I was forced to embrace adaptability when at the age of five my father died in a traffic accident. Learning to adapt to an unimaginable situation was critical in coping with my loss. It also shaped forever how I would view change – you can’t stop it, you must embrace it.
Change is often hard to accept, especially when you are happy and fulfilled. Adapting to change and adjusting quickly to a new normal has helped me make the most of my career opportunities. You will often find that the change, while painful at first, will lead to opportunity and success where there might otherwise be failure.
Another lesson learned, from my mother, was to always find the good in people and to focus on their best qualities. This advice has proven invaluable throughout my education and career when I was faced with a difficult professor, manager or colleague. I remember a time when I was required to work closely with a colleague whom I just did not like. We disagreed about everything at the start of the project, making every day at work unpleasant. Finally, I put my mother’s advice into action. I forced myself to find that one trait that would help me relate to this colleague on a different level, creating a connection that subsequently led to an enjoyable working relationship.
Self-awareness is critical to adapting to changing situations and to working with different work styles and personalities. The key to self-awareness is feedback. I seek feedback often from mentors and peers inside and outside of our organization, as well as from my direct reports and team members. A pivotal experience for me was working with a professional coach to further develop my leadership and communication skills. This taught me many things, but the most significant was learning how to view the same set of facts and circumstances from multiple perspectives. This gave me a greater level of self-awareness, enabling me to more easily solve problems and improve collaboration in a variety of working relationships.
The recent economic downturn forced many businesses to make changes, whether to their business models, product offerings, locations or employee population. These decisions are never easy to make or to readily accept. A positive outlook and selfawareness, however, can make it easier on you and those around you. If you can learn to adapt to change or even embrace it, success will follow.