How often have you said (or heard) “I spend too much time putting out fires?” Every business owner knows there are fires to tend in the workplace. From smoldering embers to raging infernos they hamper our ability to manage the routine events upon which our operations depend. Keep these ideas in mind: 1) identify and manage the real fires, 2) identify, analyze and dispatch the false alarms and 3) prevent fires whenever possible.
A false alarm is neither urgent nor of considerable import, thus they’re of little concern to the business. Right? Though false alarms do distract us that does not mean they can always be ignored. Apply discretion when deciding upon the proper way to dispatch false alarms. Consider the ramblings of a chronic complainer; they’re time consuming, not to mention the level of importance is probably suspect as well. However, these ramblings may have a considerable impact upon fellow employees and could result in more serious consequences. Moreover, while the veracity of the ramblings may be suspect they should be considered valid until proven otherwise.
Regardless of the origin, it’s important to discern the false alarms from the real thing. True fires demand a timely and thorough response; false alarms may require further attention but we know that they are not urgent and so we need to learn to prioritize them so that they do not interfere with our ability to manage the important things.
The fact is false alarms do occur therefore we should: 1) learn to identify them, 2) promptly dispatch those which require no further action, 3) if resolution is needed allocate time in a manner that does not interfere with matters of greater and 4) not be discouraged as this is as much a part of life as death and taxes.
An Ounce of Prevention
Reducing the incidence of fires, honing our fire management skills and improving upon our response time are achievable goals. But out-right prevention? Let’s be realistic about this. There are matters that are under our control and some that are not. Outright prevention is like perfection, a goal to strive for, but it’s beyond our grasp. Besides, if we prevented all of the fires, what would become of our crisis management skills? OK, maybe that is a stretch but…
What we can do is strive to reduce the incidence of fires and prepare our teams to manage fires when they do occur. In an effort to accomplish these goals we should: 1) encourage staff to be vigilant for smoldering fires before they spread, 2) educate staff on the means to manage fires, 3) provide clear expectations so that all staff are able to take proactive steps to prevent uncontrolled fires from evolving and 4) acknowledge those whose vigilance has paid off and learn from their achievements.