Making Flexibility Your Mindset

January 31, 2018 by FlexPro

We’ve talked in the past about what we can do to be successful. From project plans to project tools, we utilize all of the resources at our disposal to succeed. However, when all is said and done, one of the biggest factors in the success of a project is the people we have on our team. As Project Managers, we are forever on a quest to attract and retain the best employees. In previous articles, we have discussed how flexibility in the workplace helps employees to maintain a proper work/life balance. Gone is the notion of compartmentalizing work and life separately – technology has forever changed the rules on separating the two. So, we now understand that in order to have fully engaged teams, our employees need to be able to incorporate their life demands into their work life. The key is flexibility, and it works both ways.

As a PM, I want to give my team the leeway they need to achieve the perfect work/life balance. At the same time, I also want my team members to recognize that it should be a two-way street. I recently read an article by Alison Doyle titled, “Workplace Flexibility Definition, Skills, and Examples“, where Doyle discusses the importance of employees having a flexible mindset. Doyle states that “Employees who approach their job with a flexible mindset are typically more highly valued by employers.” She indicates that “Flexibility on the job includes the willingness and ability to readily respond to changing circumstances and expectations.”

We all know that even the best-laid plans can encounter difficulty and go off course, and it can all go south in the blink of an eye. As a PM, I truly appreciate the team members who are willing and able to step up with a “let’s get it done” attitude, as opposed to those individuals who have an “it’s not my job” approach. Those people can’t or won’t adapt to changing circumstances and are unable to be flexible in their roles. I’ll take the roll-up their sleeves and dig in employee over the rigid, can’t see the big picture, type of person any day. Who wouldn’t!

There are a lot of factors that go into making a good hire and it’s not always all about how great someone may look on paper. I’ve learned that in building a successful team, I need to find those people who can roll with the punches. I want to have people on my team who are willing and able to change course as needed and are able to take on the responsibility that may fall outside of their job description and comfort zone. It’s my job as the PM to help my team maintain a flexible mindset. It’s very easy for everyone to settle into their roles on a project and this is especially true when everything is going right. Roles and tasks are assigned, and team members can sometimes get so focused on their responsibilities that they forget they belong to a team. Keeping the communication lines open, providing positive feedback and helping my team understand what definitive roles are can help when the project hits a snag. By helping the members of my team further develop their skills and more importantly, expand their skillset, I’m helping to make the team stronger and more flexible. Like the old expression, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”, so is my team. Fostering a flexible mindset among team members is the best way I know to ensure project success. The more comfortable team members are with other roles, the more likely they will be to respond during critical times.

I couldn’t help but laugh looking at an office print, showing a police officer on a motorcycle trying to catch a runaway ostrich that was weaving through traffic. It was captioned: “FLEXIBILITY because not everything is in the training manual.” So true! As I look ahead and start seeing blank canvases take shape, I hope that in my role as Project Manager, I’m able to encourage and inspire my team to a flexible mindset. While I may never have to wrangle a stray ostrich, I hope that I can prepare myself and my team to step up and handle whatever else may come our way.

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