Leading through a turnaround or big mess scenario creates springboards for your career. In today’s atomic essay, I share the two most significant big mess scenarios that shaped my career.
In The CEO Next Door, the authors note that one of the three major career catapults for executives is the Big Mess. They state
“[T]he person who solves it will prove her ability to Reliably Deliver where someone else failed. To clean up a big mess, an executive must have the ability to figure out what’s broken, decide how to fix it, and then flex her Engage for Impact muscles to rally others to deliver results.”
This tracks true for what I’ve seen in my work as a leader and as an executive and business coach. As stressful as a turnaround or big mess scenarios are, they’re often the ones where the leader’s presence is clearest.
Two significant big mess scenarios shaped my career:
- My commander was relieved while I was deployed. While there was a lot of learning and leading while in theater, my real work began when we redeployed and I was the XO for a new incoming commander. I had integrated and advised two new commanders for my unit – one in theater, one in the home station – and despite all the transitions, our unit still had the fastest reset of any unit in our state.
- I took command of a unit whose commander was relieved in theater. This was a “same same, but different” scenario. The difference was that I was the commander this time with an XO advising me in the same way I advised my previous commander. Our company beat the record my previous company had just set.
A lot of my work with both my executive and founder clients is stepping in to help stabilize the business or team. Were it not for the “big mess” scenarios I’d stepped in and led through before, I’d be a lot less effective at what I do and more stressed while doing it.