Why resilience is ‘an essential’ for our skills list

Article by Rachel Jenkins, Training Consultant, Provek

Resilience is increasingly a topic in conversations. This article explores resilience and go-to tools for project managers

Ask any project manager why they love working in the project world and I would bet the majority of us are here for the daily challenge.  We thrive on change and no two days being the same, we are energised by that element of risk and uncertainty and we feel productive after a day of managing the demands of our stakeholders and actually keeping that pesky scope under control for 5 minutes.  We love that there’s always something happening and as the song says, it’s usually quite loud.

All of that takes a high level of energy, every single day.  Add in everything else outside the job and it isn’t a huge leap to realise we ask a lot of ourselves, but how effective are we at managing our energy?  The Hyundai Ioniq can run for around 360 miles between charges, why do we seem to think we can run forever – until we can’t?

We measure our capability through the sum of our knowledge, skills and behaviours all of which are clearly focused on delivery of our projects.  We are doing ourselves a disservice when we assume they only need to apply to our work, like it or not we cannot run on empty and like the Hyundai, each of us need that plug in and recharge too.

I have sadly seen several PM friends succumb to burnout over the last year and it has strengthened my resolve that managing our resilience is as equally important as any of the soft skills we learn and practice.  Resilience should be right up there alongside communication, conflict management, negotiation and all the others we work so hard to develop. Resilience is not just important to us individually; it is also important to the teams we build and lead, a high performing team also needs to be a resilient team.

Resilience is increasingly a topic in conversations with other project managers, colleagues and my Apprentices.  Running low on energy, and often nearly empty has given them a reason to stop, lift their heads up and take a good look at their work and life.  During our conversations, there have been many moments of insight, as they realise they are being extremely hard on themselves.  After all, there is no guidebook to help us navigate the level of turmoil and change we have been through in recent years.  For many of us it has fundamentally changed the way we work, that in itself is bringing new challenges, so is it any wonder our individual and collective resilience has taken a nosedive?

Many situations we find ourselves in as project managers can be difficult and some can end up feeling overwhelming, especially if we can’t work out what to do about them.  They become a drain on not only our time, but also on our all important energy.

So what can we do to help ourselves?  I’m sharing two of my go-to tools, one for in the moment support and one for maintaining a more balanced level of resilience.

Circles of Control and Influence

One of my favourites, this is a tool I often use for myself, with my colleagues and with my teams.  The majority of the Apprentices that I coach at Provek do this tool with me at some point; it lends itself to many situations both in the workplace and at home.  Originally conceived by Stephen Covey, several variations can be found through a quick google and my preference is to keep it simple and visual.

I use two circles to address the issue being worked through and, like many of the tools we use, visual simplicity is part of the impact.  One circle holds all the things connected to the situation that are within our control and influence, and the other holds those that are out of our control.  If you aren’t keen on circles you can write lists if you prefer.

Just the act of filling in the circles can be reflective and quite cathartic.  Frequently you will think of things that hadn’t occurred to you until you step back and look at the situation more critically.

Next, take a closer look at the contents of the circles and ask yourself:

  • How much time, headspace and energy you are using on things that are outside of your control and influence?
  • If you focused on the things within your control or influence, what might change?
  • Even if the answer is ‘not much’, would you feel differently about the situation?
  • What impact would that have on you?
  • What can you actively do change your approach to the situation?

There is a lot of truth in the adage: ‘You can’t change the way someone behaves but you can change how you respond to it’.  This process works in much the same way.

The Reservoir of Resilience

Whilst it may sometimes seem impossible, resilience is something we can and do have a measure of control over and we can manage it effectively if we know how.  A model I use is the Reservoir of Resilience, but any object that fills up and empties will fit the analogy.  I’ve used sinks, buckets, baths, water tanks, you name it!  The idea is that you identify what causes your chosen vessel to empty and what fills it up for you.

The first step is to identify what causes it to empty, where are those cracks in the dam or the leaks in your sink?  You may find your list includes some of the things from the circle outside your control.  You can take steps to spend less time and energy on them although, realistically, they will still be there and will still have an impact on your resilience (albeit hopefully now reduced).

The second step is to think about the topping up and this is completely within your control.  Think about and identify the things you do that make you feel relaxed, energised and positive – these are the things that top your vessel up.  You will find some of them are quick and easy and others will take longer and need more planning.  Typical examples are:

  • Go for a walk or just get outside
  • Go for a run or play your favourite sport
  • Read a book
  • A yoga or pilates class
  • Bake
  • Hop on your favourite app and do a breathing exercise
  • Spend time with friends and family

Now you have a choice.  If you like to be proactive, you may want to top up before the meeting, conversation, presentation etc., that you know is going to be a drain on your resilience today.  If you prefer to be reactive, you will need to commit to topping up soon after – get it planned into your calendar to increase the chance of making it happen.  Whichever you decide to do, create a health habit to look at what’s coming up over the week and plan how you are going to manage it.

There are other models and techniques to help manage your resilience, either directly or indirectly, these are just two of my personal favourites.

Resilience is a fundamental soft skill in project management, who’s with me?


Case studies

Man working at laptop in work environment

Read examples of how Provek has worked with organisations across many industry sectors to deliver customer satisfaction and benefits.

What have our clients said


Man working at laptop in work environment

Deploy the right mix of proven online and face to face assessment techniques to identify and develop the project, programme and change management talent in your organisation.

Go to Assessment


Man addressing a large audience

Develop the project management staff in your organisation with the right standard, tailored or bespoke course and delivery option.

Go to Training


Team meeting

We work with our clients to embed programme and project management and improve delivery through an engaging and seamless provision of assessment, consultancy and training services.

Go to Consultancy

Speak to an expert

Raise your project management to the next level with us

Call us on 01635 524610 or request a call back from us.

Request a call back


Provek is a leading accredited training provider of the APM and other bodies.

Provek hold a AMP training provider accreditation
Provek are a PRINCE2 accredited training organization
Provek are an Enhanced Learning Credits Administration Service ELCAS
Provek are Cyber Essentials Certified