Do project managers get better with age?
Last week was Seniors Week in my home state and I’m trying not to fall into a cliche of simply worshipping the experience of senior project managers, because there’s more to them than that.
On a recent visit to Sydney, US psychologist and author Dr Martin Seligman spoke on creativity and ageing. He said he’d asked his science pals, many of whom were well past ‘retirement’ age, at which age they thought they did their best work. To a man (for they were all men), they said “now”.
Despite the brain becoming more prone to memory loss and generally slowing down, the benefits of being older, from a neurological perspective, were actually quite advantageous. Exercises such as problem solving and judgement improved due to better pattern recognition and input from experience, said Seligman. And because a lot of what a project manager does is solve problems and make decisions, or support decision-making, this means our senior colleagues are actually getting better at their jobs.
Let’s not forget that many project managers who are today close to or beyond ‘retirement’ age lived through an era that saw the birth of modern project management and the proliferation of project management methodologies, education and standards. It was like the Cambrian explosion of the project management world (come on, you didn’t think I was going to write this without a fossil joke, did you?).
So next time you encounter a senior project manager—whether that’s your mentor, boss, colleague or yourself—take a moment to appreciate what they’ve been through but also what they are today and how they can influence tomorrow.