What do we look for in times of uncertainty? Surprisingly, the answer isn’t necessarily expertise or a steady hand. It’s adaptability.
According to a 2020 study by Harvard Business School, 71% of 1500 executives from over 90 countries rated adaptability as the most valuable trait in leadership.
In other words, we don’t want a leader who’s qualified to see us through this crisis. We want one with the aptitude to make the best of any crisis.
In a VUCA world, adaptability and resilience are no longer regarded as ‘nice-to-haves’. Acting quickly at scale and bringing others along with you – in the face of political, economic and climatic uncertainty – confers considerable competitive advantage.
In recognition of this, leaders are being forced to confront how resilience and adaptability to change fit into their business strategy.
As Greg Case, CEO of AON points out, “If resilience drives opportunity in times of volatility, then it’s not ancillary to the core business”.
Adaptability boosts our employability, since an employee who can respond to changes in customer needs, the market, a job description, technology and more, is a valuable asset to any organisation.
But this doesn’t change the fact that some of us are inclined to embrace and drive change whilst others are more apprehensive or even dread it.
It’s important to understand our approach and motivations, and those of others we work with. By getting to the roots of our attitudes to change, we can challenge ourselves and one another to adopt a growth mindset and become more adaptable.
When change is afoot, everyone has something to contribute. Belbin is a lens through which we can understand our approach to change, and why we might approach change from a particular perspective.
Of course, each of us makes more than one Team Role contribution, and the interaction of our top Team Roles influences how our behaviour is manifested at work.
However, for the sake of simplicity, we’ve distilled characteristics into each Belbin Team Role for ease of reference.
Completer Finishers will want to understand the finer details of any proposed changes and may struggle if these details have not yet been ironed out, or if changes are to be rushed through. They will feel under immense pressure to ensure everything is done correctly and without mistakes. As a result, they are likely to suffer the most with anxiety and may respond to this by taking on a heavier workload and working all hours to meet their commitments.
Since they aren’t typically the most effective at delegation or time management, they require plenty of notice when it comes to changes of priorities or deadlines. They also need careful management to ensure that they are able to meet deadlines without too great a personal cost. This said, their adherence to the highest standards is important in a fast-moving situation which can lead others to cut corners.
Plants are often agents for change through innovation. They excel in lateral thinking, finding their way through problems and around corners, offering imaginative solutions which wouldn’t occur to others.
However, this only works if the Plant is focused on the problem in question and if the proposed idea is practicable and delivered in a timely fashion. Ensuring these parameters are firmly in place is the responsibility of the rest of the team and shouldn’t be left to the Plant.
In order to buy into change, Monitor Evaluators need to firmly grasp – and agree with – the rationale behind any decision. In fact, it’s best if they are involved with the strategic decision-making process as much as possible, so that they can weigh the potential benefits and risks of the change themselves.
Monitor Evaluators like to take time to arrive at a decision, considering all possible ramifications. If changes are rapid or forced through, they are likely to be uncomfortable and this departure from their comfort zone will often manifest as pessimism. They’ll either be forced into making a rash decision or they will become disillusioned with the process and detach from it, whether vocally or not.
When it comes to change, ‘new and shiny’ appeals to Resource Investigators, who have the capacity to think on their feet and respond well to quickly-moving events. As proficient communicators outside the team, they are most likely to have an ear to the ground, so can be crucial in obtaining the up-to-the-minute intelligence, including changes in market trends and customer needs.
They are well-placed to forge and maintain the business relationships on which we all rely, and are key to seeking out new opportunities for business growth. With natural and infectious enthusiasm, Resource Investigators can champion change, encouraging other team members to embrace it fully.
Teamworkers are amongst the most adaptable of all Team Roles. They are willing to make changes, boost morale, and do whatever is required for the team to get on and succeed. They check the team’s pulse, so are a useful reference point to understand how change is affecting each person in the team.
Whilst they make great supporters and facilitators of change, easing the process for others, Teamworkers are less likely to instigate change. Additionally, they may struggle with the responsibility of decision-making in critical and rapidly-changing situations.
Specialists believe that knowledge is power, so they tend to respond to change by seeking to learn as much as possible. This may frustrate others who want to take immediate action, but the Specialist will want to ensure that expertise is at the heart of any potential change.
Be prepared for in-depth questions! As with this Team Role behaviour more generally, the key to getting the best from the Specialist in the process of change lies in the ability to extract key points without suffering from information overload.
Shapers are often change agents. They thrive in challenging situations, work well under pressure and are adept at responding to rapidly-changing circumstances with decisive leadership.
However, without adequate Monitor Evaluator influence, Shapers can be hasty to act, taking immediate, forceful action to quash any threat rather than carefully considering their next move.
Co-ordinators are likely to take events in their stride and focus on progress and restoring control. Since they’re conscious of priorities, they are a sound barometer of whether the team’s efforts and talents are being used in the right way. With a strong Co-ordinator at the helm, each person knows what they need to do.
However, it isn’t all plain sailing. Coordinators are likely to face challenges in achieving consensus and ensuring that all voices are heard, whilst keeping forward momentum.
Of all the Team Roles, Implementers are likely to struggle the most with change, because it usually disrupts plans and threatens the efficiency of existing processes on which Implementers depend.
However, as practical and reliable individuals, Implementers are also invaluable in imposing order on the ensuing chaos. In order to make transitions more manageable for them, give plenty of notice of impending changes, but leave them out of the ideas phase and include them only when at the stage of formulating plans to move forward.
For businesses today, the only certainty is change. Is your team prepared? Do your managers know how to address change and get buy-in from others?
From our reports to workshops, Belbin has a wealth of resources and expertise to help you navigate change and boost organisational resilience.
Contact us today to find out more.
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