I told my mentor I was seeking wisdom but I down-deep I knew I just wanted to vent. I outlined a situation filled with complications, interacting factors, uncertainties, and lacking obvious fixes. There are people, process, and technological issues. It’s impossible to know where the “finish line” is, or how long some of the difficulties will last.
“What a beautiful mess! You’re becoming the man for the job.”
Not what I expected, but what I needed. A 2×4 to the forehead. A reminder to reframe the situation. Like the Marines teach their infrantry, “Hunting tanks is easy and fun.” Get the mindset. Drop the unhelpful attitudes. My wife used to tell our teenagers, “You’re sportin’ a ‘tude there.”
Messes are good for us. We should value our problems and the growth opportunities they bring.
Are you in a beautiful mess? Are there people in your organization who themselves are a beautiful mess?
My mother was notorious for getting lost while driving. My sister or I would ask from the back seat of the car, “Are we lost, mom?” She would cheerfully reply, “We’re having an adventure!”
Once you have a grip on your “adventure” mindset you must focus on communication. “Beautiful mess” situations require you to speak plainly, simply, confidently, and repeatedly. You can’t over-communicate.
The famous magician Penn Jillette received this advice from one of his teachers:
“No one cares about what you have to say. They’re looking for any excuse not to listen. So make sure they don’t have one.”
Develop a simple way to frame up the reality of the situation, and three concrete action steps that move you forward to solving your real problems. I recommend three because people can readily remember 3 rather than 29 items on your list. Speak confidently, lean into the problems, and people will follow.