Business guide to Coronavirus

The four components of internal agility 

Adapt, pivot, innovate, and change are all words we associate with our businesses nowadays. Adapt to the new market, pivot to online, innovate your offering, change your business model. The best time to do this was 12 months ago. The second-best time is right now. 

However, when things are going well or we are successful, research shows we become complacent. It’s called “fat cat syndrome”.  

Why change when things are working? Innovation, change, and adaptation is first and foremost a mental state of being. As Nichole Tudor, Target Operating Model Lead at a local council in Melbourne says: “COVID-19 is shocking organisations into a change mindset”. 

We already lived in increasingly complex times, and for many, sticking to “business as usual” was becoming increasingly difficult. What COVID-19 has highlighted for most business owners is that what they were doing before does not and cannot work in these new times. “But that’s the way we’ve always done it” is a phrase that has finally been blow out of the water during COVID-19, despite it being quite redundant for over a decade now.  

Do you have internal agility?

So why has it been so “easy” for some to adapt to this new world and not others? It really comes down to the business owner’s skill in internal agility.

Internal agility consists of cognitive flexibility, openness, focus and self-awareness. Previously, these key capabilities have been underrated or neglected in the business development space for business owners and leaders. Yet during these unprecedented times we currently find ourselves in the need for owners and leaders to step into the unknown and dance with uncertainty. 

This framework is being used as a tool to help train leaders to perform better in the "dynamic decision-making context" and increase their emotional intelligence to enable dynamic decision-making and enhance personal communication skills.

During this time of accelerated disruption, we have all been thrown out on a ledge surrounded by a fog of uncertainty, with no clue what to do next. What truly defines the type of leader we are is based on how we operate during times of change, ambiguity, and complexity.

So how can business owners and leaders apply internal agility to their thinking, planning, and work culture right now? 

Let’s break down the four components

Cognitive flexibility 

Acknowledge your individual circumstances and work environment and adjust the standards and expectations of employees and team members accordingly. This component refers to the role of flexibility, being emotionally flexible to manage others emotional volatility during this time. The most obvious being, being flexible to move away from traditional organisational planning and development processes.

Ask yourself:

  • What am I resisting and why?
  • What rules do I need to let go of or be more flexible around?
  • What are the real priorities here?

Cognitive openness

This includes being open to new, different, or divergent perspectives. There's a greater emphasis on multi-channel flow and transparent communication. It’s about being quick to listen and to step into other people’s shoes.

Ask yourself:

  • What assumptions am I making?
  • How else could I view this situation?
  • Who’s perspective haven’t I heard yet?


The ability to focus on the decisions at hand as well as the long-term goals and markers. 

Ask yourself:

  • Are the long-term goals being impacted by my short-term focus? How?
  • Am I focusing on immediate priorities?
  • What is the ultimate impact and vision?


Being aware of your emotions, your language, your strengths, and capabilities. Knowing your own limits and being comfortable to reach out for help and assistance. Being aware that your actions align with your words and the impact that your behaviour has on others.

Ask yourself:

  • What is my underlying mood right now?
  • Am I being triggered by this situation? What is the trigger?
  • How may I be triggering others?

You can reach out to Tara on LinkedIn to find out more about your internal agility. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Business Australia. 

Tara Mollel

Business and Leadership Coach, Tara Mollel Coaching

Tara is a business and leadership coach who specialises in training leaders to be Cognitively Agile. Tara believes developing an agile mindset keeps leaders responsive, proactive and adaptable to change.

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