There are times in life when the weather takes a turn for the worse and the waters get choppy.
It’s how we navigate these winds of change that defines us.
Whether in business or life, change takes time to get used to. With natural stressors prevalent in our society and economy, there is no denying unpredictability in the workplace, and it’s this unpredictability that can rock the boat.
Over the last few years, unpredictability has almost become predictable.
Faced with record inflation and looming economic uncertainty; all whilst reeling from a global pandemic, these winds of change are coalescing into one big storm of disruption.
How do we navigate these uncertain waters, and as humans, how do we respond to change?
We don’t just ‘go through’ the changes, we also grow through them…
Our personality and preferences can change naturally over time or deliberately with effort. They can also change collectively, as the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated.
Research published in PLOS One reported that over the course of the pandemic, adults experienced changes in their personalities equivalent to around a decade’s worth of personality changes in only two years. These changes were small, but prevalent.
The disruptions to our core understanding of daily life encouraged a need to adapt. Home offices replaced office spaces, dining rooms became classrooms and pub quizzes were out and zoom quizzes were in.
The constant need to flex and adapt saw peoples’ preferences accommodate these changes and stressors; with researchers reporting declines in extraversion, openness and other traits synonymous with navigating social situations. The increased time indoors through various lockdowns may explain these declines- after all, it’s difficult to be outgoing when you’re not allowed to go out!
However, just because the pandemic enabled the opportunity for people to reflect, it does not necessarily mean they needed to change. It could be that the pandemic simply made us more aware of the way we are.
Regardless, the collective upheaval we experienced and future uncertainties have made one thing crystal clear: flexibility and adaptability are critical qualities in your workforce.
To navigate change, we need to be both adaptable and flexible. Often used interchangeably, these qualities will determine as smooth a sailing as possible; even when faced with ferocious waters. Adaptability is the ability to adjust to your situation to suit new environments, and flexibility is the extent to which you are inclined to change or compromise.
Einstein stated that ‘the measure of intelligence is the ability to change’, but it is also the willingness to do so.
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”
- Albert Einstein
Not only are these qualities vital within the workforce, they are also essential in leadership. Many people can sail the ship when the sea is calm, the real test is during fierce storms. You need a steady hand at the wheel, with the ability to flex and re-route where necessary.
How can you instil flexibility and adaptability within leadership?
Rather than run from conflict, adaptability and flexibility enables leaders to see the value in challenges. This willingness to adapt sees leadership face the storm head on, with an understanding that challenges are an opportunity for growth. Instead of viewing errors and roadblocks as a negative thing, view them as a learning opportunity.
When you have a willingness to learn, you won’t be discouraged by failure and may acknowledge it as a crucial part of learning.
Much like the captain of a ship, an adaptable leader is responsive to change and can proactively find solutions. They should be open to exploring a variety of avenues, listen to their ship-mates and focus on the task at hand: reaching dry land safely.
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination”
– Jimmy Dean
Good leadership isn’t as simple as establishing well-organised strategic plans and structures. Rather, it’s about the ability to create agile plans that are able to flex when curveballs (or rogue waves) are thrown.
When leaders understand diverse thinking and are open to stepping outside of their comfort zone, they can easily shift as things change around them. Leaders who adapt quickly are twice as likely to successfully navigate their team to solutions than those who are not willing to adapt or be flexible.
Those in leadership must also be willing to adjust their leadership style to align with the unique needs and conditions of each situation.
There isn’t one way to lead. In fact, being a flexible leader means operating on a continuum.
The best way to lead others depends on various factors, such as the preferences of your team members, deadlines and requirements; as well as contextual elements. These factors evoke the type of attitude you must embody to successfully lead your team through the changes.
Last, but not least, resilience. Not only does an adaptable leader possess the ability to persevere, they also instil this quality in others. Resilient businesses and teams thrive in the face of change and uncertainty.
Awareness = Adaptability
At the core of both adaptability and flexibility, is awareness.
To ride the storm, you must not only be aware of how you react in situations of change, but also how you project and show up to others.
Whether that’s becoming more aware of yourself, the situation or your teammates; awareness provides a strong foundation to adapt and flex.
When you have a strong foundation of self-awareness, you can successfully navigate the storm. Because, after every storm there is sunshine and sometimes even a rainbow.
Learn about how Insights Discovery can help your teams navigate the winds of change here.