Author of the book ReVisionary Thinking Courtney Clark reads an excerpt from Chapter 1. Learn how to develop a “tolerance for ambiguity” that will help you be successful in uncertain and new situations. Tolerance for ambiguity is a key predictor of success even when you’re dealing with change.
How do you come up with GOOD solutions when you’re faced with a problem? There’s a simple, 2-word question you can ask that’s guaranteed to help you be more successful.
Courtney reads an excerpt from her upcoming book, ReVisionary Thinking, that includes a case study from Procter & Gamble’s product development team, and how they broke the mold by asking questions.
The book is on shelves May 17th, 2022!
As the 2022 train pulls out of the station, one thing is clear: the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the workforce, possibly forever. Employees began resigning in droves early in the pandemic – dubbed the Great Resignation – and filling vacancies has been tricky ever since. Employee retention numbers still look bleak, and leaders are left wondering how to hire and maintain enough talent to complete the work that needs to get done.
One answer might lie in the concept of “adaptability.” Adaptability refers to a person’s willingness to change and adjust to the situation at hand. And many of us struggle with it. In a 2021 study I conducted of employees, 74% of respondents said they don’t feel able to “learn as they go” when presented with a challenge. That kind of cognitive inflexibility can easily make people feel more frustrated and less resilient.
When the word “flexibility” is mentioned in conversations about employee retention, it’s usually used to describe a workplace culture that accepts work-life balance. Employees can be flexible about when they arrive at work or leave, as long as they get their work done. Employee leave time could be less stringent, or work from home policies could be generous. Flexible policies are among the key perks leaders are told to use to attract and maintain team members.
But to really address the systemic employee retention issues, maybe the concept of flexibility needs to take on a broader meaning. Maybe the *humans* involved in the system need to be more flexible, not just the system.
By increasing individual adaptability in both team members and leadership, organizations may find their employees are better able to handle change, stress, and uncertainty without needing to quit. With increased flexibility and adaptability (what I call ReVisionary ThinkingTM), what previously seemed like brick walls for an organization can turn into navigable staircases.
Adaptability Counteracts Burnout
Burnout is a legitimate reason for employee turnover. Employees who are burned out are often not able to complete tasks or solve problems as well as non-burnt-out employees. But to adequately address burnout, we have to first address a fundamental misunderstanding about what burnout isn’t.
Most people incorrectly assume that burnout comes from being too busy (I admit to being one of them, before I did the research!). We tend to use “busy” and “burnt out” interchangeably to talk about stress. But they’re two very different concepts. Burnout specifically refers to a feeling of disengagement with the situation. It’s a shutting down that happens when your brain gets too overloaded. Burnout can certainly COME from being busy, but you can be busy without being burned out. The difference lies in motivation.
When employees feel motivated, they have a sense of purpose in their work. They understand how their tasks fit into the bigger picture of the problem their organization solves. These motivated employees don’t need to cling to “the way we’ve always done things,” because they understand that sometimes change, while uncomfortable, is necessary to move the entire organization forward.
On the other hand, employees who are stuck in their ways are more likely to experience burnout. The changes of the past 2 years feel overwhelming and unsurmountable.
In my 2021 study, we found 1 in 3 employees struggle to stay motivated when facing a challenging new problem. Those are the employees most at risk of burning out, because they don’t have the mental reserves to adapt and get on board with the “new normal.”
Adaptable Teams Have Adaptable Leaders
The onus for being flexible isn’t all on the individual contributors, though. Leadership plays an important role in building adaptability into the fabric of a team’s culture. A team can’t adapt unless they have an adaptable leader.
At some organizations, employees say they *would* have been comfortable with change, or even excited about it, but the change was handled in a way that meant the team wasn’t set up to succeed. Often, employees are being asked to change without being given the tools TO change. That may mean information, time, technology, or other resources were lacking, making the desired change nearly impossible. And in many cases, the transformation’s eventual failure is blamed on the employees’ inability to adopt the change, when in fact the change was doomed from the start.
Leaders who successfully lead through change make sure their employees have all the resources they need. How do they do that? They ask. They interview team members and other stakeholders to make sure the systems are in place to support the change as best as possible. The other secret bonus of asking? It’s only human nature to support what you help build. When leaders ask for input on the front end of the change, it’s more likely that those lower on the org chart will feel a sense of buy-in.
The Adaptable Employee
Higher pay and flexible hours will contribute a lot to workforce retention. Employees will naturally go where they are appreciated and rewarded.
But as we work to fill the workforce gaps, we should take a strong look at adaptability as a factor. Adaptable employees will be able to weather the uncertainty of our current situation. They will find purpose in their work, no matter their place in the company hierarchy. They’ll roll with the punches of 2022 and beyond.
For more information about my 2021 study and how you can increase adaptability in your team, visit CourtneyClark.com
Employees who have been around awhile can struggle with change. It’s harder to let go of “the way we’ve always done it,” when it’s been a long time.
But older employees don’t struggle with ALL of the change process, just that first step of letting go. Seasoned employees bring many benefits to the change process, including making successful decisions on how to move forward.
My research showed some surprising strengths that older employees have when dealing with change. If you’ve been in your position awhile, or you manage a seasoned work force, check this out!
So much is changing in our work lives right now!
If you’re wondering how to communicate with your staff about upcoming changes, there are two simple rules of thumb to follow:
More, and Sooner.
More info rather than less, and sooner rather than later. The “old” way of doing things used to be that managers only revealed information once it was all hammered out and set in stone. But if you wait until everything is finalized and about to roll out, your staff could feel blindsided and kept in the dark.
Especially after the past year-and-a-half we’ve all had, your team will appreciate the transparency of more information, sooner. Here’s how to do it…
“Things are getting better… so why do I still feel crummy?”
