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Resilience – A ”Must Have” For Business Leaders

30 Jan 2019

Annita McGettigan

Annita McGettigan attended a recent Business Leaders breakfast for Chartered Accountants Young Professionals and the theme was "Resilience - Bend, don't Break". How does that apply to business leaders and what are the next steps?

Resilience – a word that instantly brings to mind professional athletes or emergency professionals such as nurses or fire fighters. However it is increasingly appearing in job specifications, not just referring to the actual business but to the “essential” characteristics of the person the organisation is looking to hire.

Brightwater has been involved with the Young Chartered Accountants for several years and we’ve watched (and learned) as topics for their Business Leaders series have evolved over time to include softer skills and as organisations demand more from their employees. Last week The Young Chartered Professionals held a breakfast seminar in CA House where Fiona Flynn of Foresight CD spoke to a rapt audience about the increasing need for resilience amongst business leaders.  The title for her presentation “Resilience for Leaders, Bend, don’t Break” certainly resonated amongst the qualified chartered accountants in the room, whose jobs have changed rapidly in the last number of years as finance is recognised as the cornerstone of every business and as senior finance professionals become key decision makers.

But what does the word “Resilience” mean? According to the dictionary, it’s the “capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or the ability to spring back into shape”. 

So why has resilience become so important in a professional’s life? As Fiona explained, there are various factors that have increased both the need and demand for resilience.  The external factors that have impacted upon the need for resilience in business include the following:

  • Rate of change
  • Competition
  • Teamwork
  • Labour Mobility
  • People Focus
  • Job demands
  • Matrix Projects

This has all led to an increased need for flexibility, creativity, self management, relationship management, staff motivation, personal connections and self development.  Fiona also quoted the JCA Thrive Model of Resilience.

  • Survive – how we respond
  • Adapt – how we adjust
  • Recover – how we bounce back
  • Thrive – how we grow

A person’s career is a marathon, not a sprint. Successful business leaders thrive in intensive yet rewarding environments. It all depends on both how you manage stress as an individual and how you adapt it to your career. Judging from some of the questions asked from the audience made of the Chartered Accountants Young Professionals, they’ve all come across this in their careers with issues ranging from difficult bosses and unexpected projects /deadlines to managing work/life balance and working on self development and the skills needed to cope with all the rapidly changing demands that a highly challenging environment can suddenly present.  The good news is that resilience is something that can be developed. Fiona gave some quick examples of how you can develop your own resilience and therefore adapt it to your own life/career.  She recommended first asking yourself some key questions:

  • When are you at your best?
  • Who are the key people in your network that support and stretch you?
  • How do you get balance in your life?

In order to develop resilience, some of the tips Fiona offered were to know and use your strengths, identify your triggers for stress so that you can manage them better,  know your purposes and values, connect with mentors / sponsors (either within your own organisation, professional institute or elsewhere), manage your energy levels and know your own boundaries. One of the tips that clearly resonated with the audience was to connect with mentors and ask for help when needed. The stigma of admitting you need help in a work situation has thankfully dissipated so asking for help should be encouraged in any professional environment. 

The rapidly changing landscapes of the business world coupled with new technology does mean that priorities and requirements change within organisations and professionals are hit with new challenges almost on a daily basis. All of these demands can cause stress and burnout but if you’re open to change and recognise that external stimulus can help you thrive both as a professional and as an individual, it is only then that you will be able to succeed as a true resilient business leader.

Brightwater is the exclusive recruitment partner of the Chartered Accountants Young Professionals. For more events on the YP calendar, check out their events page on

Annita McGettigan is the Assistant Manager of Brightwater’s Accountancy division and specialises in temporary and contract placements for finance and accountancy professionals.  She can be contacted on [email protected]