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Flexibility Wins the Day (#33)

The Confident Leader

As I prepared to chaperone my son’s eighth-grade Washington D.C. trip, I sought tips from a seasoned parent for the challenges I might encounter. “The name of the game is, trust and adjust,” she said. That little nugget of wisdom kept me flexible, rolling with every challenge that came my way. 

Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.
— Randy Pausch (professor and author of “The Last Lecture”)

This Week’s Edition

FLEXIBILITY: The ability to adapt your emotions and thoughts in response to unpredictable circumstances in order to change your approach and still achieve your goals.

Clarify Your Thinking

It is human nature to be emotionally triggered when something doesn’t go the way we want. In fact, the pain we experience in life is the difference between what we expect to happen and what actually happens.


Flexibility gives us a choice.  We can be inflexible: entrench and want it the way we want it. Or, we can be flexible: acknowledge reality and adjust our emotions and thoughts thereby seeing the learning points offered by the situation.


Jan, a competent CEO of a solid business, was frustrated with her direct report. Jan wanted things done a certain way. Jan explained in her coaching session, “She does it wrong all the time, Robin.”

“Is it wrong, or is it just different,” I asked.

“What’s the difference? It’s not being done the way I want it done,” she snapped.

“How did you respond to her mistakes?” I asked.

“I just did the task myself,” she said.


Jan had spent months attempting to get her teammate to do it right. Jan failed to adjust. She wasn’t flexible. She just shoved her teammate aside and did the work herself.


Jan naturally began to seriously doubt her otherwise qualified teammate’s ability to do the job for which she was hired and questioned whether she would be the successor Jan had hand-picked.  Leadership doubt is powerful.


Old Thinking: Surely my way is the right way. It’s worked all these years. What’s wrong with them?


New Thinking: Continuing to fail to get the results I want may require me to rethink my approach. Maybe there is a better way.

post pandemic vision

Thoughts Lead to Actions

“Experience is what we get when we don’t get what we want.”


Jan only saw friction. She did not trust and adjust. This barred her from the experience, the knowledge she could have gleaned…

·      That her approach was not effective

·      That her teammate may have had a better idea

·      That there are many ways to do something right


Instead of using this potential learning to adjust her leadership approach, Jan chose to make her teammate wrong even though she was highly capable and experienced.


Friction is an opportunity to understand what can be learned. What you learn allows you to be more flexible. Being more flexible allows you to stay in the discomfort zone long enough to complete your confidence.

Boost Your Performance

Lack of flexibility in the face of challenges robs leaders of valuable intel that unlocks current leadership dilemmas and solves future challenges too.  As leaders, develop the skill of flexibility:

1.   Make a list of friction points in your day-to-day leadership.

2.   Ask yourself what “story” you are telling yourself about that friction.

3.   Ask yourself “what else could be true?”

4.   Adjust your emotions and thoughts about that friction point.

5.   Ideate a different approach to the same situation.

6.   Adjust until you reach new levels of effectiveness.

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Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

robin pou, chief advisor and strategist

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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