Hire for Adaptability

Have you experienced a moment of insight that felt like an accomplishment, then upon arrival someone with your best interest at heart says, “You’re still thinking too small. What’s past that step?”

I watched this happen in a recent group coaching conversation. In response to the question, “What would be an audacious step in your business?” someone said they wanted to be on Oprah’s Soul Sunday and another said they wanted to be on Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast. I thought, “Wow — good for you!” until the leader said, “Oprah and Brené? They’ve been around awhile — who’s bigger and next?” Stttrrrrreeeetttttccchhhhhhh!

I had a similar moment during a fun conversation at Wiser by Choice last week. Shane Hatton surprised the group by joining us in person for a discussion of his excellent new book Let’s Talk Culture. He referred to a previous conversation about organizational culture and diversity. People may have moved from hiring for cultural fit (which might be comfortable but won’t change the status quo) to hiring for cultural contribution. The stretch point for him was to hire for cultural adaptability, since culture is dynamic not fixed.

So now it’s my turn to push that idea one step further. I’m a fan of adaptability. Courtesy of the Adaptability Quotient assessment, we now have a reliable way to measure the adaptability of individuals and teams. But here’s the thing: everyone adapts. So the question is not “is this prospective hire adaptable or not?” but rather “how quickly and in what specific ways might this person choose to adapt if they were part of our team?”

Let’s stretch it one bit further: if you knew that this new person would adapt differently than the rest of your team, what does that actually tell you? Is that a reason to hire them, or not to?

There are several angles to this decision. Here are three I’m thinking about:

  1. Choose to match on speed. If you need a team that adapts at a similar pace, it may not matter if they adapt using similar pathways, so long as they stay roughly in step with each other.
  2. Choose to match on preferred pathways. If a team’s path of least resistance toward adaptation is similar, they can journey that path together, even if they follow it at different speeds. For example, if they tend to rely on mental flexibility, unlearning and team support to find themselves in a new place, adding someone to the team with similar preferences can accelerate progress.
  3. Choose to maximize diversity. We know that diverse teams outperform homogenous ones. Perhaps adaptability is a new axis of diversity we could consider when putting high performing teams together?

If all this has you curious too, I’d be happy to talk AQ with you. And I’m sure Shane would be happy to talk culture too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *