Be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable: Adaptability in the Workplace

“We need to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”

My high school basketball coach relentlessly pushed this message and philosophy in every practice leading up to our State Playoff runs. He knew that no matter how much we prepared, it would all be pointless if the team was unable to adapt to the certain unpredictability that occurs during every game. This mindset has stuck with me and encompasses so much of what I believe leads to success for teams in any environment.

What is Adaptability?

Adaptability – the capacity to adjust oneself to fit changed conditions. The workplace is fast-paced with a high sense of urgency and ever-shifting priorities. This is particularly true if you work in a service-based business where external factors such as client requests can dictate your day. The key to success in this environment is an adaptable team that embraces the change with enthusiasm and is prepared every day to face unexpected challenges.  

5 Key Components of an Adaptable Team

Learn from Experiences

This first component is imperative at any company, but no more so than the agile start-up. When you are constantly refining your strategies and processes, it is critical to remember and reflect on what has and has not worked thus far. Too often we continue to do something “because that’s the way it’s always been done.” But to continually improve the pace of work we must find more effective ways to accomplish these tasks.

This improvement requires significant experiments and testing and will result in several failed initiatives, but that failure should be learned from and improved upon. Consistent communication within the team is crucial to keep team members focused on the vision of each initiative and ward off the displeasure that can result from successive failures.

Those teams that quickly move on from failures and improve upon them will find success at a much higher rate than those who do not.

Accept Surprises as Normal

While having a plan, process, and structure in place is incredibly important, those can become detrimental if they inhibit the responsiveness to surprises and change. Building unpredictability into your plans means creating a company culture that responds to change with confidence and determination. Many surprises will not have a simple solution, and it will be critical that the team maintains composure and responds with focus in order to solve the problem while also meeting all regular deadlines.

We can’t allow surprises to be an excuse for falling short in other areas.

Be Resourceful

Being resourceful requires an open mind and out-of-the-box thinking that is often lost in the monotony of a job. This requires redefining to yourself what you can accomplish in any given time period. Create a mindset on your team that there are solutions to every problem that may arise even if they are not immediately obvious. Being resourceful also requires that you be proactive about finding solutions and is the responsibility of the team as a whole and no one individual.

This means that individuals have to acknowledge that they do not have all the answers, but that team brainstorming can result in far more effective solutions to the problem at hand if everyone is willing to listen.


“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn.

Persistence brings the first three components together, responding to new challenges with tenacity and determination is essential in the startup environment. We must take ownership over the surprises thrown our way and maintain discipline so as not to allow ourselves to get discouraged.

At Reunion we don’t view failures as a problem, but rather as an opportunity to grow as individuals and refine our strategies as a company. But this requires persistence, because like any startup we often experience setbacks — sometimes small and sometimes large. And if we weren’t able to move forward without making excuses and pointing fingers, our growth would come to an inevitable halt.

Revel in the “Chaos”

Embrace the fact that you get to work in an exciting atmosphere! There are plenty of jobs that allow you to sit back and just go through the motions, but that sounds terribly boring to me. Innovation and progress don’t happen when you’re complacent, they are the result of the constant desire to push forward through the chaos and uncertainty.

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