I remember in one of my early supervisor roles asking a job candidate, “How flexible are you?” I probably could have asked that question in a better way. But, regardless, her response, “Well I’m not very flexible, but I am adaptable,” should have told me everything I needed to know.
Today I might recognize that her indignant insistence on correcting my use of the word “flexible,” in spite of her understanding what it was I was asking, belied a strict adherence to a way of thinking that would later prevent her from embracing necessary changes to bring success to the business she was to manage.
In our fast-changing world, companies more and more are valuing a person’s Adaptability Quotient (AQ) as much, if not more, than Intellectual and Emotional Quotients. In fact, 69% of hiring managers say adaptability is the most important soft skill they screen for.
John C. Maxwell’s new book, LeaderShift, holds adaptability at its core. “Good leaders adapt. They shift. They don’t remain static because they know the world around them does not remain static.”
Leaders must exhibit attitudes and skills including experimentation in the face of uncertainty, seeing opportunities where others might only see failure, and curiosity and open-mindedness in forethought to compete in an innovative marketplace.
As previously discussed, practice is your best bet in developing your leadership soft skills. In the case of adaptability, that practice comes in the form of preparation.
Reflect on You
Recall a time when you were presented with an unexpected change or opportunity. How did you feel? Did you well up with excitement or did you dig your heels in the proverbial mud? How did you react? Were you instinctively optimistic? Skeptical? Cautious?
Be intentional in your reflection and honest in your answers. You can’t improve your AQ until you know where you currently stand.
“Play the Movie Through”
When I needed a advice from a particular friend, he used to say, “Play the movie through.” Hollywood can come up with a thousand endings to the same movie plot. We should too.
Set aside some time to brainstorm different outcomes to both routine and unexpected tasks in your daily, weekly and monthly schedule. Play the “If, Then” game. Have a strategy you are implementing? Ask yourself, “if X happens, how will I respond.” But also ask yourself about Y and Z.
A key part of Navy SEAL Team preparation includes running the mission through to different outcomes. The Team’s response is worked through a myriad of possibilities so that no matter what happens in the moment, the Team knows how to communicate and respond.
Adaptable people are curious and resourceful. Spend time wondering about outcomes and your next right move based on each one. Don’t be so afraid of failure that you avoid even thinking through the possibility. Growth comes in greater ways through failure than through success.
Build Your Toolbox
Adaptable people are forever learners. The ability to shift quickly for the success of a project, team or goal, comes from knowing your options. Stay current on marketplace trends. Determine the direction of necessary shifts by knowing what’s on the horizon.
Read. Read. Read. Learn from others. Ask questions. Follow thought leaders. Find a mentor.
When was the last time you learned something new? Overcoming future challenges will require new skills. Grow your knowledge daily to increase the success of your responses.
According to Jeff Boss, adaptability coach, an unwillingness to adopt something comes from “a lack of self-/situational awareness, poor communication, unclear decisions, ego, lack of accountability.” The breadth of your options grows exponentially as you expand your awareness.
According to Maxwell, “You cannot be the same, think the same, and act the same if you hope to be successful in a world that does not remain the same.” Similarly, to when you increase your IQ and EQ, you become a better leader when you develop your AQ. You will embrace change with less internal pushback. Your personal growth will ensure you are always relevant. Your team will come to rely on you as an optimistic part of the solution.