JK Waldie & Associates

Dancing with the flowRecently, I had the pleasure of working on a proposal for the oil and gas industry for a great client. When I received the RFP and started to read it, I realized that the scope and level of effort required was less than what the client originally thought was required.  So, I met with the client and then my team, and we developed a plan that provided the client with additional materials that would allow them to take their proposals to the next level. After all, that goes with the territory of being a proposal manager, right?

Well, when I conducted an internal team debriefing with my team members, I was complemented on my flexibility in working with the client and the team. I was taken aback as I was not expecting that recognition. Often, when you read about good leadership, traits discussed include communication, organization, integrity, fairness, honesty, ability to delegate, commitment, and so on. But flexibility is rarely used.

With information just a click away and the constant communication between client (internal or external) and contractor and between team management and the team, projects can change on a heartbeat. A good team leader needs flexibility to adjust the solution, team responsibilities and resources, to accommodate the new information and the resulting client’s needs. So flexibility is definitely a trait a good team leader should embrace.  As David W. Jones wrote in Moses and Mickey Mouse: How to Find Holy Ground in the Magic Kingdom and Other Unusual Places:

“Planning is helpful. If you don’t know what you want, you’ll seldom get it. But, no matter how well you plan, you will fare better if you expect the unexpected. The unexpected, by nature, comes unseen, unthought, unenvisioned. All you can do is plan to go unplanned, prepare to be unprepared, make going with the flow part of your agenda, for the most successful among us envision, plan, and prepare, but cast all aside as needed, while those who are unable to go with the flow often suffer, if they survive.”

Flexibility can bring some great surprises or discoveries. New information can help you develop a better solution that may save your client money or time. A new team member may bring some unexpected knowledge that brings an additional richness to the final deliverable.

Being flexible and “expecting the unexpected” has other benefits as well.  It makes changes less stressful because you are able to adapt your plan. Your team will take the changes in stride as well through your example and continue to be engaged and motivated. The end result? A successful project and a happy client.

P.S. In doing some quick research for this blog, I came across some great information on “flexible leadership.”