When I first saw the commercial spot of Under Armour launched with the slogan “Rule Yourself” I had to think of my career as competitive athlete and how this influenced my working career.
I did athletics for nearly a decade. Being part of an awesome training group and participating in competitions up to Austrian national level was a lot of fun and an experience I never want to miss. I was not gifted with so much talent, but I had a lot of passion and commitment for my sport and worked hard to achieve my goals. These ten years taught me a lot; I just realized how much.
You need to have goals
In competitive sports you have to set yourself clear goals, because without a goal you have no idea what you want to achieve. Even though it’s nice to train just for fun you will start asking yourself why you are dedicating so much time to your training? When the training gets tough and you need to push yourself you need a goal to work towards. Otherwise you will lose your motivation. And it is the same within projects – you and your team need to know where you are heading and what you want to achieve.
Have a plan and execute it
If you have a certain goal for example to win the 4x100m relay in the national championship you need to make sure you are in perfect shape at the day of the competition. To build the physical performance and to deliver it right on time is really tough. Athletes are following strict training plans with long time focus. It is not always great fun to stick to the plan and you have to resist the temptation to skip a training when you are really tired or fed up. But you will not achieve your goal by accident. You need to have a solid plan and execute it rigorously.
Make sure you have the skills to achieve your goal
If I would have set me the goal to compete in the Olympics this would have been absolutely unrealistic. Regardless of how much time I would have dedicated to my training I would not have been able achieve it because I was lacking the talent. It’s the same when you need to deliver a project. You need to take into consideration if you and your team have the right skills. If you are lacking the skills you must either develop the skills or get the right people.
No pain no gain
Our body is a lazy system and only improving physical capacity if we are forcing it to. 3 times of moderate jogging a week will probably make you feel good but not increase your speed. So if you are currently able to run 10km in 55 minutes and want to increase your performance to 45 minutes you need to include intervals in your training. Interval training is hard and very often painful but it will offer you also the gain – the improvement of your performance. The aim of projects is to deliver results which can’t be achieved by routine work. Therefore, projects are offering a lot of challenges. To solve those challenges, it might be necessary to improve your skills or even acquire complete new ones. That will for sure not happen without any “pain”, without you moving beyond your comfort zone.
Don’t let obstacles stop you – find workarounds
In the last year when I was allowed to compete in the Austrian under 23 championship I hurt my thigh two months before the competition and I was not allowed to run for about 6 weeks. I searched for alternative ways of training and managed to keep me fit and to be able to compete at the under 23 championships. I was not in the best shape but we won the women’s 4x100m relay title. If the original plan does not work out for some reasons you need to find a workaround. Even though you might not be able to come up with a solution as good as the original stay focused and be creative in finding solutions. Workarounds may slow down your speed but won’t prevent you from reaching your goal.
Projects are team work
It was clearly my achievement that I was able to compete in the Austrian under 23 championship because I managed to keep me fit in an alternative way. But when it comes to winning the 4x100m relay title I was fully dependend on my three team mates who did the major work. The three of them were in great shape and able to compensate my training deficit. Projects are team work. It is only natural that not the complete team will be in their best shape throughout the whole project. But that’s what team mates are for – to work together and support each other.
You are the sum of all your training
The most important thing in competitive sports is to train, because without training you will not get anywhere. Without training you will not increase your performance and will always stay on the same level. Training in competitive sports is manifold – you train your strength, your endurance, your flexibility and also your mind. Also competitions might be part of your training, because you are using your skills in real life conditions. It’s the same in project management – excellent project managers do not just have a good education or good communication skills or experience. They are having the complete package. Because as it says in the end of the Under Armour commercial “you are the sum of all your training”.