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Unas Spotlight: Stop Fire Fighting!

“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognise a problem before it becomes an emergency.” Arnold H. Glasow


There’s no doubt that managers and business owners around the globe have all experienced fire fighting at one time or another. Some companies even have it built into the culture. Yet everybody seems to agree that fire fighting on a long-term basis is not a good thing…

So why does it happen?


  • Psychological addiction to the feeling of achievement
  • Severe cuts in staffing
  • Attempting to be lean and agile

Looking at the Talent Dynamics square it’s more likely that people with high Dynamo and Blaze energies will engage in fire fighting. For them it may initially seem to be exciting and fun. Dynamo’s for instance get to use their problem solving strengths and be a hero.

Blaze people will love the high-paced interactions with others and flying around here, there and everywhere getting everyone on board. For both Dynamo and Blaze it could even have been their lack of attention to detail that caused the fire in the first place!

However, that’s not to say that people with high Tempo and Steel energies may not fire fight too in the right, or should I say wrong, circumstances. It is likely to be incredibly stressful for them though to do so.

Tempo people may end up fire fighting because they can find it very hard to say no and consequently can easily take on too much. While this may appear to serve them – and their colleagues – in the short term, over time it is likely to cause burn-out and possibly even ill-health while they get bogged down in the detail.

Those with strong Steel energies will get very frustrated with constantly having to solve problems that they know could probably be systemised so that they don’t even occur in the first place. Under pressure, without time to think things through or adequate data to base decisions on, they could feel extremely uncomfortable and you may well get to experience just how cold Winter can be!

The key thing for everybody is to firstly realise that fire fighting is happening. The second is to get into the habit of identifying what kind of problem it is… Then they can get the person and/or team with the right perspective and strengths to solve it.

Dynamo’s will intuitively want to innovate their way out of problems, while Blaze will naturally think about who is the best person to connect with to get the desired result. Tempo will look at how to improve relationships and/or operations and Steel will consider the systems in place and what needs to be created or improved.

This means that people will need to let go of the idea that they, and only they, can rescue the day… The fact is that in business – as in life – things happen. There will always be problems to solve. At the same time the time and resources that can be saved by putting out the fire of fire fighting is immense.

Imagine if you and your team were able to spend time in your areas of strengths, instead of being pulled in all directions every time something happened? Though initially it would require investing some time, afterwards there would be the time and space to do what you do best. This allows you to add more value and leverage it effectively within your team and organisation for results on the bottom line and beyond.

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