Sue Ashford and The Power of Flexing

In the last blog I wrote of one percent changes, tiny experiments that can change the culture and have big impact on the people around you. Perhaps we can turn this notion upon ourselves.

Sue Ashford, a colleague from the Center for Positive Organizations published a new book. It is called The Power of Flexing (Ashford, 2021). It is about the ability to build on your existing strengths, “using everyday experiences you are having anyway.”
Drawing on twenty years of research, Sue emphasizes the importance of goals, experiments, feedback, and reflection. If we embrace a purpose, we can envision small experiments that might forward the purpose. The example of the gratitude wall, in the last blog, would be an example of such an experiment.

We launch the experiment and pay attention to all the feedback that comes. We reflect deeply on the feedback and adjust.
A series of experiments tied to a constant purpose can produce a large change. The process does more than impact the organization. It also impacts the initiator. Purpose, experimentation, feedback, and reflection is the essence of personal growth and leadership development.

The book is called The Power of Flexing because the learning process is an experiment, an effort in change for the purpose of learning. People sometimes set big goals like, “I am going to go to the gym every day.” After a few weeks there is a sense of failure. An experiment is a small initiative that we take so we can learn, and so that we are more likely to experience success.

Here are the steps.

• Setting Flex Goals: Establishing higher purpose; Setting growth goals in ways that fit your needs and resources. Becoming intentional about what you want to learn and how you want to change so you can thrive as well as survive.

• Planning and conducting experiments: Acting from purpose to initiate new patterns of behavior within daily life flows; Creating new cycles of experience.

• Gathering feedback: Systematically assessing impact, hungering for truth, creating psychological safety so it is possible for everyone to give honest feedback. Seeking all feedback, positive, negative, or mixed.

• Engaging in systematic reflection: Engaging in deep learning; Examining all the data in a disciplined way, extracting meaning and insight from each experiment.

• Managing mindset: Instead of needing to prove worth, instead of giving into anxiety and closing in the face of negative feedback, choosing to stay in a learning mode, continuing to launch experiments, continuing to reflect on them.

• Emotional self-regulation: Understanding that negative emotions depress and dampen the developmental process. Learning to recognize negative emotions and transform them into positive emotions that support the learning process.

In the book, Sue provides many examples of small, intentional experiments. Then she turns to the organization and shows how flexing can be applied to many processes such as on-boarding, training, and so on. It is a must read if you want a research based, practical approach to personal and leadership development. As you learn to flex your leadership muscles, you will grow and the people around you will grow.


• Do you have a framework for building on your strengths by using everyday experiences you are having anyway?
• Using the above framework makes sense, yet most do not have a proactive, personal framework for leadership development. How many of your people could benefit from using such a tool?
• What would it take for you to begin using such a framework? What would it take for you to entice others to use such a framework?
• How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

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