Adaptability, patience and awareness. How useful are these attributes? They sound more like topics you speak of when embarking on a spiritual journey than characteristics that every individual should be equipped with in the workplace.
For decades recruitment and training frameworks have been designed to source or build an individual’s skillset. Skillset is defined as “a specific area of competence, knowledge, experience and abilities required to do a job.” The key component is “…to do a job.” Now it is important that a person has the minimum abilities to do well at a given role or function, but does it mean that this is how we should hire and train individuals for the success of an organization? Are we inferring that this “job” will not change in the future? I would argue that this view can be broadened to not miss opportunities that can bring future value to an organization that is constantly on the edge of transformation. Let me expand.
One issue with this approach is that it seeks to understand what a person previously built skillset structure is and not what is needed to unlock value through the evolution of an organization. Another caveat with this view is that an individual’s skillset doesn’t reflect the ability to gradually and effectively adapt to disruptive change, navigate uncertainty and/or the capacity to learn a new skillset. The characteristics needed to do this are of a different human nature – they are not static.
In ecology, adaptability has been described as the ability to cope with unexpected disturbances in the environment.1 I like to think of it as our ability to view change as a true reality of life rather as an event that happens and no longer is. Now this is not a category of a skill but instead is a way of viewing things, a perspective. Perspectives are unique since their source is also unique, the beholder. How about organizations seek to understand people’s perspectives rather than skills? Wouldn’t that be good for a change? I think so. This leads me to the second key attribute, patience.
Patience is the ability to endure difficult circumstances such as perseverance in the face of delay; tolerance of provocation without responding in annoyance/anger.2 It is often that organizations are too focused on their day to day operations, extinguishing fire after fire. This can lead to employee fatigue and a sense of frustration with the state of the company. Unfortunately, this leads to what I refer to hyper-reactivity where feelings and emotions, which are subjective, take over a response. This is detrimental to both the organization and the employee. By advocating for open dialogues, inclusiveness & receptiveness and allowing for people to fail with a safety net, patience can be cultivated.
To keep it simple I’ll refer to the branch of situational awareness or knowing what is going on around us. It is common for someone leading a meeting to have a plan to achieve the meeting purpose and goals. What is not common is to prepare for the multiplicity of events that can occur in that timeframe. And this shouldn’t be expected. Nevertheless, the key to properly manage an unexpected turn of events is to be aware that it is happening. This allow us to manage it objectively and effectively rather than getting frustrated given the established goals in our minds are not going to be met. In other words, listen carefully to people’s perspectives and be mindful of your response.
The challenge with these attributes is that they need to be cultivated, you can’t just take a certification on patience and call it a day – it requires practice. Organizations can help themselves by creating the necessary conditions and opportunities that enable people to take on new challenges, explore different fields and allow for experimentation. These experiences can aid to gradually cultivate these much-needed attributes.