Becoming an Indispensable Supervisor: A dynamic way to develop an adaptive learning mindset at work

Two women talking.

If we have learned anything in the past year, it’s that life is chaotic and unpredictable.  COVID-19 and general unrest of our times has disrupted everyone’s lives which includes the way we do our job, serve our clients, and attend to our staff.  That is why we need the supervisors of the future to acquire an Adaptive Learning Mindset. 

Adaptive learning means that we have the ability to assess the facts of a given situation, learn from our mistakes, re-orientate, and thrive in any moment, regardless of circumstances.

One barrier to maintaining an adaptive mindset is that our mind actually adapts to our success.  As we become better clinicians, supervisors, or administrators, we lose the ability to recognize progress.  With decreasing ability to measure our progress, we receive less confidence from our successes over time.  Eventually our performance may start producing anxiety and contribute to burnout. However, we can sustain confidence and cultivate an Adaptive Learning Mindset by finding a safe place to fail by beginning to practice a hobby. 

Developing a hobby will provide a dimension for you to measure without anxiety or stress.  It will assist in further development of confidence because you will be measuring what you can control instead of outcomes outside your powers of agency (people’s feelings, client outcomes, etc).  Also, you will form a growth mindset which is required to be life-long learners and adapt from our mistakes.  Remember that with growth mindset, failure no longer exists, everything is learning

Hobbies make us humble.  We don’t have to be experts when we are new to something.  We can relax, take ourselves less seriously, become more reflective and mindful.  We will also gain psychological grit as we persevere amidst our own setbacks throughout the learning process.  Having a safe place to fail will also help us integrate our work lives and family lives as we recognize that we are more than what we do.  We are human beings, not human doings. 

These attributes are all key dimensions to being effective at work with our staff, designing new work processes, adapting to new changes in our profession and society, and maintaining work/life balance overall.  Hobbies also assist us in avoiding the trap of becoming one-dimensional in our career or position at work. As Howard Gardner suggests in his book “Good Work”, our lives should expand with our success and effectiveness in the work place. 

Two Key Ingredients to Choosing a Hobby

1.)  Ensure it is something that has meaning to you (meaning helps us to tolerate suffering associated with failing at something new and produces psychological grit.  You need to persevere in skill development). Be sure it is a skill that you desire and are curious about.  This can be anything from making sushi, to sword fighting, to singing opera.

2.)  Be certain that this new hobby is something you can measure. You need to be able to see your progress. For instance, when you initially started salsa dancing, you were terrible.  However, after 4 lessons, you find yourself able to keep up with your partner.

Going forward, the supervisors of the future need to be relaxed and attune to the needs of their changing work environments.  As one of those supervisors, developing a hobby (or multiple) is one of the simplest and most effective ways to train our minds out of fear/anxiety, rebuild confidence in ourselves, regain balance, and begin teaching the adaptive mindset to our staff.  Start investing in yourself today. 

Published 9/21/21

To hear more of Dan's work check out the video below.
For Dan's bio and to access his full training catalog visit his speaker page.