Recently I participated in an interactive webinar with Marcus Buckingham who is a well known author and speaker on management and leadership topics. The topic was resilience. If there was one thing the COVID pandemic has shown us it is that not everyone has the same degree of resilience and it can be affected by a number of things.

Let me give you the headline up front. Buckingham says resilience comes from a combination of:

  • Living through change
  • Trust in leadership
  • Feeling loved at work
  • Finding love in work

I like Buckingham’s definition of resilience as a “reactive frame of mind that enables you to bounce back or up in the face of resistance / vicissitudes of life / challenges /obstacles”. He and his colleagues at ADP recently completed a global workplace survey of just under 27,000 people across multiple countries including Australia.  From detailed analysis and some statistical wizardry he reckons there are 10 questions that can identify how resilient you feel and can therefore help guide how to build resilience. Those questions are:

  1. I have all the freedom I need to decide how to get my work done.
  2. No matter what else is going on around me, I can stay focused on getting my work done.
  3. In the last week, I have felt excited to go to work every day.
  4. I always believe that things are going to work out for the best
  5. My team leader tells me what I need to know before I need to know it.
  6. I trust my team leader.
  7. I’m encouraged to take risks.
  8. Senior leaders are one step ahead of events.
  9. Senior leaders always do what they say they’re going to do.
  10. I completely trust my company’s senior leaders.

In broad terms he says if you strongly agree with all 10 of these you are highly resilient

Living through change

Buckingham said the survey showed that experiencing change adds to resilience – so the more changes you experience the more resilient you are likely to be. He believes people do not fear change (particularly when they know the why and how) but they do fear uncertainty. I agree with this and reckon I’ve seen this play out on a number of occasions inside accounting firms where communication from leaders has been poor or almost non-existent.

Trust in leadership

Buckingham sees trust as a multiplier of resilience. He believes transparency and what he terms “vividness” are important for leaders to be trusted. He sees vivid communication as story telling that involves drama, detail and dialogue. He also talks about “vivid foresight” – tell the team what won’t change when you look around the corner, (look ahead) as a leader should be doing.

Feeling loved at work

The survey identified a high proportion of work is completed within teams. No real surprise there I guess and we could view this as valid for accounting firms. That said he notes that quite often reporting is focused on individual performance rather than team performance. He also observes that on boarding of new people into your business should incorporate ways for the new person to join teams and feel connected. I’ve long been a fan of a well thought out and planned induction process and see the sense in what he is saying.

One other observation Buckingham makes is that organisations often try to eradicate uniqueness which is a bad idea. This goes to the notion of playing to strengths of different members of the team to achieve much more than would otherwise be possible. Buckingham has written and spoken for years abut this and I wholeheartedly agree that we can get carried away trying to eliminate every (often unimportant) weakness and ignore the strengths of a person and how they can be leveraged.

On final comment from Buckingham on feeling loved at work was that people on your team want you as a leader to figure them out and give them some individual attention. He is a believer in a team leader having a 1 on 1 session each week with each member of the team to ask “what are your priorities this week and how can I help?” He calls this light touch approach “anticipatory communication” and points out that if you cannot check in with each and every team member each week you have too many people on your team.

Finding love in work

I don’t know about you but I absolutely love what I do. I can’t wait to get going in the morning and deliver in my role as a coach, consultant, mentor, trainer and facilitator for owners and managers of accounting firms. No seriously, I love it! Buckingham has some tips for those who might not be quite so in love with what they do.

  • Autonomy feeds into this so identify what you can control and work on that. The flip side of that is for team leaders to find ways to give more autonomy. In accounting firms full of highly educated, motivated people this should be easy!
  • Compartmentalisation helps – keep different aspects of your life in different swim lanes
  • Find the “red threads” to weave into your day. By this he means find some tasks you really enjoy and make sure you get to do some of them every day. He reckons even as little as a few percent of your day on these things reduces the chances of burnout.
  • I’m going to add to this that sometimes a person may just be in the wrong role and as a team leader your job is to keep an eye out for this and support that person to find what they really love. If you are having regular check ins with each team member 1 on 1 then you will be well placed to identify this.

The pandemic has shown us all how quickly and significantly things can change in a not so positive way. Resilience helps to respond to such events and I encourage you to consider the ideas Buckingham shared in the webinar and apply some or more of them in your daily work.

If you want to see more on the Global Workplace Study 2020 you can find it here: Research – Marcus Buckingham