Adaptability and flexibility in behaviour, as well as mindset, are part of what it is to be human. In a fast-paced, ever-changing world, having the ability to maintain awareness of self, others and the changing environment is essential.
Most importantly, having the belief that we have the necessary skills, knowledge and suitable attitude or mindset to deal with what faces us brings the confidence required to face future challenges, and not see them as threats.
In life, so many, many things will happen that are unexpected. With a sense of flexibility and freedom we are able to adapt. In my business life, I choose the metaphor of surfing as an analogy. The waves will keep coming. New clients. New projects. New team members. New products. New processes. And setbacks. People issues. Strategy problems. Cashflow issues. Client problems. The question is whether we can notice what’s happening, and adapt. Can we quickly orientate our mind and body, adapt our posture (whether literally or metaphorically)? Very often we will spend months preparing a leadership training only for the client to get an ‘exciting last-minute idea’. To perform at our highest level, we must be ready to joyfully embrace this idea and ride it all the way to the brought course, whilst riding, we can still steer. We have some input to the process. When we are really in the groove with flexibility and freedom we give away part of our need to control life, other people and events. It’s a truly empowering experience, akin to travelling with a friend, but letting them set the agenda at any given moment. During the 2020 Covid-19 crisis our business was hit pretty hard. Some of our advisors suggested working flat out, and extremely hard, to try to maintain revenues. I saw it differently. Why fight the wave when we can go with it? Why not take a hit on revenue, why push water up hill in sales? When life deals you lemons, (joyfully, I say) make lemonade. We abandoned the goals set during the good times and got some other goals in place. Don’t go bankrupt. Don’t lose money. But why not take it easy for a few months after so many years of flat-out work? Why not surf the wave?
Less work. Less Money. Less Security. More fun. More cycling. More family. More suntan. Unfettered by the railroads of corporate goals, why not treat this as a pivot point, an innovation moment, and surf this huge tsunami to…. a completely different beach. I watched many corporate people grind out horrendous 12-hour days, trying to live their old life. And our team did work hard. But with a mission to keep the company running so we could enjoy the good times when they returned. And in the meantime, explore this new playground while being on a new journey to who-knows-where.
Part of what limits our freedom and flexibility is ego. Ego can make us push for what we said we would do. I had a friend who, age 21, was in a successful band. By age 31, with kids on the way, he was ready to leave. He wanted a new life. But was trapped with his previous commitment to himself and others: ‘We will never quit’. It took some careful unpicking to get clear that the ego of a 21-year-old, who wants to make it, can’t drive the decisions of a 31-year-old with a kid on the way. Ego is a funny thing. It tells us what we must or must not do. For appearances.
I know executives who have quashed their freedom and dreams and stayed in limiting jobs because they wanted to have the right company car on the drive to impress their neighbours. Choose life. Even if it’s not what you planned.
Do we have the skills to go with what is happening? Are we able to ride the wave, adapt, flex, switch, pivot? After all, is life not an adventure? Are adventures not comprised of escapades? Are escapades not, after all, moments where not all went well; we had a near-miss, a close-call, or an actual-bad-thing happened? Maintaining a playfulness in escapades, setback, the adventure of life, is what allows us to laugh at our situation, even if it’s bleak or difficult. And that playfulness is a safety net that means we can push ourselves to our absolute limits. We can take risks. Be bold. Courageous. Knowing that if the worst happens, well, life is an experience.
Build: How can you build a muscle that allows you to go with and accept change?
Focus on capabilities: When a challenge occurs, list the skills you have to meet the challenge.
This article is based on the Amazon No.1 Hot New Release in HR, The A–Z of Human Performance. For more coaching questions and habituators on this topic and 25 more chapters from Jonna Sercombe, Emma Wiggs, and Steve Eaton, pick up a copy in paperback or eBook.