What do many of us do all day? “We spend most of it putting out fires,” many leaders say. And that’s the reality. In a world of constant change and increasing demands, uncertainty is the new certainty. We’re trapped in a burning building of crises. No wonder many good people leave otherwise good organizations and teams. They don’t want to be firefighters – that’s for the professionals who literally do it.
One day a few years ago when I was busy beating back the flames at work, I mentioned how hard this putting out fires stuff was to my boss. “Well, “he replied, “you’re not getting paid to put out fires. As a leader, you’re getting paid to prevent them.”
Here are some proven techniques to begin your fire prevention program:
- Review your calendar and see where you are spending your time. Lay out your calendar for the past two or three weeks. If you’re not planning your time in accordance with your priorities, now’s the time to get re-aligned on your calendar.
- Spend more time developing your people. Leadership is a learned skill and to that end, devote some time every day to growing your leaders. I’ve never met a leader who told me he or she was too highly trained, or too well mentored. Think about what your team could accomplish if you trained them more actively, every day, week, and month. They’ll know how to put out fires when and if they flare up.
- Insist on meeting discipline. Issue agendas ahead of time. Assign a note taker. Stick to a time scheduled. Publish the minutes and actionable items — assign responsibility and a due date for each.
- Create more white space. Don’t schedule meetings or events back to back. Your team needs time to prepare for follow-up from meetings. Set aside specific time for email instead of doing it continuously throughout the day. Lead by walking around.
With more control of your time, you can now call one of your clients and customers every day to see how they value what you’re doing for them — and learn more about what you’re not doing that you could do better. Use your new found time to think strategically and to listen to your team, customers, and suppliers.
There’s no time like the present to start mastering the skills of fire prevention by taking control of your time. Enjoy the journey!