How are we doing in these are strange and uncertain times?
I’ve spent the last two weeks working with sales teams that scrambled to go remote and figure out a new selling strategy, empathetic and compassionate messaging, and how they can best help their clients and customers.
From email communication, social media, and news reports, you can see that there are clever and prepared businesses out there that are adapting brilliantly to this disruptive time … and then, there are businesses that are woefully unprepared for this major disruption. Some will suffer and barely recover, and there will be thousands of businesses that will shut their doors permanently.
So that brings me to talk about one of the most important attributes – both personally and organizationally – that will help us survive these next weeks and months: Adaptability.
Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one that is most adaptable to change” – and it’s the quote turned mantra for all business organizations and their employees right now.
If you’re scrambling to figure out your next moves or how you’ll continue to do business during this time of social distancing and preventative quarantine, think about leveling up your adaptability skills.
4 Attributes to Help You Become More Adaptable – personally and within your organization:
Mindset – Every time I run a Skills Builder Session or Workshop, I run into at least one personality type I affectionally call, “Holdout Harry.” Not to be sexist, she could also be “Holdout Heather.” The “Holdout” is always critical of anything new, the naysayer that predicts the failure of this idea, and, he/she believes themselves to be the truthteller predicting this as a waste of time.
I expect this. I prepare for this. And, I’m happy to say, often, I’m able to turn around the holdouts and move them to try something new. It’s not that I must necessarily prove that something new will work, I have to show them that something new is possible. What they’ve accepted as their reality has kept them working within their closed set of possibilities. Everything outside their box looks like potential failure because it is unknown and the unknown is always a scary place when you never leave your box. So, staying inside your box is a circular problem.
“If you want a new outcome, you will have to break the habit of being yourself.” – Joe Dispenza
Changing your mindset and opening up to new ideas, accepting of change, letting go of control … yes, they can be scary, but if you can shift your mindset to embrace what is possible, instead of shutting out what is unknown, you become much more adaptable. Be open to what’s possible!
Risk – Once you’ve accepted that there is potential for success outside your box, the next thing to try is to leave your comfort zone for unchartered waters. Risk is, by nature, scary. Our primitive brain is always scanning the environment and checking a situation for risks to our safety. It’s how we’ve stayed alive and not been eaten by cave bears or tigers or whatever. The level of risk is not always proportional to the fight or flight response we give it. For instance, crossing a rope bridge 20 feet in the air being secured by a harness is scary. Your body wants to shut down, your legs shake uncontrollably – because your body thinks you are in mortal danger. In spite of the safety mechanisms in place, your body responds from its own primitive knowledge and belief – not the actual risk or level of security in the activity.
Learning to take risks … is just that. You have to learn and practice risk-taking to (oddly) be more comfortable being uncomfortable. What can you do to practice being out of your comfort zone? Make a call to someone who has previously shut you down? Go rock wall climbing? Put out a vulnerable or transparent message to your customers? Learn a new language, try dancing, or send a creative outreach message?
There are many ways you can get out of your comfort zone. Keep challenging yourself and remember, “You’ve got to risk it for the biscuit! – sks
And if you have team members or employees, you’ll need to support your colleagues as they extend themselves, take some risks, possibly fall down, or fail. New ideas and innovation come from falling down many times so as to stay adaptable or ramp up your agile business work to support and encourage employees with patience and grace.
Learn – Just like practicing risk-taking, “learning” itself, is a key to being more adaptable. One of my goals when starting The Selling Agency wasn’t to compete with others in my field, my goal was to “out-learn” anyone else in my industry to bring the best strategies and solutions to my clients. Once you become an “expert” in something, does it mean you stop learning? I’m always wary of the self-touted experts – once they stop learning and start drinking their own kool-aid, it’s only a matter of time before their advice becomes obsolete.
I prefer to be called a “practitioner” because I’m always practicing and learning and practicing what I learn. Individually, there’s always more to learn about your field of practice, your market, industry, customers, or competitors. Personally, investigate more about human behavior, influence, and the psychology of habits. Embrace these lessons into your business and outlearn your competitors
As McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc liked to say, “If you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you rot.”
Evolve – Being flexible is good, like, “let’s postpone that meeting until we can get Carol here.” But being adaptable is “let’s record a video for Carol to share what we’ve discussed and what the next steps will be.” It’s more than picking up something later. Adaptability is evolving in a way to be responsive to challenges. It’s finding a way through or around instead of being sidelined or stopped by an obstacle.
What’s so interesting about this time period is that you’re seeing thousands of businesses adapt to the temporary “new reality” in the US of social distancing and mandated closure to the public congregation of nonessential businesses. And in very short form, many of them are adapting to selling services online, meeting via video, leveraging social media to stay engaged with customers, building online stores, creating virtual meet-ups, curbside pickups, et cetera.
Those that are adapting to continue to communicate, engage, and serve their clients now will keep many of the modifications they adopted during these crazy times and evolve their businesses to serve people even greater than prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. They’ll evolve their business model, delivery systems, product offerings, and more to make sure they’re relevant and capable should any other crisis happen AND they accept that these new channels or offerings may still be desired and appreciated by customers – giving them a competitive advantage.
Whether you’re forced to change now or in the future, “adapt, evolve, or you will be replaced!” -sks
At this point, the COVID-19 health and economic crisis have yet to peak. Normally, I will tell you, I love a good roller coaster ride and being out of my comfort zone but statistically safe. I will say, though, I am not appreciating this gut-wrenching climb to the top nor am I looking forward to the plummet from the summit because it’s really hard to speculate how long we will be on this ride and what’s waiting for us after we peak.
Rather than “just holding on and hoping for the best,” work through your business and personal practices to be not just resilient, but adaptable.
Got some ideas to share about being more adaptable?
Let’s hear them in the comments below.
Until next time, stop hoping and start SELLING!
PS – We’re taking our own advice and adapting too. Over the next few weeks, you’ll see a bit of a pivot in our content and offering to help not just sales teams, but the entire business organization – focus on strengthening their market position and go-to-market strategies. We’re also rolling out some new visuals and graphics and taking on everyone’s favorite business past time – revamping the website! We’d love your feedback, if you have some constructive offering, along the way! Take care and stay safe! – sks