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Want To Avoid Failure? Ditch Rigidity And Develop Flexibility

Posted on August 16th, 2017
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Learning to develop flexibility isn’t just about bending the rules as circumstances change. Being flexible can also include changing the way you run your business day-to-day when something isn’t working. Flexibility is having the awareness that life is ever changing, and adaptation is necessary. Failure comes quickly to those who insist on maintaining their position out of resistance or defiance of change.

The key to success is being aware of your rigidity and flexibility, and being willing to change where necessary.

Being too rigid causes you to make emotional decisions and throw the baby out with the bathwater. Being too flexible makes you a doormat. Finding balance is how success is achieved.

Being Able to Develop Flexibility in your decision-making is vital

Whether you’re running your own business or working under a corporate structure, the ability to exercise flexibility in unexpected situations is vital. Especially when you’re feeling sideswiped by sudden changes.

A great example of this is the current nationwide rollout of the ISP model by FedEx. They’ve extended their Independent Service Provider (ISP) regulations to apply to all delivery routes by 2020. This move was completely unexpected and shakes things up for contractors: “The transition to the ISP Agreement will result in changes to the way contractual agreements are reached, the definition of service areas, and the structure of the relationship between FedEx Ground and businesses.”

Contractors will soon need to change the way they’ve been working with their corporate parent. Not everyone will like this new change; being a contractor is already challenging.

In addition to requiring flexibility to face these changes, the owners of routes that don’t meet the new minimum stop requirements are faced with a tough decision: either sell their route, combine routes with another contractor, or acquire additional routes to meet the minimums.

Some contractors who don’t meet the new minimums might automatically sell their routes and struggle to start another business from scratch. However, those who are flexible are more likely to find a solution to keep their business and adapt to the changes.

Making rigid decisions cuts you off from your future

We live in an uncertain world with unexpected changes around every corner. You wouldn’t stand still if a tree started to fall toward you – you’d run to get out of harm’s way. You might get nicked by the tree as you run, but you’d recognize running as the best option and it would be worth the effort. That’s a flexible decision.

Perhaps a rigid person standing under a falling tree has a legitimate reason for staying put, but it won’t save them from being crushed. A rigid person will see their inflexible decision as “holding their ground,” despite impending danger.

Being flexible in your decision-making means being willing to make a decision that won’t cut off your future options, even if you don’t like that decision. A person who insists on standing under a falling tree is cutting off their future.

Flexibility is about following the path of least resistance

Without flexibility, your life is guaranteed to be difficult. Inflexibility will create resistance at every turn. In business, you won’t be a productive leader in meetings, and you’ll have difficulty getting people to share your vision.

Being flexible allows you to see where the river is leading so you can assume the shape that will take you downstream. You may not agree with all of the details along the way, but if your goal is to get down stream, you’ll have to get in the river at some point.

As Bruce Lee said, “Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

A flexible business isn’t just a set of policies

Being a flexible business doesn’t mean having policies on the books that claim a “flexible work environment.” This nebulous phrase can be misleading when left undefined. In fact, many employees are afraid to take advantage of their employer’s “flexible work environment” because they know it’s lip service.

Think of flexibility as a way of doing business that extends trust to team members and works in harmony with your company’s goals. Flexibility, by this definition, creates loyal and productive employees because it’s part of the culture, not just the employee handbook.

A flexible culture allows employees to work wherever they can be most productive. That might be in the office, or it could be working from home.

Telecommuting options are mandatory for true flexibility

In today’s world, it’s impossible to run a business without offering telecommuting options. Doing so not only helps employees, but gives you access to talent across the world. published an article listing the top 50 flexible workplaces and 94% of the companies listed offer telecommuting options. The majority of employees use flextime and telecommuting options, and 95% of employees reported their co-workers are always willing to put in extra effort to meet deadlines.

Does that mean remote work environments are better than forcing everyone to be in the office from 9-5? Not necessarily. An office isn’t automatically unproductive, just like working from home isn’t automatically productive. It’s all about the environment.

The reason most offices are unproductive is due to the way they’re run. The biggest problem? Unstructured meetings and constant distractions.

Unstructured meetings are an invitation for chaos

It sounds contradictory, but having no structure can be a sign of rigidity. When you’re opposed to changing the way you run meetings, even when your current method isn’t working, you’re setting your whole team up for failure.

Not long ago, I worked in an office that held unproductive meetings daily. I watched a multi-million dollar company fail without knowing they were failing.

Each morning, fifteen of us would stand in a circle and announce what we did yesterday and what we planned to accomplish today. Nobody actually planned their day, they just said whatever came to their mind.

The shipping guy would say, “I shipped some orders yesterday and today I’m going to prepare more boxes.” The personal assistant would say, “I got some things done for the boss yesterday and today I’m ordering some books.” The marketing team would say, “I sent off an email blast yesterday and today I’m checking the stats.”

This could have been a great way to create accountability, but nobody wrote anything down. For the whole seven months I was employed there, we wasted twelve hours a month in these so-called “meetings.”

We all tried to bring structure to the meetings but our ideas were rejected by the boss. Despite the obvious chaos experienced by all the staff, he convinced himself the structure of his meetings was effective and the free-form approach was flexibility.

Flexibility isn’t about being a pushover

Some people consider flexibility “catering to other people’s demands” but that’s not what it’s about. If you’re afraid to change the rules or your company culture because you don’t want to give your power away, you’re holding the wrong view of flexibility.

Your mind will fight you on change

It’s easy to look at a situation that isn’t working and excuse it by saying you’re doing everything correctly, so “the problem must be something else.” Your mind doesn’t like the idea of change. It’s going to fight you all the way. Your mind doesn’t want you to admit that change is necessary. It wants to be right, and admitting you need to change is like admitting you’re wrong.

However, changing to adapt to your circumstances isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about implementing solutions that support your company’s success.

Don’t be afraid to let go of what doesn’t serve your business. Call in an expert if necessary. Your success depends on your ability to do what’s right for your business, even if it means making big changes.

Businesses that don’t change don’t grow, and nobody knows this more than Domino’s Pizza.

The pizza turnaround

For years, Domino’s received complaints that their pizza tasted terrible. According to customers, the cheese tasted processed, the crust tasted like cardboard, and microwaved pizza tasted better. They couldn’t compete with the quality offered by other pizza restaurants – so they changed.

“There comes a time when you know you’ve gotta make a change,” said Patrick Doyle, Domino’s president. “You can either use negative comments to get you down, or you can use them to excite you and energize your process of making a better pizza. We did the latter.”

In 2009, Domino’s reinvented their entire menu from the crust up, and stepped up their marketing game. They even issued a public apology in the form of a commercial. Today, Domino’s one of the most popular pizza choices in the US.

Your business may not be in the food industry, but you can learn great lessons from how Domino’s handled their situation. Rather than justify their position, they changed to meet the demands of their customers. Their flexibility is directly responsible for their success.

Serenity Gibbons

Serenity Gibbons

Local Unit Lead for NAACP in Northern California with a mission is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. I enjoy writing and interviewing people making a difference in the World. Former Assistant Editor NY Times. NYU Alum living in sunny California.

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