What can project managers learn from pro sport?

What can project managers learn from pro sport?

Whilst the majority of my posts are straight project management posts, I like to throw in a few that are a bit alternative to keep it interesting. I hope you enjoy the change.

For me personally sport is a huge motivation and interest in my life. As a small child I was always out on my bike, climbing trees and building dens. I progressed to running cross-country fairly seriously as a teenager and since settling down continue to run, ride my bike, ski and dinghy sail. It keeps me happy, healthy and most of all gives me much needed downtime. Although I’ve never achieved the great heights of even the most average athletes I gain much enjoyment from what I do and would never want to be without it.

Whenever we watch sport in our house, particularly the individual sports, I am always blown away by the determination and dedication of the athletes. Their focus is 100%. They have self-belief that is beyond imagination and leave themselves little room for failure.

A story about Jean de Villiers

I heard a story about Jean de Villiers, the recent South African Rugby Union captain (who sadly had to retire during the 2015 world cup due to a broken jaw). He sustained a serious, maybe even career threatening, shoulder injury just ahead of the 2003 world cup. After spending an entire morning in surgery he came round to ask when he could leave. The surgeon let him know he was ok to go if he wanted. His comment was “good, I need to get to the gym today”.

Phenomenal determination from Herman Maier

Another example on similar lines, and my particular favourite, is the legendary Austrian downhill skier Hermann Maier (The Herminator), who ranks second on the men’s all-time list. About half way through his career Maier had a near-fatal motorcycle accident which almost resulted in his lower right leg being amputated. Probably because of who he was, the decision was taken to carry out reconstructive surgery. Maier came back in 2003 to win the super-G in Kitzbuhel, astounding many. Maier continued to win, amaze and entertain the crowds until 2009. Pretty impressive for someone who at worst could have been dead and at best shouldn’t really have been able to walk again.
What amazes me about both of these stories is the sheer grit and determination demonstrated by the athletes. Let’s face it, most of us would have been in bed feeling exceedly sorry for ourselves for some time and certainly not heading to the gym or getting back on our skis. Clearly, given their achievements, they are exceptional individuals, however it demonstrates just how far drive, willpower and resolution can get you, especially during the tough times.

Being a project manager can be a long and lonely journey

Being a project manager can sometimes be a long and lonely journey. Even with a good team around you, you can feel as though you have the weight of the world on your shoulders when things are not going as planned. Tenacity and determination are great skills to foster during these times. If you have belief in yourself and your ability to deliver you can keep going. Eventually someone will remember to thank you. During these times I always look to sport to motivate me. I had a personal 800m victory when I was 15 that I remember, but also I turn to stories such as those of Hermann Maier, Bradley Wiggins when he won the Tour de France and Jess Ennis in the 2012 Olympics. These people truly inspire and motivate me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed you’ve enjoyed the change in post-type (we will be back to normal in our next post). I would love to hear who in the world of sport inspires you and why in the comments.

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