Permission to Fidget

Hand Clicking Pen

For those of you who think this leadership stuff is all nose to the grindstone, laser focus, serious business, I’m here to burst your bubble . . . well sort of. Leadership certainly can be those things, but sometimes the best way to get there is to fidget. No, that is not a misprint, and I am not pulling your leg.

In spite of what your teacher, your mother, or other responsible person who was trying to corral you in your youth may have told you, sometimes the best way to focus is to fidget. Seriously, there have been studies on this stuff  Whether it is because sensory-motor activities allows us to fully engage our brain, or the fact that doing things with your hands increases creativity and memory, a little fidgeting may be just what you need to get the job done.

What exactly do I mean by fidgets? It could be stress balls, tangles, or silly putty. Some entrepreneurs have made classy looking fidgets for those who have an image to uphold — you know those metal mazes with a stylus, the mini sand gardens with rakes and rocks, Newton’s cradle balance balls. Fidgets. Those without specifically designed tools fidget too. Twirling paperclips, spinning your rings, clicking your pen, drumming your fingers or shaking your leg. Yes, you are fidgeting. And then there is chewing gum, walking around during meetings, doodling . . .

What would happen if you as a leader sanctioned fidgeting as a way to support your people in their work? (and gave yourself permission to do the same!) How? Maybe you have a basket of fidgets in the center of the table at meetings. For the skeptics out there, just try it and see what happens to the tone of your discussions. Could you have more stand-up or walking conversations? What about providing fidgets for people to have at their desk, or even having a “best fidget” contest?

I believe it is important to take your work seriously, but not yourself. If squeezing a bag of liquid-filled balls helps you focus enough to work through the daunting challenges before you, that’s a good thing! Sure some people will think it’s silly, but who cares? Part of your job as a leader is to create an environment that helps your people get their jobs done. And if it makes people smile along the way, all the better.

Leadership is hard work. The expectations are high, and the challenges are many. Luckily, you’ve intuitively known how to focus on the task at hand since you were a little kid. Maybe it’s time to give yourself, and your team, permission to fidget.

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