HELP! My Bias is Making Me Look Stupid!

The Rub

We all have our ideas on what individuals and government officials should be doing to combat the COVID19 crisis. I am amazed at the wide spectrum of opinions out there. Some are pragmatic and believe we are becoming emotionally unhinged and over-reacting, and even “destroying our country”. Others hold the compassionate position and are convinced that we should “Save them all at any cost”. Both sides are convinced they are right and somehow embody a more robust perspective.

Of course, both examples represent the two extremes. To be fair, I believe most people from both sides generally mean well, they just start from a different worldview and have different levels of emotional intelligence to guide them.

With that said, they CAN’T all be right. We all recognize this. It is evident by how wrong we believe others to be when they disagree with us.

If you are convinced that you are fully aware of your personal biases and have them fully in check, you are WRONG! In fact, you can’t. No one can. Even worse, you think you don’t even have a bias. There is a word designated for such a person, “fool”.

“…Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Rom 12:3

Wired to Fool Ourselves

Our personal biases are amplified by our pride. The more convinced you are that you are right, the greater your blind spot is. Our biased perspective gives us a false sense of assurance of being right and makes us stupid. We are okay with this, because we like to be right. We find favor in superiority. We are wired in such a way to believe what we want to believe, or what we have already been conditioned to believe.

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear”. 2 Tim 4:3

Our Blind Spot

This principle applies to everyone everywhere. I am not talking about everyone who disagrees with you. Don’t use this article to internally justify pointing your finger at those who you oppose. This applies to YOU, and me. It is called Confirmation Bias and we are all infected by it whether we like it or not. If you didn’t know this… It’s because it remains in your blind spot!

We can’t see our own blind spots. That’s why they are called blind spots, but everyone else can spot them in us a mile away.

The Counterweight of Perspective

There is something we can do to help combat this internal force that lies to us and creates unintended stupidity in our heads. We can intentionally subject ourselves to countering ideas. We can listen to, and seek out other ideas, even those we don’t want to believe. Not with skepticism but giving reason a chance to prevail.

“May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you are bringing some strange notions to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” Now all the Athenians and foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing more than hearing and articulating new ideas.” Acts 17:19-21 NIV

There is a truth to every matter and to help us keep our own biases from pulling us further away from it, we need a counterweight to bring us back.

We lie to ourselves so much. We are by far our own biggest source of distraction from seeing truth clearly. Only when we realize this, can we fully understand and appreciate how much we need others to help us develop a proper sense of perspective.

Drawing Better Conclusions

Our self-awareness desperately depends on others to help us see our blind spots. Ever try to see the back of your head without external help?

The more we seek to learn what we don’t know or understand, the more we can truly begin to draw closer to better ideas, better reasoning and better conclusions. Oh, and better relationships. There is a word designated for such a person that thinks in such a way, “wise”.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing” Socrates

Self-Awareness – Identify the Stupid in You.

I realize how foolish I can be when I close myself off from external input. Because I realize that I am cursed with this potential for stupidity, I have determined that I am going to do my best to try to always seek out the other side of the story to help draw me closer to truth. I will seek to widen my perspective to keep my bias from decieving me and leading me down the path of foolishness. When I fail (and I will), I hope I can have the awareness to see my need to humble myself before those that have discovered my foolishness. Otherwise I will always be a fool in their eyes.

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5

In our interactions with each other when we are divided, let us show grace and humility. Embrace a spirit of curiosity, learning from each other with a common goal to enrich each other with mutual understanding. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

I know I am going to work on getting better at this. Call me out if you see me fail. My bias desparately needs a counterweight.

How about you? Want to chat more about this stuff?

Joel Smith

joelsmith123@yahoo.com

Upside Down World

We are all born upside down. We usually don’t realize it for many years, and many go their whole lives and never get it figured out. We don’t feel upside down, so we figured the rest of the world must be. Let me explain.
 
