The Staff Room


How to develop adaptability skills

Adaptability comes easily for some. But even if it doesn't come naturally to you, it's still something you can develop. Take a look at six tips you can use to build, refine, and grow your adaptability skills through exercises and practice

1. Improve your problem solving skills

Problem solving helps you resolve specific issues as they arise. This term can often feel ambiguous, but it’s actually a concrete process comprised of four simple steps:

* Identify the problems that need to be solved
* Brainstorm multiple solutions
* Define the solution.
* Implement the solution.

Using a framework like the one above will help you better identify problems so you can strategically come up with a solution. Plus, every time you use these problem solving skills, you’re making it easier to solve the next one—even if it’s different. Over time, you’ll be adaptable enough to solve any problem that comes up.

2. Learn to embrace change

You’ve heard it before but we’ll say it again—you will always need to face change. Or, in the words of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “Change is the only constant in life.” You can avoid and deny it, but it’s not going to make it go away.

Learning to embrace and even look forward to change can help you become a more adaptable leader. Teach yourself to embrace any situation by taking more risks and accepting the results, whatever they are. Practice self-care during particularly difficult changes and reach out for support when needed. Above all else, be kind to yourself—even as you learn to embrace it, change is never easy.

3. Keep an open mind

We all have an idea of how we think things should go. This is normal. This type of thinking is a shortcut that helps our brain process information more efficiently. While it can sometimes be beneficial, there are also times when thinking this way closes our mind to new opportunities. That's because you're so focused on what you think should happen that you don't embrace what could happen. Being adaptable is about being willing to pivot.

Exercising your brain can help you become more open-minded when you’re faced with a new situation. Try these tips to develop an open mind:

  • Ask higher level questions that go beyond the “what” to the more crucial “why’s” of the situation.
  • Practice active listening when you’re learning something new.
  • Withhold judgements until you have all the information—this includes limiting beliefs about yourself or your capabilities.
  • Try to think about the current situation from every angle, stretching your mind to include all of the varying possibilities.

4. Leave your ego at the door

Your ego is your sense of self. If you follow a more philosophical viewpoint, it’s not inherently bad or good, the ego just is. But because it’s naturally self-centred, the ego is not always the most helpful communication tool. Stepping outside of yourself—removing the ego—allows you to see other perspectives more clearly and embrace change. In short, practicing leaving your ego out of the workplace builds on many other adaptability skills.

The best way to do this? Take any situation that might normally be frustrating and pause. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself—can you let go of how you think things are supposed to go? And, going one step further, learn to appreciate the result no matter the outcome? If you’re able to accept and even celebrate a wide variety of outcomes, you’re setting an important precedent—that anything is possible. And that no matter what, you can adapt and move forward.

5. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the act of focusing on the present moment without trying to change anything about it. Instead of jumping in with solutions or ideas, mindfulness allows you to take a step back and reflect on what’s happening. This allows you to be more flexible and appreciate the moment, which makes you more open to change.

Try these two steps to acknowledge your emotions and let go of them:

* Put less attention on the past and future. You can’t change something once it happens, but you can accept it. Thinking about what could or should have happened likely won’t help and it might even make things worse.

* Focus on what's happening now. Instead, lean into the situation as it is. This allows you to let go of things outside of your control and pay attention to those things you can change.

6. Push yourself out of your comfort zone

Most of us want to stay inside our comfort zone. It’s natural. Our brain likes comfortable experiences and encourages us to seek them out. But if you only do things you’re comfortable with, you won’t be as prepared when changes do inevitably come up.

You can begin to expand your comfort zone with small tweaks. Practice placing yourself in new and challenging situations where you have control over the outcome. It doesn’t have to be jumping out of an airplane. Simple things like taking a new route to work can help you think more creatively and become more flexible.

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