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Adaptability: Future Proof Solution

The power of resilience has been amply demonstrated during the COVID-19 crises. Resilience often entails responding well to an external event, while adaptability moves us from overcoming a challenge to thriving beyond it. We don’t just “bounce back” from challenging situations – we “bounce forward” into new realms, learning to be more adaptable as our circumstances evolve and change.
Learning – Learning agility, emotional/attitudinal flexibility and behavioural versatility are all part of a multidimensional understanding of adaptability. Interpersonal adaptability breeds effective situational adaptability. It is not only desirable but necessary to work effectively with the differences of people. It enables each person to become more comfortable with each other. It is entirely within our control to change our behaviour in order to “do what does not come naturally, when it is necessary to do it.” While learning new behaviours is normally invigorating, it can feel daunting during challenging times. We often fall into the trap of attending to the most urgent tasks first rather than what is the most important.
Purpose & Vision – That’s where a sense of purpose & vision comes in; it provides meaning and motivation and offers a framework that makes hard work worthwhile and expands tolerance for change. When team members feel that their purpose is aligned with that of their team and organisation, the benefits expand to include stronger engagement and self-efficacy, as well as heightened loyalty. Unless the brain learns something new, it will forecast what will happen based on what it has seen and learned before. It records, recalls & relives. That is why people often default to certain ‘old’ behavioural patterns, especially under stress.
Personality – Some people see themselves as more powerful than their environment and want to control the situation like the high ‘D’s & I’s’ of the DISC personality styles. Others tend to see the environment as more powerful than themselves and consequently comply and go along with it, claiming that it is out of their control, like the ‘S’s & C’s’ of the DISC personality styles. Our default patterns may serve to protect us in the moment. But ultimately, they may hinder our ability to adapt and respond appropriately in ways that a new situation requires. Early influences however reduce our range of responses, often limiting us to the same old repetitive dysfunctional ways of communicating in given situations, if we are unaware of them. It is in this sense, by lifting these “behavioural embargoes” we regain our personal power and freedom to take charge of the way we communicate and get what we want despite what we are presented with. The essence of interpersonal communication is intention. i.e. what is the ‘outcome’ / result you have in mind and then aligning your actions appropriately to make it happen.
Adaptability – While status quo mind-sets may be perfectly reasonable in some routine (or low stress) situations, they are progressively less useful as circumstances become more complex and changing and we’re under pressure. However raising our self-awareness and consciousness we will see multiple perspectives, and move into a world that offers more possibilities and options. The more options the more control possible.
Relationships – Strong interpersonal relationships in a team bolster adaptability, since human beings need meaningful connections to survive and thrive. Healthy team dynamics also foster adaptability. Working in teams influences the extent to which we prioritise learning, especially from setbacks and failures. Some typically go through their daily work routine actively engaging with tasks and often indirectly engaging with colleagues to help achieve those tasks. But the emphasis is misplaced; inattention to the behavioural differences of team mates is actually counterproductive to both our well-being and our productivity in the team. Team leaders do have a unique influence on which team culture is adopted depending on the degree to which they foster psychological safety. Put simply, by creating psychological safety, team leaders simultaneously demonstrate their own adaptability and create an environment where adaptability can flourish and their teams can deal successfully with an unpredictable future.
Building Adaptability – Habit shifting work behaviours is possible only through immersive in-person experiences. Simple adaptability relationship agreement exercises through learning partners that participants can practise in their day-to-day work, can accelerate learning and behaviour changes. Progress need to be assessed frequently with multi-rater feedback tools that assess the effectiveness of adaptability learning of participants. Team leaders need to understand adaptability is a skill that is mastered with continual practice – the ability to “learn how to learn” does not materialise overnight. In a world of constant flux, it is a crucial skill-set that will result in healthier and more effective responsive teams & successful organisations.
Resources – Sources: Johan Cronjé; Specialist Team Coach, Intégro Learning SA; McKinsey Consultancy Article; Future Proof: Solving the ‘adaptability’ paradox for the long term