Today’s most successful businesses, from franchise companies to tech giants, are singing the praises of adaptive leadership. But is it truly an improved way to bring leadership to your workplace – or just another passing management fad?
Adaptive leadership is here to stay, and this article explains what it is, as well as how you can start incorporating it at your workplace. But before we dive deeper, it’s important to understand the kinds of challenges that all workplace leaders face.
Technical vs. Adaptive Challenges
Not every business problem is the same: organizational experts often classify them as either technical or adaptive challenges.
- Technical Challenges Are Easy to Resolve
A technical challenge in business is anything that can easily be corrected with the right knowledge. Here are a few examples of technical challenges:
- You have trouble filing your business taxes and compliance forms.
- You’re having problems with your office internet connection.
- You can’t keep up with payroll processing.
In almost every case, you can quickly resolve a technical problem by bringing in an expert — in the examples above, a business process outsourcing (BPO) company can help you.
The upside of these is that employees understand that there are “right” and “wrong” solutions. When nobody in the office knows how to get the WiFi working again, everyone understands that the next step is to call your internet service provider.
Unfortunately, not all business problems are so clear-cut. Adaptive challenges occur when there are no obvious solutions or at least any solutions that make everyone happy.
- Adaptive Challenges Are Less Straightforward
It would be great if every problem could be solved by simply calling an expert or watching a how-to video. But the reality is that the biggest challenges you’ll face as a business owner don’t have easy answers.
These are known as adaptive challenges. A few examples include the following:
- You’re having trouble managing your remote team.
- Customers have been complaining about poor customer service.
- You’ve noticed that your different teams are forming silos/factions.
If you’ve experienced these challenges before, then you know how hard it can be to arrive at a perfect solution. In fact, you may still be trying to overcome these challenges.
The good news is that it’s possible to work through these types of challenges and promote leadership and motivation in the workplace at the same time. The key is to become an adaptive leader.
What Is an Adaptive Leader?
You probably already have an idea of the type of leader you are — some leaders want to be involved as much as possible in the business, while others prefer a more laissez-faire approach.
But adaptive leaders don’t like to pigeonhole themselves. Rather, they are able and willing to morph their leadership style to meet the needs of whatever challenge comes their way.
In short, it isn’t about who you are, but how you work through problems in the workplace and improve yourself as a leader in the process.
How to Become an Adaptive Leader
It isn’t something you’re born with, and it doesn’t require any sort of course or official certification. You can become one by tackling challenges the right way. Here are four helpful tips.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Name the Problem
These workplace issues are notorious because they’re hard to identify and easy to ignore. In the example about customer service issues, it’s easy to brush off a few complaints as coming from unreasonable customers. Or you may think that bringing up the issue to your staff is all you need to do.
If you want to be a great workplace leader, you need to identify that you have a problem. Only then will you be able to identify the root causes, develop goals and an action plan, and address the problem head-on.
2. Engage Your Team
One of the defining attributes of adaptive challenges is that they can’t be solved by just one person. It takes the whole team to accept and implement change as a group. As a good workplace leader, you won’t be able to control everyone’s actions. But you can help your employees understand why change is necessary and how the changes will make the situation better for everyone.
And if the changes don’t go as planned, your staff will be more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt as you think of alternative solutions.
Just like with communicating an M&A or other big decision to your employees, good communication is key to building and maintaining a good relationship with your team through adaptive change.
3. Encourage Feedback
As an adaptive leader, you’ll be thinking outside the box and constantly trying creative solutions. But if you don’t know how well you’re doing, you’ll be doomed to fail. That’s why it’s important to prioritize feedback.
As you work to overcome problems, your staff should know that they’re always welcome to talk to you about how they feel. For example, if you’re implementing long-term change, you can incorporate feedback in your annual performance reviews with employees.
If someone doesn’t have anything constructive to say, invite them to sit down with you so that you can better understand their root concerns. You should also encourage the team to share positive feedback. That way, if you do need to adjust your plan, you’ll know which parts of your solution are working well.
4. Be Patient
Adaptive challenges are some of the most difficult ones you’ll face as a workplace leader. And it’s possible that you won’t get it right the first time. The best leadership requires a lot of patience and flexibility as you work through finding the right solution.
Even if when you believe you have found the best way to address a problem, don’t expect to see results right away. This type of leadership isn’t about overnight change. It’s about motivating your employees to see the value of working in a new way, and it takes time for people to form new habits, adopt new values, and trust your solution. The more patience you show, the more your team will be willing to follow you.
Adapting to Challenges Are What Define Great Workplace Leaders
Being an adaptive leader isn’t always easy, but there’s no better way to effect positive change and prioritize what matters most: your team. At Confie, we put our people and values above everything. To learn more about Confie, get in touch with us today or give us a call at (714) 252 2500.