When I was in the military, our leaders would often use the term “rigid flexibility” to describe how we should handle change. Admittedly, I had no idea what they were talking about every time I heard this oxymoronic phrase. It wasn’t until I obtained leadership positions that rigid flexibility became clearer and more than just military jargon used to inspire troops dealing with change.
Rigid flexibility means being flexible enough to make changes as circumstances dictate while remaining true to our beliefs. In other words, there are times we must bend when circumstances require but we should never let those circumstances break our core values.
When our military leaders informed us of a change, they expected us to remain flexible enough to make the necessary adjustments but stay determined to go about it without changes to how we prepared and executed the mission itself.
I discovered that our leaders did not want our core values to ever flex, but to remain immovable, or rigid. This meant that as circumstances changed, we were to execute those changes within the guidelines of our core values. In the business world, we should never compromise our core values, beliefs, and ethics. If a change is needed, we must be flexible enough to implement the change without flexing ethical, moral or legal lines.
Rigid flexibility is a great tool for leaders to model while an organization is going through a period of change. The leaders I looked up to in the military did a fantastic job of showing their resolve in handling change the right way. They remained true to their core values and their example helped us change course when the mission dictated, but to do so with our core values, beliefs and ethics intact.
The next time you are facing change in your workplace, remember your own core values, beliefs and ethics. Become a change agent with rigid flexibility in mind as you help your teams navigate the change. Lead by example as you personally show your team members what it means to bend, but not break. Remember, change may be inevitable, but our attitude toward change is completely within our control.