A resilient project manager

From my numerous discussions with sponsors and programme managers, resilience is a top ability they value in project managers.

I have been reading quite a lot recently on resilience*. My findings are nothing new perhaps. Yet, we all need reminders, from time to time.

Nurturing your resilience is multi-dimensional. It requires discipline. No one can do it for you. You have to be in charge. You have to be and act as your own resilience project manager.

Some say resilience is a muscle. Sheryl Sanderg, for instance: “You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are—and you just might become the very best version of yourself” (advice offered by Sheryl Sandberg to graduating students at the University of California). Some genetics though may work into your favour. It’s the grand daugther of war and famine survivors speaking here.

I believe resilience is an inner source fuelled by care for the body, the mind and the soul. Ideally, all three need to be in balance. Since everyone’s resilience is unique, take time to identify what works for you. As a project manager, apply your resources management skills to make sure you keep your supplies up-to-date and up-to-needs.

If you do not know where to start to take care of your body and mind, imagine it is a baby you look after. A baby needs enough sleep, appropriate food, comfort and care. Learning to listen to your body is like keeping a project on a critical path and watching the scoreboard for anything going red.

We’ve always known that quality sleep is good for your brain, but recent research from the University of Rochester demonstrates exactly how so. The study found that when you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake.  As a breastfeeding mother, full time project employee and long distance master degree student at the same time, I can’t say enough about the importance of good quality sleep to improving mood, focus, and self-control. A good quality sleep ensures that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your energy, attention, and memory – your key resources to manage a project – are all reduced when you don’t get enough quality sleep.

“We are what we eat”. So we better know more about it. Investing in books in nutrition and/or an appointment with a nutritionist works for me. I also balance my diet with two vegan days per week. It’s also something my grandmother used to do and her resilience is worth a golden medal. Science offers more and more insight into how our well being is affected by what we do. See for example the Ted Talk How the food you eat affects your brain https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyQY8a-ng6g Each body is unique and learning what kind of and how much food it needs it’s a journey for each to take.

Projects can get pretty emotional at times. Tensions are high. Interests are at stake. Things do not go as planned. Disappointments lead to emotions. Of different kinds. It’s to be expected and many other professions face similar upheavals. In such situations, I find answers in Daniel Goleman research on emotional intelligence. See more http://www.danielgoleman.info/. In fact, every social interaction creates emotion. I know that my reaction would lead to the team members’ reactions. “Teams are emotional incubators’ sais Vanessa Druskat, Ph.D., an internationally recognized expert and consultant on group emotional intelligence. Teams’ emotions create a chain of reactions among sponsors, clients and stakeholders. Once aware about how the social brain works, the triggers become more manageable for an increased collaboration.

nils-muiznieksLast but not least, humour and the ability to laugh about yourself is a savour. Here is the 14th Dalai Lama, taking time out of his serious and profound speech to the Council of Europe on the need for greater compassion, ethics, morality and self discipline, to laugh and joke with Nils Muižnieks, the Commissioner for Human Rights … and then tickle him https://www.facebook.com/councilofeurope/videos/10155390922917715/ .

If you believe in the value of fun in projects, see also “The Project Manager who smiled” by Bob Taylor https://myprojectdelight.com/2016/05/11/the-project-manager-who-smiled-by-bob-taylor/

For a project manager’s resilience to work, it might be ‘Eat, Pray, Love” or ‘Sleep, Eat, Laugh”. Up to you to figure it out. With kindness to yourself and care for others.

If you want to assess your resilience, Harvard Business Review offers an Assessment: https://hbr.org/2015/01/assessment-how-resilient-are-you by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

* “Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure” by Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan on HRB.org

“How Resilience Works” by Diane Coutu on HRB.org

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s