"Where There is Chaos, Seize Control"

One of my early bosses and mentors, Gail Parsons, said this to me almost daily.

I was young and newly promoted in an HR role in the midst of a big merger. There was much organizational realignment. Everyone had a new boss and a new team. Most leaders were in the midst of relocating their families.

We were merging systems, polices, programs, you name it.

Every time I walked into her office with an idea, she would say the same thing: “where there is chaos”

When I questioned the political ramifications of not getting the right buy-in she would say:

“Do we need this? Uh, yes.

“Is it a sound business decision?” Yes

“Do you have a strong implementation plan?” Of course

“Is your team behind it?” Yes

“Has anyone told you not to do it?” No, but

“Karin, look by the time everyone figures out that we need to do this, your team will already be doing it nd have great results to prove it in. Just do it well and tell me if you are going to break any big rules. I’ve got your back.”

More of Gail’s advice for young leaders:

  • Focus on your work and don’t worry about posturing and self promotion. People notice good results
  • Be observant of effective and ineffective behaviors. Recognize those which you exhibit and adjust accordingly
  • Be a good listener.  Sometimes silence can be a very effective tool especially in a confrontational situation. When there is opportunity to speak, rely on facts and not emotions.
  • Go to where the problems are and find resolution. Do not sidestep them. People take notice of strength in tough situations.
  • Build a strongly connected team. If you have remote supervision maintain regular contact with your direct reports. Make sure everyone knows what everyone is doing.
  • Demand teamwork. When direct reports don’t see eye to eye, tell them that their appraisals will reflect the lack of cooperation and teamwork. It is their job to resolve their differences.
  • Respect the position even though you may not respect the individual who occupies it. We don’t get to choose our bosses. We all work for jerks at some point in our careers. Learn from their mistakes.
  • Maintain balance in life. The job is not the end all of everything. You need to clear your head to get proper perspective. Family, hobbies, exercise, rest and faith. The job is just one aspect of your life.
Posted in Communication and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. An excellent life strategy encapsulated in another solid post. Reminds me of how I used to advise my skiing students; “lean down the mountain!” You won’t get far living life in the back seat.

  2. Words to live by. I have used this approach a number of times and it has never failed me. It can be infectous to others as well and has turned into a “war cry” at times…. great stuff.

  3. Pingback: Kermit the Frog As Leader? It's Not Easy Leading Green

  4. Pingback: A Strategic Story About Strategic Storytelling

  5. Pingback: Get More Done in Less Time: Learning From Crises

  6. Pingback: Chaos Curtailed: How To Shield Your Team

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.