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Marcus Buckingham: 4 ways to build resilience

Future of Work leadership masterclass tips to build resilience in a post-pandemic world


Marcus Buckingham's definition of resilience: Reactive frame of mind allows you to bounce back or up in the face of obstacles or challenges.

You don’t have to employ resilient people to build a resilient team.

There’s an easier way.

Global strengths guru Marcus Buckingham was hosted by The Growth Faculty for a Future of Work masterclass.

He told delegates that resilience grows from a combination of:

·       living through change

·       trust in leadership

·       feeling loved at work

·       finding love in work   

Global survey surprising results on workplace resilience

A recent and sobering survey by Marcus Buckingham’s ADP Research Institute showed workplace resilience is low.

Only 17% of the world’s workers said they felt Highly Resilient (Australia 16.5% highly resilient, similar to more Covid-affected Brazil).

His survey revealed a number of beliefs, written here as statements, that can predict if people feel resilient.

Ask yourself and your team if they agree or disagree with each.

10 statements to test how resilient you feel right now.

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 what they’re going to do.

10.  I completely trust my company’s senior leaders.

How did you fare?

·       If you mostly strongly agree: You are highly resilient.

·       If you mostly disagree: You’re vulnerable/we don’t know.

Factoring in Age and Gender

Gender makes little difference in reported feelings of resilience:

·       Men 16%, women 14%.

Age also, not much difference:

·       13% for 18-19 years old,

·       16% for 20-39,

·       14% for 40-54, 

·       12% for 55-74,

·       16% for 75+

Change builds resilience

Curiously, workers who had a direct COVID-19 experience were 2.8x more likely to be highly resilient. 

Marcus says that instead of fearing imagined change, “We see who we are in the face of the real thing, and we go ‘Ah-ha! – I know how I’m going to be’.”

In fact, his study shows the more changes you experience the more resilient you are (5 or more of these – you are 13.2x likely to be highly resilient).

Trust builds resilience

Marcus’s survey results show high levels of trust builds resilience. 

Those who strongly agree with the statements pertaining to trust in the workplace were 42x more likely to be highly resilient.

Trust in leadership

Marcus's research shows transparency and vividness were important in effective senior leaders.

·       Vivid foresight – they look around the corner and tell us a few things that won’t change. What are our values? Our competitive advantage, will that change? They tell stories with drama, detail and dialogue. They try to be confidence-inducing as they take people into the forest of the unknown.

·       Visible Follow-Through – they climb and claim a small hill (not Everest). They define what they’ll do for that small group and follow through, shine a spotlight on it to build trust, then do that again.


The future of work is that all work is teamwork 

86% of survey respondents said they did most of their work on teams.

So, if you want to future-proof your organisation, the answer lies in “How good am I at building a little team?”

And you build a good team culture through "attention, attention, attention", says Marcus.

“We want individualised attention, not fake Zoom Friday cocktail hour,” he says.

Marcus says we need to make team-joining the key part of onboarding. But Marcus points out a team is in the mind, not in the place. The point of a team is to make the best use of the individuals (and their uniqueness) on your team.

Team-joining behaviours that future-proof teams

·       Anticipatory communication – Team leaders make a habit of frequent light-touch check-ins with their people. The frequency of your check-in matters, how they do it doesn’t. Try asking: What are your priorities and how can I help? 

·       Psychological safety – Team leaders allow each team member to be innovative, to respond, to tweak, to make mistakes.

Building resilience in yourself

Doing something you love for just 20% of your workday means you’re far less likely to burn out.

So, finding love in work is highly correlated with being resilient, says Marcus.

3 healthy resilience-builders:  

·       Agency – autonomy, efficacy. Focus on what you can control. For example, you can control what rituals you put into your life.

·       Compartmentalization – can you continue to make a contribution in other ‘swim lanes’ (and not just the ‘swim lane’ that has any current crisis/concern)? Contribution leads to invigoration.

·       Strengths/love in work – Weave “red threads” into your day. Red threads are activities that just click, and make time speed up. Weave them into your day.

Nobody can predict the future of work.

But, an organisation whose people can bounce back or up in the face of obstacles or challenges will be the one most likely to succeed.

Try finding ways to build love, trust, and therefore resilience, in your team, and you'll have as good a chance as any.

Strengths finder tool: The Gift of StandOut® -

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