Do you know what the one skill is? Some hints:

  • It’s one of Daniel Goleman’s twelve emotional and social intelligence leadership competencies
  • People with this skill tend to prefer to take things as they come and go with the flow rather than panic and have a melt-down according to Gallup’s definition
  • It’s a skill which helps people and organizations tolerate failure, even celebrate failure because experimenting means learning is happening
  • Change and uncertainties are easier to manage with this skill
  • Going beyond your comfort zone strengthens this skill
  • Emotional self-awareness and emotional self-control are hallmarks of successfully pulling this skill off
  • A mantra of this skill is, Whether I understand it or not, things are unfolding according to a natural order
  • It’s a source of creativity and fun!

You guessed it– a d a p t a b i l i t y.

If you’re facing change and uncertainty personally or professionally, adaptability is the one skill you want to get really good at– (frankly, who wouldn’t want to with all those listed positives)!

In this article:

You will get more details on ways to strengthen and practice the skill of adaptability for personal, professional and organizational success in this fast paced, ever-changing, often chaotic global world we engage daily.

It’s all about tapping into these four abilities within adaptability:

#1–The ability to use emotional self-awareness and self-control.

My anxiety shot up when my teacher warned, based on our practice session together, I probably wouldn’t pass the oral exam.

And like a duck glides across the water, feet paddling like crazy below the water’s surface, I listened, took notes and graciously thanked her and left the room to go throw up. (I didn’t throw up but I truly felt sick!)

This was horrible, terrible, awful news. My performance didn’t demonstrate needed skills. I had two weeks before the oral exam. The only time I’ve failed an exam was when I was a ten-year old Camp Fire Girl. It was a group cooking class. Funny now, not so much then. (Move over Julia Child!)

Fortunately, I’m emotionally self-aware and able to tease out my emotions and self-soothe so I don’t go all helpless, angry or paralyzed– for long.

I needed to grab hold of my anxiety quickly and deal with the feedback rationally so I could pass.

So– I did what a lot of you probably do when anxious– I went for a walk.

#2–The ability to be quick to calm.

Two go-to-quick-to-calm techniques that work for me are: walking and developing a Plan B. (Love Plan Bs!!)

There’s something about the bilateral movement of walking, left-right-left-right that help me focus and process as well as create action plans. Ideas pop in and out– a lot of them insightful and encouraging.

Plan B creation calms me. It’s a recognition that Plan A didn’t work and now moving on– here’s Plan B! Ta dah! (Don’t get me started on how crazy, wonderful Plan C’s can get!)

Trust this: identifying and exchanging your negative chatter which is self-defeating and doesn’t help you grow is a MUST.  Use Albert Ellis’ ABC’s of Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) to clean out your crappy interpretations. Get the easy steps to this process in the article: 5 Quick and Easy Scripts to Get Out of a Bad Headspace.

After my walk, I wrote out the feedback and any lingering negative chatter, replacing it with realistic, encouraging thoughts. Plan B materialized (yay) including people to contact who would help me. I felt confident I would overcome this challenge or at least go down doing my best.

See how doing things that quickly calm you helps you relax and focus so you can create next steps? Let cool heads prevail.

#3–The ability to experiment.

I was ON IT! I took my teacher’s recommendations and experimented. I chose pictures to visually represent the attributes I needed to pass the oral demonstration. I shared those pictures with trusted others and practiced.

I experimented with a variety of props, pictures, words, etc., getting rid of the stuff that didn’t work and having fun discovering what did work!

For the individual or organization flexing their adaptability muscle, experimenting always brings learning and only fails if learning doesn’t take place.

#4–The ability and willingness to learn because of the discomfort.

Life-long learners seek new experiences so they can learn new things. The confidence gained through exposure to the unfamiliar and uncomfortable is gigantic.

The skill of adaptability naturally grows as a result of new and varied experiences– especially outside your comfort zone.  Even failing an oral exam after you have done your best to prepare will enlarge your capacity to adapt in tough situations. (Yes, I passed!)

Passing the exam was great– but the deep down good feeling of facing and adapting to meet the challenge– that’s the lasting, duplicable knowledge of, I’ve got this! (All smiles.)

Here’s your takeaway:

Don’t sign up for anything with an oral exam!

NO— I’m kidding. 😉

Adaptability is a skill you really want to get good at because you want to be a part of the solution and engage during these changing, chaotic and uncertain times.

And sometimes it’s just fun to take what begins as an ordinary red balloon, mess around with it and create something positive to share.

Adaptability skills at their finest.

Hey readers:  What skills do you think are really important to master in these changing, uncertain times?


Need some extra waves to get your go with the flow moving again around some professional uncertainty? Let’s get together soon and brainstorm ideas.