Firefighting is about putting out fires.

In business lingo: firefighting management is about putting the urgent issues before the important ones - seldom reaching the latter …

Firefighting is a re-active type of management - it is not pro-active.

What happens when you focus your attention on the urgent issues rather than on the important ones?

In the best-case scenario you loose sight of your strategic priorities (survival ends up becoming more important than growth). In the worst-case scenario you loose market share.

Unfortunately, firefighting management is more common than most managers would like to admit.

What can you do to stop putting out fires? What can you do to be less re-active and more pro-active?

Probably there are as many causes for firefighting management as there are organizations. However, I will offer you five guidelines that will help you get out of the firefighting syndrome - and will also help you think and behave more strategically:

First: Organizational alignment

If I define your organization's Heart as your organization's mission, values, vision, and strategy - organizational alignment is when your employees have a truthfully shared and crystal clear understanding about your organization's Heart, they feel passionate about it (cult-like culture), make all their daily decisions based on it, and behave according to it.

Alignment is when all your structures, processes and systems support your organization's Heart – and do not work against it (e.g., one of your Values is teamwork but your compensation system rewards individual contributions).

Alignment is when all of your organization's teams - all the way from the top executive suite down to the front line - have goals that are in perfect sync with your strategy.

Alignment is when all your team leaders - regardless of their rank (CEO, middle level managers, or entry level supervisors) – give precedence to the team they belong to, over the team they lead (this question is not about importance, it is a question of alignment).

Second: Trust-based teamwork

If your team's members do not 100 per cent speak up their minds and do not put everything there is inside their brains on the table for all team members to see - then my friend - your team is not making the best possible decisions and it is not building commitment to the decisions it makes.

On one hand, the main ingredient in decision-making is information. If your people do not genuinely speak up - especially in your decision-making meetings - your team is not using all the available and necessary information (latent within the team's members) to make the best possible decisions.

This lack of candor creates several drawbacks:

It gets in the way for people to fervently get involved in constructive conflict.
It keeps the discussions from really getting down to the root and the core of the issues.
It wastes critical time and resources.

On the other hand, when people do not authentically speak up their minds and do not passionately engage in the discussions (if you do not know how to use conflict as a creative force), people tend not to commit to the decisions made - and commitment is the initial ingredient in effective execution.

Trust is the foundation from which frank and 100 per cent open dialogue can emerge, and from which creative conflict can flourish.

Third: Meeting management

Meetings are the lifeblood of every organization - yet, few organizations know how to run them efficiently.

If your meetings drain your people, you are wasting essential non-renewable resources (e.g., time, human, etc.)

You must teach your organization how to run effective meetings. You have no choice.

Fourth: Clarity of Roles and Responsibilities

Are the roles and responsibilities of every employee aligned with your strategy?

Are the roles and responsibilities crystal clear to every single performer?

If not - once again - you are wasting precious resources.

Fifth: Clarity of goals

Are goals unmistakable and clear-cut to every single worker?

Lack of clear goals is one of the primary causes of poor performance, confusion, and wasted time.

Questions? Feedback? Just reply to this Ezine and tell me what you would like future "Leader Ezines" to be about - I would love to hear from you.

Feel free to re-send this "Leader Ezine" to your boss, to your employees, to your colleagues, etc.

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The Soft Skills are the Hard Skills
Friendship versus Performance
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The Morale of your Organization
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Leadership is First Among Equals
Serious Workplace Perspective
Is this Innovation?
Pick a Good Fight
Vulnerability as a Leadership Skill

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See you next month!
Jose Luis Romero - Publisher
February 1, 2011. Copyright: All rights reserved
I publish "Leader Ezine" on the first Tuesday of every month

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