Our environment is constantly changing, so we need to continually adapt
As humans, we naturally resist change. It’s part of our instincts. If we are naturally built to resist change, how can we possibly learn to thrive in a world that is constantly changing? This is where adaptation comes in
What is Adaptation?
The definition of adaptation is “a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.” Our environment is always changing, so we need to learn how to continually adapt. This is a continuous process. As we become more aware, acknowledge where we’re at and take action, it is critical that we monitor our progress and make adjustments. Adaptation is noticing our progress and the environment around us and then reacting accordingly.
Case Study: Self-reflection and increased awareness is the key to adapting
Liz was a coaching client who was working on a plan to be more aware of her triggered reactions when she felt people were not moving at the right pace. She was doing well until her boss asked her to take on some new projects.
She wanted to take on the extra work, but also felt her stress level increase with the added pressure to deliver more.
She worked through some of the exercises to help her reduce stress, such as taking time to exercise, setting boundaries around work and getting enough rest. She also reflected on how she could shift her perspective and see the situation differently.
Liz asked herself how she could shift some of the responsibilities of her team to get everything done instead of how she is personally going to take on new responsibilities.
She was able to think more clearly because of her increased awareness, reduced stress and with this new perspective she felt ready to take on the new responsibilities. Liz was adapting to the changes in her environment.
Adaptive leadership is about the change that enables the capacity for us to thrive.
Ron Heifetz’s Adaptive Leadership model is all about experimenting, discovering new knowledge, and making numerous adjustments throughout.” Adaptive problems require individuals throughout an organization to continually make adjustments to their environments. Adaptive leaders are open minded, willing to self correct and examine challenges from new perspectives.
Our Conscious Leadership framework can support you in this process. This is not a linear journey and requires continual adaptation to the evolving environment and to recognize that our relationship to this environment is constantly changing. The process of moving from Awareness to Adaptation is not a straight line, but rather a spiral where we are continuously adapting to the world around us at each stage.
New environments and new dreams demand new strategies and abilities, and they require the leadership to mobilize them. My friend and colleague, Sesil Pir, said in her book Human Centered Leadership, “ A leader changes shape, color and quality day by day until, one day, they find people are drawn to them without any further effort. Here are 5 steps that can help guide you through this process.
5 steps of effective adaptation
- Try different approaches and see what the impact is. Adaptation takes place through repeated awareness, acknowledgment and action through experimentation.
- Take time to observe yourself. Be curious about what you feel and how you react as the situation around you changes.
- Slow down. Remember that it takes repetition, trial and error to learn something new.
- Recognize that leadership is a continuously adaptive process. In order to become skilled, it requires continual learning and the knowing that the environment around you and your relationship with it will continuously change. This struggle is part of the leadership journey.
- Use the system you’re in to support your growth by developing an accountability circle of trusted advisors who can give you feedback. Ask the feedforward question, “what is one thing I can do that will make me more effective in working with you.”
By taking time to observe yourself and experiment with different approaches, you will start to better understand your relationship with your environment. Remind yourself that adaptation is a continuous process and that situations and environments are constantly changing. As you go through our Conscious Leadership Framework, you will not only gain insights, but you will also strengthen your ability to adapt to any situation or environment and become a more effective leader.
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