When we are young, we begin to make observations about our world that seem to make sense. If we want something, like a toy or candy, we can take it from someone else and then we will have. We learn that if we want attention, we can try to gain sympathy or manipulate others into giving us what we want. When we are little, this seems to work well.
 
This type of behavior comes naturally, and we don’t need to learn It. It’s more of an acknowledgment rather than a learned perspective. It lines up with what we already want to believe. It’s our nature.
 
We live in an upside-down world. It is the biggest enigma in history. Those who figure it out, can make the flip and move on. Those that don’t, get caught up in a trap that keeps them assuming up is down, and down is up. It’s easy to get caught in this trap, even after we have figured it out.
 
Have you heard of the Golden Rule? We are born into a different set of rules. This is where it gets interesting. The Golden Rule says, “Treat others as you would have them treat you”. That rule goes against our nature. This is not at all what comes naturally, nor does it even seem right to our upside down nature. Its easier to say “Do to others, before they get a chance to do to you”.
 
I have heard people say “You have to have your own back, because no one else will,” or “You can’t trust anyone but yourself.”
 
I see a common pattern in people who are unhappy, failing to find their purpose . It seems to be that by default, we are the main character in our own story. We live in such a way that we try to funnel joy, pleasure, attention, acceptance and resources to ourselves. We want admiration. We want to have resources and power that allows us to shine among others. More than anything, we want others to think well of us, to be accepted, even admired.
 
The Golden Rule seems like foolishness, or at best a tool to help us shine. The greater we exalt ourselves the more we will shine…
 
The Paradox of Generosity says “The more we give, the more we will have, and the more we take, the less we will have.” It seems more logical to say that “The more we give, the less we have, and the more we take, the more we will have.” That lines up with our upside down logic and reasoning. And this is the crux of the problem.
 
What if?
 
What if the secret to life is to flip our paradigm upside down? What if it’s not about me? Instead of the main character in our own story, what if we could see ourselves as a supporting character? Someone in a supporting role existing to add to other people’s stories. To funnel joy, pleasure, attention, and acceptance toward others.
Not seeing the world not from their own self-serving perspective.
 
All our stories are overlapping. What we do affects others and what they do affects us. It’s time to stop treating others as if they are a part of your story. It’s time to consider removing yourself as the main character at the top of the pyramid. We were born upside down, but we don’t have to stay that way.
 
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Luke 9:23-25
 
I can’t think of a better main character.
 

Five Ways to Raise Your Value in the Workplace

  1. Know what is expected of you – Find out what is required to be great at what you do, know what your benchmark of excellence is according to your employer or clients, then study it and adopt it as your own. Own it!
    • Have an uncompromising target – Don’t redefine excellence according to you or others if it gets too hard.
    • Don’t compare yourself with others. Keep your eye on the target.
    • Have an accurate target – If you don’t know exactly what is expected of you, find out.
    • Have a worthy target – Find out what the best in the industry do, and then do what they do. Be the best at what you do.
  1. Personal Growth – Grow yourself daily. People are willing to pay you more now, if they know you will be worth more down the road.
    • Be teachable and ask lots of questions. Learn from the experts and allow others to add value to you.
    • Accept and ask for constructive criticism. Don’t be easily offended and proud. Pride subtracts from your value.
    • Make yourself great, don’t just reach the goal. Become a person who naturally does the goal.
    • Learn how things work – Seek first to understand then to be understood. Listen more and speak less.
    • Take responsibility – Make no excuses and blame no one else for your difficulties.
    • Fail often – Own your failure, learn from them, and grow faster.
  1. Alignment – If you wish to be more valuable, make sure that your values line up with the values of the organization. If they don’t, find somewhere that does.
    • Represent the organization with integrity and class at all times.
    • Protect the brand and reputation of the organization.
    • Take pride in your organization and be part of something bigger than you.
    • Work toward interdependance and synergy. Not independance and individualism.
    • Don’t out think your superiors, trust the system and commit to the them. If it’s a bad system, you are in the wrong place.
  1. Results – Finish the job, reach the finish line and excel past expectations.
    • If you proclaim what you are capable of, then do it. Show that you are what you say.
    • Commit yourself to the desired outcomes. No one completes a task without a commitment.
    • Don’t try harder – Reject the “Try Harder” approach. It implies that effort is more important than outcomes.
    • Less is not more – Don’t show you can do what you are getting paid to do. Show you can do more than what you are getting paid to do. By doing so you may get even more to do and paid even more to do it.
  1. Leadership – Leading your self is most important. But if you have the ability to influence others, you will multiply your value by infusing your abilities into others.
    • Leadership raises the value of everyone around them, thus raising your value.
    • Leadership is influence and has exponential growth. It multiplies your efforts rather than just adding to them.
    • Leadership is much harder to find, thus putting you in higher demand to others.
    • Leadership brings solutions to a world of problems, and order to a world of chaos.
    • Leadership raises the lid of your potential, and gives you financial leverage.

