Do you ever want to know just how you’re going to survive in your job? I want to give you some cliff notes to help you live through moments where the dominant mode in your organization seems to be chaos.
At times the naked truth in your job is you’re swinging through the jungle of your organization, hoping you can hold on and not lose your grip–and that the vine doesn’t break.
When the management team is aligned and healthy and the organization is on track, teams from top to bottom can survive and thrive. But when the board wants more or different, senior executives don’t share a common purpose, there is no what’s next in products and services, the ground begins to rumble and then there’s an earthquake.
In times like these, no one is safe and often no one sees the obvious, and they’re looking for someone to blame. And maybe it’s time to move on–or maybe it’s your moment of opportunity.
Here are some cliff notes on surviving chaos.
1. Reassess and Reconfirm Your Own Value System. It’s not just the prevailing rules–it’s about what are your rules. Do you want to win with the people around you or in the survival mode; is it winner take all? We will bend the rules more when our environment is chaotic–we remember our interests more than anyone else. That’s natural. But remember, if you make alliances with those you believe will win, divide and conquer, and build high walls to protect your interests, you’re most likely to read the situation wrong, because it’s so fluid. You’ll be safer if you recommit to values of fairness and fair play.
2. Take Charge of Your Own Course of Action Now. In times of chaos, even senior management can go into a bunker mentality. You send out lieutenants to supply the leadership that only you can give. You wait for the report, the data, you deflect and defend. You must see yourself as in charge and willing to lead the charge.
3. Understand the mission, strategy, and the short-term outcomes you must achieve. In times of chaos, people get lost in the jungle. We suddenly decide to look for parrots and raise tree frogs, and abandon the hard job of creating a path through the chaos.
4. Learn to Deal with the Warring Bands Around You–Fellow Workers Who Are Not Your Friends. Make no mistake, there will be leaders around you who will take advantage that people are weary from the issues they are dealing with, and that they can get away with murder–literally when it comes to the case of your job and career. A head-on attack from you will often be devastating to you–but you must take swift action. Do you suddenly find people around you who are putting nails on the the road in front of you?
You have quick alternatives: 1) develop a healthy relationship through networking, 2) negotiate what you want 3) set up boundaries and guidelines that allow you to achieve your outcomes 4) confront directly 5) use power to right the situation through your own authority or the chain of command. Each of the alternatives escalates the situation and has more serious fall-out. Each step should be given a chance, but in times of chaos, you don’t have long. Move fast, and be working on one of these alternatives every day.
5. Develop the reputation as the voice of reason–the adult voice in the room. Your goal is to restore healthy teams. Some of the most toxic, unhealthy groups can return themselves to functionality with skilled facilitators. Getting people into a room to rationally discuss issues is the most effective tool of all. Find the moment and negotiate newer, healthier relationships in the organization.
6. Use Effective Tools to Diagnose Toxic Behaviors that Implode Star Careers. Sometimes you have to work with individuals to make them healthy enough to work on teams. Often in chaos situations in organizations, individual executives who have been star performers have begun to use toxic coping skills to deal with issues and situations. Sometimes the toxic executive can be the one who looks at us in the mirror every morning. It’s amazing how quickly executives can get back on track and go beyond where they’ve ever been before. Often executives feel alone and out of ideas in times when it seems that their best efforts are not getting the results they need.
We begin in situations like this with a set of assessments that includes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) to help the executive understand how their workstyle impacts the key people around them. An example of its use is seen in the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni. We also use a very effective assessment, the FIRO-B, which targets how we’re likely to come over to teams and assesses EQ or emotional intelligence. We also use the CPI 260 which profiles the executive’s leadership style on 18 competencies, against a database of 5600 leaders. And we use highly customized 360-degree feedback to help an executive see how others view his or her effectiveness and to measure the gap between their self-assessment and the assessments of others. After debriefing the executive on these assessments and comparing the data to the chaos that surrounds them, they very often become effective players–whether the chaos of the jungle goes on, or the organization becomes a more civilized world to live and work in.