There was a movie that came out about ten or fifteen years ago called Changing Lanes, starring Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson. The two main characters get in a feud over a silly thing that escalates into general mayhem for both, affecting their lives and their significant others. At one point, Jackson’s character is conferring with his AA sponsor (played by William Hurt), who tells him in no uncertain terms that he’s not just addicted to alcohol, he’s also addicted to chaos.
I’m not implying a link with alcohol or any other mind-altering substance, but I do think that many entrepreneurs and business owners are, quite frankly, addicted to chaos. This affects not only themselves, but also their relations with their families, friends, and business associates. It manifests as projects started and never finished, chasing too many rabbits at one time, inability to reach goals, failure to return calls, emails, text messages, jumping on the next management fad that will “fix” everything, etc., etc.
It’s comparable in many ways to well-known phenomenon of the “geographic cure,” to which addicts are prone. Wistfully: “If only (insert miracle cure), then everything will be perfect…”
Perhaps this comes from the fact that many entrepreneurs and business owners started out at the bottom, founded their companies, and had to learn to do everything themselves. Everything from ordering stationery to delivering products and services to clients. However, at some point, a growing company must “professionalize” and systematize processes and structures (not necessarily bureaucratizing though). Services and tasks that were originally done by passionate amateurs must be transferred to professionals who know what they’re doing so that the founder can concentrate on growing the business and expanding into new markets and activities.
Unfortunately, not all entrepreneurs and business owners seem capable of doing so. There are several factors at play, not the least of which is simple scarcity of capital to hire experts and invest in productivity. But, I also believe that the owner/entrepreneur has become so involved in the day-to-day minutia of running the business and working in it, that they don’t know, or don’t wish to, work on the business. They micro-manage and keep all the critical tasks and functions for themselves. In some instances, they actually become addicted to the adrenalin rush of constantly being in the front lines. They can’t let go and this quickly turns to chaotic management (or lack thereof).
I’ve noticed over the years that successful executives and owners who have made the transition to highly effective and efficient performance are extremely well organized. They know their strengths and limitations, focus on the former while compensating for the latter, usually by becoming associated in some way with experts who can take up the slack in vital areas that are not their best suit.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that the chaotic management style of micro-managing entrepreneurs and owners translates to a lack of basic savoir faire and savoir vivre. Unreturned phone calls, unreachability, missed appointments, last minute scheduling changes, etc. A few years back, I sent my book to several CEOs of very large companies. In all cases, I got personal letters or emails back from them thanking me for the gift. You can set up an appointment with a successful executive or entrepreneur several months ahead of time and be sure they will be there when you show up for the meeting. If they can’t, they have their assistant contact you to reschedule. Why can’t the chaos-addicted managers and entrepreneurs do the same? Because they’re disorganized and living from second to second, minute to minute.
If you’re one of these chaotic business people, you need to do something about it. You must get better organized, starting by respecting the people around you, especially your business associates. If you don’t know how to do this, find someone who can help you become, as Peter Drucker called it in his book of the same name, an “effective executive.” If you want to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible, you should contact me immediately!
Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.
© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.