Pizza is king. It’s not only a snack, but it’s also lunch, dinner, and occasionally breakfast. It’s practically a national pastime since most families dedicate one day a week to “pizza night.” Sundays are reserved for pizza when Sue and I visit our favorite Italian spot nearby, and when I lived in Chicago, Lou Malnati’s had a special place in my heart for deep-dish pies.
Americans eat about three billion pizzas every year, so it’s easy to see why this flavorful meal, snack, and pastime has been carefully protected from supply-chain woes. The commercial chefs at General Mills have created twenty-five different ways to make their popular pizza rolls because they never know when they’ll be stalled on delivery of a key ingredient.
This kitchen feat is a prime example of flexible leadership. What if this same flexibility with ingredient capital was applied to human capital in our workplaces? In other words, what if more leaders applied the same versatility to their leadership style as General Mills’ chefs have done in their kitchens?
Having worked directly in the supply-chain industry for years at Prologis, where we provided warehouse space for countless consumer items, this example hits home. Any number of workplace trends might impact your ability to apply the same leadership approach you’ve traditionally counted on. With the multitude of market influences happening at any given time these days, why not take the chefs at their word and consider how you might increase your own flexibility?
Consider these practices if you’d like to embrace a nimbler approach:
Soaking up the environment
While we were in the midst of recovering from the Great Recession at Prologis in 2008 to 2010, it was one of the least “top-down environments” we had ever experienced. In other words, we weren’t waiting for the board or a consultancy to provide guidance; we had our ears to the ground for what seemed like every minute of the day—listening to the people around us, talking to our banks and finance partners, soliciting feedback from operations, and watching deals in the marketplace—all while making incremental adjustments to fit the day’s upticks or downturns. This stance enabled our leadership team to make situational adaptations to improve performance.
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Sampling the room
Enlisting the talents of everyone in the room rather than exclusively depending on your own is essential to flexibility. Even the most skilled leaders have a specific set of competencies and gaps they need to bridge with teammates. As soon as you’re willing to admit that you don’t have all the answers, sampling the room for opinions on how to move forward with a strategy multiplies your options. Showing humility when you ask for input, challenging your team to get creative, and enlisting volunteers to collaborate are all signs of embracing adaptability and expanding your repertoire to meet goals.
Much like the chefs needed different ingredients to make recipes, leaders may need a different composition of employees to handle new trends moving forward. During the tenure that I mentioned earlier, it became clear that we needed to hire bear-market employees who were ready to test, troubleshoot, and pivot quickly as needed. As we brought new people to the team, we were intent on knowing if they had any experience that was suited to our new situation. Some applicants come to you as natural builders, while others are great at honing and perfecting what’s already working. We set our sights on applicants who could help us survive and rebuild.
These are only a few strategies of many that you can apply to increase your repertoire as a nimble leader. If you sense that your company is at a crossroads like many are these days, look for ways that you can put a sensitive ear to the ground, tap your teammates for scalable ideas, and consider how you might complement your trajectory with situational hiring. Each one of these techniques can help you strengthen your resilience to kinks in the supply chain and perhaps even merit a pizza party in the lunchroom.