Leaders need some flexibility so they can reach their goals. Whether you are leading teams or projects you will have a vision of the results, a plan to get there and the ability to adjust to circumstances that arise along the way. The secret to being successful is having the right amount of flexibility. There is a spectrum from very rigid to very pliant and we all fall along it in different places on each aspect of our lives.
A week ago my college aged son had shoulder surgery and he cannot use his left arm at all for the near future. Many people would sit around, feeling sorry and do nothing because of the limitations. He takes a different approach to it, he is very careful of his injured should but he looks at each situation in terms of what can he do not what can’t he do. This is a great mindset for striking the right balance in flexibility.
As leaders there are things we must hold firm to like our vision, our passion and our integrity. However, we need to be adaptable to new opportunities, new ways to reach our goals, and new resources that can help us move forward. When we create a plan there must be room for change and adjustments. Too often a leader builds a plan and will not deviate from it even when it is doomed to fail. This is blind allegiance and there is no room for that in a leader’s world.
When moving forward towards a dream or vision leaders must be willing to listen and change based on the input of their team. Others will see opportunities or come up with ideas that will move us forward quicker or more efficiently. Allowing that change to take place is critical. What a leader must avoid is giving up all control over the vision. If the leader becomes too pliant then the group can pull the team in a new and different direction which may not meet the original vision. Turning everything over without staying in control of the vision can lead to disaster.
Flexibility allows you to accommodate the needs of your team and adjust for obstacles or challenges. When you are able to adapt your plan to the needs of the team, the team will buy into it because they now have a piece of it. Obstacles and challenges require a change in approach where flexibility will lead to more innovative solutions. Flexibility in methods builds buy-in and creates an environment conducive to innovation.
Here are some questions to ask to maintain your flexibility balance:
- Is this idea/opportunity true to my vision for the results?
- Could this be a better way to get things done?
- Will this help us reach our goals while allowing the team to personalize their efforts?
- Can this meet the goals of the vision as well as meet the needs of the team?
- What would happen if this adjustment is made?
- How can we work around this obstacle or challenge?
- Will this make the end results even better?
Think of a slinky, like the one pictured here. They hold their over all shape yet to move forward they bend, twist and adjust to get to the destination. As a leader that kind of flexibility will help you succeed. Hold true to your vision, passion and integrity while adapting to the needs and ideas of those on your team. Stretch yourself to learn more, do more and go places you never thought possible.
How do you work on your flexibility? Share your best practices in the comments below. I would love to learn new techniques.
Here is a powerful parable about the need for flexibility and being ready to change course when needed.
The captain of a ship received a message one night, “Change your direction 15 degrees North to avoid collision”.
A little indignant, the captain replied, “I am the captain of a large ship and recommend you divert 15 degrees South”.
The captain received the reply, “We are a lighthouse”.
No matter who you are, life will require flexibility. Be ready to make an adjustment.
Will you be will to change your course?
When you look at your long-term goals how do you plan to meet them? Are you one of those folks who have a detailed step-by-step plan to get where you want to go? Are you someone who sets your vision and then figures it will all fall in place as it was meant to be? Or are you somewhere in between? Leaders need to have a balanced approach to making their vision come to life.
Personally, I am somewhere in the middle. I like to have some idea of how I’m going to achieve my goals and yet I like to leave some wiggle room for the unexpected detours that always seem to come along. This gives me flexibility to adapt to new situations and opportunities. I’ve done a lot of adapting over the years and some of the best experiences where unplanned.
I know some great people who have everything planned out and it’s great, until the unexpected happens. When things don’t go according to plan they fall apart, it can show up as anger, panic or complete withdrawal depending on the person. This can be a very rigid approach to life.
As well there are other fantastic folks I know who just go with the flow. They ride along with a general idea of what they want and where they are going but they let things happen. At times these people struggle because life isn’t going in the direction they envisioned. They become confused and sad at the direction their life is taking. This approach can lead people to become perpetual victims.
The approaches to reaching your goals that are at both extreme lead to additional stress as well as dissatisfaction with life and what you’re doing. Neither is healthy in the long run. Life is about finding balance in what you are doing. As a friend recently said he found that balance meant doing less of some things instead of trying to fit more stuff into his life.
If you are more rigid in your approach to life goals cultivate some flexibility and adaptability to the things that life throws your way. You never know, you may find a new path that is exciting and interesting. Sometimes really interesting and fulfilling opportunities appear in unexpected ways and places. If you focus too closely on one path only you will miss these chances. Who knows what might be out there.
If you are more likely to go with the flow cultivate proactivity. Start identifying steps you can take to reach your goals. It’s not necessary to plan every step in detail, look for 3 to 5 things you can do in the near future that would move you forward. Write them down and go do them. You may be surprised by the doors that open in response to your initiative.
Creating the future you want means knowing where you want to go, taking the initiative to get the journey started and being flexible enough to seize new opportunities that arise along the way. This is a balance approach to taking control of your life. Leaders need to develop a vision, get things moving and adjust to circumstances along the way.