We live in a world that is constantly changing — and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, that is more true than ever before. Many have seen their personal and professional lives upended by the wide-reaching and ongoing influence of 2020.
Supply chain disruptions are expected to go on for a long time to come, and the world is still struggling to return to a sense of normalcy. Many companies still have predominantly remote workforces and require new policies for conducting business day-to-day. All of this has required an intense level of leadership adaptability — a trait that I found essential during my time as a Navy SEAL.
While adaptability is crucial in the military, it is just as essential in the business world. I performed extensive research on the topics of organizational change, employee engagement, culture, and adaptability for my first book TakingPoint: A Navy SEAL’s 10 Fail-Safe Principles for Leading Through Change. There are plenty of possible changes in the way people go about their work, recreation and other activities that can completely alter the status quo for any team or organization. Just like in nature, those who can adapt to a changing world will survive and thrive.
In this article, I’ll show you what adaptable business leaders are doing to ensure their company thrives, even in times of radical change.
1. Focus on Digital
The pressures placed on businesses over the past two years have forced the need for digital transformation at a pace that would have previously seemed impossible for most organizations. Even if your business primarily focuses on in-person services like our was, you need to make the digital approach a priority by adopting new technologies in order to streamline your business strategy and ensure scalability.
The ability to provide services virtually has become crucial for the survival of many brands. At TakingPoint Leadership, not only did we quickly evolve by providing our leadership and organizational development services virtually, but we also prioritized the design and implementation of our new advanced highly-interactive eLearning platform, TakingPoint Academy. Businesses and consumers that had previously been skeptical about conducting meetings and training virtually, have been forced to adopt the “new way.”
In our always-connected world, people are going to look at your digital presence and virtual capabilities — or lack thereof — as an indicator of your ability to meet their needs. So be prepared to step onto the battlefield with the appropriate tools and weapons at your disposal. Focusing on digital gives you and your clients a level of flexibility that has become increasingly important.
2. Seek New Opportunities
Two years ago, most of us had never thought of buying a face mask. The world can change quickly, and with those changes come new opportunities for those who are ready to take action.
This became abundantly clear during a recent conversation with Quim Sabrià, co-founder and CEO of Edpuzzle, a platform that helps educators create interactive video lessons that can be used for both in-classroom and remote learning. Hence my company’s adoption of a similar approach for business leaders and managers.
Sabrià explained, “Look at the world through the lens of your business niche. What new challenges are current circumstances creating in your target audience’s lives? How do these relate to your business? Look for a way to connect or adapt what you’re already doing to a way that you can solve these problems. Quite often, a new twist on something you currently offer will be what is needed to make a big impact on the world.”
Leaders are quick to look for new opportunities when world trends upend their current business model. But this doesn’t necessarily mean a complete shift in the business model. Just think of all the fitness instructors who would have been stuck at home doing nothing during COVID lockdowns if they hadn’t turned to making video workouts for their students.
3. Rethink Your Processes
Your internal processes can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If you’re still doing things the same way you did five years ago, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to improve your business. You may even be underperforming for your clients and customers by doing things in a way that is less productive or efficient than it could be.
Just because something seems to work well, doesn’t mean that you can’t do it better. Like in the SEAL Teams, high-performance teams are “learning organizations” and put continuous improvement mechanisms in place to ensure they continually evolve. New technologies are constantly being introduced to help business leaders automate or outsource mundane tasks. Have you given these resources the consideration they deserve?
When you embrace tools (such as internal collaboration or project management systems) that enhance efficiency, you can save time on busywork and focus more of your efforts on finding innovative new ways to serve your clients and customers.
4. Look for Trends
Adaptable leaders are intensely aware of the world around them. In the military, we prefer the term “situational awareness.” The best combat leaders know when to step back, take a tactical pause, and pay attention to threats and opportunities on the horizon. If you’re not tuned in to both global headlines and industry trends, you’re doing yourself and your clients a disservice. You may not become aware of trends that could negatively affect your company until it has become too late to adapt.
On the other hand, leaders who are aware of contemporary issues can proactively assess the trends that will impact their clients and the way they live their lives. This can influence everything from enhancing the delivery of products and services to a complete shift in revenue-driving activities.
Rather than waiting for competitors to act and then becoming an imitator, you can be the one who leads the charge to exciting new possibilities. Don’t wait for the ambush to happen. Get ahead of it through proper research and planning for contingencies. That way, you won’t get caught off guard by trends or events that might affect your business.
Adapt and Thrive
On the battlefield, learning to adapt to ever-changing situations can very well dictate your survival. The same is just as true of your business.
The more prepared you are to adapt your business to the ever-changing needs of the world around you, the easier it will be to stay competitive in your niche. When you can understand how trends are affecting your industry and customers, you can make proactive adjustments that allow you to better serve them.
You’ll be better equipped to handle economic downturns and take advantage of new opportunities. Building a more adaptable business won’t just help you get through our current turbulent times. It will set you up for success for years to come.
But remember, effective adaptability requires leadership, discipline, and total accountability.