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What Chess Boxing Can Teach You About Project Management?

A woman in boxing gloves punching chess pieces.A friend who lives in Germany was trying to explain the concept of chess boxing to me the other day. Apparently it is a big sport over there and is starting to become more popular in other places now as well.

A match of chess boxing involves alternate rounds of chess and – you guessed it – boxing. It sounds like a random combination of sporting challenges at first but once I started thinking about it I got more interested in the subject. In fact, as I was lying in bed with my mind wandering vaguely I even managed to find a few connections between this brutal yet tactical sport and project management.

Switch Between Skills or End Up On the Floor

Let’s imagine that you are a keen chess player. As you slip on your gloves and move your gum shield into position you are thinking about whether it is time for your bishop to make an attacking move or whether you plan to use him as a decoy while your knight gallops forward. Suddenly your opponent’s fist hits you in the jaw and you are on the floor, meaning that you won’t get a chance to do anything with your bishop anyway. Nothing quite as dramatic or painful is likely to happen to you on your projects but it is an excellent demonstration of what can happen if you don’t switch from one skill to another at the right time. You need to show a lot of different abilities in the project management role and one of the keys is in knowing when to switch from, for example, meeting mode to problem solving mode. This is one of the aspects of the job which keeps it interesting and is likely to keep you on your toes as well.

Learn New Skills

When you think about it, the competitors in chess boxing have all made a conscious decision to improve their skills at some point. Some of them have said to themselves that being good at chess is all well and good but that it is time that they learned how to pummel people with their fists, while others have taken the opposite approach. As a project manager you will want to constantly learn new skills and this is a great approach to have in your career.

Stand Up to Varied Challenges

It must be tiring to fight off a sustained attack on your king only to have to then face a barrage of jabs and hooks. Having to face a varied and ever changing series of challenges is also one of the big problems you are likely to have to stand up to on a project. You might sort out some staffing issues only to find that you now have problems on the technical front or that your stakeholders aren’t happy with something. As far as I am concerned the variety in the job is one of its big attractions but this also means that the challenges have a lot of variety to them as well. If you can handle them then it will give you a great deal of satisfaction in the long run too.

Improve on Your Weak Areas

It won’t matter that you are a grandmaster at chess if you have a chin made of glass and end up whimpering whenever a few blows hit you on the head. This is one sport in which you need to have a decent approach to improving your weak areas if you want to succeed. The project world is similar in that you can’t afford to be weak in certain areas even if you are particularly strong in other. Of course, we all start off a new job with a number of weaknesses. This can’t be avoided but it is something you should look to rectify as soon as you possibly can. One of your first steps should be to identify the areas you need to work on in order to survive and prosper in this role. You certainly shouldn’t be ashamed of having issues with certain of the skills which this job requires. The time to feel embarrassed is when you have been in the role for a number of years and haven’t anything about learning the things you need to know. If you start looking at brushing up on these needs early on in your career then you can look forwards without any fear of what the future holds.

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