This is Challenge #17 and it shows up in Stage 1 for obvious reasons. However, with the challenges of the recent years and continual forces that play havoc with running a business, chaos isn’t just a start up problem.

Chaos can’t necessarily be managed — but it can be discussed. It doesn’t have to be that proverbial
1 ton elephant in the room. The presence of chaos isn’t easy to define. It’s more a feeling.

And guess where that chaos gets felt first?

Right! With a company’s employees! The CEO may or may not experience the chaos. At best, he or she may feel things are a bit unsettled, but because he or she is in control, chaos isn’t a word a CEO bats around a lot.

My experience is that sharing the concept of chaos with the entire company reduces the fear that chaos brings.

In talking with CEOs about this challenge, I tend to lead with questions such as:

— Do you have a well articulated vision? Would you say the people in your organization get how their job
impacts that vision?

— Because chaos is hard to define, the best defense is a good offense. Does your leadership team have a
clearly defined communications plan? Is it clear what information needs to be communicated to whom, when and how?

— Is there an open forum culture where people can talk about their fears, their concerns? Are these
discussions encouraged?

— How well does the company react to bad news? How is bad news handled? Is there a solid message
on what is being done to manage the chaos?

— Are you, the CEO, proactive when dealing with upcoming challenges?

This challenge can actually hit a company at any stage of growth. The reality is a growing company walks a fine line between equilibrium and chaos every day. Too much of either and the company becomes stagnant or paralyzed.

You can also probe from a financial perspective to help uncover the causes of chaos.

— Does the company utilize a profit plan? (budget)

— Are managers responsible for their own bottom line?

— Are metrics in place to hold people accountable for numbers that drive the success of the business?

In my Stage 1 book, Survive and Thrive: How to Unlock Profits in a Startup with 1 – 10 Employees, I provide 10 questions that will reduce chaos and engage employees.

Chaos can help people gain new insights and force them to rethink how things work or don’t work. In Margaret Wheatley’s book, Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time, she asks leaders to allow for open conversations and suggests these key questions when managing in chaotic times.

  • Who’s missing?
  • Who else needs to do this work?
  • Is the meaning of the work still clear?
  • Is it changing?
  • Are we becoming more truthful with each other?
  • Is information becoming more open and easier to access?
  • What are we learning about partnering with confusion and chaos?

I love this challenge for the conversations it uncovers!

Your success. My passion.
Laurie Taylor, FlashPoint!