A few weeks ago, I was watching a Charlie Rose interview with Renee Fleming which had aired on TV in 2003.  In the interview, she admitted that she had suffered several bouts of “stage fright” in her illustrious, musical and artistic career in opera.  When asked what can contribute to such a condition, her response was that often it occurs from an anxiety about a specific performance, a venue, a lack of preparedness, or a lack of a full understanding of the language or the music.  She said that one specific thing is not always the culprit.

So, I began to think.  Do project managers experience “stage fright?”  A good deal of my career has been spent observing project managers as well as managing a number of projects myself.  I had a gut feeling about this subject, but I decided to ask a number of my friends for input.

Wayne Thompson, an avid project manager in his own right, as well as author and contributor to the very popular blog, “Project Management War Stories,” told me that “performance anxiety” was probably a better term to use with project managers and, yes, he had actually witnessed several occasions when project managers experienced what I termed “stage fright.”    His explanation was that there were not adequate people skills, presentation skills, or group dynamics stressed in project management training.

Mark Price Perry, founder of BOT International, and an avid project manager for over 30 years in major corporations, said that he also believed that project managers often suffered from “stage fright,” especially when it came to addressing Leadership Teams in project organizations.   He believes that project managers do not have the requisite business acumen to speak the language of business. When asked simple questions, project managers often get a bit of stage fright, and sometimes a bit defensive, and then the start speaking project management mumbo-jumbo as opposed to the language of business.  He sees this a lot.   As long as project managers stay in their comfort zone they are okay.  It is outside that comfort zone where “stage fright” often sets in.

So, as project managers, we can all work on expanding our comfort zones and our general business acumen to avoid those “stage fright” situations that often paralyze us in the course of our project management lives.

I would be interested in hearing your input on situations where you have observed project managers in “stage fright” situations and what they did to overcome the situation.  Thank you.

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