Building a Culture of Flexibility

March 29, 2010 by Rose Cook

Happy Spring!  It’s a time of growth and renewal.  As an action word, “spring” is also defined as “to move forward by leaps and bounds.”  In line with these themes, we announced a few strategic changes at FlexPro recently, including our name change to “The FlexPro Group” and our specific niche in pharmaceutical supply chain.
The other change I’m excited about is our broader focus and commitment to “Building a Culture of Flexibility.”  You’ll see it as our tagline on our website and marketing materials now.  So, what does this mean?

While we are huge proponents for flexible work arrangements such as part-time, telecommuting, flextime, etc., we’ve come to realize that flexibility is more than just about schedules or work arrangements; it’s about a different approach to how you do your work and live your life, regardless of your schedule.  We are committed to advocating for these approaches (some novel, some tried and true) and will share them with you here in our future newsletters.
My hope is that you, too, will see the value in “Building a Culture of Flexibility” for yourself, your clients, your companies, and your families, and will spread this message, even if it’s one person at a time!
I attended a leadership event last week where we discussed the “Perfectionism Trap”.  Since many of our readers are analytical/logical thinkers (quite a few engineers, like myself!) this topic really resonated with me.  While it’s often appropriate to exercise our precision and detail-orientation, many times it’s more effective to be flexible about when to apply it and not.
For those of you already shuddering at my implication to “lower your standards”, hear me out.  You’ve heard this before….”Focus on excellence, not perfection.”  Think about the RESULTS you desire and what the OTHER person (client, boss, colleague, loved one) really cares about.
Some stories/thoughts…
Meeting minutes/recaps:

Isn’t it more effective to issue a “good” summary within 24 hours vs. a “perfect” one in 48 hours or more?  As a project manager, I always wanted to capture agreements and follow-up items quickly, so next actions could get underway. The perfectly-detailed recap sent a few days too late loses its impact.  Again, it’s important to be flexible in your approach and keep your focus on effectiveness and results.

Taking action:

One of my favorite reads on taking action is Guy Kawasaki’s “The Art of the Start”.  Though he targets entrepreneurs, his message is relevant for everyone.  It’s a simple message, yet not always simple to do.  “Get going.”  “Flow with the go.”  “No one every achieved success by planning for gold.”   What does this have to do with perfectionism?  Well, as Guy explains, too many people get hung up in the planning stages, trying to craft the perfect plan, and end up in analysis paralysis. You won’t know if your plan/strategy is right until you test it in the real world anyway, so “Just Do It!”  Excellence comes through action, not perfection in planning.

Fitness workouts:

Running late to my spin workout, I was talking myself out of going.  Then, pushing my perfectionist thinking aside, I realized that my health would still benefit from 45 minutes vs. 60 minutes of cardio, and went anyway!  (Years ago, I had more of an “all or nothing” approach.)  The reality is even 15 minutes is better than zero!  We need to be flexible, even when circumstances change our plan.  In this case, 75% or even 25% produces a better result than zero!
Treats for school:

Ever felt guilty about not making those perfectly-crafted homemade treats for your kids’ school parties?  Well, let it go!   I have a vivid memory of checking the food table at an elementary school event.  To my surprise, the store-bought Oreos I donated were GONE, and the homemade cookies (not from me) were still there!   I chuckled as I convinced myself I had focused on my clients (i.e. the hungry 10 yr olds) who probably took comfort in the familiar goodness behind those Oreo cookies!
I share these examples to hopefully help others learn what I’ve learned the hard way.  Evaluate every work or life situation and be flexible about your approach to it.  In most situations, you DO have a choice.

Got a super-critical presentation or proposal?  Then, by all means, put 100% into it and get it as close to perfect as you can.  But you can’t possibly bring that kind of energy to EVERYthing you do, ALL the time.  So, avoid the perfectionism trap, and be flexible in choosing which tasks deserve your best efforts.

Together, we can “build a culture of flexibility” – an environment at work and home, that’s focused on being flexible, making choices, and bringing the results we desire for ourselves, our clients, bosses, colleagues and loved ones.

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