Here’s why you should encourage competitive spots at the workplace. Tennis as an example.

February 22, 2024
Reading time: 3 min

How to reduce stress at work as a project manager?

Participation in competitive sports has the ability to improve performance in the workplace. Competitive sports can transform a company’s culture, improve personal leadership skills, and boost teamwork.

This is why, in Smartexe, we’ve built in-house sports leagues and are encouraging workers to participate in competitive sports outside. And no, it’s not about fitness, though being in shape also helps individual performance.

To take this point across we’ve conducted a series of interviews with some of our employees to try and learn how competitive sports impacted their work performance. Today, we share the story of Maria project manager, who successfully manages 23 people in Smartexe, and gives a lot of credit for her success in her tennis practice.

Maria picked up tennis about 4 years ago in order to reduce stress and gain fitness during an extremely demanding project. But what she got out of it was much more than a pressure relief valve:

Overcoming the Fear of Failure

One of the first lessons tennis taught Maria was to confront and diminish the fear of losing. Every match is an opportunity to learn, irrespective of the outcome. This mindset is invaluable in project management, where setbacks and hurdles are inevitable. Embracing failure as a stepping stone rather than a setback fosters resilience and a goal-oriented approach, encouraging teams to persist through challenges and view obstacles as opportunities for growth.

Sharpening Focus and Critical Thinking

Tennis players don't just rely on brute strength; they master the art of placing the ball exactly where their opponent isn't. Each point requires a quick assessment of the situation and a well-thought-out response.

This is akin to project management, it's not just about working harder but smarter. Think of your project plan as your game strategy, meticulously crafted, but flexible enough to adapt to unexpected drop shots.

Emotional Regulation and Psychological Resilience

Tennis is as much a psychological battle as it is a physical one. The capacity to manage emotions, stay calm under pressure, and maintain a positive demeanor despite adversities are crucial. In project management, managing the stress of deadlines, the pressure of stakeholder expectations, and the dynamics of team collaboration requires a cool head. Tennis teaches us to control our emotions and remain composed, enabling better decision-making and leadership. Also, the game helps to understand how to turn potential outbursts into opportunities for motivating your team and steering your project back on track.

Rally for Continuous Learning

The beauty of tennis lies in its lack of a ceiling for growth. There is always someone better to learn from - hey, even the pros have coaches. The IT landscape is ever-evolving, with new technologies and methodologies emerging at breakneck speed. Adopting a mindset of continuous learning and improvement is like honing your backhand or perfecting your serve — it keeps you competitive and at the top of your game.

The Psychological Serve: Staying One Step Ahead

Winning in tennis often boils down to outthinking your opponent, predicting their next move, and crafting a response that keeps them on their toes. Project management requires a similar blend of foresight and psychological mastery. Understanding the motivations, concerns, and working styles of your team and stakeholders allows you to navigate the project landscape with empathy and strategic insight, ensuring that when challenges arise, you're ready with a well-placed psychological "serve" that keeps the project momentum in your favor.

These are the lessons Maria attributes to tennis. But what about you? Are you participating in competitive sports? The next time you're facing a project challenge or stress gains a match point against you, try a competitive sport. Tennis or table tennis, football or e-sports - competition is where the secret lies.

Next time we will cover team-building through competitive sports. Follow us not to miss it.