Behavioral Adaptability: How Long Can You Sustain the Required Change?

We all learn to adapt and adjust our behavior depending upon our knowledge, experience, values and motivations. The older and wiser we get, the easier it becomes to know how and when to adjust our behavior – like in an interview or when you’re dating someone new: “oh, this is that situation where I need to be more assertive, or less assertive, more patient, or more urgent, warm and friendly or more serious and direct or whatever behavioral change is needed to be effective in the situation. The real issue you need to be concerned with is not if you can adjust your behavior, but rather how long you can sustain a change in your natural behavior.


To be an effective manager, one of the most critically important things you need to understand about behavior is the ability of an individual to adapt or modify their personality traits or way of thinking and therefore behaving. Additionally, a person’s ability to adapt their behavior generally influences the following: 

1. The capacity to maintain a change in their behavior

2. The degree and range of involvement it requires for that person to adapt their behavior

3. The ability to cope with stress 

The higher the natural adaptability a person possess, the more a person has varied interests and therefore the ability to handle change more effectively. Whereas the lower the adaptability a person has, the fewer interests they will have and will require a greater need for consistency in their role. They also have the tendency to get easily stressed by the unexpected.

Different positions and different work cultures will require different levels of adaptability. It is therefore critical to determine what traits and behaviors are required in a role and then align that with someone who naturally possesses those traits.

Let me give you a personal example: I am not a naturally detail-oriented person. 

Naturally, I am a big-picture, strategic thinker; I am optimistic (and therefore quick to trust), extremely impatient, and fast-paced, so my typical thought process is “close is good enough”; if it doesn’t work, we’ll find a plan B. However, I have learned that there are many situations in which my MO of “close is good enough” doesn’t work. For example: preparing my financials to take to the bank to secure a credit line. In order to execute that task properly, I need to catch myself in the moment and realize that my innate approach to things isn’t going to work. In order to complete the task, I have to concentrate on how I learned to do this task, which means I also need to adjust my fast pace--I need to slow it down. I need to be patient, adopt a more methodical process-orientation, lose my optimism, and be cautious and slow to trust, which will enable me to check and double-check my work to ensure accuracy. 

While I have learned to do this effectively, these thought-processes and behaviors are completely unnatural to my way of thinking and therefore behaving. Because they are unnatural, these behaviors require a lot of focus, concentration, and energy. The fact that I have to do this only occasionally means that I can manage my energies pretty well. But if my job required me to do this type of thinking and behaving on a daily basis for more than a couple hours at a time, the reality is that sometimes I may do these energy-draining tasks perfectly, and sometimes, because of my impatience and “close is good enough” approach, I’d really make a mess of things!

What I learned

Now that I understand these concepts around behavioral adaptability, I have learned to better manage myself and others. For the above situation, I used to review my finances once a month, which would take about two hours. I have learned because of the way I am hardwired I am really only effective in adjusting my behavior for about 30-45 minutes before my natural traits (way of thinking and behaving) take over, and I start making mistakes. The Solution: I now review my financial reports once a week, which only takes about 20 minutes!

Here’s the good news: neuroscience has revealed that we all have an innate measurable ability to adapt and sustain changed behavior, and a few of the more advanced personality profiling tools can now measure this. One the best tools to do this is the MPO Personality Profile by Ngenio.

To learn more about behavioral adaptability, the MPO, and how you can be more effective, contact me at