The need for adaptability has never been greater than it is now. The ability for people, teams, and organizations to adapt to changes in their environments, has been called the new competitive edge. The same is true for individuals: employers increasingly want workers who can adapt to an ever-changing workplace.
Someone who is adaptable is open to new ideas, and doesn’t need to do things just because “that’s how they’ve always been done.” They’re able to anticipate changes and don’t panic when things don’t go according to plan.
To stay relevant as an organization you need to think and act in an adaptable manner. As a leader or senior manager, you play an important role in leading your team through periods of change, whether that be new workplace procedures, new goals or new technology. An adaptable mindset empowers you to support your team more effectively and better manage the impact of new challenges.
Adaptability also tends to improve your level of resilience, meaning that periods of uncertainty are less likely to impact on your overall personal wellbeing. Adaptable people tend to be happier and more content as they’re not struggling against the tide or trying to resist when things change.
Being adaptable also has a direct impact on your personal sense of happiness. Being adaptable means not feeling hopeless and helpless in the face of change. If you can tell yourself that you have the skills and ability to change yourself, even if you can’t change the situation, you have figured out the key to being happy regardless of your circumstances.
If you are adaptable, you will also bounce back from adversity more quickly. This is because you would change yourself to accommodate your circumstances. This means less time trying to change your circumstances, which may or may not work, and more time adjusting your own attitude and expectations.
So, are you adaptable? Here are five questions to ask yourself in order to find out:
1. Can you handle failure?
To adapt means to grow and change what you consider to be right to something new (sort of- the new right) in your life and career. If you are not able to do that, you stagnate. This is something that individuals and organizations alike struggle with- habits that have led to success in the past are now being questioned or need to be replaced. This is confusing at times and creates much anxiety for many. Can they actually implement those new habits? Will those new habits actually lead to success? With new habits comes the unknown, with trials, errors and a high potential for things not working out the way we hope they will. Our old formulas for success can no longer be applied.
Coming up with new ones does not guarantee that we hot it right. We all have different levels of tolerance to the idea of potential failure. If you cannot stomach the idea of potential failure, your anxiety will cause you (or your team, or your organization) to cling back to the old, seemingly (yet not so much anymore) ‘safe’ way of doing things. Ask yourself this: can I, actually, stomach a potential failure?
2. Are you proactive?
Adaptable people and organizations tend to be proactive. This means that when problems arise (and problems always arise), instead of blaming, accusing, or freezing- they are forward-looking in their approach to resolving situations. This means that the underlying question is always: how do I/we make sure that THIS doesn’t happen again? What can I/ improve as a result? The benefits of a proactive approach are that it creates improvement rather than despair, and growth rather than anxiety and negativity.
3. Do you keep yourself accountable?
Accountability is the mother of all change. When we hold ourselves accountable for our share and responsibility in every situation rather than blaming and accusing others, we have the power to create real change. I oftentimes find that people who feel stuck, and as a result very frustrated, are actually people who refuse to see their share in the situation, and as a result, cannot see their potential to change things on their end. Think of it this way: if you have potential responsibility of 50% to every situation that you are struggling with, specifically if it involves other people, you also have a 50% change capability.
4. How positive and optimistic are you?
A positive self-attitude relies on our inner belief in our own power, or in the power of the team or the organization, to succeed and grow. Without positivity and optimism, there is no wind in the person, the team or the organization’s sails. Optimistic people tend to be much more adaptable compared with people who are negative and pessimistic. Most people are somewhat in the middle. Caught yourself talking negatively to yourself in your own head? Noticed that you are being negative when you talk to others? Catch yourself and change your language. Replace phrases of doubt with phrases of optimism, words of negativity with words of positive encouragement. It is a conscious choice that you can make every day, every minute.
5. Are you able to see the big picture?
Resistance to change is often borne out of a lack of understanding of why it’s necessary or the potential benefits it will bring. An awareness of the wider context and an understanding of how things work and connect empowers you to see beyond potential challenges to the wider goal and motivates you to find solutions. If you are a leader, make sure to communicate the big picture to your team, and make sure that it is clear to you first. If this involves your personal life, make sure the big picture is clear. Why is change needed? What impact will it have? Read the articles. Get the tools. Gain knowledge. Understanding the bigger picture will answer your ‘why’ and give you a sense of purpose and determination.
Whether you are more or less adaptable, it is a skill to work on. Adaptability is one of the most sought-after traits for leaders. It is also one of the most important parameters for success in every dimension of life- both personally and professionally.
As Tracy Chapman sings in her song ‘The Times They Are-a- changin’:
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
Yes, the times are changing. Work on your own tolerance to change. Improve your adaptability. As a leader, work on creating a culture of adaptability. Tracy Chapman is right. Times are a-changin’.