Adversity Quotient – and “leveraging micro adversities”

Jesse Sostrin is a director at PwC’s U.S. Leadership Coaching Center of Excellence – I enjoyed reading his piece about developing your “adversity quotient” here.

Jesse suggests that people can progressively become resilient though “personal acts of defiance”:

A moment of resilience is your chance to face adversity and say: “No, not today. You will not stop my momentum or reduce my potential to make the most of this opportunity.”   Unfortunately, for many leaders besieged by the constant change, rising ambiguity, and intensifying complexity of today’s business world, it is adversity — a big or small problem rising from your experience — that does most of the talking: “Yes, I will change your plans. I will undo your progress. I will cause you to question your goals and I’ll be sure to mess with your confidence along the way.”

He suggests that to become practiced it is important that we should “Leverage every micro-adversity”:  

The big issues often grab the spotlight. E.g. “Our company was just sold… Our competitor landed the client… A close colleague was diagnosed with a serious illness”. Although these major adversities have the potential to reshape the landscape of a life, they aren’t necessarily the best starting point to build resilience. The better strategy is to leverage everyday micro-adversities to steadily increase your resilience and place yourself in a stronger position to respond when the big one shows up. E.g. I shared an idea during a conference call but it didn’t get the response I wanted… My boss just assigned me a project that I’m not excited about… I tried to give a colleague some feedback, but it backfired and now there’s tension between us”.

These are examples of micro-adversities. They’re not a big deal — except for the fact that they kind of are. … Such micro-adversities can weigh on your mind, making you feel powerless or stuck and tilting the inner game out of your favour by stealing attention from other important matters.

In his piece,  Jesse introduces the concept of  Adversity Quotient (AQ).  So what is AQ?

Many of us are familiar with Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ), yet in 1997, Paul Stoltz introduced a new yet interesting and intriguing concept – Adversity Quotient (AQ), which tells how well one withstands adversity and his ability to triumph over it… and research has shown that measurement of AQ is a better index in achieving success than IQ, education or even social skills.  By understanding the concept of AQ we can better understand how we and others react to challenge and adversity in all aspects of our lives. In fact, how people respond to adversity is a strong indicator of ability to succeed in many endeavours.

Dr. Paul Stoltz defines Adversity Quotient as “the capacity of the person to deal with the adversities of his life. As such, it is the science of human resilience.”

There is lots of great information about AQ on Dr Stoltz site here… and  I have borrowed much of the following explanation from the excellent piece “Adversity Quotient (AQ): An Emerging Determinant of Success and Superior Performance” on here:

To summarise: A person’s AQ can be measured. It is comprised of four CORE dimensions –

C for Control  – To what extent can you influence the situation? How much control do you perceive you have?  Those with higher AQs perceive they have significantly more control and influence in adverse situations than do those with lower AQs.

O for Ownership – To what extent do you hold yourself responsible for improving this situation? To what extent are you accountable to play some role in making it better?  Those with higher AQs hold themselves accountable for dealing with situations regardless of their cause. Those with lower AQs deflect accountability and most often feel victimized and helpless.

R for Reach – How far does the fallout of this situation reach into other areas of your work or life? To what extent does the adversity extend beyond the situation at hand? Keeping the fallout under control and limiting the reach of adversity is essential for efficient and effective problem solving. Those with higher AQs keep setbacks and challenges in their place, not letting them infest the healthy areas of their work and lives. Those with lower AQs tend to catastrophize, allowing a setback in one area to bleed into other, unrelated areas and become destructive.

E for Endurance  How long will the adversity endure? Can you see a time beyond the current situation?  Those with higher AQs have the uncanny ability to see past the most interminable difficulties and maintain hope and optimism. Those with lower AQs see adversity as dragging on indefinitely, if not permanently.

Of course our ability to feel empowered and “in control”… to be confident to take up ownership…. to be able to control our emotions so that current stresses and pressures do not impact on other parts of our lives… and our ability to see beyond the current “temporary situation”…. are all dependent on being able to avoid allowing previous difficulties or emotions or panics from influencing our performance today… and to be skilful to manage our instinctive emotions and our responses so that we can focus on the immediate solutions to be identified and implemented.

I guess that most of us would identify a “mindful approach” as assisting in limiting the reach of such problems.  Yet re-reading the above paragraph it seems that a mindful approach has much to contribute to improving each of our core dimensions in time of need.

So if you are working on your core responses – or if you are facing down micro adversities … or even if you are encountering  significant adversity… it important to remain objective and to be comfortable with pausing to consider the options available and their consequence… and then to  focus on the actions to be taken rather than reacting emotionally.  A knee jerk reaction may make things worse!

A more mindful approach will help you to become more resilient and who wouldn’t want that?

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