Staying adaptable through challenges at work can be tough. As leaders, when we’re worried about everything that can go wrong, it’s difficult to focus anywhere else. The stakes we face in high-level roles are usually high, and the price of failure can feel like too much to bear. But that is why it’s crucial to keep a level head during times of change and disruption. After all, isn’t it better to focus on recovering and growing from challenges?
What is Adaptability, And Why is It Important?
When we’re adaptable, we’re able to change our approach whenever something isn’t working. Whether it’s disruptions in the market or conflict and friction between teams or departments, adaptable people look for growth opportunities within these challenges. After all, dwelling on our issues certainly won’t get us anywhere; in a worst-case scenario, it could lead to critical failures we can’t bounce back from.
Great teams are adaptable teams. They have a deep understanding of their customers, the needs of their stakeholders and the drivers behind market trends. They work closely with other teams to respond and adapt to internal changes, such as layoffs, shifts in management and other transformations across the business. Adaptable teams learn from both successes and failures to foster a better future for the group and the organization as a whole. This helps them lessen the risk of being blindsided by upsets and upheavals.
Adaptability also requires a heightened sense of awareness or an external focus, with teams continually sensing and responding to data from inside and outside the organization. But even with all the data in the world, we can’t predict everything. We need to have the right insights at the right times because these are what help us respond properly to the expected and unexpected.
How You Can Improve Responsiveness
Navigating disruptions is vital for team success, but your approach will vary depending on whether your team’s issues are controllable or not. Consider these three strategies.
• Experiment: Quick, small-scale experiments help teams devise response plans for unforeseen challenges, such as sudden shifts in the market. If the issue is internal, testing potential fixes in a controlled setting can help identify solutions.
• Prioritize Progress: Whether the challenge is internal or external, incremental improvements are key. It’s important to focus on making progress rather than trying to find the perfect solution. Striving for perfection can actually stall progress, whereas small wins often lead to impactful solutions.
• Learn From Others: Teams should seek insights from those who’ve faced similar challenges. Learning lessons from teams that succeeded in the face of disruption and change can help accelerate problem-solving and inform strategy.
By embracing these three strategies, teams can stay adaptable. You can adeptly manage both controllable and uncontrollable disruptions and therefore drive the necessary progress to find the best solutions.
How To Stay Responsive and Adaptable
If you have the internal and external focus you need, it’s easier to roll with the punches as they come. You can pinpoint the possible root causes, such as massive changes in your team’s department. Then, you and your team can take steps to course correct. It’s important to ask questions like “Is this disruption coming from internal relationships or external market factors?” or “Are customers unsatisfied with our product and services, or is it that those are being disrupted as well?” This exploration allows you to build better firewalls and protections against any repeats in the future. Even if disruption is caused by something completely out of your control, it’s important to know that and look for ways around the corner toward recovery.
At RallyBright, we recently witnessed a mission-critical team with a new leader face significant challenges. These included a pending workforce reduction, a company reorganization and the need to adapt to an emerging AI market. By capitalizing on data, the team was able to surface its key vulnerabilities: too much internal focus and poor inter-team relationships. The new leader took action by initiating stakeholder and relationship mapping, as well as periodic pulses to gain insights, then took the necessary time to deploy these insights during meetings with key stakeholders. The results were impactful as the team was able to hit 100% of its set goals. Without taking the correct steps to stay responsive and adaptable, the team would have fallen under the weight of their challenges and uncertainty.
When your team has situational awareness during disruptive times and a proper growth mindset of continually seeking improvement, you’ll learn how to turn your setbacks into opportunities for growth. Even in the worst times for your business or your leadership, by staying adaptable, you can more quickly find the solutions you need, leading to greater success and satisfaction for your teams, your customers and your business.
Originally posted to the Forbes Human Resources Council blog here.