How Rockstar Restaurant Leaders Build a Rockstar Staff

 

Restaurant leaders realize how important it is to have quality people on your staff.  People are the building block of all businesses.  Nothing is more important.

  • Every food order gets made by a person,
  • Every customer has their order brought to them by a person.
  • Every business decision is made by a person.
  • All problems are caused by people and solved by people.
  • Nothing happens in a restaurant that isn’t affected positively, or negatively, by efforts of people.

The most important responsibility for a restaurant leader is to recruit, hire and keep quality people. So why do so few restaurant leaders do it well?

I am a firm believer in the Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 principle. This principle says:

  • 20% of our efforts lead to 80% of our results.
  • 20% of your people are responsible for 80% of your production.
  • 20% of the people make 80% of the decisions.
  • 80% of the money is owned by 20% of the people.
  • 80% of our problems are caused by 20% of our habits.

I have seen this principle played in the service industry over and over again.  The top 20% of restaurant leaders attract the top 80% of the most qualified employees.  The bottom 80% of restaurant leaders are left with the remaining 20%.

If you could measure the effectiveness of each of the restaurant leaders in your city or metro area, you could distinguish the top 20% from the bottom 80%. The 80/20 principle says there is a significant different between how the average top 20% leader, operates verses the average of the bottom 80%.

I will call the top 20% Rockstar Restaurant Leaders (because that is what they are).  The bottom 80% I will call Mediocre Managers (because that is what they are willing to settle for).

The problem? 

Mediocre Managers generally have one thing in common.  They manage according to what feels natural.  It is that simple. Mediocre Managers typically do as little as they have to, instead of doing as much as they can. It is the popular mindset of our current culture of managers in the service industry. And this is exactly what provides the top 20% of the leaders a distinct advantage.

Here are 3 Ways Rockstar Restaurant Leaders build their kingdom with Rockstar Employees.

  1. Rockstar Restaurant Leaders have a Winning Mind-set.

Mediocre Managers adopt a scarcity mindset when it comes to staffing their store.  They believe the available prospects are poor candidates. It seems all the good people are taken.  In their case, they may be right.  They may have created this environment.

They are discouraged by people failing to show up for interviews or show up on their second day of work.  They believe that the results from recruiting people are not worth the time they are required to put in.  Many of these managers, find it difficult to let go of underperforming employees. There is no one to replace them with.  So, they think.

Rockstar Restaurant Leaders have an abundance mindset. They fully understand that the quality of their staff is 100% up to them.  They believe there are plenty of great candidates out there, they just need to go get them. They are intentional about creating a margin of time. They develop resources to maximize their recruiting efforts. They understand that nothing is more important.

Mediocre Mangers will blame the job market and lose hope. They will wait with skepticism for quality employees to walk through their door. They leave the future of their staff up to chance.  They are a victim of their circumstances and play that role well.  Being short staffed is their default expectation sealing their destiny.

“Once there were 3 bricklayers. Each one of them was asked what they were doing. The first man answered gruffly, ‘I’m laying bricks.’ The second man replied, ‘I’m putting up a wall.’ But the third man said enthusiastically and with pride, ‘I’m building a cathedral.’” –Author Unknown

In her mind a Rockstar Restaurant Leader is building a cathedral!  Don’t settle for being a bricklayer.

