Monday, December 6, 2010

The Tunnel of Chaos

All team members will have their fair share of disagreements and conflict; we all bring our dysfunctions to work. But grace will allow conflicts to be resolved - not allowed to fester.

This value – trust tempered with grace – will allow conflicts to be readily resolved. If someone passes you in the hall and didn’t say hello, you don’t have to worry that they are upset with you. If you say something in a staff meeting that offends a team member, you know that they will have the guts and integrity to talk with you about it.

It’s called the “tunnel of chaos.”

It’s a phrase that communicates urgency for team members to get one-on-one, discuss the issue, and resolve it.

Bill Hybels coined the phrase after hearing psychiatrist Scott Peck talk about the differences between participating in genuine community and experiencing what he called “pseudo community.”

If community involves things such as knowing and being known, serving and being served, loving and being loved, and celebrating and being celebrated, then most relationships, Peck asserted, are constantly devolving into pseudo community. It’s the temptation for small groups of people to slide into a state where they’re not quite telling each other the truth and they’re not quite celebrating each other. Instead, they tolerate each other, they accommodate each other, and they settle for sitting on the unspoken matters that separate them.

Hybels taught on this idea at Willow Creek Church by drawing two circles on a flip chart and labeled the one on the left “Pseudo Community,” the one on the right “True Community.”

He said that we all want to get to true community, but we find ourselves in pseudo community. So how do you move from one place to the other?

Hybels connected the two circles with a tunnel and said people need to be willing to go down into the tunnel – the tunnel of chaos. Frightening as it is to enter that tunnel; those who do so are the ones most likely to pop up one day into the fresh, life-giving daylight of true community.

The tunnel of chaos is where hurts are unburied, hostilities revealed, and tough questions asked. No matter how unpleasant the tunnel of chaos is, there’s no other route to authentic relationships.

Being a part of a team can be like a series of battles, and a lot can get said on the front lines that may not be exactly edifying. Every leader must constantly ask direct reports “Are we okay? How can we clean up the messes we’ve made along the way?"

As leaders, be prepared to enter the tunnel of chaos whenever necessary.

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