The Chaos Is Your Responsibility

If you are a leader of a project where there is a lot of chaos, understand that it is your responsibility to protect your team from the chaos. Protecting your team doesn’t mean that you will be able to stop the chaos around them, but you can help them organize their experience of the chaos. 

You know that your project team will have bad days. You know that the wheels will fall off, someone will come in screaming, and everyone will have to scramble to figure out how to solve the problem. These are stressful times. If you are doing the right job as a project leader, you will provide your team members with the right processes and frameworks to deal with the chaos. 

Your action.

Here’s what you can do: consistently provide the following message to your employees. 

  1. When the wheels fall off (when something starts going badly), stop, even before you have a solution, and tell somebody that things are going badly. 
  2. If someone tells you the wheels are falling off, listen. 
  3. If someone comes in screaming (literally or figuratively), listen, repeat their message back to them (in a calm voice) and find one thing to compliment them on. 
  4. After someone has come in screaming, before you turn back to your computer, get up and walk one floor down. Wait 30 seconds, and then walk back upstairs to your desk. (Probably go-to #1 next.)
  5. When there is chaos, take three deep breathes before taking any action. 

Control Internal Chaos

The message should be customized for yourself. You might even customize different lists for different situations. 

You can’t control the external chaos around you, but you can control the chaos that people feel when they don’t feel in control. As a leader, you must make sure that you take away the chaos people feel, even amid the chaos they can’t control.