Project managers need to be resilient people. There are a lot of challenges, organisational politics and general drama involved in managing projects. Stakeholders can be demanding, setbacks can be frustrating and the constant requirement to manage risk can leave even the most optimistic project manager feeling as if the world is about to come crashing down.
So how can project managers become more personally resilient? I asked Mike Clayton, author of Brilliant Project Leader, for his advice on becoming more resilient. “This is an important question and is related to my assessment of the difference between project management and project leadership,” he said.
He outlined thee strategies for making sure you are personally prepared to be professionally resilient.
Keep yourself healthy
“In times of trouble, it is easy for a project manager to take everything on their shoulders and allow themselves to get physically and mentally ground down,” Mike explained. “You must make time for stress-relieving relaxation, social activities, exercise and sleep.” Make sure that you take time during the evenings or at the weekends to do something different, and get away from work. That means switching off your phone! Spend some time with friends, get a massage, go for a walk. These are all things that you can do to lower your stress levels and return to work feeling more able to face the challenges of the office.
“You must also ensure that you prioritise eating well,” he added. “Without your physical wellbeing, your mental agility will suffer and it will be hard to keep things in perspective and think creatively.” Try to snack on fruit during the day instead of grabbing a chocolate bar. There are plenty of places online for you to get advice about your diet, or talk to your doctor.
“I don’t mean a superficial “glass-half-full” optimism, but a recognition that, even with a realistic evaluation of project set-backs, you have options and resources that can allow you, with your team, to prevail,” Mike explained. “This is vital in leadership, because your team will be looking to you to gauge their mood. If you succumb to project depression, then they will too.”
If you surround yourself with talented people work towards having a robust project management approach, and remain nimble, you can manage in about any challenging situation. Even recommending that a failing project be stopped is something that can be a positive action. It’s a route open to you, and another option.
“When a major risk has manifested and all looks bleak, we just get on with it,” Mike said. “But when setback after setback is grinding you down, it is hard to be optimistic.” At times like these, Mike is a big advocate of “gratitude”.
“Recent research in positive psychology and, I must say, my own personal experiences show clearly that making time – just a few minutes each day – to acknowledge what you have to be grateful for can make a huge difference to your mental toughness and resilience,” he said.
Take time out regularly to thank the team for their efforts as well, so that they know they are appreciated.
Resilience is an important trait in project managers. What tips do you have for becoming more resilient and being able to cope with whatever your project throws at you?