Flexibility is one of the three subscales of stress management. As the name suggests, stress management relates to how well someone can cope with stress. It is how they deal with emotions in relationship to change and possible unpredictable circumstances. Whether they stay optimistic when facing setbacks and obstacles, or what overall impact it has on them.

“For things to change, you have to change. For things to get better, you have to get better. For things to improve, you have to improve. When you grow, everything in your life grows with you.” – Jim Rohn

Flexibility specifically relates to one’s ability to adapt and manage the various types of situations and change that may arise. It’s the ability to behave dynamically in unpredictable circumstances.

It is possible that we have more flexibility in different circumstances or areas of life. Example, someone may be very rigid in their way of thinking at home, but much more flexible at work. Change is inevitable. It is a fact of life. How one deals with that change is up to oneself. One of the presuppositions of NLP is “The person or system that has the most flexibility of behaviour will control the situation.”

Higher Range vs Lower Range Of Flexibility

Someone who is in the higher range of flexibility is more likely to effectively cope with changing and challenging situations.

They are more likely to:

• Enjoy being in different environments and around different types of people.
• Seek out new experiences and challenges.
• They know how to adapt their behaviour to changing circumstances.
• Open and accepting of the views of others which may be different from theirs.
• Better able to manage and regulate their feelings in various situations.
• Able to adapt their communication style to different people.
Someone who falls in the lower range of flexibility may find it more stressful when situations unexpectedly change.


They are more likely to:

• Prefer a stable environment and they find unpredictable circumstances uncomfortable.
• Have more rigid thinking and emotional responses to situations.
• Have a more rigid belief system and may struggle to understand or accept other’s beliefs if they differ. They may find it difficult to acknowledge when they are wrong or to accept a different way of thinking.
• Feel like they have less options for behaviour and less able to adjust their emotional responses to changing circumstances.

Impact In The Workplace

It can certainly be said that 2020 was a year of great change. Many people and organisations had to change in how they did business. Example, working from home, social distancing, changing careers, losing jobs etc. Some businesses changed their product lines to cope, others changed suppliers or ways of servicing their clients. Some people lost their businesses and had to close down due to the Corona virus and had to make big career changes.

In most organisations, individuals will be faced with unexpected and changing situations. Their level of flexibility can be a significant factor in how well this is managed.

Change happens, so it is important to have the ability to think on your feet or change direction when necessary. Customers change. Products change. The marketplace changes. Clients and team members change. Organisations require resilience from their staff to weather change.

Someone who is in the higher range of flexibility is more likely to:

• Get along with colleagues with varied personalities.
• Network effectively within and outside of the organization.
• Able to keep up with a changing situation without it becoming overly stressful.
• Adapt to their job role and delivery when necessary, and they able to start new projects or suggest new ideas.

Someone who scores in the lower range for flexibility is more likely to:

• Struggle to adapt their communicative style to colleagues or people outside of their workplace.
• Prefer to follow certain ways of doing things and prefer routine and struggle to adapt to a changing job role or description.
• May struggle with changes like new systems, procedures etc.
• Leave their job if there is too much change.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Impact On leadership

Flexible leaders are more likely to encourage staff to contribute new ideas and ways of working, leading to better productivity. They see the value of fresh ideas and welcome change when appropriate. Flexible leaders understand that they lead a team of different individuals and as such need to adapt their own communication style and approach to each team member. What motivates one person, does not necessarily motivate another. Different situations require different behaviours and approaches.

There are downsides to a leader who is overly flexible.

As we mentioned, change is inevitable. However, change for change’s sake does not serve anyone. If the organisation continually changes the way things are done, or one day does it this way and the next day a different way; it is both confusing and potentially frustrating for everyone involved. From clients to suppliers to staff. If a sales director continually changes the sales targets, or the target audience, then the sales staff can get confused or even demotivated. It is impossible to hit continually changing goals. A leader who is always seeking out change and looking to do things differently may reduce some of the benefits that stability can bring.

Too much change can make staff members feel anxious and ‘burnt out’ as they have to use too much energy to adapt to new ways of working. This could be especially stressful for staff who are less flexible.

Low Flexibility In Leadership

Keeping things the same and having a stable working environment does have its own benefits. However, when leaders are too inflexible and not open to change, things can become stagnant, and productivity reduced.

Leaders low in flexibility may become overly stressed and anxious when unexpected situations arise. This stress may hinder their ability to manage situations and ensure that they direct their team effectively. If they are also low in impulse control and low in problem solving, they may find change almost impossible to deal with. Shouting at staff, potentially making bad hiring and firing choices, demoralising their team etc. Have you ever had a boss that often lost his temper when he was under stress? Then took it out on you or other members of staff? I am sure you can imagine that would not be the happiest working environment.

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” – Charles Darwin

Improving Emotional intelligence

Flexibility is important for both management and staff if they want to adapt to the ever-changing world around them. The first step to improve on any area of emotional intelligence, is to take the EQi-2.0 assessment. This is followed by a two-hour unpacking and coaching to help explain where one falls in each of the emotional intelligence subscales.

If you then choose to make a positive change, you have the option of a very focussed and effective coaching program to work towards improving the areas of emotional intelligence of your choosing.

The emotional intelligence assessment is done online and followed up with a face-to-face coaching session, which can be done via Zoom or in person.
Working on one’s EI can lead to significant positive results in all areas of life. Not only increasing general happiness, but more effective and approachable.

If you feel that this is an area that you or someone you know may want to work on, then help is at hand.

To find out more about how your organization can benefit, contact us today for a no-obligation conversation.