  1. Rockstar Restaurant Leaders are Magnets.

They are the glue that holds everything together.  They are honest, hardworking people who care about their team.  They understand how to cast a vision that motivates their people to become the best they can be.  They are not dependent on anyone, yet they don’t work independent of the organization. Rockstar Restaurant Leaders understand the importance of inter-dependence.

“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” Zig Zigler

If you want to have the best staff, you have to be the best leader. We are competing for the best people. Sometimes you don’t even have to be the greatest leader to have an excellent staff. You just need to be a step above all the underperforming managers out there. There lies our opportunity. The Mediocre Managers have set the bar pretty low.  We need to decide to rise above the level of mediocrity.

People believe that our current job market is the most difficult in decades. That’s only because they want to reap what they have not sown.  We have the best opportunity to create a Rockstar staff than ever before.  We need to be a better leader, provide a better place for the better people to go. When we do, people will follow.

I have mentioned the following to several people over the years. Sometimes it has not been received well.  I suspect that believing it makes it difficult to blame external circumstances.

There are people out there that are great at staffing a team. Wherever they go they always attract the better people and tend to retain better people.   No matter the local job trends or unemployment rate, these leaders will establish a quality team in a short amount of time. Wherever they go they leave a wake of superior teams.  They are Rockstar Restaurant Leaders and they create their own opportunities.

  1. Rockstar Restaurant Leaders find the RIGHT people and remove the WRONG people.

The wrong employees take up space leaving no room for the right employees.  Mediocre Managers goal is to find enough employees to fill the schedule and try not to lose them.  They don’t like to recruit so they put off recruiting until they fall behind.

The eagles get tired of working with turkeys and fly the coop. The result is they are always running behind playing catch up surrounded by turkeys they can’t fire.  In our company we call this backwards leverage.

There is a lie out there in the service industry that suggests that turnover is BAD!  I say turning over eagles is BAD! however turning over turkeys is GOOD!   Learn to embrace the eagles by intentionally turning over the bottom 25% of your crew (the turkeys).  Those that master this will create the space required to build a Rockstar Staff. Eagles will flock to an environment like this.

The RRL does not compromise on finding quality people.  The eagles appreciate the high standards and the turkeys don’t fit in.  One by one the RRL begins to build their team one eagle at a time, building a core group that stands out above the crowd.

If you need help becoming a Rockstar Restaurant Leader, please contact me.

 

 

Six Things Rockstar Restaurant Leaders DON’T Do

RockstarRockstar Restaurant Leaders are the men and women that make the restaurant industry go around.  These are the leaders that people run through walls for.  They have a certain ability to get things done when others fall behind.  When a Rockstar Restaurant Leader is in the house, everyone knows their Captain is running the ship, and everything is all good.

These extraordinary people come in all different sizes and shapes. They very in personality types and skillsets.  They have many different styles and temperaments, and sometimes seem to have little in common apart from their effectiveness.

I have discovered that Rockstar Restaurant Leaders have several things in common that they DON’T do.

1. The don’t waste their time indulging in self-pity.  They have far too many more important things to do to waste any time feeling sorry for themselves.  They are focused on a bigger picture than simply their felt needs.

Self-pity is the ultimate time waster.  People who are easily offended or need others to affirm them, have a hard time directing their focus away from themselves.  When you are always looking inward, you can’t see the big picture or the goal at the end of the road.

2. They don’t make excuses for their mistakes or shortcomings. You may have heard the saying “If you want to keep your excuses from making you useless, stop making useless excuses.”

Blamelessness is a value that too many people feel emotionally driven to uphold.  They believe people will look down on them and “Judge” them if, God forbid, they have to admit a mistake in front of people.

Unfortunately many people believe that their identity is tied to their mistakes or failures.  When people fail, they believe they ARE a failure.  Rockstars.. well, they seek out opportunities to fail.  That’s how they learn to tackle problems, seek out solutions and make people better.

