Earlier this year, I picked three words to focus my development on in 2013 in order to be a more effective leader. One of those words was “flexibility” and it is emblazoned across the top of the dry erase board in my office. I’m pretty sure being more flexible will help me lead better.
I hate being flexible.
Curiously, the world does not always approach things the same way I do. That was fine when I mostly did projects by myself, but now I work with teams and manage operations for stuff that happens in other places. Plus, I host a podcast and invite guests who sometimes think differently than I do and have their own schedules.
Flexibility of course starts with me (and you too). Here are five questions I’m asking myself lately that have helped me get perspective on whether I need to be more flexible or dig in my heels:
1) Does this still achieve the ultimate goal? True, it’s not being done the way I would do it…but does it still get the project to the objective everyone wants? If it does, then it’s probably a place I can be flexible. If not, then maybe I need to be firmer.
2) What’s my reasoning for it happening this way? Either it’s for a good reason or it’s my ego (or some combination). The more of my ego involved, the more I need to coach myself to bend with the wind a little bit. It’s hard to see our own egos, so sometimes I’ll bounce a situation off someone else (who’s not involved) when I need perspective.
3) Am I going to care about this a year from now? I find that a year is a good standard for a lot of things around flexibility. 20 years is too long and next week is too short. If I really think this will be something that I’ll still be stewing on in a year, then perhaps this is a place where being less flexible is necessary.
4) Do other people lose out by me winning? Sure, I can impose my will in some situations, but does someone else’s creativity and pride get stifled? I might improve a process slightly but completely kill their motivation in the process. That’s a lose-lose for all of us in the long-run.
5) Is good enough best for this? I first learned this principle from economists. Nobody spends 8 hours on a weekend washing their car, even though they would do a better job than if they spent only 30 minutes. At some point, the task just isn’t worth the investment of energy anymore. This is no excuse for lousy or mediocre work, but sometimes (alright…often) perfection isn’t needed or even helpful.
If, like me, flexibility if one of your goals right now, I challenge you to use at least one of these questions.
Which one will you try today? Answer with a comment below.