The times, they are a’changing…

We’ve all heard it before…change is the only constant. While that may sound like just a clever little sound bite, it is, in fact, quite true.

Every customer relationship, every situation and almost every aspect of your business—and life— is undergoing constant change and that can bring on great amounts of stress. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are skills that you can learn to help manage these stresses and even harness that power of change to be a better advisor for your customers. How? The answer can be found in one simple word…adaptability.

Adaptability…what does it really mean?

Adaptability can be defined as the ability to absorb change and uncertainty while maintaining high levels of performance. You may notice that the definition does not say anything about “embracing change” or “enjoying change”—adaptability is about being able to absorb or handle change and uncertainty while performing at a high level. And the good news is that adaptability is a skill that can be learned and developed.

You’re looking very adaptable today!

There are signs and visual clues that a person has a high degree of adaptability. These include:

  • Adjusting easily to ambiguity and change
  • Rebounding quickly from minor annoyances, the unexpected, and true adversity
  • Being able to draw on a seemingly endless supply of personal energy

Now for the bad news

Most people—about 80 percent—have naturally low to moderate levels of adaptability. So, the person we just described above, is pretty rare. But you can strive to be more highly adaptable by understanding the core elements of adaptability.

  • Train your internal voice
    What does your internal voice say when something annoying, negative, or adverse happens? If your inner voice is positive, you will interpret adversity in a more realistic light and be better able to manage it.
  • Focus on what you can control
    You may not be able to control a demanding customer, but you can be prepared for questions that may be asked. And, when a negative event strikes, stop and ask yourself, “What can I personally do to overcome this?”
  • Put it into perspective
    Consider negative events within the bounds, and timeframe, of your life that will be affected. This helps put events, even adverse ones, in their appropriate context and allows you to manage the situation more effectively.

More ambiguity threshold, please!

Your ambiguity threshold indicates how much change you can tolerate. The higher your threshold, the more change you can absorb while performing at a high level. Another point to consider is that our ambiguity threshold can change depending on the situation and what other stressors we have going on in life.

These 5 practices can help increase your ambiguity threshold.

  1. ANTICIPATE THE FUTURE: This practice involves thinking about how information, news, events, or concepts from one domain relate to those from another, and particularly how those things may affect the future of your world.
  2. ACCEPT UNCERTAINTY: The is a willingness to accept the discomfort that arises from making decisions with less caution, information, or data than you might want. Accepting uncertainty results in a higher degree of risk tolerance, not poorer decisions and actions.
  3. APPLY FLEXIBILITY: This practice involves making rapid course corrections, often with less support than you may want, when unforeseen events or errors unfold, while still maintaining focus on a goal or strategy.
  4. BE TENACIOUS: Tenacity involves perseverance in the face of long time horizons and/or setbacks. Adaptable people are tenacious, but not when the evidence tells them it is time to alter course.
  5. EXERCISE CURIOSITY: This practice focuses on expanding the range of sources of information, ideas, and opportunities you seek, which can help you deal more effectively with ambiguity and uncertainty.

Fill up your personal tank

With energy! Physical, emotional, and mental well-being are critical to adaptability. Keep your energy stores high by finding the right combination of exercise (aerobic, strength-training and stretching), and relaxation (meditation, napping and practicing good sleep hygiene), to help you be ready to adapt to any challenge thrown your way.

While change is inevitable, being overwhelmed by it is not. You can help build your tolerance for change, and your skills of adaptability over time, and the best time to start is now!

Source: Korn Ferry Alliance,