As a manager, you likely know things rarely go according to plan. Budgets and timeframes may change, sometimes due to circumstances outside of your control. The market could change in a way that you and your team didn’t anticipate, and your team could change with little warning. It’s important to be more adaptable, but this skill must be learned over time.
Want to excel as a manager? Here are a few ways you can become more adaptable.
Part of adaptability is skipping over the panic that can come with unexpected change and instead moving into problem-solving mode. For this, you need to improve your problem-solving skills. Learn how to identify problems early on and how to brainstorm different ideas — whether alone or with your team. The stronger your problem-solving skills become, the less change will intimidate you: you’ll know that you’re ready to face any problem that comes your way.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a manager is to assume that because you’re the manager, you’ve learned all there is to learn. If you believe that you know it all, you won’t be accepting of new ideas from your team or from those around you. You’re also more likely to become frustrated when something you didn’t anticipate occurs.
Instead, make sure that you have an open mind. The world is constantly changing, and so is your industry. No matter how much experience you have, there is always more to learn. This can be exciting, and when you embrace it, you will anticipate change rather than being thrown off by it.
Want to become better at going with the flow and embracing change? Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. This can be difficult to do, especially when you have a routine down to a fine art. But when you take in new experiences, you expand your horizons, as well as your flexibility.
You can do this in your free time as well as at work. Consider picking up a new hobby, traveling to a new location, or doing something that’s always scared you. At work, you can open yourself up to new perspectives or new management methods that you think might improve the office.
Have you ever left your house a little earlier than your commute time allowed, just in case there was unexpected traffic? Or stayed home the day after you started feeling better with a sickness to ensure you had it fully out of your system? These are actually great examples of building flexibility into your plans.
When creating a plan for your team to tackle a project, make sure to “leave room for trouble.” Expect the unexpected. You might not be able to predict exactly what will happen, but you can leave cushions of time or backup plans to allow you and your team to adapt when something unexpected does happen. This also helps you mentally prepare for things that might not go according to plan. If you’re too rigid with your plans, they may break at the slightest obstacle.
Think about how you react to sudden, unanticipated changes. Do you panic or get angry? Do you take it out on your team? Do you try to stick to the plan even when it’s clearly no longer working? Your reactions are likely to impact the rest of your team. If you struggle with adaptability, there’s a chance that your reactions to change could stand a little reflection.
Don’t judge yourself too harshly for your current reactions, but rather look at them in the same way you might approach a problem-solving situation. Identify the problem, and decide how you would like to improve. Ask yourself how you can handle change with empathy and a cool head, keeping your team motivated despite the circumstances.
Mindfulness is a mental wellness practice that focuses on being present in the moment, aware of your surroundings, thoughts, and feelings. As a manager, especially a visionary manager, it can be easy to focus on the future. Too much focus on the future outcome that you’re aiming for, however, can make it difficult to adapt to change. Practicing mindfulness in your personal life will help you to be more grounded in the moment, and thus more able to adapt with whatever the current moment needs. It can also help you react more calmly to upsetting changes.