The Skill of Adaptation – Mindset Tools for Leaders

Leaders Need the Skill of Adaptation

Well, it’s that time of the year again when young people go back to school. This year was especially interesting for our family as my middle son Josiah experienced his first day in grade 9 at high school. This was quit an important milestone as both of my younger sons have been home schooled so I wondered how he would do in this new environment. The thought of a thousand students bustling around, the structure of class and the excitement of the friendships he could build had me thinking of when I went to high school. In fact, I found myself remembering details that I haven’t thought of in years. 

Back when I went to high school the process of “frosh week” gave enormous power to grade 12 students to embarrass young grade 9 “frosh” (I know, I’m dating myself). One of these rituals was the practice of dressing frosh in diapers, baby bonnets and having them speak in baby talk all day! I know that would never happen in today’s schools but back then, it did. Now you may be wondering when my next video will come out with me donning a diaper – keep laughing because it’s not going to happen!

I remember being chased by two HUGE grade 12 students for a week – at lunches, between classes, after school, in the washrooms and everywhere I walked. Their intent was clearly to humiliate me at all costs, and I was scared as I have ever been. To survive I learned to become invisible and untraceable. That’s how it works in real life; we adapt and become what we need to be to succeed – and I need to succeed!

What is the Skill of Adaptation?

Adaptation is how you adapt yourself and leadership to change. This could apply to your home life, profession, or business because it will affect the way you act as a leader in those environments. Our whole lives are filled with changes, some that we initiate and control and others that are thrust upon us. No matter which source the change comes from our natural response is to resist it. Our brains have been wired to learn quickly and install programs of repetitive thinking to take less energy. Unfortunately, our biological efficiency has made us resistant to change and that’s why it feels uncomfortable. You’ll also notice in times of change that you have internal thoughts that want you to stay with what was normal. You’ll hear yourself say, “Just keep going, it will be like normal,” or this can’t be happening right now, I’m not ready for this!” On top of this, other around you who are also going through the change will have varied responses and you may find yourself wonder what the best way to move forward is. So, how do you adapt and move forward? Well let’s look at that closer.

Each one of us has a unique way of adapting during changing times but typically there are several steps such as

  • Becoming aware that change is happening, this is also the place where we take time to get self control if necessary – especially if change was sprung upon us.
  • Assess what’s in it for me. Looking at it from this perspective gives us an opportunity to reframe it in our mind to a more positive thought.
  • Gain more information, about what is happening which helps to normalize the change and reconfirm how we will benefit.
  • Take action. This is the tough one because fear of the unknown can overwhelm our common sense and cause us to be stuck.
  • Stick with it. This is where perseverance starts to show so of the benefits we were hoping for. It’s also easier to mover forward here because the change is quickly becoming normalized.

Now think back to a time that you went through a significant change. Notice what you said to yourself as each step. Your internal dialog gives you insight as to how you adapt to change. If you would like to manage things better, ask yourself different questions at those steps. Let me give you an example of this. 

Imagine that a big change is happening at work, if you immediately ask yourself, “is my job safe?” you will probably have an internal fear that will start to rise inside of you. Now ask a new question such as, “I wonder how that will affect my job” or another question, “I wonder how this will benefit me?” Notice that the last two question feel different and are more empowering. Being empowered is important because you will want to feel that you are able to act, if necessary, in a positive way. Empowerment gives you an open mindset to make better decision.

The principal of adaptation is one I live by and so do you. So, let me ask, how have you adapted in your life, business, or profession? Have you changed your behavior, changed your thinking for the better or worse, or have you overcome some great obstacles by adapting to the situation? I’m sure you have and it’s important to look over your past successes in stressful times so you can lean in and learn more about what you need to do to fine tune your skill of adaptation. 


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