22 November at 08:00AM
Adopt a Peak Performance Cycle and Become Outperformer Project Managers
At PMI Toronto's October Chapter meeting we welcomed author Scott Welle. Scott is no stranger to PMI having spoken to over 20 PMI Chapters over the years. He covers and discusses many interesting topics including “Goal Achievement.” His most acclaimed topic was presented at PMIT’s meeting; “Peak Performance for Project Managers.”
Words Have Power Over Us
If you think you can’t then you are right.
If you think you can, you are also right.
With a background in sports psychology Scott Welle discussed how to train, maintain, and perform at your peak when you need it by remembering the following:
- Be intentional
- Challenge your beliefs
- Own the day
- Savour the small wins
- Adapt and thrive
How many of us, as project management professionals, have a “to do” list? Scott posed this very question to the audience. Not surprisingly many of the evening’s participants—including Scott! —said yes. Scott offered two pieces of advice that can help reframe how we go about our business every day.
- Our behaviour is affected by our feelings. So, how you choose to “show up” every day—meaning our presence—is tremendously important. When things are going well, we don't stop and think about how to approach the day. But we should be intentional about how we show up (e.g., remember to act with purpose when times are tough). Common sense is not always common practice.
- Our words matter! Rather than talk about what we “have to do” every day, rephrase it by saying “I get to do this.” Think about the how; it’s important.
Challenge Your Beliefs
Do you know your story? Is your story a good story?
Let’s be honest, we all know one person who is going through some type of drama—even if their life is going well. Did you ever stop to wonder why they behave this way? Do they belittle every success and magnify every setback?
Story is key; how this dramatic person views themselves influences their behaviour. They don’t have a positive or forward-looking self-narrative. You are watching their story unfold right in front of you. Our self-narratives matter. Scott advises “tell yourself a better story. And then go further. Tell others too.” Elite athletes and performers tell not only themselves, but everyone around them, a full story that covers their past, present, and future—they are determined to reach their goals. This is called the Cycle of Peak Performance.
As Scott explains, “what we believe drives what and how we think.” Then our thoughts influence our feelings, and how we feel affects our behaviour. Think about your interest level or performance at work when you feel great vs when you feel unmotivated. It makes a difference, no?
Lastly, our behaviour leads to our results. This completes the loop and acts as feedback to our beliefs—how we see ourselves and the world around us. Then, the cycle starts again. Initially, we may ask, “What are beliefs?” Many people may not have previously thought about “what they believe in.” Take a moment now using some of the suggestions shared below:
Make a list and appreciate and understand the takeaways from this activity. It is powerful.
Own The Day
How we start the day can impact how the day unfolds. Let’s consider that a day has 24 hours and one hour is equivalent to just 4% of the day. How you spend that first 4% of your day can set the tone for the remainder of the day. Scott recommends that you spend the first hour of your day setting the tone for an outperforming day.
Things to try to get you off to own the day can include meditation, exercise, setting a plan, taking a shower, or having some quiet time for reflection. Scott’s personal recommendation is exercise. Based on his work with elite athletes he considers exercise “the best thing you can do for your physical, emotional, and mental health.”
Another recommendation—specifically for project managers—is to have an attitude of gratitude. Remember project managers don’t do it alone. We work with people to get things done—there are tasks or jobs that are required so we rely on other people. Generally, PMs can be natural pessimists—what’s going wrong, is the project over-budget or behind schedule, etc. —so Scott recommends that we stop and appreciate what progress has been made, what has been achieved, and that will help change our mood, to set the tone for a great day, a great meeting, or a great project deliverable.
There are things you can control and things you can't. There are also things that matter and things that don't, so Scott recommends concentrating on where there is overlap (e.g., where things matter and what is within your control).
This red zone is where outperformers live. You cannot control outcomes. You can control what you put in. By only focussing on just the results, well, that leads to stress, anxiety, or moving in the wrong direction.
As a callback to that “to-do” list from earlier, Scott shares a valuable lesson. Words matter. So, rename your “to-do list” to a strategic priority list. If we are working on our strategic priority list, we will feel and act with more intention and motivation instead of checking things off a “to-do” list.
Savour The Small Wins
Humans need to feel satisfaction to keep our motivation elevated. If there is no sense of clear progression it is easy to lose interest in a task or job, over time. Have you ever felt stuck in a place before? In most cases, likely you have. But there are ways to fight that feeling and become an outperformer.
Incremental improvements are key. Can you recognize them?
At a certain point when you feel you are at a standstill, are you able to look back over a period of time? Can you see the small steps and improvements that led you to where you are now? What if you shift your thinking and stop looking back and look forward? So now, if you are facing an insurmountable task—even a huge obstacle—things become more manageable when we break down the end goal into small increments. Now, you can start making progress.
Adapt and Thrive
This last step will not be unfamiliar to agile project managers! The idea that “there is no failure only feedback” speaks to an ongoing loop of iterations and improvements. When we face failure, we can either get “stuck in the weeds,” or we can keep our heads up, make necessary changes, and go again.
People are very resilient. According to an article by the Harvard Business Review, the most resilient people are those that have experienced the most hardship in their lives. In other words, if you've gone through something difficult before you know you can do it again—what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
Past performance enables you to have reference points and the required can-do feeling. The more we learn the more we gain in confidence, motivation, or empowerment. A final word from Scott to project managers is to highlight one area that we excel at—risk management anyone?
As mentioned above, project managers are natural pessimists, but so are some of the world’s highest achievers! The important area is how we look at risk or as Scott calls it defensive pessimism. In the world of PMI, we assess risk by considering all potential worst-case scenarios, then we take steps to manage the risk (mitigate, transfer, reduce, prevent, etc.). The big takeaway is that we can do this in other areas of our lives too.
Outline Your Beliefs
Scott concluded by encouraging us all to be outperformers. How do we start? The answer: Self-awareness is key. The “norm" can drift through life and never think about their “how”—their story. Give it a try! Go back and review the Peak Performance cycle. What are your belief systems, then go from there. It will change your outlook and lead you toward peak performance.
What do you think about these beliefs? How do you approach conflict or collaboration? Why? If what you believe is affecting your behaviour/results and you are a level below where you want to be, where do you want to make a change?
If you want to learn more about Scott Welle or how to become an outperformer visit his website for further resources.