Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Increasing Flexibility

It seems we are all being asked to stretch, flex and push ourselves to do more, be more and accomplish more with less. This requires one critical EQ skill – Flexibility.

Flexibility in the context of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is defined as:
The ability to handle changing circumstances and expectations without disruption. Someone with high Flexibility can handle changing conditions and uncertainty while maintaining their productivity.

Yes, change makes all of us uncomfortable, so why do that to ourselves? Because the opposite of flexibility is rigidity and leaders and teams who demonstrate rigidity get left behind. Leaders who are closed-minded and resist spontaneity do not engage others. Instead, leaders must accept and implement feedback from others, not be easily annoyed or triggered, and remain open minded and willing to experiment with different solutions. Leading others through ambiguity is a vital competency in today’s world. And our human nature doesn’t help: the more uncertainty around us, more we cling to what we know. When things feel out of control, we micro-manage more, which is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. When we tie others to old patterns we tie ourselves as well. Remember that the prison guard is a prisoner too.

If you are looking to increase your own Flexibility or lead a team to do that, here are some suggestions:

• Take time (and/or encourage others) to respond to unexpected events and not reject them out-of-hand. Force yourself to sleep on it before stating an opinion on a new initiative. Instead of first finding all the things that won’t work, spend time searching for the things that can.

• Remain open minded to new ways of responding to old problems. Brainstorm ideas with others for handling dynamic, changing demands instead of relying on your own ways of doing it.

• Rigidity can be tied to risk aversion so think of several contingency plans to make change feel safer. Play the worst case scenario game by imagining how you would be able to respond if your deepest concerns were realized and work backwards from there.

• Do a self debate on an issue you feel strongly about. Only take the other side.

• Find the positive in fresh ways of doing things; the more you leave behind, the more room you have to explore something new.

• Self-reflect on a time when something that happened felt like failure at the time, but actually turned out to be a good thing.

• Catch yourself (and ask for help from others) when you start slipping back to old habits and behaviors. Don’t allow yourself to drift back to a comfort zone.

Don’t attempt to change too much at once and remember that creating new habits requires mind, body and heart to stick so focus on one thing at a time. We also know that change initiatives require minutes of attention every day versus focus during one week a year, or one day a month, or even one hour a week.

“For our most important beginnings take place in the darkness outside our awareness. It is, after all, the ending that makes the beginning possible.”
– William Bridges, TRANSITIONS