Shaping the Future of Work and Human Potential
When thinking of the new competitive advantage, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) has been stating that Adaptability is the new competitive advantage!
We read and hear the statement “the future of work is Human.” This is a topic of many webinars, articles, and think tanks and yet there is so much to reflect and act upon.
In speaking with various leaders, I know it is top of mind for many strategists and people leaders. With so much change in the marketplace and employers and employees looking to future-proof themselves – it is no wonder that Adaptability is top of mind.
With so many people taking part in the “Great Resignation” or shall we say “Reconfiguration” or “Reshuffling” the leader of today needs to build connections, build trust, and inspire as we all navigate through constant and rapid change. In short, the leader of today needs to be Adaptive! Inspirational leaders bring their humanity to work with a positive mindset to adapt to and for others.
In this article we will examine:
- Skills and traits that support adaptability.
- Various skills/behaviors/subdimensions that support overall adaptability.
- Leadership insights.
- Application and impact.
With a focus on the workplace, adapting to changing employee expectations requires us to view everyday situations through a broader lens with more empathy and compassion to ensure effectiveness through building our influence as a leader.
When considering the new world of work, there is a “Great Reskilling” taking place. To future-proof your company and yourself, Adaptability across all dimensions will need to be highly developed.
Adaptability is the new competitive advantage!
According to AQai, as change is accelerating, the need to be future-proofed is more important now than ever. We saw that with the COVID-19 pandemic; LinkedIn has named Adaptability as a leading workplace skill. One of my personal intentions is to empower you to Lead through change!
Consider making Adaptability one of YOUR superpowers!
I ask you to think about what your intentions are around Adaptability and your journey towards becoming a more Adaptive Leader. Here are a few suggestions; reflect upon them and use them if you like:
- Personal growth and development.
- Reduced stress, reactions, and greater connections.
- Increased resiliency (faster recovery from setbacks).
- Increased self-awareness.
- Enhanced innovative and creative problem-solving.
- Increased understanding of all kinds of diversity within your workforce.
- Increased top-talent acquisition, retention, and engagement.
Regardless of your personal why or intention, when you strive to experience the world, your work, your relationships through the broader lens of adaptability your brain will strive to search for new solutions, removing biases instead of basing decisions, thoughts, or ideas purely on what was learned before. We will discuss this more as we examine “Unlearning” and “Mindset.”
Continuing on the Journey…
Every personal improvement growth journey starts with self-reflection.
According to the HBR: “Research shows the habit of reflection can separate extraordinary professionals from mediocre ones”. The article goes on to state that self-reflection is the foundation for all of our soft skills to grow from.
It always starts with the WHY!
Why would you as a leader, work towards becoming a more Adaptive leader?
Why would you seek out to hire more adaptable candidates?
A McKinsey article cited some studies around the importance of Adaptability.
It said: “Studies have shown that adaptability is also linked to important psychological skills, ranging from coping to personal growth. In the workplace, higher levels of adaptability are associated with greater levels of learning ability and better performance, confidence, and creative output.
“Adaptability is also crucial for psychological and physical well-being and is linked to higher levels of social support and overall life satisfaction.”
The Dimensions of Adaptability
Although there are many skills, traits/dimensions that support Adaptability, I will focus on a few dimensions that each of us can learn and develop.
When looking at Adaptability through a holistic lens, we can break down the study of Adaptability into three main dimensions. According to AQai, adaptability can be analyzed across three main dimensions and 17 subdimensions.
- Ability – This represents your learned adaptability skills. How and to what degree does a person adapt.
- Character – Who adapts and why?
- Environment – When does someone adapt and to what degree?
For purposes of this article and as an initial starting point, we will focus on the Ability dimension, which can be broken down further into
- Mental Flexibility
Leadership Insights And Applications
According to AQai, “Unlearning is the ability to be able to ‘let go of’ and rethink the status quo, reassess skills, or adjust old methodologies that are no longer relevant. It represents the balance between learning new things and disregarding old data. It encompasses an open mindedness to try new ways of doing things even if they outmode previous ideas or knowledge.“
Question: How have you “unlearned” and then learned again to develop as a leader?
Penny St. Antoine, SVP, MCAP states: “I used to hold in-person Stand Up meetings with my team of 200-300 people. Once we started working from home, holding virtual Stand Ups was a challenge. Not only did we need to learn new technology, but I had to change the way I communicated virtually. It felt like starting all over again.
