Perhaps it’s the sign of a hot economy, but I’ve encountered more than one person in recent days who turned down a new opportunity because it was too messy. Admittedly, the word “messy” was never spoken, but it was implied.
These people missed the point.
I learned a long time ago that the mess is the opportunity. If things were running great, they wouldn’t need you.
Being invited to fix a messy situation is like receiving an engraved invitation to success on a silver platter.
Every mess you’ll encounter demands your best, as you slog through the muck on your way to building something new. Along the way, you experiment a lot, innovate a great deal, and stumble regularly. The stumbles are where the learning takes place.
An invitation to take on a leadership role in a messy situation is the workplace equivalent of gaining a fast-pass to your favorite rollercoasters at the local amusement park. There’s no waiting for the next ride, and the twists and turns are unknown, sometimes sudden, and overall, exhilarating.
And then there’s the people part. It’s my favorite and least favorite all at the same time. In the beginning, you have a Bad News Bears team. Unleashing the talents and helping this team play beyond their self-perceived limitations is great work. Trading the players and drafting new ones is good work, but comes with some tough decisions and painful partings. But, this is part of the mess.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
If you happen to gain one of those golden tickets to join a messy situation, instead of wrinkling your nose and wondering how anyone could stand this, recognize that everything you’ve done up until this point was just practice. It’s time to see how good you really are.