PeopleDynamics Learning Inc.

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Embrace the Adaptive Challenge – Become a “Lily Padder”

“The purpose of the lily’s pad is to collect light for the plant to use in the process of photosynthesis… These ‘lily pad’ leaves are an adaptation to the plant’s environment. They are wide and flat to distribute weight evenly so that the leaf will float well.”

In a recent conversation with a client, we came up with this term “lily padding”. Maybe because it is summer, or because lily pads are so beautiful, or because I was so struck with their adaptive capabilities and the sheer numbers while I was up north earlier this month. At any rate, “lily padding” is a term that that speaks to what people need to do if they want to not just survive but thrive in this world of flux.

Why do we need to become “lily padders”? In today’s world of work there are no “jobs for life”. There is not really “job security”. We are in a state of flux where the speed of change is such that nothing is predictable. As Robin Chase, former CEO and founder of Zipcar stated: “Our parents had one job, I will have seven jobs, and our children will do seven jobs at one time.” Let’s face it – we are in a world of flux, a world where as John Seely Brown says “We’ve transitioned into always transitioning.”

“Lily padding” is process of gracefully leaping from one project, role, team, job or contract to the next and adapting and reinventing and refreshing oneself along the way. Whether we are in transition from one role to the next, one job to the next, one contact to the next or one stage in life to the next, we are in search of a lily pad or several lily pads to settle on. Somewhere that we can land, a place to use our strengths, learn, adapt, contribute! And when the ecosystem requires different things of us, we can set our sights on a new lily pad, get ourselves ready for the leap, figure out what else we need to learn and hop to the next. In fact, many of us are hanging out on several lily pads all at one time and loving the diversity.

What does it take to be an expert “lily padder”? Living in this state of flux and embracing the idea of “lily padding” requires that we be creative, adaptive, flexible and recreate ourselves for the ever-changing ecosystem. The most attractive candidate for a role, project, contract, team, is the one who is constantly asking: How can I adapt to a new ecosystem? What do I need to learn to be ready to take on the next thing? What do I need to pay attention to? What strengths do I need to grow to thrive? What do I need to discard, that no longer serves me in this new context?
This requires several shifts in mindset and in perspective. One of these is that we need to see lily pads as viable landing spots to make a contribution and not get too attached to any one of them. Another is that we need to have what Carol Dweck calls the growth mindset. And we need to embrace the uncertain future. The more adept we are at becoming “lily padders” the more we are ready for the future, whatever it brings. We become what my business partner, Melinda Sinclair describes as FutureSmart™ leaders, which is an area Melinda has been deeply exploring and writing about for several years.

Whether you are a leader or a coach who supports leaders, becoming FutureSmart™ “lily padders” is not an easy task. Leaders and teams work with us ( because they are experiencing the flux, they know they need to adapt, they know they need to make those shifts and they need help and support to make it happen. Coaches who take our accredited and advanced coach training programs ( learn our methods for helping people make these shifts in intention, attention and behaviour and get a powerful toolbox of models and frames to help guide leaders and leadership teams.

So I am curious, what do you think of the idea of “lily padding”? What are you noticing about the impact of the world of flux on people’s sense of their place in the world of work and the future? What you are seeing as the adaptive challenges for leaders? And what are you seeing as your own adaptive challenges as you contemplate the array of possible lily pads in your future?

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