Failure is their building block to problem solving.  Rock Star Restaurant Leaders are great problem solvers.

3. They don’t go into their adventures any less than fully committed.  You will never accomplish anything to a greater level than you are committed to.  Our commitments define and raise our ceiling.  When we are working on moving up the chain of command, we don’t necessarily need to commit long term to our position or even the company we work for.  But we do need to be fully committed to the position we have and the responsibilities placed before us.  We need to be fully committed to give your best efforts and attention to adding value to the people around you.

Too many people fail to commit to anything.  Afterall, why should we do more than we are getting paid to do?  SO PEOPLE WILL SEE US AS VALUABLE.  Our value comes from the amount of value we add to our employer, to our customers and to our team that we work with.  That is our one job.  Make things better for everyone around you.  We need to get to the other side!  You can’t do that with one ore in the water.

4. They don’t stay the same. Rockstar Restaurant Leaders are hungry.  They are driven to constantly be working on improving their skills, their attitude and their ability to influence their team.

RRL’s are not really motivated by incentive plans and bonuses.  They appreciate them, but they are more driven by a dream of becoming great at what they do. Not just a Rock Star, but a Super Hero Rockstar. They have a vision of what they will become and they visit that image in their head every day.  It is what makes them lose sleep at night thinking about it.  They have the ability to look past the everyday obstacles and keep their focus on the road ahead.

If you want to have something you don’t have, you have to do something you have never done.  Your future depends 100% on what you do to make yourself a greater person.

5. They don’t take shortcuts or take the easy way out when others aren’t looking.  They understand what it means to be exceptional.  Exceptional people don’t blend in.  The go to great lengths to stand out from the crowd.  They understand that the crowd is just fine with mediocre and that creates a clear path to getting ahead.  Sometimes it’s not how great we are, it’s about what we refuse to settle for.

RRL’s do not operate independently.  They are not attracted to chaos or rebelliousness that come with a free spirit.  They have long graduated from their dependent, and independent phase of life and embrace the need for interdependence.  They are fully accountable for all of their actions and enjoy the freedom that accompanies transparency.  They draw near to other people seeking excellence.  As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

6. They don’t feel that anyone owes them anything. They do not have a sense of entitlement.  Our current situation in life is the sum total of all of the decisions we have made to this point. We are not limited by our circumstances. Whatever we accomplish, we have to earn.  No one is going to give it to us.

Many people are more focused on what they have coming to them, affirmation, a raise, promotion or to be recognized for the greatness they are.  Being labeled and rewarded as a Rockstar is more important to some people than becoming a Rockstar.

A True Rockstar finds comfort knowing that they are worth more than they are being paid at the present time.  They don’t mind because they fully understand that their future wage is 100% dependent on them, not their circumstances.  They enjoy having the job security of knowing how valuable they are to the team and their employer.  An overpaid employee, as good as they may be is still OVER paid.  They have negative value.  This means the company would be better off if they didn’t have them, hence the term over paid.

As a RRL continues to stretch the margin of their value. They create space for potential financial gain by polishing themselves as a coveted gem. A person who over achieves will always have people knocking on their door to offer them more responsibility that leads to more money.  Creating a margin of value creates options for your future. Go get yourself some options!

What is it that you need to NOT do?

What Are You Projecting To Your Team?

Diane Cooper says “You do not know how anyone feels or is. Everything you see in another is a projection of an aspect of yourself”.

This is a great description of The Law of Projection.

The Law of Projections says that our external world-view is an extension or a projection of the beliefs you have internally about yourself and your experiences.

Simply put, honest people believe that most others are honest as well.  This doesn’t mean that they believe that absolutely all people are honest, rather they believe it until it is proven otherwise.  They may need to adjust for a dishonest individual, then they will move forward giving others the benefit of the doubt.

“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”  Mat 12:34

Likewise, if you are generally dishonest with yourself and don’t trust your own judgment, you will believe you can’t trust others or trust their judgment. Untrustworthy people don’t trust others. It may take quite a bit to learn to trust another person, and when you do, the chances are you will continue distrusting most others and treat the honest person as the exception.

