Always in the Habit of Putting Out Fires? Why it’s not a good sign…

Whether you own your own business or are an employee working under someone or a lot of people, this post is useful. Why?  Because it’s about your vision, conviction and working with life so that you can relax and enjoy more.
We all know that emergencies happen and sometimes shit just hits the fan at some random and unopportune time.  Life is like that.  But the question here is whether or not you’re always putting out fires or if that’s what you spend most of your time on.  If you aren’t doing this then awesome! Hopefully this post will still be helpful. If you’re one of the many who can relate to this then I might be able to help.
Fires are generally the result of poor planning or an emotionally reactive workplace. Sometimes it’s both. Do keep in mind that what I discuss here is applicable to all businesses and industries. I’ve worked in the heart of the corporate world and in an inpatient psychiatric unit with adolescents, the situation is the same. Sound weird? Sure it does but soon you’ll see why this makes sense.  Let’s first cover the poor planning realm.
Planning, You Just Have To Do It.  Your bosses may be great or they may suck, but their ability to plan makes a massive difference in the everyday stress level.  If you’re a business owner or boss, then this applies to you too.  Planning doesn’t come naturally to everyone and knowing this about someone else or yourself is important. Planning takes strategy, systems thinking, focus, thoughtfulness, openness honesty, reflection and the ability to see relationships between things.  It’s like playing chess really. There’s a goal, you create a plan but you shift the plan and adapt as needed.  Within a business, you also need to plan how your employees will work or what is generally called workflows or business processes.  If this planning and thinking through and preparing for workflows then you’ll put out fires all day, everyday and have some pretty unhappy employees. So this is the first thing.
Workplace Intensity and Emotional Reactivity
You or your boss might be amazing planners but if fires are still frequent or daily then something else is going on. Who knows, you might not even have that many fires but you might find that you or your boss is frequently angry and possibly yelling.  Either way, emotional reactivity is likely the culprit. We won’t go into the sources of the reactivity, as there are many that always have a unique history with the person, but we will talk about how it can look.
Fires driven by reactivity generally derive from a fear of how one will be perceived.  And each of us has our own hangups on this one.  From the outside our reactivity can seem ridiculous, and it probably is if we can muster a sense of humor about ourselves. Regardless, others can suffer as a result.  Reactivity is about us.  It’s a rather self-centered thing.  And this reactivity permeates the workplace and puts people on edge. Leaders, ideally, need to be able to remain emotionally and mentally focused amidst reactivity but when one loses that focus, fires begin to pile up.  There may be a great plan in place but it gets ignored frequently, or sacrificed, for the emotional.  For this to be dealt with there needs to be a combination of strengthening the influence of those who are planners but less reactive, in addition to working with the individuals who are more reactive.
How Does this Change?
In the first scenario with person who plans efforts can be made to improve but they may need to put some things on pause in order to work on developing the necessary skill set. This can be done with an individual’s own effort or by working with a consultant such as myself. If your boss is the poor planner then work on planning within your own job responsibilities. It’ll only make you more valuable at your next gig and you can, possibly ( because you can’t control others), have an impact on the work environment. Reactivity, however, is a bit more challenging.
Reducing reactivity requires that we take a deeper look at ourselves and an outside party, like a consultant, is really needed. A reactive environment is likely one that’s stuck. How stuck it is depends upon how intense the reactivity is. The amount of change that can happen and how quickly this can take place depends upon the level of motivation of the most reactive individual to change and the amount of cohesion between those who are less reactive. If you’re a reactive boss, which is fundamentally okay and doesn’t make you a bad person in any way, you’ll need to do a good amount of personal exploration.  Changing reactivity can take longer but there are intermediate steps that can be taken to help things along. One of these is taking ownership, after becoming aware of, one’s own reactive tendencies.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.