Each of my Stages of Growth books highlight the top five challenges for each stage of growth. There is a lot of information in each book that can provide you insights to help your clients deal with those challenges.

For instance, Stage 1, Survive and Thrive: How to Unlock Profits in a Startup with 1 – 10 Employees, addresses the challenge called Chaotic Periods Destabilize the Company.

Let me share with you 10 questions I address in Survive and Thrive that you can ask a CEO who is dealing with this challenge to provide him/her with actions they can take right away to reduce that chaos.

I start off this chapter by explaining that a CEO must:

Love chaos
Be a good learner
Be able to put his/her ego aside
Be ready to learn from mistakes
Understand that the same mistake may be made more than once

My point is, that if a business owner can’t embrace these concept, they would be better off working for someone because the reality of running a business is that the business owner has to embrace chaos. Especially in the early years of getting their company up and running.

Here are 10 Questions I recommend you ask your CEOs when they feel they are struggling with the challenge of feeling destabilized by chaos. And remember, this challenge shows up specifically in Stage 1 but it can be a real challenge for even a CEO running a larger organization.

1. What does the organization want to become in the future? Take the time to explore this with your team. Find out how they think about growth and the potential they see for your company. This may evolve as you move from one stage of growth to another. That’s good! A company is a dynamic, living breathing entity.

2. In what area does the company really excel? Your greatest asset when answering this question lies with your customers. Find opportunities to engage them in conversation about how they view your value. Ask them what makes you unique. Why do they like working with you? You may think it’s because of your product or service, but you many find they like your ability to think ahead of their needs and appreciate that you are always looking out for them.

3. What does the company offer that the market wants or needs? Remember, we are talking about engaging your employees in conversations that give them a sense of SURVIVE AND THRIVE 38 control over different aspects of the company. Having them better understand why you are unique and why your customers love your products or services builds pride in your employees. When they believe what they do has an impact on others, they will become more engaged in making sure they stay ahead of those market needs.

4. Why do people want to work for the company? “We pay better than our competitors” is a shortsighted answer to a much more complicated question. Making a good living is important for any employee. However, there has to be something more than just getting a paycheck for your employees to be engaged and to be excited to come to work every day. The answer lies in how you view them. Do you value them as individuals or are they simply cogs in a wheel? (This one you can’t fake.) When people feel valued, their attitude shifts and they become the kind of employee you love to have around. Make sure you know the answer to this question and make sure everyone else in the company knows it as well.

5. What are the company’s values? Undefined values that are not written down are simply ideas about how people should act. That leads to expectations that are never met, frustration on the part of managers and burn out on the part of employees. Your values are critical to your business. Define them. Make them easy to remember. Talk about them. Reward people when you see them practicing those values with co-workers or customers.  Tell your employees what behaviors you encourage and what behaviors you won’t tolerate. Don’t leave this up to your employees to figure out as they go. They will get discouraged early on and the good ones will leave.

6. What types of behaviors are encouraged? Be specific! Going the extra mile for a customer. Helping a new employee feel welcome. Improving leadership skills. Dealing with conflict in an upfront manner without letting anger create bigger issues. Being accountable. Owning up to mistakes. Identifying areas where the company can improve a process.

7. What kind of behaviors are discouraged? Again, be specific. Sending angry text or email messages back and forth. Glossing over a customer’s concern for any reason. Lack of follow through. Allowing cliques to form that cause other employees to feel uneasy. Is gossip allowed to flourish? Is it okay for employees to show up late for meetings?

8. Why is the company experiencing chaos today? When chaos is felt in an organization, it’s felt first at the front line; whatever that looks like for your company. Chaos in the grocery store at the checkout stand can be the result of not enough checkout lines available for the number of shoppers and no one to bag groceries. The checkout people will feel the chaos long before the manager, who’s in his office in the back. Where does your company feel chaos first? How have you prepared your employees to SURVIVE AND THRIVE 40 identify that chaos? What does it feel like? How is it addressed? Talking about chaos is the first line of defense. Don’t ignore the conversation. Find out how chaos looks in your company and take steps to manage it proactively.

9. Why is it a good thing to have chaos? A little bit of chaos can keep a company focused. As in nature, chaos is critical for growth. The caterpillar goes through a difficult transition to become a butterfly. In the chrysalis stage, the caterpillar starts to change and change quickly. If anything interrupts this stage of transition the butterfly will never develop. It will die. Chaos is needed in nature and in organizations to keep us growing and developing. A leader’s main job is to help his organization walk the line between equilibrium and chaos every day. Too much equilibrium and the company will slow to a stop. Too much chaos and it can spin out of control. The best approach to chaos is to talk about it. Let people vent their frustrations when things seem too hectic. Allow chaos to exist with an understanding of what it is and how it can be controlled.

10. What can we do to minimize the impact that chaos has on us? Talk about it! Share what’s going on in the organization that appears on the surface as chaotic. Then, drill down to solutions that keep people from feeling uncomfortable or nervous. Allow them to think proactively of ways to address the chaos. In the early stages of growth, you have to embrace chaos because of the uncertainty going on around you. In later stages of growth, you have to look at the cause of the chaos, which could be from a lack of processes. Engage employees to be detectives, find out what the problems are and encourage them to find solutions and share them with the company. Chaos is difficult to deal with when it’s ignored. The best defense against chaos is a solid offense. Address these questions early on in Stage 1 of your business and your life will be much easier as you grow.

Thank you for being a part of my Growth Curve Community and for actively learning more about the 7 Stages of Growth.

Your success. My passion.
Laurie Taylor, FlashPoint!