A woman asked me that question last night at an event, and it’s VERY relevant. I feel the same way.
Life is starting to get back to “normal.” We’re more able to do things we love. And yet we can also feel nervous, uncertain, frustrated, and just plain traumatized from the upheaval of the past year+. Maybe you feel guilty that you aren’t just 100% thrilled and ready to run headlong back into the world again.
I have a couple of ideas to help you deal with this feeling caught between two worlds.
The world is showing signs of emerging from its long, COVID-19 fog. As restrictions lift, groups gather, and businesses bounce back, people are expressing excitement to return to some kind of normalcy.
But if you aren’t prepared for the changes we’re going to be experiencing – both individually and within organizations – the transition into a post-COVID world may not be comfortable or successful for you. Here are 4 important problems to avoid as you shake off the COVID fog.
Trap #1: Going back to “The Plan” Post-COVID
Most of us were raised to believe that successful people make a plan, work hard, and get rewarded. So it’s no surprise that we want to cling to The Plan at all costs, even when circumstances change.
In 2021, I worked with the University of Northern Colorado to conduct research on how well people can adapt, and 74% of respondents expressed an unwillingness to improvise, change, and learn as they go in unfamiliar situations. Most of us struggle in some way when forced to redirect our plans and goals.
The Plan is alluring. It feels comfortable. It feels like the shortest path to success. But it’s not the same world as it was in 2019. You’re not the same person. To more easily let go of The Plan, remind yourself that The Plan 1.0 had problems, too. You may not have gotten far along enough on the journey to find them yet, but they were there. Spend your energy focusing on how to make The Plan 2.0 (or 3.0, or 117.0) the best it can be.
Trap #2: Expecting to Feel Better Right Away
There’s a lot to celebrate as more people get vaccinated and regular activities can start to resume. There’s also a lot to feel conflicted about. How do we celebrate when so many have died? How do we get excited when so many have lost everything?
Even if you’re personally MORE than ready to had back into the office or send kids back to school, and you have no fear of variants popping up, you might run into unexpected grief for the months you missed.
For the healthiest re-entry, don’t ignore the potential for grief to pop back up in surprising ways. Allow yourself to have mixed feelings about letting go of The Plan 1.0 (see above). In my research, the younger you are the easier it may be for you to move on to a new plan, possibly because you’ve invested less time than if you’re older (and committed to your plans for a longer time).
Trap #3: Thinking You Have to Operate at 100% Immediately
If you’re a “do-er” like me, you may be chomping at the bit to resume what feels like normal levels of productivity. But trying to go from wherever you are to top speed may surprisingly make you less successful.
Because of something called action-bias, many of us are primed to jump to action before we fully evaluate our options. Scientists who study brainstorming say the ideas that come up later in the brainstorming process that are more innovative and creative. Take advantage of this time to come up with new goals and strategies. Maybe the pandemic exposed new opportunities for your business or your life. Maybe it revealed gaps that you now know how to fix.
Resist the temptation to dive in and make up for lost time post-COVID. Instead, use this time intentionally to create new goals and new ways of operating that will lead to greater accomplishment in the long run.
Trap #4: Navigating Change Alone
What do you think of when you think of a resilient person? Many people imagine someone with a sense of toughness who draws on internal strength. In reality, studies show the most resilient people aren’t lone wolves relying on their own inner power, but those with strong support systems.
Many of us have spent parts of the pandemic alone or in small bubbles. We may be (or feel) less connected than we’ve ever been. But lone-wolfing isn’t a good way to accomplish your goals. In my research, the older you are, the better you get at leaning on others to help you… and the more you seek input and advice from others, the smarter the decisions you make!
Ready or Not…
If you’re expecting to run headlong back into “the way things used to be” at top speed, be prepared for a rude awakening. The changes we’re about to experience as we go *back* to life post-COVID are not that much different than the changes we faced when the world shuddered to a halt in early 2020. There will be changes, both operationally and emotionally. But if you’re prepared for them, you’ll be able to successfully make the transition back.
I couldn’t keep my new research to myself any more. Dealing with COVID-19 is actually the PERFECT time to bring the concept of “Adaptive Thinking” to the world.
If you’re struggling with the new reality of your work, your business, your home life… whatever, Adaptive Thinking is a concrete, constructive way to pivot and find a way to be successful when the world is uncertain.
Yesterday I gave a short presentation on the Adaptive Thinking concept to a group in California, and I realized that with everything that’s going on with COVID-19 and its impacts on the way we’re working and living, I couldn‘t wait any longer to send it out to everybody.
I’ve been learning a LOT over the past 18 months researching how people can develop Adaptive Thinking (and there’s still more to learn!), but here’s a very short introduction into something you can do TODAY to help you start thinking more adaptively and getting your brain primed for survival and success in this new world.
If you’ve got more questions about what Adaptive Thinking is and how it can help you – ask ’em! I’m going to be shooting more videos in the coming days and weeks.
If you’re wondering “how do I choose a keynote speaker for my conference?” you’re not alone. It’s a tough job to find a speaker who will keep your audience engaged, teach them something, make them laugh, and motivate them – ALL AT THE SAME TIME!
Courtney Clark isn’t your average keynote speaker.
She’s inspirational, for sure. She’s high energy, interactive, and fun. But she also grounds all her work in research. She offers what she calls “content-based motivation,” so when you work with Courtney, you’ll create a customized blend of research, strategies, interaction, humor, and stories. Your participants will leave with both the *feelings* and the *skills* to be more successful in today’s fast-changing world.
If you’re looking for a keynote speaker on change, resilience speaker Courtney Clark will bring your group the tools and attitude they need!