Adaptability – Challenge, Opportunity, Psychological Flexibility, Scaling For Organisations, Coming Soon
Image by Meric Dagli

I’ve been speaking with a host of business, sport and non profit leaders and their People and Culture teams recently. (A special thanks to those of you who completed my survey a few weeks ago.)

One of the key themes that’s emerged has been the adaptability of their people and organisations in the face of today’s rapidly changing environment.

What can we do to address this?

The Challenge

Juggling competing demands of work, family, relationships, health and more can be intense for leaders and their teams and communities.

Add in economic, political, social and org changes and pressures; or a new strategy, a new role, a difficult conversation, personal and professional curveballs and the reality can become pretty real, pretty quickly.

If these situations aren’t managed well, people and organisations are experiencing the full spectrum of costs on results, health, energy, relationships, reputations, finances, workplaces and the community.

And none of this context looks like it’s going away any time soon.

So how can we develop adaptability in people and organisations?

How can we develop and support people to better manage in these contexts?

Can we truly align wellbeing, leadership and performance rather than seeing them as tradeoffs?

I think we can. And it starts with the individual.

The Opportunity

In these times of stress or intense change, individuals want to move from:

  1. overwhelmed by the situation to managing the pressure of the process
  2. uncertain about the future to having direction and clarity
  3. lost and adrift to focussed on prioritised next steps and what the activity they can control
  4. drained to re-energised and motivated
  5. isolated and alone to supported and accountable for their actions

At the same time, leaders and organisations are wanting to:

  1. Engage and inspire their teams and arm them will practical tools
  2. Attract, retain and develop top talent
  3. Fulfil their duty of care
  4. Build adaptable and resilient organisations


I’ve written about my own periods of intense change from decisions to leave a business, my cancer scare, finishing up my olympic water polo career, rebuilding my health and others.

No doubt you’ve been through a few too.

While there are many factors that contribute to adaptability, the one I feel I’ve come to know well and where I can help most is with developing psychological flexibility.

The beauty (and huge relief frankly) is that this is not the Toby-Jenkins-Framework-For-Success-blah-blah-blah.

It’s a World Health Organisation validated evidence base for working with the challenging thoughts, feelings and sensations that inevitably show up in situations of stress and pressure.

It’s what I’ve been speaking about for the last two years at organisations like Google, Rio Tinto, EY, CBRE. I’ve been in businesses, universities, sporting clubs, health clubs, elite sporting teams, schools, non profits, start ups and many more.

At the individual level, we need:

  1. Self-assessment: so each person can understand their current needs and take targeted action immediately.
  2. Plan: Clarify direction, explore opportunities, and identify next steps.
  3. System and Structure: Embed new habits into daily routines to support desired outcomes.
  4. Toolkit: Equip people with evidence based strategies to manage stress and pressure.
  5. Accountability and Support: Get guidance and support from peers to stay focussed and course-correct as needed.

Scaling for organisations

In organisations, we’ll be able to improve outcomes in wellbeing, leadership and performance if people can begin the journey through:

  1. Education of the science of psychological flexibility
  2. Self-awareness through reflection and activities
  3. A personalised, evidence-based toolkit to enable ongoing practice
  4. Peer-to-peer networking, support and relationship development through group activities and safe sharing
  5. And access to digital tools and resources

Over time, if the practices are embedded in systems and processes (eg meeting agendas), there may even be a way to make deep, lasting systemic change that creates an environment to support and develop our teams and communities every single day.

Coming soon

There are lots of pieces to this puzzle no doubt.

When I think about my purpose – to change the world’s relationship to suffering – then I’m pretty excited to say that this is my current mission.

Watch this space. I’ll be sharing more details shortly.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you:

  • What kind of results would you want to see?
  • What might be the roadblocks?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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