Charles Darwin is quoted as saying: “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” Many have interpreted this to mean that we either adapt to our environment or we will die. For us, adapting is a simple concept, but it is often not easy to do!
On a recent backpacking trip, I noticed many odd-shaped trees that had clearly adapted to their environment in order to survive. The trunk of one of tree leaned to the left before creating a complete loop then going straight up. I wonder what caused it to grow that way. I’ll never know, but it got me to thinking about how we adapt in our relationships.
In leadership and marriage, we too must adapt to our circumstances or we may die. We may not suffer a physical death, but if we don’t adapt, our relationships may die or be severely damaged. In marriage, not adapting to our spouse may result in separation, divorce, conflict, contempt, or at best, coexisting without any real closeness, conversation, or relationship. “Two ships passing in the night.”
A leader who does not adapt may come across as rigid, uncaring, confrontational, and demanding, which may lead to tension, conflict, and stress with and between team members. Team members may feel devalued. If the failure to adapt continues, the leader may be terminated, high performers may leave for a better work environment, or teams may produce less than they are capable of producing.
Change is not easy, but it is necessary if we want to avoid or reduce the pain associated with not changing.
Here are some considerations for adapting:
- Accept the truth that your way may not always be the best way.
- Be open to change and prepared mentally to respond when confronted with a situation that may require changing.
- Choose to create a mindset that change is good and healthy for relationships.
- Embrace the possibility that change may be good for you, even better than you can imagine.
- Make a list of all of the benefits from adapting to the change you are facing. (Of course, be responsible and weigh that list against the risks of adapting and the risk of not changing.)
- Seek input from team members, trusted advisors, or others when confronted with a situation that may require change.
As you reflect back on your life and career, you will most likely be able to identify times when you adapted and times when you chose not to adapt. In some cases, your choice served you well, while at other times, choosing to adapt rather than resisting change might have yielded a better outcome.
Make the simple choice to adapt, then have the courage to persevered and follow through so you can experience something better than you can imagine.