The one soft skill that tends get overlooked and slightly disregarded is adaptability –- and I am not sure why. It is one of the most important skills that needs to be demonstrated in order to imply relevancy, willingness to change and resilience in every aspect of our lives. Demonstrate adaptability and you’re like a badass chameleon that blends into any environment.
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines adaptability as the “ability or willingness to change” or“to make changes in response to their environment.”
The way I see it, a person who demonstrates adaptability is not being reactive to their surroundings but proactive to it. And this is an important distinction to make particularly when navigating in the workplace. Recognizing that you may have to up your game in the office and attempt a different approach in resolving an issue, is showing the ability to adapt.
In October 2018, the Iman of a mosque in Sugoren, Turkey, made a serious discovery: He and his worshippers had been praying in the wrong direction for almost 40 years. This issue was caused by a flaw in the building’s design, which he found out about when seeking advice from the local Muftis, Muslim legal experts. Rather than place the blame on anyone or demolish the building, he decided to simply post arrows leading folks in the right direction; the Iman is also currently looking at ways to structurally correct the error.
This brave Imam took a bold step in making a decision that would impact his faith and community for generations to come. Also, by exercising teamwork, another important soft skill, the results were a win-win: Folks now pray in the right direction and will have a properly aligned mosque in the future.
Back in the ’80s, there was a television series called “MacGyver,” based on a secret agent who managed to demonstrate some serious skills in getting himself out of life-threatening situations by using his brain and a Swiss Army knife. Even though his corny mullet got on my nerves, MacGyver was fluent in about six different languages, knew morse code, martial arts and never killed anyone!!
Listen and observe your surroundings, show flexibility, seek help when necessary and be prepared to make errors.
I want you to use the ever-changing landscape of your workplace to harness your inner MacGyver to ensure that you are prepared to meet the challenges that will come your way.
Do you have a demanding boss? A new project to execute? Share space with a toxic-coworker? Just started or lost your job? Take these opportunities to apply your previous experience, but don’t rely too much on your own perspective. Listen and observe your surroundings, show flexibility, seek help when necessary and be prepared to make errors. Align yourself with positive, supportive individuals –- and really steer clear of the haters, trollers and just all-around stink bombs.
My first job in the United Nations community was working for the Principality of Andorra. This beautiful country, nestled between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains has three official languages: Spanish, French and Catalan. Of the three, I only spoke one fluently, Spanish, and possessed a working knowledge of another one, French. Yet, to my dismay, I was confronted with the reality that everyone in the office preferred to communicate in Catalan.
I decided to immerse myself in learning the language no matter what. I read the local Andorran newspapers, watched Catalonian television channels and practiced key phrases in the language, even when I was made fun of or chided when practicing. Eventually, my persistence paid off when I greeted the then minister of foreign affairs in his native tongue. He couldn’t have been prouder of me than I was of myself.
Yes, I recognized the need to adapt. But along with that came the awareness of also having to handle the unsolicited negative feedback. I was supported by some during that learning curve but also extremely discouraged by others. This is the inevitable ramification of taking risks: You put yourself out there to be trolled. Period. However, it’s very important to keep in mind, that any opinion expressed by a Debbie or Dan Downer, reflects their own limited viewpoint — of themselves.
That’s why I don’t believe in nonsensical phrases like “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Says who? Has anyone ever interviewed an old dog? I am in my late 40s, just got my black belt in taekwondo and got a lot of new tricks.
Anyone who refuses to acknowledge your fabulosity implies that you do not have the ability to adapt or change and is not worth your time.
Anyone who refuses to acknowledge your fabulosity implies that you do not have the ability to adapt or change and is not worth your time. Here are some adaptability tips that you can apply – now:
Block but move – forward.
When you block in taekwondo, you are using your arms to block a kick or other motion while also moving immediately out of the way. If you move forward, you demonstrate an advantage against your opponent. As you change, you will definitely need to block some internal and external factors that will appear like an outdated mullet.
Internally, there is the old self. This is the part of you that prefers to cling to old, ineffective patterns of behavior because they are familiar and cozy, just like that plush couch throw on your sofa. Externally, you will find individuals who insist on maintaining what they perceive to be the status quo and will hold it against you if you don’t believe the same.
Block all of these influences and keep it moving. Wars, rigged elections and bad plastic surgery all began because someone had a point to prove.
Check your ego at the door.
I get it, you have a lot of experience in your field and recently saved puppies from a fire. Well done. All that experience got you where you are now. But in order to stay relevant, you must be willing to learn at any stage of your life from anyone. The pioneer of motivational thinking Florence Scovel Shinn said: “No man is your enemy. No man is your friend. Every man is your teacher.”
Avoid being defensive about what you think you know and don’t have a slash and burn approach, as it may very well come back to nip you in the gluteus maximus.
Around 52 B.C. raven-haired Vercingetorix, a tribal king and freedom fighter, battled Julius Caesar several times and gave him a run for his money. However, he eventually outsmarted himself during the Battle of Alesia which happened to establish the Roman Empire. In an effort to keep the Roman soldiers out, Vercingetorix built a wall around himself and his army to protect themselves but then had to surrender because supplies could not get through (so much for walls.) Due to his lack of critical thinking, it didn’t end well for the former king, but at least he got a few monuments and an asteroid in his name.
Learn from the pros.
Dinah Rodriguez, executive producer at Park Pictures, a woman-owned, NYC-based production company, knows all about adaptability. As she enters her 20th year in the business, being adaptable means recognizing that her company’s needs are always changing which requires her to stay ahead of the trends. However, being trendy should not mean forgoing the basics of common manners. Over the years, she observed that staffers who do not demonstrate adaptability, tend to forget that the workplace is a professional zone, lack of emotional intelligence,and do not exhibit being respectful of others viewpoints. These are the employees who get fired as quickly as they were hired.
Perhaps, it would be helpful to remind ourselves that we all inherently change whether we are conscious of it or not.
Heraclitus of Ephesus, the Greek philosopher, said: “Change is the only constant in life.” He believed that life is flux and that all things change. Centuries later, American presidents most notably Lincoln and Obama embraced this concept and used the word “change” in their election campaigns. They boldly took uncharted steps and changed history.
Perhaps, it would be helpful to remind ourselves that we all inherently change whether we are conscious of it or not. The American Chemical Society states that humans shed their outer layer every 2-4 weeks, at the rate of .0001-.0003 ounces of skin flakes an hour.
This constant process of renewal is central and essential to our health and well-being, and the ultimate proof we have what it takes to be adaptable.
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