Leadership Priorities: Putting out Fires or Fanning the Flames?

The truth is that everyone thinks their own problems are more important. It’s to be expected. Humans, by nature, are pretty self-centered creatures. Even the most loyal employee is worried about their job security. And why shouldn’t they be? They have bills to pay and families to support. Because of this weight on their shoulders, they want to ensure that their job is secure and operating at optimal levels. Of course this also means that they might put more pressure on you, as the leader, to put out fires that might seem important to them but maybe not important to the organization as a whole.

These are always hard to navigate. How can you tell what’s truly an emergency and worthy of your precious time or if it’s an emergency that is only important to one team or one team member? Of course you want your organization to run like a well-oiled machine, but the truth is that many fires that people may see as emergencies can either be put out by other firefighters in the organization or will sizzle out individually.

So how do you figure out which fires deserve your attention?


3 Traits to Identify in an Emergency

To help keep you identify which fires require you as chief firefighter, analyze the fire based off the following traits:

  1. Importance: Ask yourself how important this fire is…and important to whom? Is it regarding the top-billed client? The culture? Sales numbers for that quarter?
  2. Impact: What will the damage done in this fire impact? Sections of the organization? The organization as a whole? One team? One person?
  3. Difficulty: Can someone else handle this? Will it require your personal attention because you’re the only one with the know-how to fix it?

This is also a point where you take advantage of your team members. Do they have the skills and experience needed to handle these fires themselves? Delegation is a critical part of being a leader and essential to time management. Read more about Delegation.


The Fiery Alternative

If you don’t start to really analyze these fires you will be stuck in perpetual state of emergency, never being able to tackle those big initiatives that could make large changes. Also, think of it this way, if you don’t address large issues, you could end up fanning the flames for more fires to take place down the road.

For example, what if you put off hiring a new team member to help with the overload of work in lieu of these other fires, then later another team member leaves because of their intense workload! Now you’re left with an even BIGGER fire to put out! This could’ve been solved by focusing your attention on that larger issue and saved heartache and headache later on.

While we hope this blog is helpful, if you need more Time Management training, Nexecute is here to take your skills to the next level! Contact us today and get started!


Thanks for tuning into our third blog in our Time Management for Leaders series! Next up, we’ll talk about the importance of communicating with your team members on what your schedule will be so you can stick to it!


Just now jumping into the series? Check out our earlier blog posts!

A Leader’s Greatest Challenge: Time Management

Leadership Focus: Being Disciplined