Change Intelligence: Adapters

Posted Thursday, December 18, 2014

Change intelligence (CQ) highlights the need to focus on hands, heart and head for successful change. There are three dynamic duos – CQ styles that complement each other: 

Coaches and Drivers

Visionaries and Facilitators 

Executers and Champions

But there is a simpler way. If heart, head and hands are all necessary for leading change, wouldn’t the ideal change leader style combine all three? 

Change Leader: The Adpater

Adapters are balanced, with moderate level of heart (care for others), head (thought leadership) and hands (task leadership).

CQ Adapter 500x347

Barbara Trautlein describes adapters as flexible and open to new experiences. They embrace change wholeheartedly. The adapters motto is “Looks Exciting – Let’s All Try It!” They are team players – interactive and willing to hammer out a compromise. Adapters are politically aware, navigating organizational minefields that thwart other change leaders. And, they have strength in each of the three dimensions of change leadership.

So, the adapter must be the ideal style for change leaders, right?

Well, no.

Adapter is not the best style for all change leaders. Here are three reasons:

1. Adapters have real shortcomings. They can be seen as unpredictable and inconsistent. They are often overly political, even wily. And, they will talk your ear off at times, attempting to get a workable compromise.

I know the shortcomings of adapters well, because I am one. My CQ profile is adapter (leaning toward driver), and I have been guilty of all these shortcomings. One of my 360 reports said “I never know which Allen will show up at work today.” Based on that feedback, I now make a conscious effort to balance my openness with constancy of purpose. But organizational politics and my desire to keep things moving can bring out the chameleon in me.

2. Being overly flexible is not always ideal for a change leader. In a post on The Leadership Paradox of Principled Moderation, I highlighted the limitations of moderation and inconsistency.

Petronius said “Moderation in all things, including moderation.” Some people refer to this as a paradox. I see moderate moderation as a gentle warning of the dangers of absolute relativity. As a leader, at times you need to be a rock in the storm. You have to take a principled stand. The people you lead expect consistency in your behavior.

3. The adapter is a generalist, but often change leadership needs a specialist. The adapter may be able to articulate a vision for change, but the visionary can focus energy on change with more intensity. The adapter can create a work plan, but the executor creates a robust plan with more contingencies and better scorecards. The adapter can build relationships, but the coach cares more deeply about his or her people.

Sometimes the adapter is the best change leader. Their personal flexibility allows them to do many things well. But often the adapter works even better within a team that includes leaders with diverse CQ profiles. 

Adapter woman 500x326

If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a team to lead change. Adapters can team up with leaders with diverse CQ profiles. By working with people who are less adaptable, the adapter will be a better change leader.

Moving from solo change leader to a team with different CQ styles shouldn’t be too big of a change. For an adapter.

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