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Focused Flexibility

Today had been a new venture. I was used my usual run of 4.3km around the village and I needed a freshness to my run and to extend my running and test out my injuries. So, in a moment of possible madness I arranged for my wife to drop me off on her way to work and I would run the quieter country roads back. Resembling a fluorescent T-Rex plodding through the countryside, I made my way back, feeling pleased with my progress. Today’s run was to be my longest at just under 8km and at the 6.5km mark I was faced with a choice. To continue on the road that I knew, but face a couple of dangerous bends to face any cars or take a new cross-country route that I had never used before along a new footpath and through woodland. I made the choice for the new, unknown route. As I did so, I focused on the landmark that I knew and was aiming for, close to my final destination. You’ll be pleased to know that I made it home alive and well and without getting lost.

Now, don’t worry, you haven’t strayed onto a fitness website. This story is a good starting metaphor for the first of these blogs on leading in new territory. As we continue in Coronaworld, leadership needs some heightened skills as we navigate the unknown territory that we face.

Over the next 4 weeks I will examine how we need to heighten our skills in the areas of

  • Focused Flexibility

  • Engaged Employees

  • Reflective Resilience

  • Centred Creativity

Focused Flexibility

On my run, I reached a point of making a decision on the route I was to take. One option was to continue on the road that I knew, but posed some risks. The other option was to take a new route, one that provided some safety, but meant venturing into new territory. This is not a metaphor to say take the safe option. But as you face decision making on how to lead your organisation forward, it will require us to exercise the skill of flexibility more than before. The key element is to have ‘Focused Flexibility’. The route we may take may have to vary, the way we work with our team may have to be more people focused that before, but the key element is to still remain focused on your purpose and the end goal. As I took the new route, I focused on a friend’s former house that could be seen and was near my end goal of home. Each time, I was unsure, using this landmark as my reference point. As we make decisions, we need to be clear on what is my purpose and ultimate goal. Our route may take a little longer. It make take a little more energy. It may even cost a little more money. But ultimately it ensures the organisation’s survival and gets us to where we want to get to.

Developing others

We also have a responsibility to develop others in this mindset of focused flexibility. Focused flexibility is something that you need in each layer of leadership. An organisation will break at its weakest point, and therefore you need all of your leaders developing this muscle of flexibility. In chapter 4 of my book, Everyday People, Everyday Leaders, I talk about the importance of developing others. (There is a useful video at when I interview Paul Wilcox about the importance of this.)

A key part of this development is the mentoring, apprenticing of others. ‘Miranda Moments’, turning and explaining to those around you why you took the decision that you did, letting them into your thought processes allows them to copy that process when they are faced with a similar decision is a powerful tool. You will notice that I have linked two words together – it needs focus and flexibility. Flexibility in an organisation on its own can lead to too much variance and leaders at different levels taking things in a direction that is not helpful and to a lack of consistency, creating confusion. It is key that we create a clear picture of a) the purpose of the organisation and b) the vision and c) current aims. This then allows them to not only say WWBD (What Would the Boss Do) but WDVTU (What Does the Vision Tell Us). The vision becomes the template for decision making. When making a decision, they then know the priority is for the business to survive and thrive and flexible decisions are made on this long-term goal.

Focused Flexibility is not something that just switches on. You need to develop this muscle. Firstly you need to get clarity on a) what is your purpose, b) your vision and c) your current aims through this Corona crisis. Once you have clarity on this, ask three questions of yourself and others as you face decisions.

  • Which will best suit our purpose?

  • How will this help us towards our vision?

  • How will this help us survive and thrive in the long term through this crisis?

The more that you practice this, it will strengthen this muscle. The more you turn to your colleagues and explain your thinking to them, the more they will learn it to.

This is the first in the ‘Leading in a new territory series of blogs.

Everyday Leader is here to inspire and equip everyday people to lead. We have a range of resources on our website to support you .

Everyday People, Everyday Leaders book:

Everyday People, Everyday Leaders videos:

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