Recently I have been working with a client whose people are always super busy in meetings, continually working late, meeting deadlines at the last minute, late for meetings and calls and always seem to have a crisis. Seem familiar?
So I started asking the question, why does this seem to be the norm? Why does it seem to be part of the culture? Why does everyone seem to be firefighting all the time?
After all, this kind of environment is counter-productive isn’t it?
It’s reactive rather than proactive, which stimulates an environment filled with fear and foreboding, rather than being progressive and positive.
Here are 7 reasons we may be lighting fires we are unaware of, or a few reasons I think this kind of behavior exists.
1. Hero Aspiration
If we look like we are solving a crisis, with high energy and a take no prisoners approach, we are obviously a great team player and valuable to the company. There’s nothing like a hero toiling away to save the day.
2. Hours Worked
The mentality in corporations that those early in and late out are the real heroes, as if hours in equals productivity. Burn out means mistakes and more lit fires.
Insufficient teamwork creates overload. If the team worked and communicated well together, the loads would be shared and the fires would not be ignited in the first place; and if they were, they would be extinguished fairly quickly with a team effort.
Fires normally get lit when there is little or no planning. Good planning should take account of potential fires. We can never foresee all potential pitfalls, but proper, effective planning will take care of most.
5. Relationship Issues
Poor relationships with clients or customers or indeed internal stakeholders. I was with a client recently and the VP for Sales told a great story about how his team was really concerned they were going to lose an account. Then a contact he had known for more than 10 years, at the account, called him and they discussed the issue and it was solved in 20 minutes. Trust and respect prevents fires! A process driven, tracking tool for relationships prevents being burned!
6. Little or No Managing Up
So who is potentially fanning the flames? Sometimes with help from the management team, the fires can be prevented. We just need to alert our management and provide some solutions, not just the problems. So provide the firefighting equipment, not just call out where the fires are.
As one boss once said to me, “Don’t come in here and tell me how f^%#&d up everything is. Tell me how we are going to fix it and by when.” There are two things management doesn’t like – problems and surprises.
7. Poor Communication Internally and Externally
Most fires can be avoided with better communication. By keeping the parties involved in a project or on-going work, and seeking feedback regularly, fires cannot suddenly appear because someone unknowingly threw lighter fuel on a pile and carelessly ignited it by mistake. Fires often get started simply because of ignorance.
So, forgive the rather cheesy analogy, but too many fires can lead to burn out! Has anyone else had similar experiences or can you please add to my list of why fires get started?