The Gift of Chaos

A global team I’ve been privileged to work with for over a decade just celebrated another massive success. They made it look easy. Of course, it was anything but. Their success was built on the ability to navigate chaos knowing it is a catalyst for transformation and a launching pad for accomplishment.    

Over months of work, they responded calmly to uncertainty. They walked toward their vision, moment by moment, with perseverance. They leaned on each other. And, when they found themselves sailing on seas that were disruptive, they knew how to create safe harbors of sanity through communication and collaboration. They trusted each other because they consistently behaved in trustworthy ways.

The day their achievement was publicly announced, there were accolades, an increase in the share price, and high fives throughout the enterprise. My team – the team I have watched grow and transform – quietly regrouped around a table to share a meal and laugh over “war stories.” It was there that they did the invisible yet powerful work of tending to their relationships with each other.

There is no substitute for having technical skills. Those, however, are table stakes. What makes this team exceptional at what they do is how they do it. How they masterfully focus on their connections with each other, their respectful support of one another, the end goal, and their endurance when the waves are rocking the boat.

This is a team that loves its work. The joy of it pumps through their veins and infectiously lifts up those around them. Watching them do what they do is poetry in motion. And yes, as they embody world-class business acumen, this team also manifests a damn inspiring invitation: be those people who demand the work is done with grace in the face of chaos; show empathy in the midst of delays, and cooperation in the swirl of competitiveness. It is because of this call to action that at the end of the day the connections are what is truly celebrated.

My husband recently referred to me as the leader of our personal team of supportive family and friends. People refer to my common sense, empathy, intellect, resilience, strength, and faith when they witness what I do and how I do it. Yes, I show up with those elements as often as I can, showing gratitude to those who hold me up and encourage my growth. Yet, I struggle with fear, grief, stress, and fall-on-my-knees exhaustion and I want people to know that, too. And such is the exquisite messiness of life.

I am navigating the chaos with courage, authenticity, and self-respect; it is remarkably difficult. The divine forces of healing, however, work in ways so powerful that I am left speechless (which is a miracle in and of itself). And those around me who are interested in being their best selves, join me. That is flat-out difficult, too, and I have witnessed tremendous courage in others. My hat is off to all of us who show up heart open willing to start again.

Ironically, it is the chaos that settles us. The disruptive forces that broaden our comfort zone, deepen connections. We can be the source of calm that transforms, quiets, and dances with joy, even in the midst of dizzying “wtf,” can’t-make-this-crap-up chaos.

By Karen Benjack Hardwick
Photo by Max LaRochelle

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are 
challenged to change ourselves.” –Viktor E. Frankl

Karen Hardwick, M.Div., MSW is a leadership advisor and executive coach. She specializes in working with leaders and their teams who want to create amazing lives and work at the top of their game. Find out more about Karen and her firm’s services at

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