Thieves tend to believe that most everyone steals. People that lie believe everyone lies. People who aren’t responsible for themselves believe everyone else is irresponsible. This is how we can know how someone see’s themselves.

“…every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”  Mat 7:17

I have learned over the years how this plays out in the workplace.  People can’t help but to project their internal perspective onto peers, subordinates, and customers. Good or bad.  A person with a low self-image and doesn’t like who they are, will find it challenging to refrain from being critical of others. Low confidence in yourself will lead to having little confidence in others.  A person with a healthy self-image will find it natural to believe the best in others and treat them as such.

Much of the time we don’t even know that how we perceive others is how we perceive  ourselves.  We judge the motives of another and it makes us angry.  Well, how could we feel angry unless we have a similar personal experience to relate to?

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”  Mat 7:3

When we are distrusting and skeptical of others, we believe we are that way for a good reason.  We believe we are justified for such view because of our experience of being let down by others.  We react to our own personal experience.  We may believe our cautious ways are a product of wise thinking, however it may be something more cynical going on in our minds.

“If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all” – Every Mother ever

Do you have anything good to say?

So how do we know if our thoughts are accurate interpretations of our circumstance, or just a faulty projection from our own sinful mind?  How do we know that our fears we project aren’t just a product of self-preservation?  How do we know when our thoughts are separate from reality(poor self-awareness)?

These are tough questions, however here are a few questions to consider;

  • Does it line up with reality as you normally see it?
  • Does it line up with not only in your own experiences, but also with everyone else’s experiences?
  • Does this thought truly serve your long term wellbeing?
  • Does it line up with your values, and vision for the future?
  • Does it serve others? Is it giving you a sense of significance?

Of course, we cannot know what everyone else has experienced, but we can open up our own mind to seek out a broader base of input that expands beyond our own realm of consciousness awareness.

If you want to know what message you are projecting, just ask others. Ask then to help you see what others see when they look at you. Give them permission so you will receive it well. Open yourself up to a new perspective on life that takes you out of your skull and into a more introspective view on the world and other people.

When preparing to write this blog, I sat down and wrote out the different things that set me off about other people.  Then I asked myself if these attributes I dislike in others I find in myself.  The answer was an eye opening experience for me.  I was aware of this to some degree, but had not realized that these were entirely applicable in one way or another to how I view myself.

The best leaders I have ever met are people who have first addressed the mess in their own head so they can have an honest and inspiring message to project to others.  It all starts with the content on the movie projector and not with the image on the silver screen.

People need a reason to believe better about themselves.  Sometimes they have some pretty dark blinders on and a thick wall established to protect them. People become very comfortable with others being to blame for where they are in life.  It is easier than taking responsibility.  People with a dim perspective naturally project a dim perspective on others, not really knowing the diminishing effect it has on the culture.

black-and-white-building-dark-722664Great leaders shine their light brightly onto others bringing a hopeful spirit to an environment in desperate need of good news, encouragement and direction.  The power of a person with a great message is inspirational and transforms the people around them.  People will follow a person with a better message than the one they own.  It may not come automatically.  They may have some obstacles to overcome, but they are paying attention.  I promise!

Don’t be the reason your team members stay stuck.  Be the light that pulls them out of darkness!

Chaos Addiction in the Workplace

The Problem

I know this may come as a surprise, but believe it or not, some people just don’t like to be told what to do. Some find comfort in following the rules. Others, for whatever reason, find it a challenge. This is the mystery that every manager (and parent) has been trying to unlock since the dawn of mankind.

As a young manager years ago I had a misguided opinion of why people would discard systems and processes in the workplace. It can be frustrating when others don’t share your same desires when you are trying to accomplish something as a team. The systems and processes that are important to you don’t seem to be a top priority to some team members. It is easy for an unseasoned leader to

take this personally and point the finger at a person’s character. Why don’t they value what you value? Why are they so stinkin’ stubborn? Do they realize their success depends on doing things “right”? It is easy to assume that this careless rulebreaker is taking a personal stand against me and what I value. Maybe that’s not all together true.

