Some say that change is more daunting if you’re standing still. By embracing change wholeheartedly (or confronting change head on, depending on your mood), you are taking control and enabling yourself to adapt more quickly to your new surroundings or situation.
The world of business is moving and changing so fast that even if you knew what you were doing yesterday, you might not be so sure tomorrow. The workplace is more complex, ambiguous, and at times more volatile than ever before, all of which can lead to distraction, stress, anxiety, and disengagement. To be successful in this environment, leaders and the people they lead must be highly adaptable, able to perform at high levels in the midst of this constant change and uncertainty.
What is adaptability?
The ability to absorb change and uncertainty while maintaining high levels of performance. Highly adaptable leaders experience change and uncertainty differently. Success demands confidence, focus, connection, external/customer focus, innovation, high engagement, and energy. The reality? Constant change can take its toll leaving us feeling anxious, distracted, isolated, inward focused, averse to risk, disengaged and lacking stamina.
The good news is that we can strengthen our own capability to adapt.
There are three core elements of adaptability. It is possible to have high levels in one and moderate or low levels in one or both of the others. The three dimensions of adaptability are:
1. Empower your inner voice
This is the way you think about annoying, negative and/or very adverse events. By making your inner voice realistic and positive you will be able to decrease the impact of negative events.
- Carefully consider what you have control over
- Take ownership where you can. Break it down into chunks and focus on what is in your power to control
- Examine the scope of the problem – what impact will it really have?
- Manage the time span – how long will this really affect you?
“Your way of explaining events to yourself determines how helpless you can become, or how energized, when you encounter everyday setbacks as well as momentous defeats. I think of your explanatory style as reflecting the“word in your heart.”—Martin Seligman, Learned Optimism
2. Raise your ambiguity threshold
How much ambiguity and uncertainty can you handle? By raising your ambiguity threshold you will be able to anticipate, adjust to, and handle ambiguity and feelings of uncertainty and change more effectively.
- Anticipate the future as best you can
- Accept uncertainty as an inevitability
- Apply flexibility wherever you see the opportunity
- Be tenacious
- Exercise curiosity, often
“When people are encouraged to tune in all the time, to be conscious of the context, and to become restlessly dissatisfied, they are less likely to be jarred by change.”—Rosabeth Moss Kanter, “Leadership for Change”
3. Prioritize your energy supply
Think about leaders whose paths have crossed with yours, who draw on a seemingly endless supply of personal energy. Being able to readily access such high levels of energy is critical if we are to thrive during change. It helps to break it down into physical, mental, and emotional energy.
- Create meaning in the work you do – the wind beneath your wings!
- Be healthy – self-care is priority number 1
- Take time to renew and recover. We are not super human. Respect the needs of your body and mind
“Again, it is often well that you should leave off work and take a little relaxation; because when you come back to it, you are a better judge; for sitting too close at work may greatly deceive you.”—Leonardo da Vinci
Develop your own long-term adapatability
Let us set you a challenge. Next time the goal posts change, you lose a critical team member, or stumble across a major, unexpected problem, ask yourself these questions.
- What was your personal reaction to the change?
- Did you experience any ambiguity? How did you respond?
- Did you experience resistance to change? How? When?
- What was your inner voice saying during this work?
- Was there a leader? Did the leader influence your response to the changes?
How good are you and your teams at adapting to constant change? Take half a day out of your busy schedule to explore this topic and develop an action plan for long-term improvement of your own adaptability.
Adapting to Constant Change is one of AchieveForum’s most popular courses. Thousands of participants have benefited from the workshop which helps them to:
- Absorb more change and uncertainty while delivering high levels of performance
- Use a process to immediately manage and reduce the impact of disruptions, distractions, stress, and anxiety on their performance