Fear Change? Be Adaptable.

You’ve heard it before: The only thing that remains the same in today’s organizations is change. Change is inevitable but it is also more copious, rapid and complex than ever before.

Knowing it exists is not the same as dealing with it effectively. [click to tweet] Organizations rise or fall based largely on their ability to react to, manage, control, and introduce change, but you may have little or no understanding of or training in navigating the process of change.

If you can gain insight into the behaviors that make up adaptability – a term thrown around a lot without a concrete definition or understanding of what it means – it will help you face change and transition.

To help clarify, learn the three main components of adaptability: cognitive, dispositional and emotional.

Cognitive Adaptability
Adaptability requires effective interpretation of change. Acknowledge that change has occurred, then address key aspects of the change.  Identify how the change will affect the way the organization functions.

  • Formulate alternative strategies and be a divergent thinker.
  • Let go of old roles and ideas, identify and embrace new roles, come up with new tactics and action plans, and contemplate totally new directions.
  • Consider the implications of change for others and communicate it throughout the organization, including top management.

Dispositional Adaptability
The ability to remain optimistic — but, at the same time, realistic — is one of the linchpins of adaptability.  With dispositional adaptability, you need to remain highly involved during times of change — not “checking out” emotionally or physically, but staying excited, energetic, and engaged.

  • Approach change not as a threat but as an opportunity. [click to tweet]
  • Take the attitude that you can continue to be effective in the new environment.
  • Encourage others in the organization or  team to go with the flow of change.

Emotional Adaptability
Resistance to change is natural; recognition and awareness of change are the keys to the emotional element of adaptability.  It’s all right for you to admit resistance to change – denying your emotions eventually will resurface and have to be dealt with then.

  • Don’t let emotions get the best of you.
  • Maintain balance and remain on task.

Please add your own suggestions for successfully adapting to change.

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About Leading Effectively Staff

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) is a top-ranked, global provider of executive education that accelerates strategy and business results by unlocking the leadership potential of individuals and organizations. Founded in 1970, CCL offers an array of research-based programs, products and services for leaders at all levels. Ranked among the world's Top 10 providers of executive education by Bloomberg BusinessWeek and the Financial Times, CCL is headquartered in Greensboro, NC, with offices in Colorado Springs, CO; San Diego, CA; Brussels; Moscow; Singapore; New Delhi - NCR, India and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Its work is supported by 500 faculty members and staff.
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6 Responses to Fear Change? Be Adaptable.

  1. Brilliant observations – At a personal level people feel best when they are in control and introducing change. The question then is do I want to be the ball in the pinball machine or the guy hitting the flippers?

  2. avatar Christy Brown says:

    That is a great metaphor, Gary!

  3. avatar Ray Tobias says:

    Be neither one. The real question is HOW DO I CHANGE If you know and understand how the mind and brain work, IT IS SIMPLE. I can show you how. Are you familiar with the Silva Method and the science of Psychorientology?

  4. avatar David Altman says:

    We know from CCL research that the inability to adapt to change is one of the key factors that predicts derailment of individual leaders. We know from Dweck’s research on mindset that having a growth mindset (i.e., believing that one’s potential is unknown and unknowable) is a key contributor to lifelong learning and adaptation to the changing contexts we all face. Research on positivity and positivity resonance (cf. Barbara Frederickson) illustrates that the accumulation of even small moments of positivity changes the way our brain works and changes the way we view the word. So one “cocktail” to consider consuming each day to help one benefit from change is equal parts of individual positivity, collective positivity resonance, growth mindset, and acceptance that change is gift.

  5. avatar Nick Petrie says:

    Yes I have read the Silva book a long time ago Ray. Tell us more about how you see it relating to this…..

  6. Current CCL research is providing some interesting insights into the cumulative effect of change on employees. Borrowing from metaphor above, we’re asking, “What is the effect of constantly being the pinball?”

    We’ve found that when employees perceive the change their going through at work to be positive they have favorable job attitudes, even under higher levels of change. But if they perceive the change to be negative or even neutral they have less favorable job attitudes. Change (good or bad) is a stressful process for most people so if employees are asked to change and don’t see the benefits it hurts their workplace attitudes. Change to maintain the status quo isn’t well received.

    We’ve also found that employees who experience high levels of change-related uncertainty in their workplace they feel less supported by their organization and have less favorable job attitudes in turn. Employees feel that the amount of change-related uncertainty is at least partially in the control of the organization, and when uncertainty exists it’s negatively impact perceptions of the organization and outcomes for employees. This is an important point for the leaders controlling the pinball paddles to remember!

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