Most aspects of our lives require us to interface with people. Our ability to manage these interactions effectively and productively is critical to the results we get as individuals and organizations. This ability is reflective of our leadership and versatility. Versatility is defined as embracing a variety of skills and refers to our adaptability. Versatility leads to more collaboration, reduces conflict and stress, and leads to higher performance. Versatility allows us to capitalize on opportunities and overcome obstacles. How well do you use your skills and talents to be adaptable and agile in your responses to various people and circumstances?
People are often an organization’s largest asset. Having a greater understanding of people can have a significant impact on your success and that of an organization, especially from a leadership position. Many organizations and leaders focus on processes. While processes are important, people are typically needed to implement those processes and profits come from how effectively those processes are implemented. Few people understand why others do what they do. We tend to see their behavior through the lens of our own perspective. Once you more fully understand people, you can engage them in performing more effectively and productively. Improving your versatility can help you release the talent reserve that exists in people, improving your results.
How would you rate your versatility? I heard a story recently about a graduate who was in her first job out of college. She was still in the learning curve of the job and needed some input from her manager given that her job requires a lot of detail. After a period of time, the new employee started to feel that her questions were being met with impatience and irritation by her manager. She felt that the manager was starting to avoid her and she was concerned she was going to be fired. The manager was unaware that the employee was feeling this way and therefore, was not doing anything to alter her own behavior.
It appears both parties were making assumptions about the other person’s behavior and acting on those assumptions as well. How productive is this employee going to be if she feels she cannot ask her manager for help without damaging the perception the manager has of her? And how effective is the manager if her behavior is shutting her employee down? This is a perfect example of how a lack of versatility with others can impact an organization’s success and the success of its leaders. These two individuals seem to be expecting the other to behave as they each would. I often see this dynamic at play when working with clients on leadership development, team building, conflict management, and executive coaching. Somehow, we develop an expectation that others will act as we do, and when “they” show up differently, we attach meaning to that which gets in the way of effective results.
When I am training or facilitating workshops and the subject of versatility comes up, sometimes I am asked, “Isn’t this really about being a chameleon?” The answer is “No.” Being a chameleon has a connotation that someone is manipulating others to serve their own purpose. Taking the time to understand the people we interface with, as well as ourselves, encourages engagement not suspicion. It is an ongoing process that is mutually beneficial, not a one-time event. If you are trying to manipulate versus understand, people will pick up on that and resist your attempts to move the process forward, directly or indirectly.
What gets in the way of versatility? Stress, judgments, our beliefs about ourselves and others, as well as our ego and lack of awareness, all of these impact our ability to be versatile in dealing with various people and circumstances. How can you improve your versatility? Versatile people practice self-discipline and tend to be more solution oriented than problem focused. People who are more versatile recognize that there are different points of view and they work to understand those first, rather than forcing someone to understand their point of view.
Practice becoming more versatile by being an observer and start with observing your own behavior. Release your talent reserve. You are the only person you have any control over. Remain objective; this is not about blame or beating yourself up. Then observe others while reserving judgment. People do what they know, when they know better they do better. That goes for each one of us. Clarify your understanding before taking action. Most of us know what happens when we act on an assumption. Have some fun with this and start to enjoy better connections with others and experience more productive and profitable results. You will see productivity thrive. We have numerous ways to support you in this process. To learn more please contact us.