Approaching people from this cynical perspective can have minimal or an adverse effect. Directly calling out the perpetrator on their non-conformity can cause them to hide these behaviors from the authority. Rule breakers learn when it’s worth following the rules and when they can get away with out. “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”

Another Perspective

Over the years, my understanding to why some people struggle with systems and processes has grown. My thoughts in this blog come more from leading people who struggle in this area over the last 25 years, and less from any medical or psychological expertise. Reading and learning from experts helped me gain a clearer understanding, however rubbing shoulders with people in the workplace made it real.

It is easy to label a person as rebellious, stubborn or even careless. I have discovered that there may be other reasons for their lack of compliance. I believe that “Chaos Addiction” is a real thing. A related but slightly different version of this I call “Order Averse Tendencies”. Here is what I have experienced.

Chaos Addiction

Chaos Addiction is when a person is more comfortable with the predictability of the unpredictable. Out of necessity they have adjusted their worldview to survive in a constantly changing, unpredictable environment.

Chaos Addiction can happen when a person develops their mindset amidst a chaotic environment. When order is not present, the child or adult can feel like they have limited control. When boundaries are absent from a culture or family environment, a young person learns to adjust to survive. Sometimes in the form of disorders, hence the name “Dis-order”, or the absence of order. There is actually a physical change in development in a young brain that causes it to form differently to adjust to the chaos. When this happens, the braind does not fully develope as it would in a healthy environment.

Order Averse Tendencies

When a person struggles with “Order Averse Tendencies”, they may have come from the opposite environment. When a child or young person grows up under strict rules or a controlled environment they may not have the opportunity to learn to be responsible for their own actions. When they have little choice or control, it is difficult to develop self-imposed boundaries or a strong sense of self-control. Resentment can be a strong driver of behavior.

When kids grows up and graduate to a place of needing to make important choices on their own, they struggle.  Under developed discernment skills lead them to indulge in their new freedom. To them, the rules they grew up with kept them in bondage. They enjoy their new found freedom of choice, and for the first time in their lives they don’t have to do anything they don’t want. Think of the average freshman dorm room.

Another and possibly more common cause for “Order Averse Tendencies” is ADHD or ADD. A person who struggles with staying focused can also find it difficult to keep their attention on following a prescribed protocol. Focus issues and Control issues can have a similar appearance in the workplace to the untrained eye.

It Hits Home

My wife and I have been foster parents for several years and we have had interactions with therapists that have helped us to understand this better. When children have experienced trauma in the home, then move to an environment of peace and order, they often react the only way they know. They try to recreate what they have become comfortable with. When they cause disruption and rebel against instruction they often are merely behaving the way they have been trained. This was a surprise to us. This understanding helped us form a more knowledgeable and responsible approach towards chaotic behavior. This was especially difficult for me, having a bent toward kids needing to learn personal responsibility.

Grown-ups too

I have discovered that when adults find it hard to follow systems and rebel against authority, they too may be reacting the only way they know how. It may not be that they won’t follow directions, rather that they can’t. This was a revelation to me to learn.

Imagine a person who has an extreme fear of heights. You place a $100 bill at the top of a 12 foot ladder, they get three steps up and completely freeze up. They are motivated to keep going, but they simply can’t. Something in their subconscious kicks in and convinces them of something that is not true, and they freeze. Their perceived threat of altitude is blown out of proportion in their mind causing an emotional reaction of fear.

I believe that the same thing can happen to people who have never seen or experienced the freedom and fruits of following a system, or operating within the rules. Many people believe that rules and systems are in place to take your freedoms away. They are there to control you and take control away from you.

         “Many people believe that rules and systems are in place to take your freedoms away.”

The truth is, only within the confines of following the rules and doing things the prescribed way, can you truly experience freedom and personal control. You have to use the right tools to get the right results. This is a paradox that can be difficult for some people to come to understand.

