How to use autonomy as a leader in the events industry

By Danielle Colyer

2 mins

How to use autonomy to empower your team in the events industry

There’s no question that we’re living in a world of constant change. As the world around us changes, how can we learn to improvise, adapt and overcome in the face of uncertainty?

For Jon Barnes, Adaptive Organizations Consultant, the secret lies in unleashing humanity’s superpower: autonomy. We caught up with Jon to understand the essential role of autonomy in helping us adapt to an ever-changing future.

Professional development

Why is adaptability such an important topic right now?

If we look back on life since 2015, there has been a huge number of major events happening in the world. Brexit, the 2016 US election, the war in Ukraine, the pandemic – and the list goes on. And when these events happen, they affect everyone as we’re more connected than ever through economies and technology.

Recently I heard someone say “I can’t wait for these big world events to stop so we can have a pause” but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen again. We now live in a world where, when something happens, it triggers something else, elsewhere in the world. Climate change is the biggest version of this ‘butterfly effect’ because it affects events far away in the future and far away in the world. To be ready for what is happening in the world, we need to be in constant adaptation mode.

A company is formed of people and processes. If we don’t adapt as individuals, the company over time is not able to adapt either. As a coach, I approach change from both sides: how does the structure enable constant adaptation? And how does the individual adapt themselves to the world?

So how can people and organizations learn to adapt?

In business, organizations need to constantly change to be relevant, modern and to cope with uncertainty. Yet I’ve seen that many people can get stuck in old ways of working that just feel too big and clunky to change.

And that’s where people struggle. We all have ideas about how work ‘works’ and how the world works – and we think of these things as fixed. They’ve become like the laws of physics and don’t ever change. To adapt, we need to rewire our thinking on how we see things, which can be quite a big challenge for many. We can struggle to rewire perspectives that we’ve taken as givens.

There can often be a perception that when you leave school and enter the world of work you stop growing. But the psychology behind that is untrue. Adults are constantly developing, and work can be the perfect place to grow into a bigger, more complex version of yourself. With the right structures, organizations can be places where individuals are supported to adapt and grow.

Growth - professional development

What is the role of autonomy in adaptation?

Evolution happens when you are forced to adapt, and that adaptation is what we call growth. Without challenging situations, you don’t grow. The situations that force us to adapt are the ones where we have sufficient autonomy to overcome the challenge ourselves.

If the challenge is overcome for you, or there’s no challenge, then you don’t grow. So if you want to get better at something, the best way is to put yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to change your behavior. And this is autonomy; it’s about putting yourself in situations where you could fall off your bike. If you did fall off the bike you won’t hurt yourself too much, but there’s enough autonomy there that the bike is a bit wobbly. Then you will have to adapt to survive.

How can people start to make changes in themselves?

Personally, I like to look at where I want to put my time and where I want to grow as a person. And then I put an obstacle in my way. To overcome that obstacle, I’m going to have to become more like the person I want to be.

We can all grow in adaptiveness and autonomy, and one way of doing so is to start to understand the ways in which we get between ourselves and our own goals. Once we dig deeper, we can start to understand, and even challenge, the beliefs that underpin our behaviors.

Learn more about professional development at IMEX Frankfurt

About the author

Danielle is our Head of Content and Web, having joined the IMEX team in March 2021. She is a qualified journalist with a broad background spanning publishing, editorial, digital marketing and content.

Danielle Colyer

Head of Content and Web