So we all know that Tiger Woods is a fantastic golfer. However, do you think that he’d be any good at running an IT department? The answer, somewhat surprisingly, is that yes, he probably would do a good job. The reason is that there is a lot of similarity between being an excellent athlete and being a top-notch IT manager.
Graham Jones is the founder of a company called Lane4 which uses studies of professional athletes to help managers do a better job of managing. One of the interesting things that he has discovered is that in the area of sports, just like in the world of business, one of the main obstacles to achieving something that has been identified as being “impossible” just might be a self-limiting way of thinking.
One of the first things that you have to realize about being an IT leader is that great leaders are not born, but are rather made. Sure some leaders have nature gifts such as communication skills and leadership attributes; however, the most important skill that they need to have is mental toughness – this means that they get better at doing their job when things get tough.
Great IT leaders rise up not due to chance or luck, but rather because they planned to succeed. Specifically, they identified and achieved lots and lots of little goals in order to get to where they are. This requires them to sharpen their skills and to, much like Madonna, reinvent themselves many times in order to stay out in front of their peers.
So what can IT leaders learn from top athletes? Simple, how to succeed over and over again. Here are the steps that are needed to do achieve top performance over and over again:
Gotta Learn To Love That Pressure
Call it what you like, but pressure is what drives great athletes and great IT leaders to achieve their best. What this means for you is that you’ve got to find a way to learn to love pressure. Another way to say this is that you’ve got to commit yourself to using work pressure to continually improve yourself all the time.
One secret to dealing effectively with pressure is to only focus on making yourself better. Don’t let yourself get distracted by other IT leaders who mange / complete successful projects, get promoted, win awards, etc. Instead, focus on those things that you can control and don’t spend any time thinking about the rest.
You need to be able to step away from the workplace pressure. This means that you actually do need to have another life – family / hobbies / sports, whatever. Top athletes have the ability to flip the pressure switch on when they are “on the job” and then flip it off when they are involved in their other life.
It’s All About The Long Term
By the way, you will occasionally fail. This means that you need to have a way to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back to work. A good way to be able to do this is to have long term goals that you focus on.
What star athletes do is to create very detailed plans that are made up of a series of short term goals. The plan is laid out so that the athlete can do his / her best at the right time – not peaking too early or too late. IT leaders need to do the same. You want to make sure that when you have a big success, it is the right time for it to get maximum exposure within the company.
Push Baby, Push!
We all push ourselves based on the people who we work directly with. If we are working with a bunch of slackers, then there won’t be much self-pushing going on. Instead, we should be searching for opportunities to work with the best-of-the-best. This is very similar to when top athletes train with their fiercest competitors in order to push themselves to be their very best.
Invent And Then Reinvent Yourself
Always be sure to get feedback from trusted sources. This will allow you to understand what you are doing well and where you need to make changes. These changes will allow you to reinvent yourself so that you can become the best IT leader that you can be.
Party Like A Rock Star
Something that IT leaders all to often pass over is to take a break after a major achievement and celebrate. Spending as much effort celebrating a success as you did achieving the success is a way to reward yourself. This is the time to blow off some steam, pause and catch your breath before you push on to the next higher level.
Do you feel like you are performing at your peak management level? Do you have a plan with goals for how you are going to reach the next level in your career? Are you “training” with the best of the best in your office? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.