By Mattson Newell, a Director for Partners In Leadership who works with leaders to create greater workplace accountability and facilitates enterprise-wide culture change. 

I was recently in a meeting where the president of a growing, global division for a Fortune 500 company told me, "IQ and EQ are important, but what I really need is AQ. I need people who can quickly adapt to and champion change."

That got me thinking--not a lot of people even discuss AQ, let alone what it is and that it's a critical skill set that should have a seat at the table with IQ and EQ.  

What's AQ?

AQ, or adaptability quotient, is something that is becoming increasingly prevalent as more and more leaders are talking about the constant change their organizations and their industries are undergoing.

IQ, EQ, and AQ can be simplistically defined 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 differing situations and people.
  • AQ or Adaptability Quotient: The ability to  adapt to and thrive in an environment of change.

Much has been written and researched about  IQ & EQ, but AQ is a component many leaders are still working to grasp.

The great Andy Grove, who passed away earlier this year, was a dynamic and well-known leader at Intel and said this about change:

"Every company faces a critical point when it must change dramatically to rise to the next level of performance. If the company fails to see and seize that moment, it will start to decline.  The key is courage."

But, courage to do what? CHANGE! Change is not easy; it's hard, and knowing what changes to make and when to make them is even harder. So how can we go about increasing our AQ?

Developing AQ

The ability to adapt starts with  taking accountability of a situation for the necessary and needed changes. 

In the book, The Oz Principle, by Roger Connors, Craig Hickman, and Tom Smith, the authors introduce a model known as the Steps to Accountability that aligns itself extremely well to how one would increase their AQ.

The model consists of four steps: See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It. These four steps can help you create greater AQ in yourself and those around you:

1. See It. Acknowledge change is needed.

This step is about evaluating what's causing the need for change, preparing yourself to make the change, and handling it in an open and candid matter.

To be successful at this step, you must openly obtain the perspective of others by asking questions about the situation as well as asking for positive and constructive feedback about how you might impact the change.

The perspectives and insight gained may not be what you want to hear--but hearing the hard things is critical in understanding how you need to adapt to the change with agility and effectiveness.

2. Own It. Take ownership of the situation.

It's natural that many people tend to resist change, but this apprehension can cause failure to occur when change is needed in order to win or survive.

It's imperative that you take accountability for the overall needed change. Own the fact that you will encounter some challenges and failures, but never lose sight of the goal while adjusting accordingly.

You must also operate on the principle that everyone involved is jointly accountable to get the right result, regardless of how little or how much an individual is accountable to deliver on.

3. Solve It. Develop your action plan.

When identifying possible solutions to facilitate adaptation, it really comes down to  asking one question, "What else can I (we) do?"

This one question is disruptive in nature and perfect in times of change. It breaks down silos between teams, inspires innovative solutions, and helps you assess when a risk must be taken.

When asking this question, it's important to understand that "what else" often means "think differently," not "do more."

4. Do It. Execute the change.

The final step is execution, follow through, and staying accountable to your team.

Trust is built throughout this entire process, but it's here where you truly are accountable to one another to get the right result. Success will come by being honest, transparent, and not blaming one another.

Championing Change

If there's one thing that is constant in life and in organizations, it's change. To increase your AQ, take accountability and help your organization not only deal with change but help them become champions of change.

Published on: Jul 26, 2016
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