“Suddenly learning how to present via video put me into an uncomfortable place. I wanted it to be perfect – often filming my message 5 or 6 times before I would release it. I was asking for feedback from my audience and getting lots of things to work on again.
“My team also wanted LIVE videos not recorded. I started watching YouTube videos and taking courses because I wasn’t the only one learning how to do this effectively – many of us were in the same boat. I’m still learning but I’ve come a long way from just focusing on the camera to focusing on multiple facets of my presentation.”
Question: I know you have embraced “unlearning.” What does that mean to you and how has it helped you become more Adaptable?
Suzanne Fleur de Lys-Aujla, COO, Valko Financial Ltd. shares that “Unlearning has created change by stopping current patterns retraining my mindset to new worlds adapting to positive changes.”
The importance of cultivating a Growth Mindset was shared in this recent article. Thinking of reskilling talent, planning for the future of your teams, and preparing yourself then developing a Growth Mindset is critical.
I also hope you continue to strive in making Adaptability one of YOUR superpowers!
I was so fortunate to interview leaders across many industries to share their insights.
Question: How have you developed your positive mindset over these challenging times?
Gary Yorke, Division Head - Director, 311 Contact Centre says: “Learning to be truly adaptable means learning to be like water having a clear understanding of your outcomes but being humble enough to adjust your pathway to achieve them.
“A major learning is related to not just focussing on service but focussing on culture and ensure that your staff are truly empowered with the right tools, support, and mind set.”
Penny St. Antoine states: “Staying focused on the positive for me is training my mind to think and react differently.
“At the start of the pandemic, I worked on improving my morning routine since I had more “me” time without the commute. I already had some good practices in place like mediation, inspirational reading, and some sort of movement so I added a few other practices in over time.
“First, I added in a gratitude journal to my morning routine focusing on the good things in my life. I made sure to include one thing I was grateful for in regard to the people in my home, so I was feeling good emotions towards my family. After all I was spending a LOT more time with my loved ones, and it definitely was taking some adjustment.
“Secondly, I added in daily positive affirmations – purposely picking things I needed to change my thought process about myself and my situation. Challenging those old beliefs!”
Question: In these rapidly changing times, what role does Resilience have in being an Adaptive leader/service provider?
Mike Aoki, President, Reflective Keynotes states: “I have always been proactive. However, planning ahead and planning for worst case scenarios such as illness and quarantine, became more important. I learned to be kinder to myself. To give myself space to feel and process stress, rather than pushing it aside and pretending that everything was fine.”
Gary Yorke, Division Head - Director, 311 Contact Centre states: “Leadership means placing your people first and creating an environment that facilitates psychological safety. There are so many social issues that are impacting our well being and mental health. Embrace being uncomfortable and using your voice.”
I had the opportunity to speak with a trusted service provider to our local Contact Center association (GTACC). Karmali, Founder of Omazzii Print Shop has done our printing for years, always delivering great final products and amazing service. Here are some of his thoughts on Resilience.
“Resilience to me means patience and focus. Patience allowed me to maintain my principles as an entrepreneur and uphold the promise to serve my clients amidst the unpredictable landscape.
“Holding a decision steady until the time is right, reduced waste and losses and allowed us to capitalize on future goals buying equipment being sold at extreme discounts. Focus is also sharpened by the persistence to weather the storm.
“The ability to focus on the fundamentals and to stay close to the reason of our company’s existence. Being acutely aware but not married/attached to the idea of our pre-existing services. Should there be a change in our client’s expectation, how would we go about delivering? Became a focal point.
“With patience to make decisions that are sensible and have a long-term mission together with an increased awareness of what we do, who we serve, and whether we need to add or remove products from our list, Omazzii has been able to see through 2 years of 50 -95% loss in revenues and be able to return to 75% revenues on our first month post-pandemic.
“With a larger product list and decreased overall timelines to delivering projects in the shortest timelines in Toronto.
Application and Reflection
1. What have you had to “unlearn” to “learn” in the last few years?
2. How have you developed your Mindset? Are you finding yourself leaning to more positive, growth thinking or leaning towards some fixed/negative type thinking?
3. With many challenges facing us where were you able to show Grit and Resilience?
I hope through this article I was able to fulfill my intention to empower you to lead through rapid change as we navigate through challenging times and prepare for the future of work!
I also hope you continue to strive in making Adaptability one of YOUR superpowers!
If you have any stories to share, feel free to connect with me and share your journey.
Stay tuned for the final part of the three-part series around thriving with Adaptability!