Guest Blog

“Flexibility is the key to success” By Richard J. Atkins, Ed.D.

The statement, “Flexibility is the key to success” seemed to haunt me as I was presenting for my final certification with a nationally recognized training firm—my first “real” training job.  It was almost as though the master trainer (or so to speak), used this phrase as an opportunity to disrupt and throw curve balls to the candidates, perhaps to evaluate their level of flexibility.  The group faired forth and met with success.  Still, those words continue to stick with me.

The wisdom of those words is poignant because humans are creatures of habit.  I remind people of the nature of habits when correcting an accent or speech problem.  Speech is, possibly, one of the first habits humans develop.  If incorrect speaking behavior is permitted during formative years, correcting those problems later becomes the equivalent of breaking a habit as old as the speaker.

The thesaurus offers synonyms for the word, “flexibility” such as, “suppleness,” “elasticity,” “litheness,” and “give.”  These are the qualities that help business people to play well the cards that life and their jobs have dealt them.  The manager or employee who is well skilled at adapting to change finds ways to be more successful and thrive under any conditions.  Part of this willingness to change and grow is in the ability to look at prior mistakes and seek ways to correct them moving forward.

Therefore, one crucial job of the trainer / educator / instructor is to provide paths in which individuals can examine and develop ways in which they can become more flexible.  It is a quality that is equivalent to gold and should be presented to businesses and participants as such.  As trainers, our main goal is to ensure that each participant moves closer to the much-desired result—better and more effective ways of doing things.  They (and we) will work better if we help them and ourselves to become more flexible.

One way of developing this precious quality is through practicing public speaking—specifically impromptu speaking.  The communicator who can formulate and articulate ideas quickly will, indeed, have come a long way in her or his ability to “go with the flow.”  Part of the secret of delivering an effective spontaneous speech is by staying quiet long enough at the start of the speech (only a few seconds) to gather the thoughts and then grow to a point.  Silence can be misinterpreted, but is rarely misquoted.

In my estimation, public speaking is probably one of the greatest ways that people can develop into better and more useful souls.  I believe it makes people become “weller than well.”  I have seen participants transcend any reservations they once had about public speaking.  Once they got past their old ideas and began to practice public speaking regularly, things of great import began to occur.  So it may be with you and your class members as well.

Another component to being successful with change is the willingness to practice.  Practice, practice, practice—That’s how to get to Carnegie Hall, right?  We get the most from new ideas and ways of doing things when we truly practice them.  Only by repetition can these new ways of doing things become grooved and part of our daily lives.  As we improve, we will achieve greater results.  Also, we will see our fellows change as well.  Through practice, people become good at accepting change.  Becoming “skilled at change,” among other things, will increase our own credibility and help us to gain greater personal and professional satisfaction.

Richard J. Atkins, Ed.D. is the founder of Improving Communications, and offers public and private classes to develop Business Writing, Public Speaking, Customer Service, and Leadership. Visit or call 516.317.2900.

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