Maintaining Sanity as a Project Manager – Resilience

According to a study conducted by the German Project Management Association in 2014, project managers were found to have higher chance to experience burn out than other occupations (Koether, 2016).  This survey indicated that a total of 35% of people surveyed reached the cut-off score for burnout, 40% felt burned out by their jobs and more than 50% feel exhausted from their work at least once a month (Koether, 2016).

Projects are stressful because it comprises of risks, uncertainties, unforeseen influences, complexity and dynamic changes.   As our world is moving faster with technology, the projects we manage are exponentially growing more complex.  As project managers, we are committed to delivering project on time, on budget and in scope.  To achieve this work commitment, we must learn how to take care of ourselves first.  Specifically, we need to commit to building a resilience self.

What does a resilience project manager look like?

“Good leaders are resilient.  They have the ability to bounce back from setbacks or adversity and keep the team moving in the right direction” (Shippy, 2013).  Therefore, this is a key leadership trait for project managers.  A resilient project manager is “[someone who is prepared for the best but also for the worst]…[and learning is nurtured and encouraged]” (Kutsch, E. cited in Wagner, R. n.d.).

Anyone who has experience running projects can attest that there are many ups and downs throughout the project lifecycle.  These sudden changes of “things”, “people”, and “environment” can change save the project or turn it upside down in a nanosecond.  These changes can often bring excitement or disappointment in both personal and professional life.  There are several techniques that I found effective to build up my resilience.  These techniques are originally developed by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté (Koether, 2016):

  • Accept the situation: this helps to clam me down
  • Self-efficacy: remind myself of personal strength and recall previous examples of achieving successes
  • Think solution: avoid overanalyzing the problem and focus on finding solutions
  • Ownership of responsibility: take on responsibility for own actions
  • Networking – build up and expand personal social networks in a targeted manner
  • Planning the future – actively design the future with goals and images of future
  • Remain optimistic – the conviction and desire to achieve something is its fundamental prerequisite


Final words

Think of resilience as a tree in a storm.  A tree, bends in the wind without falling over, but it “learns” something in the process.  With regular winds, it strengths its trunk structure such that it can better withstand subsequent storms.  It also often changes its growth pattern, developing a slant.  Thus, it “learns” from past stresses and prepares itself for coming storms.  (Wagner, n.d.)


Resiliency is a skill that can be learned.  However, this is a skill that require many hours of practices to master.  When you are happy, you are naturally more optimistic and more resilience.  However, demonstrating resiliency during difficult time is what set you apart as a leader.



Koether, M., 2016. Resilience in Project Management. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 1 April 2017].

Shippy, M., 2013. The Resilience Factor in Leadership. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 1 April 2017].

Wagner, R., n.d. Resilience – a new perspective for individuals, projects and organizations. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 1 April 2017].

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