development, leadership

Adapt! Why not?

In January I wrote about what to do when approaching a new team.  The process was as follows:

ADAPT to & Assess your environment

BUILD on the Base of relationships & habits

CARE for the Culture

DISRUPT with the intentional Advancement

I wanted to expand on the topic of adapting.  I start with a question, why not adapt?  By starting with this question, I found there are so many reasons people find to tell me why they shouldn’t adapt.

  • I am who I am, and people should accept me.
  • I am already a good person, good leader, etc.
  • Adapting sounds like change and who wants to change?  (This one was the funniest for me because my husband tells me how I always answer a question with another question.)

The list can go on but I stop here and just say… Adapting can be more difficult than we think.

In business, most likely you have heard of those companies that did not adapt like Kodak and Blockbuster.  In the next few years we may see even more concern with people failing to adapt.  In a report by Brian Hopkins from Forrester Research, ” Your People Problem With Emerging Technology And Innovation, he found companies are beginning to invest more in emerging technology and people may be the gap to their success.  In James Staten’s latest report, “Overcome Internal Barriers To Successfully Innovate, he states “These types of leading [disruptive]  innovations can be hard for employees to embrace, as most humans fear change, especially ones that disrupt existing processes, goals, and deliverables.” 

When I say ADAPT to your environment, it takes knowing your environment, business, people, and culture well enough and making the effort to change.  Some times we don’t even realize we need to adapt until it hits us in the head. 

My experience with adapting was when I took an international assignment in Spain.  At the time my children were 3 and 5 years old, and my husband and I were managing a lot of adapting.  Our days ran on very different schedules as to not leave the children too long without one of us with them.  My husband would go to work early, and I would take the children to school.  The catch was that the children didn’t start school until 9:00 am.  Due to this fact, I wouldn’t arrive at work until 9:15 or 9:20 am.  This was not an issue in our office because many Spanish parents were met with similar schedules.   In the U.S. I came from an office where most people arrived between 6:00 and 8:00 am.  8:00 am was a last minute arrival.  So, when I started arriving after 9:00 am in Spain, I was feeling high anxiety.  One sunny morning, I came flying in ready to finish my weekly report that was due that day.  I was missing some information from a team member, and I quickly walked over to her desk at 9:30 am.  I said, “Hello, our weekly report is due today and I wanted to know when you would have the latest data for your portion of the project.”  She looked up at me calmly and said, “Hello Jennifer.  How are your children?  Would you like to have a cup of coffee?”  I was floored to say the least.  I thought to myself.  It was 9:30 am and no I don’t want coffee.  I want to get this report completed.  I had forgotten that I needed to adapt to the culture where relationships are important.  Relationship building needed to happen daily not just at your first meeting.  She was good at building relationships and also good at getting some serious work accomplished. 

I took her response well, and it was greatly appreciated. I will admit that there are still days my employees remind me that we need to take a bit of time to build our relationship.  Weather it means you need to adapt your technology or adapt your behaviors, adapting has been required for humans through out time.

For these reasons I offer thoughts to consider on the topic of adapting when entering into a new team:

  • Make a mental note of those (peers and employees) that perform more effectively if you (and that person) take time to build your relationship.
  • Watch and listen to people more.  Observe how they act and what they say.  Use this as context to adapt to the culture. 
  • Match your employees and peers skills to the task.  Matching skills to the tasks can build confidence and prepare employees and peers to adapt and change during critical times for the business.  Requiring peers and employees to adapt daily can possibly drive them to feel uncomfortable and unsafe but creating a safe environment daily will open them to adapt when really required.   
  • Create an environment of collaboration and teamwork.  We are more likely to adapt and change as a team than we are trying to cross that bridge alone.

As usual, please give feedback and comments.  An interactive audience enables learning for us all.

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