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Mastering Messiness: A Field Guide to Leading Yourself & Others Through Disruptive Change and Accelerated Growth (Part 2)

Mastering Messiness: Part 2

The Master Seeks to Compress the Learning Cycle


It is normal to experience conscious incompetence every time you (or any of the people around you) learn something new, change the course of action, and are forced to adapt to a new way of doing things. Here is a list of things you can do for yourself and others to compress the cycle of learning so that each individual can avoid getting stuck:


  1. The ultimate goal has to be LEARNING The hallmark of a growth-orientated leader is not that they have all the answers but rather that they are willing to seek them and create an environment where everyone's ideas are heard and valued. Adam Grant, author, psychologist, and Wharton professor, puts it succinctly: “The most meaningful way to succeed is to help others succeed.”  To establish learning as a way of operating, leaders must prioritize the growth of their team and foster a spirit of continuous improvement and curiosity. This not only drives collective intelligence within the organization but also promotes adaptability. By emphasizing learning, you will cultivate a workforce that can pivot and adapt to new challenges, ensuring long-term success and innovation.

  2. Embrace Reality In times of challenge and adversity, it's the unwavering acceptance of truth that forges the path to growth and success. Jocko Willink, author and former Navy Seal, encapsulates this principle, stating, "The acceptance of all that is the key to unlocking all that can be."  This isn't about passive resignation but a call to stare reality in the face—with all its gritty, inconvenient truths—and to proceed with resolve. For any group seeking to thrive, adapt, and succeed, regardless of the obstacles that emerge, this acceptance isn't just beneficial—it's fundamental. It forms the bedrock upon which strategies are devised, teamwork is galvanized, and objectives are tenaciously pursued.

  3. Set Expectations In the highly competitive arena of technology startups, setting clear expectations is not just a leadership skill, but a crucial pillar for success. Sundar Pichai, the CEO of tech giant Google, is known for his innovative leadership and his vision for a workspace where clarity is paramount. Pichai articulates this philosophy eloquently: "At Google, we've seen the power of setting explicit expectations. It enacts a shared understanding among team members, preemptively addressing potential challenges and nurturing a collective responsibility. Clear expectations serve as a compass that guides our actions, ensuring that everyone—regardless of their role—understands what’s anticipated. This clarity empowers everyone to ask questions, seek assistance, and be agile enough to pivot before challenges escalate into crises."

  4. Set a Pace that Feels Slower Than You Want Learning a new skill, adopting new technology and processes, and sustainable adaptation takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and others. Permit mistakes along the way.  You can always speed up but slowing down in the middle of a pressure-filled, chaotic situation can signal problems and create new panic or discord. 

  5. Secure Resources and Support Make a proactive effort to have resources and support available for everyone at all levels. This could be having a therapist or coach on speed dial for your family if you are planning a big move.  This could be hiring a consultant/trainer to come into your company and provide education, troubleshooting, and other expertise related to the kinds of change you are bringing into the business.  The main idea here is not to wait until people are failing or the business is slowed down before you call in support.

In the whirlwind of growth and disruption that characterizes the bustling life of start-ups and dynamic companies, the occasional descent into chaos can seem like a distressing signal of losing our grip on the rudder. It's natural to feel overwhelmed when faced with sudden shifts, abrupt decisions, and a cacophony of reactionary voices.


I invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn and Facebook for our weekly series, "Deep Work Fast." Every Tuesday at 3:00 PM PT, for 20 minutes or less, we dissect these themes, empowering you with concentrated coaching that spotlights the golden nuggets to enhance your life and work. Our replays can be viewed on our YouTube channel for access as your convenience.

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