What It Takes to Be a “Top 1%” PM

What do you need to do to count yourself among the best of the best project managers?  Do you have the talent to do it?

OK, you probably have the talent, or it is unlikely you would have moved into the field of project management in the first place!  In fact, while talent is an important factor, in the realm of project management I think there are more important factors.

Here are some lessons from a look across "industries" - to Tiger Woods in professional golf!

You're a professional, right?  Tiger is a golf professional, and the first thing you need to do is really take your self seriously - like a professional, like Tiger did when he won his first Masters.  Just by thinking like a professional - by creating a space loftier than present to "live into" - will you automatically take your game to the next level.

Now let's not play pretend.  If you think of yourself as a professional, that means you'll take your game - and your efforts - to the next level.  Here are my recommendations:

1. Preparation - You need to be prepared for everything.  I am specifically talking about on-the-job preparedness.  This means anticipating challenges, thinking through risks, researching the answers, identifying the key success factors and focusing on them...  You'll know when you are well-prepared when you stand a little taller, speak a little clearer, feel a little more sure of yourself, act more confident.  If you don't, prepare more!

2. Hard skills - You simply have to master the basics.  If you want people to take you seriously you must not only know the basics of project management, but you must know the basics of all aspects of your projects.  You need to understand the nuts and bolts - to a level where you believe you've left no stones unturned.  If there are some gray spots in your reservoir of knowledge about your projects...keep working at it until you eliminate them and become clear.

3. Soft skills - People skills are the ultimate success factor and differentiator.  Many can master the hard skills, but the soft skills - more of an art than a science - are tougher and take more time and concentrated effort.  But you can control your progress.  work on something every day, week, month, and year...until you think you've mastered it, then move on to the next thing!  You're in it for the long hull, and the payoff will be in all areas of your life.

4. Network - Extend your professional life from your immediate work situation into the broader world.  Get involved with people - for no compensation.  Develop your curiosity, open your mind, gain perspective, share your talents and ideas with others.  Many say that your degree of success is measured by the size and quality of your network.

Don't let me ask...but rather, just ask yourself, "How committed am I to being in the top 1% of PMs?"  You need to be honest, and ask, yourself how committed you are to doing the work in those four areas above.