Example: When you don’t drive over the speed limit, you don’t get a ticket. When you exercise your freedom to drive as fast as you want, your freedom is removed by a judge.

Addressing the Problem

So as leaders, how do we approach people with Chaos Addiction or Order Averse Tendencies?

  • We could continue pleading our case with them hoping they will change. That never works.
  • We could put the hammer down and make them do it our way. That will eventually drive them away.
  • We could give them heavy incentives to bribe them into following the rules. That will only have short term results.
  • We could simply move them out of the company.

Unfortunately the last option sometimes ends up being the only method that will protect your customers, your company and co-workers from the erosion that comes from having a cog in the wheel.

Another Approach

I believe that people matter, and as leaders we have a responsibility to try to help people move past their obstacles within our capacity. We also need to understand our own personal limitations. It is important to recognize when it is time to recommend them getting assistance from a person more appropriately trained.

Moving people past a Chaos Addiction doesn’t necessarily have a high success rate for a complete turn around, but a person can develop better self-awareness and self-management techniques to stay ahead of it the best they can. Here are some suggestions on how to coach a person struggling in this area:

  • Trust – The first step is to make a connection with them. Any leader will have little to no effect if they do not gain trust and respect of the employee. You absolutely need to earn the right to be heard. If you don’t care, they will know. If this is the case, the problem is with you more than with them. Get yourself fixed first.
  • Self-awareness – Many people who struggle with Chaos Addiction don’t even realize it. Many just believe they are broken and can’t be fixed. Others believe that everyone else is broken and need to be fixed. By asking them pointed questions, you may be able to help them see a more clear and objective perspective. You need to help them to remove their blind spots with gentleness and respect.

Asking the following line of questioning can be a non-threatening way to help someone see the relationship between their thoughts and results.

    1. “When you are asked to comply to a set of instructions, how does that make you feel?” Why?
    2. “Describe how your approach toward systems and rules have affected you in previous jobs/life.” This is the “How’s that going for ya’?” question. Are there any patterns that you can help point out to them? Do they keep repeating a cycle?
    3. “What tasks have you accomplished that required following specific instructions. How did that effect the results?” Are they able to repeat those results in other areas? Why/Why not?
    4. “How can I best help you.”  Sometimes they know best and a great question can draw it out of them.
  • Vision of Reality – Help paint a picture of the one common factor in all highly successful people and organizations. They find out how things really work, then they adjust themselves to those unchangeable principles. Staying within the boundaries of how things really work is the only way to navigate through life with any degree of effectiveness. Any other way ends in chasing the wind.
  • Guardrails – Help them determine for themselves what guardrails they need to put in place for themselves in order to be able to self-manage their way through this maze. These are boundaries they have to own and be responsible for. The idea is that when a person owns their own boundary, they aren’t being controlled by others, rather they are self-directed.
  • Commitment – All self-directed activity is anchored through commitment. Any notion of successful self-guidance without being fully committed is a fantasy. If you leave a way out, you will take it when things get hard.
  • Accountability – Talk through the need for accountability to help them with their guardrails. Create written SMART goals, and make sure they line up with their vision. Follow-up is one of the most crucial factors in helping someone change a lifelong habit. If they cannot come to a place of committing to accountability, they may never get past it.

A Leaders Responsibility

As the leader of people we need to fully commit to helping individuals become their best self. Trying to balance between the needs of the individual and the health of the organization is very tricky and can be stressful. As a steward of a business we need to maintain a healthy approach to keeping the health of the organization and the needs of the many, a priority over any individual, as cruel as that sometimes seems.

A rule of thumb; When you allow a struggling person to continue being a part of a team, you have a limited time before the problem begins to overflow onto the rest of the team. You have to navigate with assertiveness and within the confines of a time limit. If you are not able to make the appropriate progress within the prescribed time, you need to have the discipline to make a move for the health of the organization. This is one of the hardest responsibilities of a leader.

I would love to walk with you through your journey!