Leadership Caffeine™—The Mess is the Opportunity

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.

Art's Signature

By |2018-07-23T08:35:55+00:00July 23rd, 2018|Career, Leadership, Leadership Caffeine|4 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Laura K. Bantz July 24, 2018 at 9:26 am - Reply

    This smells like my life right now – yes, the mess has a stench of its own! The hard jobs are the ones that make careers, the ones that make the small player catapult into more. Well, essentially, isn’t that what we claim to be able to do for our clients? Then, it’s a simple component of walking the talk. Nice post, Art!

    • Art Petty July 24, 2018 at 9:28 am - Reply

      Thanks, Laura! Enjoy the wisdom-gathering phase! You will come out of it stronger, smarter, and more valuable to your clients.

  2. Felicia July 26, 2018 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed your post Art! I am currently in the mess of it all and trying every way I can think of to make things better but I am faced with the challenges of a particular person in upper management doing everything he can to resist the change and keep knocking me down. It makes it extremely tough on top of an already messing situation. But if I have learned anything about accepting the challenge of this mess its the harder you work and efforts you make to be greater the more it becomes contagious to the people around you.

    • Art Petty July 27, 2018 at 7:24 am - Reply

      Felicia, your fabulous attitude in your comment is infectious! Thanks for sharing and best of success!

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