Lisa Lisson is the president of FedEx Canada, and she has a new book. Hers might seem like a standard story of success, until you dig deeper.
She started off as an entry-level worker who climbed her way up to management. One night, just as she was celebrating with her young husband, he suffered a heart attack and fell into a coma, never to wake up. Somehow, as a single mom with four kids and a broken heart, she became the first female president of one of the biggest companies in North America.
We asked her to share how exactly to pull yourself up and start again, when everything has fallen apart.
Firstly Lisa, tell me a little bit about yourself. What do you do? Where was home growing up?
I am a widow and raising four kids: 3 daughters (ages 20, 18, and 16) and my son (who is 13). My high school sweetheart -- and the love of my life -- had a massive heart attack when he was 38 years old. I kept him alive in a vegetative state for two years, waiting for a miracle that never came. A year after he passed away, I was promoted to the first Canadian and first female President of FedEx Canada, a job I have had for the past 7 years. Home growing up (and still my home today) is Burlington, Ontario.
How did you get to where you are today?
I have been at FedEx Canada for 26 years, and have been President for the past 7 years. I started out in an entry level marketing position. I worked my way up by writing down my goals and figuring out what baby steps I could take to achieve my goals, such as asking people above my pay grade to share their career playbook with me and how they got where they are. I believe in the power of mentors and sponsors. I have used them throughout my career. I think it is very important to drive your own career and let your intentions be known. I took lateral moves whenever I could, to help increase my knowledge and get me out of my comfort zone. They say great things happen outside of our comfort zones.
What is an average Monday for you?
There is no "average" anything in this job. Each day is very unique and different, which I love; it keeps me on my toes.
Is there a secret FedEx hack?
No hacks, unfortunately. :)
You are, of course, an inspirational high flyer; but your journey hasn't always been free of turbulence. You went through a huge loss, just as everything was seemingly coming together perfectly. What would your advice be for other women having to get back up and start again?
My husband suffered a massive heart attack at 38 years old. Our kids were 9, 7, 5, and 3. I kept him alive in a vegetative state for 2 years, waiting for a miracle that never came. He was the love of my life. We met when we were 14 years old. He was my everything. I had to learn to find my resilience, not only in order to survive this, but also to become stronger than I was when I started for the sake of my kids. I found out that you don’t need to be born with resilience. It can be learned. I had to seek out the life lessons in this tragedy. I learned the power of gratitude. To be grateful for what we have in life, and not focus on what’s missing. I learned to be fully present in the moment, and not let my mind wander to sad places or worry about the future. Worrying is a down payment on a problem we may never have. I learned that even in the darkest of times, if we look hard enough, we can always find a reason to smile. My mother said to me that life is not about what happens to us, but what we do with what happens. That taught me that I still had some choices in my life, even though I felt trapped by this tragedy. I learned that I could control how I respond to what happens with my attitude. Our attitudes are our calling cards in life.
Is planning key to juggling your super human workload (a major exec job, 4 children, and just being an adult human)? Or just going with the flow?
Planning is huge. I try and plan as much as I can, though not everything can be planned. Planning keeps you organized and reduces your stress level. I am a list person. I write everything down so I don’t forget, and that also keeps me calm.
What is next?
I have a few ideas. :)
I believe in the power of writing down your goals. They say that those people who write down their goals are more successful than those who don’t. And it’s not just about writing down your goals, but determining what baby steps you can take to get there. Break down those big overwhelming goals into baby steps and you will be surprised by what great progress you can make.