Learning from Yoga
One can learn from anything and everything. Not just from books, right?
Years ago, yoga taught me the need to be flexible and in control at the same time. That gave me an insight into understanding lifecycles that I explore in my book Managing Corporate Lifecycles. When an organization is young, it is flexible but does not have much control. Once the organization ages and reaches the later part of the lifecycle, it has developed control but lost flexibility. To be in Prime, one needs to have both flexibility and control.
While practicing yoga today, I had a new insight. I learned how one might successfully handle two other incompatible forces: in this case, rigidity and relaxation.
These seem like naturally incompatible states: when you need to be rigid (like when you are keeping your leg tight in yoga), you automatically “tighten” your mind—you take a hard breath in and hold it. The opposite is true as well: when you relax your mind—and your breathing—you typically relax your body, too, and lose your rigidity.
But in yoga, instructors encourage you to tighten your body while working to relax your mind (and to tighten your mind while relaxing your body).
This instruction gave me insight into how we should lead. I usually fail to relax when I need to be rigid with people working for me. So, I come across as being inflexible. I should be rigid in my request but deliver it in a relaxed manner. Or as someone smarter said: “speak softly but carry a big stick”. In other words, when I need unwavering implementation, I get tense—according to this insight, this is the wrong way to approach implementation.
I should be able to make a firm request and insist others impeccably implement my decision while using a relaxed tone of voice. I can be casual—even friendly—while at the same time, being firm in my request.
What a challenge! But, as in yoga, it can be done by controlling your breathing. Breathe slowly in and slowly out, and do not hold your breath.
There’s always much to learn, but in order to really know, we need never to stop practicing.
Dr Ichak Kalderon Adizes
Found and CEO, Adizes Institute Worldwide