5 Actions for Growing With Chaos

I love chaos. Every business I’ve been associated with has grown during chaotic times. I remember accepting a job because the company had a mess. Over time we moved from messy to chaotic to a team with momentum. I realize that many people are uncomfortable with chaos, and like anything, if overdone chaos can turn into long-term confusion and disarray. However, even then it isn’t that chaos is bad; it’s that it hasn’t been managed or led. It’s like a spirited and rambunctious child who needs parenting.

Leaders gather momentum from chaos. They run with it, develop it, grow through it and assess teammates during it. Some of my best up and coming leaders got their chance to grow during times of chaos. Good leaders learn how to bridle and manage the process of chaos. Once tamed, chaos transitions into momentum.

So how can we discipline chaos without snuffing it out?

Respect it.

Know that chaos is just a new season of an upcoming opportunity. Get your team together and address what is causing the chaos. Point out the pros and cons so you don’t throw out opportunity just because it means change.

Step it up.

I discovered the potential in my future leaders by watching how they handled chaos. Hungry emerging leaders attack the chaos while serving the team. Prima donna leaders and followers usually complain about the chaos. You start to hear them recite their job description. Instead of seizing the moment they complain about the moment.

Chaos can be the spark to greatness.

When I was in the staffing business I remember growing at such a pace that my peers were questioning the healthiness of our growth because it was, in their eyes, chaos. Ha ha. Soon our chaos was corralled and our growth sustained itself at record levels for years to come. It was an unstoppable momentum that was sparked by moments, days, and even weeks of chaos.

Gather your team.

Chaos forces me to gather my leaders. I don’t like handling chaos alone. It takes me too long to corral and no one grows from it if I attack it by myself. As the team leader, however, I must inspire others to want in on the chaos. They have to see it as opportunity to seize, not just a mess to clean up.

Imagine the alternative.

No chaos, no momentum, no mojo… sounds like a quiet death to me.

Have you ever gotten through a chaotic time? What do you think? Can we grow without chaos in our life?


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  • Linda Sasser says:

    Kim, you’re right on that the chaos cannot go on forever, and different people have a different tolerance level for chaos. We often go through seasons of chaos when we’re in times of rapid growth (and sometimes challenges too). A leader needs to be comfortable leading through the chaos (and helping their people work through it), but they also need to be able to get the team to the other side…hopefully to a place of sustainable momentum! Thank you for your comments!

  • Kim says:

    I think that if the chaos is manageable, temporary, and one is given full power to make necessary changes towards order and better working conditions, then it is a good thing for the employee. However, the chaos is unmanageable, long-term, and one is not given full power to make necessary changes, if one’s ideas are confronted with disinterest and opposition from leadership, there is little hope for the employee. That person will be better off if they left the organization. Growth does not mean banging one’s head against the desk and continue showing up to work in a chaotic, dysfunctional environment, subjecting oneself to the stress, and waiting for the inevitable heart attack because nothing changes. This the antithesis of growth- it’s called death. And all of that money you save up during your lifetime means absolutely nothing to you when you are dead.