Chapter 67 Resilience

Fantastic opportunity here to get PDUs and give PDUs while I can mix my resilience as a leukaemia “survivor” and a Programme Manager.
It may look like a stretch but when you do both on a day-to-day basis, you can relate and realise that it makes total sense.

First of all, let’s start with a simple definition of what resilience is:
Psychological resilience is the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. Resilience exists when the person uses “mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors”. Wikipedia

As you can see the definition liaises nicely with the top picture and starts also making the link between the disease and the profession.
I would suggest to detail each of them and analyse whether they help in both cases.

While it looks obvious that strength is need to go through a dire, I would not compare PMing and cancer. By definition, during cancer, physical strength is highly likely gone due to treatments e.g. chemotherapy, medics, … so all will happen at mental strength level to stay on a high note and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Indeed if you lose track of that one, it may become tough to get through it. The most difficult thing to overcome here is really to let it go, ask for help and trust the people who are there to save your life! For people like me it is essential to understand that you simply lose the control of your entire life and you can only do one thing: comply. For me it had been one of the most complex concept to grasp in those tough days but it is a sine qua non condition to stay alive.

On the other hand from a PMing perspective, not only you need the mental to be ready as you do for the cancer but you also need to get yourself healthy and physically strong so that you can face multiple fronts at the same time to recover from a disaster or a crisis.
It is a must that you remain fit and well balanced to go through professional hardship. Always keep in mind that you need to set yourself for self-preservation and if your are not strong mentally and physically, you might not be able to manage it properly.

This one is working similarly for both cases… believe me, you know I talk from experience, you need to have confidence in the future else you’d better drop it now…
Nevertheless, be balanced and bring pragmatism and realism in your thoughts, next steps and plans. For the ones who know me personally, they know I am an optimistic individual who likes to inspire through positivism but to balance this the PM in me (you see the little angel on top of my right shoulder) tells me to plan for the worst but hope for the best!
I must admit that it can happen that my faith in an optimistic outcome clouds my planning leading to a place I did not want to be in! Lessons learned indeed but still tough to digest… I must say I have been better on the health front in terms of pragmatism and compliance and here goes the result :-).
So as much self-confidence is key, over-confidence may lead you to disaster as you have seen both at work and also in hospital… this is not because you feel better that you are doing good… if you recall in chapter 8, I talk about neutropenic diet and believe me this was not optional, I lost a mate there because of mussels not being fresh enough, it would not hurt you but after a bone marrow transplant it does!
So adapting yourself to a new normal is important and it is time to talk about the situation to your friends/colleagues so that you can test how they will react as you need to dare saying no to stay in the race.

Here, we’d better split home and work as i am a strong believer that you don’t bring home your management tricks to motivate the family 😀.
From my perspective resilience is not only an individual skill but a skill to instil to a team and is part of the building a high performing team. This means that resilience is developed by motivating the team to build resilience in all we do to deliver our projects. In my case, fortunately, we have available resilience modules we can use in our team meetings to bring awareness and embed the behaviour in people’s mind. So as a leader your resilience is also dependent on the team’s resilience.
Having said that you get it, sharing is agréât way to motivate your team and their resilience will help the community… also you will be better supported to face tough times and try new things and keeping all communication channels open will enable to take both the good and the bad.

What would that mean for yourself trying to recover or being in the middle of e.g. a leukaemia. Motivation is, as you can imagine, still a key point! Motivation can come from different sources like self, community, family, beliefs, you name it. I would almost that it does not matter as long as motivation is there!
What is sure is that you will need a minimum of support to keep your motivation to its highest level by all means as even assuming you are positive and you are building your immunity, the tunnel is still long here, we are not counting in days nor weeks but months/years… it is a journey with ups and downs you will have to face.
Try to self-motivate by redesigning your new normal involving your family and friends so that your stakeholders (you see where I am going) feel part of your new life and so you motivate your eco-system. It will help to adapt your environment and set proper goals with them. Yes, projectise what is coming your way and bring everybody together with you. You will see it is rewarding.

Protecting self:
For me, this is almost the overall goal of resilience whatever threaten you!
If you see resilience as the way to advance despite adversity, then you clearly understand that you have to shield yourself to deliver. This means that you have to have a vision of where you want to be and plan for with enough pro-activity to deal with the challenges in front of you.
In any case, you need to think local i.e. do not compare yourself to others because you will always tend to look at it negatively and think that everybody does better than you but their context might be less complex than yours. You need to keep thinking positively so that you build up your resilience.
Resilience is not a gift but is a skill you can acquire and improve by training yourselves. Learn step by step to get used getting NO as an answer, identify what you can do differently next time, learn from it and mitigate for your next challenge. This will help you getting ready for next event requesting your resilience.

as mentioned in Strength paragraph, it is important to be fit to increase your resilience skill and also enable bouncing back.
However, resilience can be developed with little effort. If you know what to do, you can become more resilient, even if you are naturally more sensitive to life’s difficulties.
You can start your effort working on your resilience self-assessment in order to check what is your level of coping skills vs. stress so that you can realise whether you currently are:
– calm
– anxious
– strong
– holding on
– resilient

once this is done then you can start working testing yourself in real life and get stronger by practicing:
– ask
– analyse the situation
– identify what you would do differently and use your advisory board that will give you honest feedback
– take a break
– think positively
– implement your improved skill through real life examples

So yes, it is effort but this will make you improve your skills and get more resilient when you’ll be hit by a really stressful and negative event in your life.
We all have such ones and i must say that I got these both from a work and health perspective hence I was blessed I have been through a lot and the difficult moments made me who I am and are still helping me to overcome adversity or stress.

I keep in my mind this quote from Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

not that. I am getting lazy but I think that when you read something that really reflects what you have in mind you should proudly refer back to the source and go for it 😉 so I really subscribe to the 5 ways to build resilience during times of change:
1. Know what is in your control or not
2. Adopt a growth mindset
3. Find work that focuses on your strengths
4. Practice mindfulness
5. Take time-out to reflect

This also fit with the Effort paragraph and may help you to link the dots to get a comprehensive view of resilience. I take the opportunity to get you into a post I wrote as part of my MBA to give a good idea of what may mean change in a business area but it easy translates to what it may mean in our personal life as well…
I guess everybody gets that the changes are usually one of the most important source of stress i.e. also then the main trigger to test your resilience.
The below curve from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is for me the perfect link between my cancer and my professional experiences as the steps are identical in both cases and this is actually my point i.e. resilience becomes part of you as a main skill to develop and train to face adversity!

I know we are also treating PMing here in this post but let’s not think here Agile as the PM methodology or way of delivering projects but more our ability to move quickly and decisively and to do so with some ease and comfort.
Agility translates to an ability to remain calm and productive during changing times, to seek out information where it is available, and to act on opportunities even when you don’t have all the data to mitigate all risks.
Rapid prototyping, where you try out a particular idea to see how it works and then modify it from there, is one example of organizational agility.
Yes both agility and resilience are two skills but are also intertwined hence developing skills in resilience and agility will move us beyond the victimization that occurs when people feel powerless and live as if they are under constant pressure.
By building a mindset of resilience and acting with agility facing adversity, we can turn these difficulties into advantages.

I hope that this article will help you planning your journey into resilience not only at work but in your day-to-day life as well!

2 replies »

  1. Golden words Serge.
    Thanks for sharing the inspirational and motivational journey with us.
    Stay blessed 🙏

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