Chronic Responsiveness

I write on being nimble and responsive to changing conditions from the “front of the room,” perhaps when you are running a meeting, workshop or negotiation. Much of our ability to excel at this comes from detailed preparation, self-awareness and practice. And it really helps to be well-rested and well-nourished in the moment.

Even with all of that, nimble facilitation is tiring. It requires a good dose of adrenaline, and a crash inevitably follows.

In my work with leaders of health and social service agencies, I’m noticing the cumulative wear and tear of dealing with a highly unpredictable provincial government for the past 16 months.

As I write this, we are also on the eve of a federal election in Canada, and pollsters are suggesting the outcome is anyone’s guess. Readiness to adjust on a moment’s notice is fine in short-term situation, such as in a meeting that takes an unexpected turn, but maintaining that readiness over an extended period of time turns an acute “fight or flight” reaction into a chronic level of stress that was never intended to be sustained.

Nimbleness has become necessary not only in the moment, but over the longer term.

In 2018, the World Economic Forum released its projections of job skills that would be needed in 2022 and those that will be declining. Now that we’re about halfway through that time period, how are these lists looking to you? I notice the absence of adaptability.

As my Australian colleague in Thought Leaders Business School, Lynne Cazaly, recently wrote, “adaptability is the capability.”

Adaptability is required at an individual and organizational level to perform well in contexts where predictability is low and complexity is high. Intentionally cultivating an ability to be “intentionally reactive” — personally and corporately — is among the best strategic advice I can offer.

How can we build our adaptability skills? One tactic involves shifting our expectations. If we anticipate frequent change, we’re less likely to be surprised by it each time it happens. Another is to practice in lower stakes situations. I recently enjoyed meeting with folks from Second City and The Making Box to talk about the significant and perhaps surprising degree of overlap between their work and mine. Why not try a little improv?

3 Replies to “Chronic Responsiveness”

  1. Funny, I’ve been thinking about Making Box as a way of becoming more responsive to moving targets-adaptability. Using the ‘yes, and…’ approach to invite creativity and thus, possibilities.
    Thanks for the push to become more vulnerable and grow!

  2. Another tactic for adaptability is to keep your eye on the ultimate goal, and allow for flexibility in how to get there. If your ultimate goal is building cohesion in a community, and government actions keep you from acquiring the community center you were planning to use, then you can still build cohesion in other ways. Keep going back up to your ultimate goal and finding other paths to it.

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