March 24, 2020

Leading with Character: Mental Flexibility

While physical flexibility is important, it is equally important to have mental flexibility. This can be especially true at work. New ideas, new opportunities, and a new direction can all grow when flexibility is part of the culture of your organization.

Dr. Nathan Mellor describes the workplace as the people you “do life with,” and there are things that you can do not only to increase your flexibility, but also encourage it in others. With an emphasis on not only “rolling with the punches,” but also using times of change and uncertainty to find creative solutions, your workplace can become more dynamically situated to succeed.

The opposite of being flexible and adaptable is to become entrenched. Why do we become entrenched?

Safety and security. Staying in the familiar means you know what is going to happen, for the most part.

You are comfortable knowing what is coming next.

When we feel safe and secure, we lighten up a bit. We feel free to open up to change, new ideas, and new ways of doing things.

Take that feeling of safety away, and we grab tightly onto what is familiar, what we “know.”

As leaders or colleagues, we can help each other have more mental flexibility by letting others know they are safe and secure. We might not be able to guarantee a job for eternity or that any one individual’s responsibilities might not shift over time, but we can assure our colleagues that we value them and their contributions to the team.

Encouragement, positive affirmation, and support go a long way to increase the feeling of safety and security that each one of us truly belong.

We can’t always guarantee that everything will work out perfectly. If we encourage and support each other along the way, not only will we become more flexible and able to deal with change and uncertainty, but we will feel safe opening up to new ideas and will become more creative.