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The Masters of Project Management
By Harry Hall

One of the events I enjoy each year is the Masters; a premier golf tournament held in my home state of Georgia. I have carefully studied the masters of golf each time I have attended. What is it that allows golfers to reach the summit of the golf world?

I have also watched many project managers (PMs) through the years. Some PMs outperform other PMs exponentially. These PMs have superior soft and hard skills. They are the masters of project management.

Traits of World Class Performers

What are the traits of world class performers? World class performers practice hard, receive coaching, and sleep and rest.

Practice

World class performers practice in a consistent and disciplined approach. They put in many more hours than average performers. Their thinking is that they never arrive at the top of their game. They continuously learn new tools and techniques.

How can PMs learn more and improve performance? Here are some ideas:

  • Ask for projects that challenge you and allow you to learn new things
  • Attend project management conferences and symposiums
  • Read project management books
  • Read non-project management books that teach leadership and communication skills
  • Speak and teach on project management topics
  • Take project management simulation classes

Coaching

World class performers seek feedback from the best coaches. You know the saying “Practice makes perfect.” Howard Hendricks says, “Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent.” What does he mean?

Let’s say that I hit the golf ball to the left a lot, sometimes into the rough or out of bounds. If I practice with the same swing mechanics, I will continue to hit the ball left. I get the same results. The swing pattern becomes permanent.

How do I adjust the swing? I need a coach. I need someone to watch what I am doing. The coach can help me determine corrections in my behavior. They can help track my progress and ensure that I don’t relapse into former habits.

PMs need coaches too. Find a mentor or senior PM. Ask them for feedback and suggestions. Listen to their observations and recommendations. Make appropriate changes in your behavior and attitude. Well-guided practice makes perfect.

Sleep

Many studies suggest that one of the best ways to improve performance is to get more sleep and rest. Getting sleep and taking naps are some of the best ways to improve your concentration, engagement, and productivity at work. We cannot Burn the Candle at Both Ends.

Many people disregard this as nonsense. They think they can get by with much less sleep than others. The truth is that many people are sleep deprived and just don’t realize it.

I encourage you to increase your sleep by fifteen minute increments over several weeks. Shoot for a minimum of eight hours of sleep per night. You will gain energy as you recharge your sleep bank.

Final thoughts

No matter if we are the masters of project management or a novice, we can get better. Improving our performance and value to our company come through practice, coaching, and sleep and rest. You, too, can join the ranks of those who wear the Green Jacket of project management.

Question: What other traits distinguish higher performing project managers from average project managers?

Harry Hall, PMP, PMI-RMP, is the Director of Enterprise Risk Management at the Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, one of the largest domestic insurance companies in the state of Georgia. You can read more from Harry on his blog.

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