This is the tenth installment in our 25-week series exploring the 25 competencies, or soft skills, that our assessments measure. Each week we’ll give you the definition of that competency, explain its value, and give you tips to help you develop it.
This week: Flexibility.
Flexibility is the ability to readily modify, respond, and adapt to change with minimal resistance. It’s all about adaptability. Those who are flexible can roll with the punches. They aren’t scared of change but instead embrace it. They’re not afraid to change something when they see it’s not working and respond well to changes in direction. Even when they come from above.
Change is an everyday part of life and refusing to accept it can leave us stuck in the past. Unable to keep up with the current market or business world. The key to Flexibility is understanding that change can be a good thing. It helps improve out-of-date systems. It can make processes more efficient. Change helps us serve customers better. And it can help us reach our full potential.
Today’s work environment requires that you not only manage change but that you serve as an active champion of change.
The most flexible people seek out opportunities to change and manage the change process. In addition, they are able to make needed changes as directed by others or organizational priorities.
Different people react to change in different ways. Some people may be anxious, excited, or angry at having to make a change. You may have noticed your own reactions to different types of change, as well. Change can be difficult. It can require minor adjustments such as new paperwork or major paradigm shifts in how a company is run. Your ability to champion and manage change is key to your success on the job.
Of course, varying amounts and types of change cause varying degrees of emotion. People’s lives alternate between periods of stability and change. As humans, we need both to thrive. When you are responsible for initiating a change process on the job, you’ll need to understand not only how people react to change, but also how to encourage them in understanding and supporting change. In any change situation, it is important that you be aware of your own reactions and attitudes to change as well as those of others.
In general, people support change when they believe it:
- Will result in personal and/or professional gain.
- Is something logical and a correct thing to do.
- May give them new and welcome challenges.
- Was developed and championed by someone they respect.
- Is the result of a collaborative process that included them.
In contrast, people reject change when they believe it:
- Will result in personal and/or professional loss.
- Is unnecessary or possibly harmful.
- May be too much of a challenge, making their jobs more difficult.
- Was developed and championed by someone who doesn’t understand the problem or the real world.
- Was kept secret during the planning stages.
Your challenge is to remain flexible during periods of change whether you initiate the change process or whether you are supporting a change made by someone else.
Flexibility is easier for some than for others. For some, change is a necessity and they can feel stifled when things don’t change quickly enough. Many of us though, like things to stay the same. It keeps things predictable and stable. We cling to routines and habits because they provide security and comfort, but they can also hold us back.
And we tend to resist that change even harder if it is coming from an outside force. Humans can often be stubborn when forced to change by someone else. We often don’t believe that others’ ideas have our best interest in mind and tend to be skeptical of what benefits they will provide.
But in today’s world, you can no longer avoid change. And the most successful people don’t just learn how to accept change. They seek new initiatives and look for ways to improve their job and the quality of their organization. Once you have learned to manage your own reaction to change and to recognize reactions in others, you can be an advocate for change.
Developing your Flexibility requires developing your tolerance for change.
If you’re the type of person who is more change-averse, one way to work on developing your Flexibility is to examine your real reasons for resisting change. The next time there is a change happening that you are uncomfortable with, create a list of all the reasons you aren’t open to that change.
For each objection, find two positive counterpoints for why the change will be good. You can enlist the help of your peers or colleagues if necessary. Look for the benefits that this change will bring. How might it make your life easier? How might it make your company more successful? In what ways will it help your customers? Find reasons to change instead of just clinging to what you know.
You might be pleasantly surprised at the results. Sometimes the greatest accomplishments come from unknown beginnings.
Flexibility is a life skill.
We all may wish that life would go exactly as we planned it every day, but that’s not reality. And honestly, that would lead to a pretty boring life. Some of the most exciting adventures come from unforeseen paths. Flexibility is the skill that helps you adapt to those changes and take advantage of those new opportunities.
Becoming more flexible will not only allow you to better adapt to the twists and turns that life presents you, but it will also make you a better coworker, friend, and partner. Being flexible also means that you are willing to work with others and meet them in the middle on issues. A skill that will make you much more successful over the course of your life and career.
Change can be scary. And facing the unknown is certainly uncomfortable. But you can’t let yourself get left behind because you’re unwilling to expand your horizons. Some changes are for the better. And just past the unknown might be the future you’ve been waiting for. So be a little more flexible the next time life throws you a curveball and see what can happen.
If you’d like to learn more ways to develop your Flexibility, download our Flexibility Rx PDF here.