refer to a style of organizing software development into time-boxed goals. How does that work in Insight counseling meetings? During our 1:1 meetings, we prompt students by asking them questions to get them to reflect on their own progress, such as: “what did you do?” “What are you going to do?” “How might you need help from me?” In guiding our students through a self-reflecting process, we are instilling a sense of ownership. This helps to build the students’ confidence and allows them to learn from their mistakes. team work courtesy of pixabay.com


Leadership is Bringing out the Best in Others  

Over the years, I have worked with students who have trained newbies on their robotics teams or even mentored adult volunteers as they repaired bikes. I’ve heard from students who have attempted a top-down approach before realizing, for example, they prefer a more democratic style that includes the input and buy-in from others.


angry businessman courtesy of pixabay.com


This kind of leading – which is focused on bringing out the best in others much like one’s favorite condiment  – is different from traditional or default notions of leadership. Perhaps what comes to mind is the image of someone who is shouting into a megaphone, browbeating an audience to bend to the speaker’s will.  Yet, that kind of guidance is the very opposite of what many people need!


What Are Introverts? 


According to Professor Cain’s website

Introverts are more sensitive to external stimuli (an introvert will salivate more at the taste of lemon juice than an extrovert…) and need quiet time to recharge.


So, What Are Introverts Good “At”? 

handshake laptop courtesy of pixabay.comIn an online world, typing out a thoughtful reply or thank-you email will help introverts shine in a way they might not be able to do when they are attending classes/meetings in person.  So true!


Time Magazine published  the article  “ The Surprising Benefits of Being an Introvert ”  back in 2018, which included:


The skill of choosing your words wisely is just as beneficial online as it is in person. Introverts are more effective  on social media  because they’re less prone to knee-jerk reactions than extroverts, says Kahnweiler. >


While this is a very broad view of introverts and project management skills, I want to encourage you – just because we can’t have in-person interaction doesn’t mean you can’t step up as a leader. Now that you have gotten to this part of the blog post, are you eager to flex your project management and leadership skills? I know you are!



On-Time, on budget, with other people –  Things  to Try


  • MAKE ZOOM BETTER:  Next time you are in a Zoom breakout room for class, if you see people who are not participating, can you draw them out or include them somehow?  See this blog post about online school etiquette for more tips/ideas for helping your schoolmates.

  • NO OFFICIAL TITLE, NO PROBLEM: Even if you are not an officer of a club, you can do things by rolling up your sleeves to influence people for the better. Can you teach someone even a mini-skill? One of my students prided himself on being the best hot-dog wrapper – he sold hot dogs at sporting events at a local university for a charity every weekend. It was very important that he wrapped the hot dogs well since nothing is worse than a hot dog unprotected from the elements!  He was the go-to person when newbies needed to learn how to wrap these hot dogs. That could be you!

  • CALENDARS, SPREADSHEETS, BUDGETS,  OH MY: Do you know how to use a spreadsheet, or are good at managing a calendar/schedule? Is this a skill you could perhaps use to help your family organize its time better, or perhaps help your clubmates/teammates /etc. somehow?

  • START TINY:  But,  you protest, you don’t have much experience influencing other people. How about tackling something extremely small – why not challenge your friends in some small ways?  Amy Brennan blew my mind when she mentioned using maple syrup to make her coffee more autumnal!!!  It made me think about how people can challenge each other with simple things such as beverage combos.


Hope you enjoyed this alternative view of introversion – not as a weakness, but a hidden strength! 

Written by Meilin Obinata

This article is written by Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Meilin Obinata.

Meilin Obinata is a Senior College Counselor who enjoys learning from her students. She believes education is a creative endeavor and creates a space that allows students to explore new ideas. As a Bay Area native who grew up in Santa Cruz, she is familiar with the local schools. See her full bio here.

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