The fundamentals of resilience

Andrew Harding, FCMA, CGMA

If ever there was a period in our lifetimes when we have had to tap into stores of resilience, it has been the past few months.

An unexpected, fast-changing global health situation, the lives of our loved ones at risk, an uncertain economic time ahead. Who is not affected?

As the coronavirus situation escalated, and I led colleagues in managing the impact of the coronavirus on our management accounting activities, I used experience built from many years of practising resilience. I am a passionate advocate of this tool, often labelled somewhat misleadingly as a "soft" skill. In my view, it's as solid a skill as you could have. It is a fundamental part of the leadership toolkit.

Resilience is about keeping a focus on key issues as well as making time for personal wellbeing. We have concentrated initially on what support our members' businesses need from government. We have also looked at how we can enable our students to continue building their skills — which they will need in the future to work through adversity. After that, we will focus on the impact we can deliver as we emerge from the crisis.

Throughout this period, management accountants have played key roles in sustaining their businesses and planning for the rapid ramp-up of capabilities to minimise the economic impact. Always looking forward, remaining objective, and understanding the drivers of performance is in our management accounting DNA. And all through this, I have put aside time for family, friends, and exercise while encouraging others to do the same.

If we can take any positives from this otherwise terrible period, it would be that it is an opportunity to build up our resilience so that we become more capable of dealing with adversity. As finance leaders, we must be resilient not only for ourselves, but also for the people we manage.

Knowledge is fundamental to personal resilience. Confidence in the knowledge that you have, along with curiosity to discover what you do not know, is a good position to be in. Also important is having the foresight to see the benefits of adapting to changing technology. Management consultancy McKinsey conducted research into what made some firms more resilient than others following the last economic downturn. One finding that struck me as particularly relevant to finance is that digital and analytics-driven productivity improvements matter. Companies that are further along the digital adoption journey are creating more than 7% more revenue growth than their competitors. This shows why the right tools and data, plus the ability to adapt, will serve you and your business well in even more competitive times.

While we are busy keeping pace with technological change, managers should not forget to invest in people. Make sure your teams have the tools they need to do their jobs and the support they need to cope with the crisis. Keep staff skills up to date so you can pivot when circumstances change. Know that an adaptable, resilient mindset will match technology every time.

Finally, I would like to send you, your families, and friends my very best wishes.

Andrew Harding, FCMA, CGMA, is chief executive—Management Accounting at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.