Successful leaders have performance ideologies and behaviors that put them in a position of command and control. Among these many traits are excellent communications skills, the ability to assemble a trusting team to whom they can delegate with confidence, and the ethics and integrity to do right by the company and the people around them. One critical leadership behavior that can be a force multiplier to all those above is understanding and leveraging flexible thinking.
Flexible thinking plays an important role in any organization. Impacting everything from strategic planning to employee engagement, flexible thinking can make the difference between a company that exceeds business expectations and one that doesn’t.
Creating a flexible mindset calls for us to park our personal thoughts and opinions long enough to consider what others bring to the conversation. Flexible thinking provides the perfect opportunity to synthesize input to create better dialog, vision, products, and services. In other words, a flexible mindset has the potential to enhance innovation as well as the ability to understand and respond to the needs of employees, clients, communities, and other key stakeholders. Or, as Jeff Bezos, founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon.com says,
Five Ways Flexible Thinking Enhances Business Performance
- Engaging and Empowering Others: With a flexible mindset, we create a safe place for sharing thoughts and ideas. We practice meeting people where they are and playing in their dream space, discussing their perspective, asking a lot of questions, and then considering best next steps. When we leave the door open for input and treat what we receive with respect and appreciation, we establish credibility and trust. From this place, significant achievements can be birthed, and at the same time, employee and client satisfaction can increase.
- Innovating: We don’t always have all the answers which is why the adage, two minds are better than one is spot-on. A combination of differing knowledge, skills, perspectives, and styles increases the potential for transformational innovation. With flexible thinking, we are open to big, hairy, audacious goals and feel inspired by the possibilities rather than shut down. This is how creative genius plays out. (For a deep dive on enhancing innovation through diversity of thought, listen to this 50-minute presentation.)
- Achieving Excellence: Anyone who has been in the working world knows how quickly and unexpectedly goals can shift. That requires the ability to course-correct along the way to stay on track. A flexible mindset makes it easier to accept the need for modifications without losing valuable time and the customer focus required to ensure success.
- Leading: A good leader understands how to fully engage others, whether it’s a small team or a global company working to create a new generation of products or services. It takes vision — one that reflects the diversity of thought that each person brings — to be an inspirational leader who corrals passion without snuffing out individuality. A good leader will remain relentless about achieving goals, yet flexible in the ways of delivery.
- Modeling Ways of Working: Those who are comfortable embracing flexible thinking do not worry about having all of the answers. They are confident enough to eagerly ask for input, consider a variety of solutions, and acknowledge contributors. That kind of confidence not only makes for good leadership and business success, but it also sets a positive example for others to follow.
This list of five suggests a few ways that a flexible mindset can enhance business performance. In any competitive industry, flexible thinking can make the difference between business growth or stagnation. What it boils down to is creating a culture of trust — one where everyone feels their ideas are welcome and respected. In that way, business success is not only sustained, but it’s also ordained.
Coming next: Five Ways to Grow a Flexible and Innovative Company Culture.
Sheila Callaham is an author, motivational coach, and longtime communications and change management professional.