The Resilient Auditor, Part 10: Staying the Course
I opened this resilience programme last summer with Andy Murray's epic Wimbledon triumph, all the more poignant thanks to all those years he doggedly held on in there subsequent to his first semi-final appearance in 2009. And here we are at the 2014 finals, minus a certain Mr Murray, but if there's one thing the commentators agree - Andy will be back! Tenacious, durable and focussed, nobody it seems personifies resilience more. Holding his nerve with a clutch of break points against him, bouncing back to win grand slam tournaments following elimination in the early rounds, his language is all about regrouping, reforming and of course, the art and science of resilience.
Just like Andy, we too have come full circle in our resilience programme. In our final chapter, we'll revisit the essence of resilience and take a look back at what it takes to develop resilience as an auditor.
The Oxford Dictionary defines resilience as 'the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties'. But personal psychological resilience is more than just coping; it's the magic ingredient that enables us, not only to survive, but to thrive; to grow and develop as a result of what we've undergone. It's not just about returning to form, but returning, fortified, stronger and wiser for the experience.
The role of resilience as a key twenty first century personal and professional competence is wholly appropriate against the back drop of complexity and relentless change in which we live and work today. The pace, demands and challenges of our complex lives require us to assimilate, rapidly adapt and recover from setbacks. Building resilience supports us in doing all of this as well as protecting our mental health.
Thankfully, resilience is teachable and learnable, so keep reading for your quick guide to the essential steps.
Having a purpose simply means having a reason for doing what you are doing. A purpose will help you set direction for your life and career and can help you keep you going when the going gets tough. To maintain resilience we need high levels of determination, and determination requires focus - on goal, task or purpose. And if purpose sets your destination then goals create your map. For tips on goal setting re-read Part 2.
We are all guilty; our heavy daily demands make us more vulnerable to relying on short term fixes (caffeine, alcohol, junk food) rather than making the time to invest in building resilient bodies. But in part 3 we made it much easier for you to make this investment by giving you new incentives for healthy eating, exercise, hydration and sleep. And as we knew you wouldn't have enough time, we gave you some short cuts too!
The link between stress and resilience needs little explanation. Suffice to say, you will undoubtedly experience a level of increased pressure at some point in your calendar, probably as a seasonal work peak but possibly also from social or other personal factors. Resilience techniques such as changing perceptions, reframing stressors and supportive self talk can all be antidotes to the risk of elevated pressure tipping into stress. And once you've used these techniques, the experience helps build your resilience 'muscle', significant also in feeding our self belief, as studies show that merely believing that we have the resources and the ability to cope builds a 'can do' attitude.
A growth mindset translates into an assumption that you believe your abilities, competencies and worth can be developed; you will actively engage in new opportunities and build confidence by learning from failure. (Sounds a lot like resilience!). With a fixed mindset, you'll accept your inherent qualities as static, you'll seek perfection, avoid taking risks and your confidence will be more delicate requiring constant success to sustain it. Each of us is somewhere on a continuum between a growth and a fixed mindset, influencing our capacity for optimism and indeed happiness. Where are you?
Subtle and insidious, the telltale signs of stress could be manifest in changes in any of the following: feelings of failure, anxiety, poor concentration, impatience, insomnia, social withdrawal, failure to meet deadlines, poor eating habits, headaches, stomach upsets, skin complaints. The list could go on...
One of the core resilience building techniques you can foster is to develop your self-awareness so that you begin to notice personal signs and symptoms of stress which predict your own tipping point from pressure into stress. In part 6 we show you how to do this and suggest actions you can take.
Self-confidence is not necessarily an all-pervading characteristic which you either have or haven't got. Typically, we will have some areas of our lives where we are confident and others where we are less so. But lacking confidence can hold you back from taking measured risks, asserting yourself and learning from setbacks - all of which are important in building resilience. In this chapter we introduce you to tools that will help you take a balanced look at your strengths and how you can build confidence by watching your self-talk.
Are, in fact, humour and resilience, actually one and the same? What is humour but the ability to make light of real life? Humour is often dubbed as a coping mechanism (think of the escapism of a daft film to unwind after a long, demanding day); resilience as we know is more than merely coping, its thriving as well as surviving, and some commentators would put humour in the category of a basic human need. Smiling (even faking it until you make it), 'playing' and finding things to laugh at, can all have wide-ranging therapeutic effects, as well as de-escalating crises, promoting bonding with others and reminding us of the important things in life. A sense of humour is often associated with high emotional intelligence - of which resilience is a vital ingredient.
We've already mentioned the importance of managing our perceptions and even if we don't actually call on our network for support, it's the very perception of feeling supported which makes a significant contribution to our resilience levels. But when you do need help don't expect your friends, family and colleagues to mind-read - you need to put yourself out there - and ask! And don't forget the audit agony aunt when you get stuck on a career problem!
Did you stay the course? If not it's time to bounce back!
We did cover a lot in our resilience programme - but we've given you the links - so you can dip in and out, catch up on any bits you've missed and mix and match to suit your own personal needs. If you haven't already done it, I highly recommend that you complete the i-resilience questionnaire - it will consolidate the learning from the CareersinAudit programme but also help you put together an action plan of next steps.
So happy resilience building, and remember - at every step of the way - asking for help is a strength not a weakness!
Carol McLachlan FCA
Carol McLachlan, theaccountantscoach, is a qualified accountant, NLP Practitioner and professionally qualified coach. Her 18 year career at Ernst and Young in Audit and Assurance as a client handler and as Director of Resources has equipped her with a real understanding of the professional and personal issues that auditors face.
As theaccountantscoach she works in partnership with individuals and organisations - quite simply - helping them to be the very best they can be. She has helped accountants and auditors move from employment to entrepreneurial pursuits, prepare for their next promotion, become inspiring leaders and engaging presenters and manage their work life balance. Carol writes and lectures extensively on a wide range of professional development topics and is currently researching 'CPD in accountancy' for her master's degree.
For the agony aunt service on career issues, contact Carol here