Susan Mahoney Adaptability Quotient

Just When You Figured Out EQ–There’s Another Q You Need To Understand

I have a friend who owns a financial advisory firm with a few partners. Early on, when they formed, we determined each partner’s “Q” factor. My friend was deemed the one with “IQ”  (the smart one), Bob had “EQ” (the feeling one) John had “GQ” (for his good looks and snazzy dress) and Peter was assigned “No Q,” (since he was kind of a basic guy). It was funny but crazily kind of true. It also illustrates how many “Q’s” exist in the business world.

First, there was IQ, Intelligence Quotient. Then, EQ, Emotional Quotient, became an important indicator for a person’s likelihood for success as a leader. But, there are new “Q’s” emerging that deserve our attention. Particularly, those of us who love the study of behavior, who are responsible for growing leaders, or who want to develop our leadership capacities further. Some compelling new quotients are appearing: AQ, Adaptability Quotient, CQ, Cultural Quotient, SQ, Spatial Quotient, MQ, Logical-Mathematical Quotient, and many others. In this blog, I will dive deeper into Adaptability Quotient as it is more prevalent at the moment.

More “Q’s” and some “A’s” defines IQ, EQ, and AQ as follows:

  • IQ or Intelligence Quotient: The intelligence, knowledge, facts, and trivia that one possesses.
  • EQ or Emotional Quotient: The emotional understanding and capability of oneself and others that helps with different situations and people
  • AQ or Adaptability Quotient: The ability to adapt to and thrive in an environment of change.

EQ is now a standard measurement for managers and leaders. We all know when we experience leaders with low EQ. We feel they aren’t aware, aren’t listening, lack empathy, can’t see the bigger picture, and can’t connect the dots. Their lack of EQ damages their leadership credibility and limits healthy communication and relationships.

However, given the massive amount of change in our lives, some thought leaders believe that our AQ will become the primary predictor of success.

AQ could ultimately become as important as IQ or EQ for hiring and leadership development as well. It could become the key indicator to determine an individual’s ability to deal with uncertainty and change. There is no established metric to gauge a person’s or a business’ AQ. Until there is one, organizations need to embrace adaptability as a core mission, and individuals need to embrace it as part of their operating system. For more thoughts on how to pursue that goal, read my blog post on thriving through uncertainty with optimism and acceptance.

Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli historian, philosopher, and author, posits that as change increases, the meaning of being human is likely to mutate, and physical and cognitive structures will melt. In a article, he writes:

“What is the right thing to do when confronting a completely unprecedented situation? How should you act when you are flooded by enormous amounts of information, and there is absolutely no way you can absorb and analyze it all? How to live in a world where profound uncertainty is not a bug, but a feature? To survive and flourish in such a world, you will need a lot of mental flexibility and great reserves of emotional balance. You will have to repeatedly let go of some of what you know best, and feel at home with the unknown… To succeed in such a daunting task, you will need to work very hard on getting to know your operating system better. To know what you are, and what you want from life… People need the ability to make sense of information, to tell the difference between what is important and what is unimportant, and above all to combine many bits of information into a broad picture of the world… Most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, to learn new things, and to preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations… You will above all need to reinvent yourself again and again.”

Mr. Harari’s forward-thinking aligns well with this idea that we all need to up our Adaptability Quotient. One of my favorite thoughts of his is: “You will need to work very hard on getting to know yourself better.” How better to do this than to invest in understanding yourself, and what you need to learn and unlearn? Professional executive coaching can be a vehicle for motivated people to pursue this growth.

Upping your AQ

Becoming more adaptive at work and in our lives will require learning—as well as unlearning.

In my leadership coaching practice, I help clients determine their growth goals and identify their obstacles to achieving them. In the process, clients define what they need to learn to support growth. Then, we spend time on what they need to unlearn to allow space for new mindsets and new behaviors. Our past experiences can become a less reliable guide. We need to change the stories we tell ourselves and learn new stories. For example, many of my coaching clients want to focus on being less reactive. To change this behavior, unlearning needs to take place. Unlearning in this circumstance looks like not automatically responding, not assuming the storyline and not allowing emotions to control reactions. Until this unlearning happens, new learning can’t take hold.

This article provides a model for developing your AQ, based on the author’s “Steps to Accountability” process from the book “The Oz Principle.” The authors present the following path for increasing individual, group, and organizational AQ:

  • See It: Acknowledge change is needed. Get perspectives from others about the situation. Seek positive and negative feedback about how you might impact the change.
  • Own It: Take ownership of the situation. Be accountable for the needed change. Never lose sight of the goal.
  • Solve It: Develop your plan of action. In identifying possible solutions. Continue to ask, “What else can I or we do?” “What else” may mean to think differently rather than do more.
  • Do It: Execute the change. Follow through and stay accountable to your team and stakeholders.

Obviously, change is not as simplistic as this list implies, but developing AQ is so critical that all models should be explored.

If you too must grow and reinvent yourself in the face of constant change, then it’s time to focus on what you need to learn—and unlearn.