I am confident you’ll be able to relate to the folks I’m highlighting for their embodiment of adaptability because, as for many of you, they’ve had to navigate a fundamental change (or several!) in their work over the past few years. It’s asked a lot of them, but they have found their way through with grace and humour.
Imagine being an outdoor experiential educator whose students are no longer coming to your site. That was the challenge Catherine Wassmansdorf faced early in the pandemic. She had to rethink her role at The Riverwood Conservancy and learn new ways to bring young people in contact with nature when they were no longer joining her for walks in the woods or exploration of a riverbed together. Not only did this transition involve switching to online education, but it included figuring out how to sell the idea to schools who were no longer investing in field trips of any kind. As in many other types of work, just as the digital transformation began to gain some traction, the possibility of in-person gatherings returned, tentatively, and Catherine found herself trying to anticipate and plan for groups to visit her digitally or in-person, both or neither, sometimes with only hours of notice. The storyline sounds relatively simple, but the skills required to make it all happen are formidable and the need to adapt repeatedly and significantly over a compressed period can certainly take its toll.
Jay Reid and Hayley Kellett can relate. Their business, The Making Box, had fairly recently opened a physical space to host improvisational theatre workshops and performances when the pandemic hit. Their improvisational skills were truly put to the test. They closed their space and shrunk their team. They began offering online improv classes, then decided to reorient their business toward corporate training, then refined their focus to major on strengthening adaptability itself. As with Catherine’s story, Hayley and Jay’s journey sounds tidier when written in a paragraph than it felt in real life. Adaptability can be messy!
If your head is spinning from having had to re-invent how you think about and execute your work, you are most certainly not alone. Thankfully, growing our adaptability is not a solitary task!
You can find more real-life examples of leaders that demonstrate the ELASTIC characteristics here, and in my book that’s coming out on February 7, 2023.