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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Sullivan

Adaptability: how lockdown mirrors business

Adaptability is a quality many people ask for when recruiting staff to work in charities. Often the phrase ‘no two days are the same’ is used to describe the exciting nature of the work. Reacting to beneficiaries’ needs, facing funding uncertainty and sometimes operating under annually elected leadership.

But how adaptive are we really? 

Adaptability in lockdown

Personally, I’m pretty positive. I respond to circumstances around me without too much flapping of my wings. But I was struck by how much the overhaul of my ‘givens’ due to covid-19 affected me, and many of my friends and colleagues.

The lesson I learned was that I wasn’t used adapting to total change at all, I was just used reacting to specific situations. A couple of weeks into social distancing restrictions, we were into a new routine; we’d adapted and, although we struggled at times (who didn’t?), we were muddling through. A sense of normality was creeping in.

That’s when the most surprising thing happened - I started to hope that restrictions wouldn’t get lifted. Not for scientific reasons – I only want restrictions lifting when the country is safe and ready. No, I was suddenly anxious about another full-on change to my circumstances. About facing another round of adaptation. Because adapting is hard. There is a period of adjustment where your brain takes you through several uncomfortable stages - fear, anxiety, hope, despair, concern, worry, optimism. And these stages can be all jumbled together. 

This intense period of adaptation is not one I care to repeat any time soon.

Adaptability within organisations

But my personal experience of lockdown adaptability reflects in a microcosm, the experience of organisations and their staff up and down the country when they undergo a big period of change. Every new CEO wants to make their mark on an organisation; they have big ideas and are usually not hampered by the “this is how we’ve always done it” problem.

So, they change things. Often these changes are for the better, but staff can be left wondering what the hell happened to their routine. Those emotions we all went through during the initial stages of this pandemic are being played out in organisations of every size and shape right now. With the immediate future thrown into uncertainty, adaptability this will be our new normal for a while.

And it’s draining.

During my experience of consulting in charities, I often hear staff members say: “I just want things to stay the same for a while”. What I’ve come to realise is that they’re not really bothered whether ‘the same’ is actually good or beneficial, they simply want it to be stable. At least for a while.

And that’s totally understandable. However, it can have huge consequences for an organisation that’s trying to emerge from destructive practises or improve its overall culture.

So how can organisations instil adaptability without whipping the rug our from under its employees’ feet?

Support and care are the keystones. Care must be taken to support colleagues through significant periods of change. That’s not about written memos or brochures outlining how wonderful the future is going to be. It’s about caring for the individual’s concerns, fears, hopes.

Communication is crucial, and it must be two-way. Only by listening to the staff at all levels that a board and senior managers can hope to take people along with them through the change, rather than dragging them along, losing a few along the way.

MiraGold and adaptability

MiraGold can help. We interview staff at all levels to help with change programmes. We listen to their stories and reflect them back, in confidence, to the people making decisions. We become that conduit to effective communication and understand that adapting takes time, care and patience.

Adapting to change is about supporting people.

Contact us to find out more about how we can help support your through your periods of change.

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