As an Integral Coach I find that many clients benefit enormously by improving their flexibility. Building their physical competence helps to enhance their agility in other areas of their lives. Through commitment to an individualised programme they can turn ‘stumbling blocks’ into ‘stepping stones’.
Let me give you some background to my interest in flexibility:
My appreciation of Ken Blanchard’s work was heightened when I met him personally. He invited me and my husband to attend a workshop as his guests in Johannesburg. He used sandcastles as a metaphor in considering our need to be ‘fast and flexible’. In his story he elaborates that while the builders were not observant, those sandcastles built at the water’s edge were washed away by the recurring incoming tide. Those built higher on the beach were destroyed by an ‘ad hoc’ storm.
The message, according to Ken Blanchard, is that we should remain ‘fast and flexible’ in order to move away from threats and towards opportunities. And this applies in both our business and private lives. Other authors refer to ‘agility’ as being one of the hallmarks of success. This also implies that we need to be flexible and take appropriate action.
I recently experienced a fascinating example of flexibility where high levels of customer service were maintained despite the need to adapt to changing circumstances. In March 2012 we were privileged to visit Botswana ‘on safari’. I highly recommend ‘&Beyond’s’ ‘Chobe-under-canvas’. Robson Chongwe, Camp Manager and his team of 9 men (no women!) do an excellent job in looking after a maximum of 10 guests accommodated in 5 tents. They quietly provide outstanding service with apparent ease, overcoming many hidden obstacles.
From a management perspective there are many challenges. For example, to meet government requirements, in the Chobe National Park, the camp may not stay on the same site for more than 5 days. Moving involves ‘breaking up’ the camp, packing up everything, transporting to the new site, offloading and setting up again. (Coaches, isn’t that a wonderful ‘distinction’?). ‘Everything’ includes many tents – guest, staff, kitchen, ‘diningroom’ – and all the contents, equipment and supplies etc. Even the water-tank and individual toilets in each tent’s ‘bathroom’ are portable. To give you an idea of the complexity of this operation, each of the guest and staff tents has to be erected in a way that makes it safe from animals and mosquitoes. And each tent has its own canvas floor. Yet there are ‘normal’ beds with luxury bedding.
On the day of the move, the current site must be vacated by 10am. This interferes with their customary schedules for the game-drives and other activities. To maintain maximum occupancy, bookings are planned so that guests depart that day. So, it means that the team schedule includes making sure the guests are packed and ready to leave before 9am, regardless of what time their flights depart. Robson says ‘this is sometimes disturbing to the guests’ as their flights may be leaving only that evening. So, I guess they have very long game drives that day!
The camp has to be set up and functioning at the new location before the arrival of the new guests the following day. So, within that structure, the team-members have to be very flexible in many aspects. They have to cope with ‘not knowing’. In addition to structural and functional demands, they need to meet environmental changes. Variables include the weather and the animals’ behaviour response to it. And then there are seasonal differences, too.
How do guests need to adapt and be flexible?
The team also needs to meet guest’s expectations as far as possible. For example, on the game drives, which because of the Park rules cannot take place before 6am or after 7pm, the guides need to show as many animals and birds as possible. Yet there needs to be a balance between viewing time and ‘down’ time. I just loved sitting in the ‘dining room’ and writing this article!
Let’s look at some of the factors that require a certain amount of flexibility in order for the guests to get the maximum benefit from this ‘African Adventure’. They have expectations of a high level of comfort, safety and food. Yet the prime reason they are there is to experience the flora, fauna and the experience.
Some of the many areas we had to be flexible:
Time schedule – the mealtimes need to fit in with game-drives and seeing the animals to maximum advantage. Cereal and coffee were served before the game drive which started at 6am. Brunch took place at 11am (after the return from the game drive).
Showering - warm water is provided only at 7pm. So, if you would like a warm shower, that is when you shower! A bowl of warm water was provided for washing ‘hands and face’ at that time (one of the team comes to the back flap of your tent and delivers it to you) and also at 5:30am.
Safety – after dark, it is not safe for guests to walk even from the ‘dining tent’ or fire to their tents without a guard. So, once you are in your tent, you stay there for the night, unless there is an emergency. This normally isn’t a problem, but one evening I realised I had dropped my glasses and couldn’t go outside to find them.
Exercise is limited as there are no fences and guests can’t go for walks or runs.
Charging of mobiles, camera batteries etc. can take place only at 7 pm when a vehicle returns and its battery is fully charged. And then guests take it in turn to recharge their items before retiring for the night.
How does flexibility affect us in general?
The metaphor of the ‘moving tents’ reminds me of how we need to constantly ‘reinvent’ our businesses and ourselves. Improving our ability to adapt without compromising our true selves can help us reach potential. How agile are you?
My questions for you:
- How flexible area you in functioning within different environments from both a business and personal perspective?
- With whom do you need to be more flexible?
- When do you find that your habits are holding you back?
- Where do you physically feel your lack of agility?
- What can you do to improve your flexibility?
How do we help clients to become more flexible?
If you’d like to turn your ‘stumbling blocks’ into ‘stepping stones’ please consider engaging an Integral Coach. I coach ‘in person’ and have also become more agile in meeting client’s needs through coaching some sessions via Skype or telephone.
For more information on Integral Coaching please contact me – Phone: +27 33 3425432, Mobile: + 27 82 4993311, firstname.lastname@example.org.