Several characteristics of how you think and act define your behavior. Learn how these dimensions—fixed versus growth, and safekeeping versus risk-taking—are important for a manager to understand to encourage adaptive workers. In addition, discover why transparent motivation is critical.
- We humans are each a unique mix of skills, experiences, interests, and beliefs. That complex stew of ingredients guides us in the way that each of us makes the hundreds of decisions we need to make throughout our day. When it comes to being adaptive, there are several characteristics of the way we think and act that define our behavior, and provide us with the ability to either adapt, or to avoid change altogether. Think of each of these characteristics as existing on a scale, a range from one end to the other.
For example, a fixed versus a growth mindset. On one end, a fixed mindset means that we generally like things as they are. Sure, things could always be better, but overall, situations good and if were to change, well, all sorts of bad things could happen. So, leaving things bolted down to the grown, fixed right where they are, is just fine with us. A fixed mindset also means that we pretty much think that people are who they are. Sure people change a little as they mature, but we're kind of who we are when we come out of the womb and that's who we are all of our lives.
Our situations and our experiences don't change as much and we act fairly predictably all our lives. At the other end of the spectrum, is a growth mindset. This is the perspective that says we're constantly changing, based on our experiences and our insights. Our skills can improve dramatically over time and we can learn pretty much anything at any age. In fact, if we're not learning and growing, that's a pretty good definition of a dismal life, populated by unending sameness.
A growth mindset thrives on continually emerging from the cocoon as a different person. Now, you can probably guess that I think a growth mindset is critical, or I wouldn't be taking you through this course in the first place. But there are many people who believe that a fixed mindset isn't just important, it's the way the world really works. Now, there's another scale that's related to fixed versus growth mindset, and that's a spectrum defined by Dick Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute? The enduring career manual.
He talked about our safe-keeping selves versus our risk-taking selves. When our safe-keeping selves are in charge, we don't want to change. We pretty much want things to stay just the same. Taking risks means a good chance of inflicting pain on ourselves and that would be bad. Protecting ourselves from change means we'll be safe. No new risk are going to suddenly pop-up to rock our world. Our risk-taking selves however obviously thrive on change.
When we're in risk-taking mode, we're far more willing to take a chance that something new will work out. Though each of us has a different calculus of risk, some will assess pros and cons, while others will simply jump off the cliff. When our risk-taking self is in the driver's seat, we embrace change far more readily. Now, we often switch back and forth between safe-keeping and risk-taking, based on a complex calculus. But each of usually has a predominate mode, where either our risk-taking or our safe-keeping self is often in charge.
Each of these dimensions, fixed versus growth, and safe-keeping versus risk-taking, is important for a manager to understand in the context of helping to encourage adaptive workers. As you've already guessed, workers who have more of a fixed mindset and are regularly managed by their self-keeping selves are far more likely to have challenges with adapting to change in their work. And of course, people with more of a growth mindset, and whom are regularly are managed by their risk-taking selves will tend to be more receptive to situations where they need to adapt, and in fact, they'll be far more likely to seek out those kinds of situations.
Now the truth is, that each of us isn't simply defined as always being one kind of a person or another. We're usually different in different situations. For example, it's a common stress reaction when things aren't going well, or when we feel unsafe to suddenly become more safe-keeping. It's only when many of us feel safe that we can start to take risks again. Now, the last piece of this puzzle, is how we're motivated. Some of us are driven by wanting to please others or to compete against others, and therefore were more responsive to external motivations.
Others of us are internally motivated, competeing against ourselves, setting our own goals, and doing our best to exceed them. When you're helping to develop adaptive workers, you need to start with an understanding of the worker's common psychology when it comes to risk and growth. Once you have a sense of the way they generally approach change, you'll be in a far better position to figure out how to give them opportunities to expand their thinking and to perhaps use new strategies for responding to opportunities for adapting to changing situations in their work.
- Characteristics of adaptive workers
- How to be an adaptive manager
- Honing self-management skills
- Developing proactive workers
- Importance of goals in adaptive work
- Developing and supporting remote workers
- Empowering adaptive workers to solve problems
- Collaboration and adaptive teams