The secrets of high-performing PMO and operations leaders

Connor Grossman author photoConnor Grossman
January 11th, 2024
3 min read
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PMO and operations leaders are in the driver’s seat when it comes to innovating, aligning, and navigating change management at their organization. 

These responsibilities are already heavy—and only get heavier when factoring in the growing number of AI tools entering the market. Organizations are racing to infuse this technology across their businesses, putting plenty of decisions and responsibilities on the shoulders of PMO and operations leaders. They're tasked with leveraging this technology and mapping out the relationships between people, work, and outcomes to maximize impact.

If it wasn’t already clear, it should be now: High-performance leadership is essential for PMO and operations executives.

The Work Innovation Lab, a think tank by Asana, in collaboration with Greg Wells, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Wells Performance, sought to uncover the secrets behind high-performing leadership.

They embarked on a comprehensive study of 6,000 high-performing executives and leaders from the world’s top companies. What they discovered is a science-backed approach to leadership that can be distilled into three priorities

High-performing leaders:

  1. Guard their attention fiercely

  2. Structure their work methodically

  3. Prioritize mental fitness

We’ll break down each pillar and deliver actionable steps you can take to adopt these behaviors.

Guard your attention

It’s easy for the distractions to pile up, especially for PMO and operations leaders, who are tasked with zooming out and examining all aspects of the business. But maintaining your focus is critical to high performance. In fact, the Work Innovation Lab’s study found a strong correlation between leaders who could focus effectively on one task and those who met or exceeded their performance expectations.

What is The Work Innovation Lab?

The Work Innovation Lab is a think tank by Asana that develops human-centered, cutting-edge research to help businesses evolve today to meet the growing changes and challenges of work.

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To block out distractions you can easily implement two key strategies.

Turn off device notifications during meetings: Research shows that even the mere presence of a smartphone can adversely affect cognitive capacity. By turning off notifications, you're preserving your cognitive capacity, keeping your mind sharp and ready to engage.

Delegate tasks to focus on higher-impact work: Effective leaders know how to delegate. According to research, CEOs who excel in delegating generate 33 percent higher revenue. The advent of AI-powered assistants means leaders can concentrate on the work that yields the highest return.

Structure your work

Clear structure in your work reduces the likelihood of decision-fatigue in your workflow—something that commonly afflicts PMO and operations leaders. Annual planning and digital transformation, for example, require countless decisions over long periods of time.

Here’s how you can gain control as a leader:

Slow down to speed up: It might be tempting to work at the highest level you can at all times, but that’s only a recipe for burnout. Instead of consistently working at 65-85% intensity, try alternating between periods of working at 100% and 30%. This 100% is focused work alternated with deep rest and recovery. Working in this way increases strategic thinking, problem-solving, and reflection.

Know when you hit your stride: Optimize your performance by knowing your natural energy patterns—otherwise known as ultradian rhythms. These rhythms determine the duration of your peak alertness and productivity during specific periods. To learn about your ultradian rhythms, track your energy levels during the day. Note when you are energized, focused, and alert, and how long those periods last. Then strategically align your highest priority tasks with times when you are effortlessly energized. 

Maintain your mental health and fitness

The Work Innovation Lab found that improved mental health was highly correlated to leaders’ ability to focus. 

In a field like operations, it’s especially important for leaders to take care of their mental health. Overseeing “how” a company conducts its business is no small task. It requires intense oversight of vastly different departments led by executives with various expertises. There’s a lot to answer for as an operations or PMO executive.\

Here are a few research-backed strategies you can implement to build your mental fitness and wellbeing:

Meditate: Regular practice of mindfulness meditation has been shown to significantly enhance our ability to move between brain waves that are associated with focus, strategizing and creativity respectively, leading to improved mental wellbeing.

Cold exposure: Thirty seconds of cold water at the end of your morning shower can help sharpen your brain function and set you up for your day. Cold water can increase levels of beta-endorphins, which help to diminish brain activity related to stress. \

Get the full report

Leadership is not a secret. It’s a science, backed by data and research. Dive into the full report to learn:

  • All of the data-backed strategies that can turn PMO and operations executives into a high-performing leader

  • The daily challenges and stressors PMO and operations leaders are facing right now, and how top-performing executives are addressing them

  • How PMO and operations leaders can harness the power of AI to supercharge their leadership

By defending your focus, strategically protecting your time, and adopting the right mindset, you can unlock your potential and lead your team to success.

The science of high-performing leadership: Unleashing your potential in the AI era

Learn strategies that can turn anyone into a high-performing leader, based on a survey of 6,000 executives and leaders from the world's top companies.

Get the insights
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