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4 Ways to Boost Your Adaptability Skills

Posted on September 18, 2019
Black print - arrow hitting a barrier, moves around to hit another, and then goes in a different direction - meant to depict how one adapts to challenges, change, etc.

Charles Darwin’s words still very much ring true, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Adaptability is one of the top “human skills” otherwise known as soft or essential skills employers are seeking. Historically, little emphasis has been placed on these skills, but employers have realized that hard skills on their own are not enough. Employees need to be able to communicate, negotiate, interact with fellow colleagues, think critically and creatively, and they need to be able to adapt.

What is adaptability and why is it important? Adaptability means one is able to quickly respond to changing trends, innovation, destabilization, industry shifts, and so forth. This ability to adjust or shift makes an employee nimble and that is important because most industries today are in some state of flux. For example, while there is a focus on how AI is impacting automation, its use has far exceeded the manufacturing industry and thus, employees need to be able to move forward along with this innovation, as well as the next one. But it isn’t just about technological changes. When a company’s business model is no longer working and revenues dip, the employees who can adapt by cutting costs, thinking differently, and most importantly looking to the future and seeing a way forward, are the ones who will carry the company forward through those tough times. Conversely, the employees who cling to the standard way of doing business, in the end, drag the company down.

Are you adaptable? In his article in Forbes entitled, “14 Signs of an Adaptable Person,” Jeff Boss identifies the following traits of adaptable people: they experiment, see opportunity where others see failures, they are resourceful, they think ahead, don’t whine, talk to themselves, and don’t blame others. They also don’t claim fame, are curious, open their minds, see systems, and stay current.

If you do not possess these traits, there are ways you can train yourself to be more adaptable:

Change Your Thought Process

Let go of the “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality. While change can be scary and intimidating, embrace it and look at change as an opportunity to improve, learn, and grow. It can open the door to creativity as well. This also means, however, being open to the thoughts and opinions of others, i.e. different perspectives.

Force Yourself to Take Risks

Little progress is made without risk. For some, the idea of risk is so adverse that they will run from it as fast as they can, but taking risks is key part of being adaptable. Start small and to increase comfort, discuss risk taking as part of team meetings, which can serve as a system of support.

Encourage Others to Be Open Minded

One of the best ways you can develop an open mind is to encourage others to do the same. This creates a more open atmosphere in and around you, thereby further encouraging your open-mindedness and to continue the cycle. It also serves as a means to shut down closed-minded thinking, such as “Well, that’s how we’ve always done it.”

Embrace Learning

As noted in the Forbes article, people who are curious and stay current tend to be adaptable. This means you need to embrace learning. Read up about new technologies in your industry sector, go to seminars on how to cut costs while maintaining efficiency and quality, learn about process improvement, connect with colleagues who have this kind of vision and learn from them, read what they read, etc.

Melissa Cory, the co-founder of the Women in Leadership Conference in Oklahoma and the director of Executive and Professional Education at Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University said at the above-mentioned conference, “Those who remain flexible and have the opportunity to adapt their thinking and behavior to circumstances possess an important skill.” She later added, “Turning moments of change into opportunity, however, means we need to be ready to embrace change, create a network that supports us and tools that help us navigate this change.”

This means you need to take some time to think about your adaptability skill level. If you are adaptable, then identify tangible ways to showcase it on your resume and on LinkedIn. If you are not, then actively take steps to train yourself to become more adaptable and document your progress. I also recommend you find an accountability partner to help you grow this important skill.Kind regards,

Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies
Goodwin College
Drexel University
Posted in leadership-management-skills, innovation-workplace, professional-development-career-tips