When you first meet Lisa Lisson, president of FedEx Express Canada, you would never know her true resilience. She is a woman of perseverance and strength, who has by all accounts reached the highest of professional highs, while also suffering the lowest of personal lows.
Lisa’s story began with the love and loss of her high school sweetheart, Patrick. After a massive heart-attack took his life at the age of 38, Lisa placed her hope in doctors and miracles. She kept Patrick alive for two years while caring for their four children and remaining true to her responsibilities at work.
Unfortunately, Patrick’s body could only sustain itself for so long, and eventually Lisa and her children had to formally say goodbye to their loving husband and father. Through all this hardship, Lisa continued her focus at FedEx and almost a year to the day of her husband’s death, she was promoted to president of the company, the first woman and Canadian to ever have that title.
Today, she shares her story in her new book, Resilience: Navigating Life, Loss and the Road to Success. Part leadership guide, part memoir of loss, and part personal empowerment, Resilience is an inspirational story about how to break the glass ceiling, triumph over adversity, and live each day with purpose.
Is Resilience the first book you’ve written?
Yes, this is my first book. After my husband died after being in a vegetative state for two years, I began sharing my story publicly. Afterwards a lot of people came up to me and asked whether I had a book. Their interest planted the seed, but it took me a couple of years to wrap my head around the idea because I wasn’t sure if I had a story that others would want to read about. One Sunday I was sitting at home and wondering what baby steps I could take towards accomplishing that goal. I reached out to some contacts, they advised me how to get started down that path and connected me with a writer whose help I knew I was going to need, and four years later here I am.
How long did the writing process take?
Well I have a day job so the book took four years to write, working nights and weekends. Of course, the process was painful at times because I had to relive a very dark period in my life in painstaking detail. At the same time, the process was also incredibly cathartic for me, and helped me gain a much deeper understanding of myself and of that period in my life.
Why is it important for you to share your story about love and loss?
Everybody suffers a loss of one kind or another in life. And everyone has to adapt to change, whether in the wake of a death or divorce or whatever. Even if the loss they suffer isn’t as sudden as the one I experienced, they still have to find the courage and strength to make it through. During that period in my life, I discovered that I was capable of much more than I realized. By sharing my story I hope I can help others see that they, too, are capable of much more than they know. I can also remind them not to sweat the small stuff and to be grateful for every moment they are healthy and safe.
During this time, you managed to not only raise four children and maintain your high-profile job at FedEx, but you also achieved a promotion to president of the company. How did you take surviving to thriving during this time in your life?
First of all, there is no way I could possibly have managed without the support of my family. There were days that I couldn’t get out of bed. My parents were there to offer practical and emotional support at every turn. I also had a guardian angel along the way. After I managed to get my husband into a hospital rehab program, I intended to sit by his bedside from morning to night. But on the second or third day after he’d been admitted, the neurosurgeon who ran the program met me at the front door of the hospital and told me gently but firmly that he was in her hands now and that I had to go back to work and find my new normal.
Even though those first few months back were incredibly difficult for me because I had to face constant reminders of how profoundly my life had changed, ultimately work became my salvation. It gave me a structure and it also provided me with an identity beyond that of my husband’s caretaker. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, doing my job in the best way I could and reminding myself I still had a lot to be grateful for. I delegated a lot more than I had previously, which taught me that I probably should have been delegating a lot more beforehand. My boss was also an incredibly understanding person, and I drew on the support of my colleagues, family and friends whenever I could.
Who do you hope reads your book? What do you hope they get out of it?
My book is partly a memoir and partly a business advice book. I’m sharing what I’ve learned about business and life, so I think it’s relevant to anyone who cares about either of those subjects. Women who are looking for advice about how to advance in their careers and manage their families and careers may have a particular interest in my story, but it’s by no means only relevant to women. I’ve had many men in Canada and the United States tell me that the book spoke to them as well, both from a business and life perspective, and many men have told me the book helped them deal with loss.
Article courtesy of West of the City.