Strategies: Prevent Chaos from Spreading

Much like a bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit, leaders are a mixed bag of thinking and behaviors. Some leader's bags have more organization and discipline nuts, while others have an abundance of high vision/low detail raisons and dried bananas. Still others have an amazing assortment of complex nuts, fruit and yogurt-coated goodies making it so impossible to select just one that executing a handful of everything just makes sense. In the end, the leadership thinking and behaviors in your bag are unique to you - and that's why leaders can drive those they lead nuts.

A leader's job is to get things done and move the company forward. But when their bag of thinking and behaviors becomes chaotic the world of those they lead becomes chaotic too. For example, I've coached many leaders that pride themselves on their multitasking prowess. These leaders thrive on juggling as many balls as possible. What they don't realize is that as balls keep dropping, they keep grabbing new balls from a different pile of tasks and projects. While they truly believe they're mesmerizing their team with their superhuman juggling skills, they're actually creating chaos as team leads have no choice but to chase dropped balls that are unexpectedly bouncing into every corner of the company.

The hardest part of being a leader is to fill his or her bag with the right thinking and behaviors to match their company's current reality and vision for the future. If it were only as easy as scooping up some cash-flow management skills, a handful of inspiring communication skills, and cup of accountability. The problem is, I know leaders that are truly believe they are allergic to certain leadership thinking and behaviors like financial discipline or dealing with confrontational situations. They'll find every excuse to prevent adding those essential nuts and fruits to their bag of thinking and behaviors - and result is chaos that spreads.

Here are four no-compromise strategies to prevent your chaos from spreading to others:

  1. Take supplements: If there just some modes of leadership thinking and behavior that do not fit who you are, get people on your team excel in those areas. Hire the financial discipline, the attentional to detail, the task master. My passion is public speaking, training, consulting and writing in the areas of leadership. That's what my company sells. But I leave the execution of that work to my team. I'm miserable when I get mired in the minute details. Likewise, my team is happiest when I keep out of their work.
  2. Leave the squirrels alone: Nothing derails a meeting faster than someone shouting "squirrel". If that person was paying attention and not looking out the window, the squirrel would have gone about his business and so would the meeting. If you're meeting with someone who really needs your undivided attention for a few minutes - give it to them. Ignore that buzz on your phone. The text message can wait. If you can't do more than 20 minutes of concentrated group effort, then set the timeline, get to work and break in 20 minutes. Help those around you know your attention limits or you'll frustrate and distract them.
  3. Leader or circus act: If you want to be professional juggler, join the circus. One of the ten tenets of no-compromise leadership is "manage what's on your plate." You're not a superhero - you're the leader of a company. One of the most pervasive causes of resistance to change is summed up in statements like, "We've tried that before" or "We never finish what we start." Don't blame your team for pushing back on change when it's you they don't trust to lead them to the success that waits on the other side of change. Pick one, two or three balls and get them across the finish line. All the other balls can wait. Manage what's on your plate.
  4. Don't collect monkeys: Problems are monkeys. People need to own their problems and fix them. If your leadership bag is full of "I'll fix it for you" nuts, you're going to spend every day wandering around your company collecting other peoples monkeys. In the process, you're enabling others not to think and solve basic problems. While attending one of our seminars, I overheard an upset leader in the hallway on a seemingly emergency phone call to his company. Totally aggravated when he hung up, I asked if everything was OK. I swear, his response was, "The lightbulb blew out in the customer restroom and they wanted to know what to do." I bet that leader always changed the lightbulbs.

Chaotic companies are led by chaotic leaders. Leaders always need to be the first to change. No compromise.

For more information on Neil Ducoff and Strategies, go to

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO 

About: Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies. Since 1993, Strategies has been transforming salon and spa businesses into dynamic, profitable, and sustainable team-based cultures. Neil is a business trainer, coach, keynote speaker and award-winning author. For more information on Neil and Strategies, go to You can email Neil at [email protected]