What Leaders Do When There Is A Fire?

The best leaders are not the ones yelling “Fire”, instead, they work as part of the team that puts it out.

What happens when the fire alarm goes off?

This is a reality most will face at some point in the work place. Despite our best preparations, it arrives. A broken process or external event triggers a fire and it is not an impediment that we can remove from the team. Instead it will take the entire team and possibly others to resolve.

Our preparedness will be tested.

Unless this is our full-time job, we likely don’t enjoy being in the reactive mode, but it happens. Leaders worth following don’t complain about having to fight the fire, they just do it. They are more concerned with team safety, preventing the spread, and ensuring the resources are available to complete the job.

The best leaders have the character and judgment to make good decisions regardless of circumstance.

How we involve our teams demonstrates our maturity as leader. When we learn about the fire, there is no need to shout “Fire”. Instead, our attention is on how to lead best. Is it the time to stand shoulder to shoulder with them fighting it directly, call reinforcements, or pull the team back out of harm’s way. The best leaders evaluate and make a decision. This is not the time for a committee.

7 important actions to take when fighting a fire:

  1. Don’t ignore it: When there are signs of smoke, investigate and prevent it if possible. Leaders don’t ignore trouble when they see evidence. We act.
  2. Activate the team: Bring the reality to the team, explain their role, how communication will work and position individuals for success.
  3. Call for Help: Get the right help. If we are fortunate enough to have authority, this is the time. Activate others because we don’t let the team take on a crisis when help can be secured.
  4. Protect the team: Be sure our people are as safe as possible. Fighting fire is dangerous and mistakes can hurt careers. We can minimize harm by being sure they have all the resources and equipment they need to be successful. Ask them if you are not sure and they will tell us what they need. Read more about how to protect your team here.
  5. Stay active: During the fire fight isn’t the time to do anything else except stay actively involved. Our presence builds trust, brings encouragement, and will lead to the best outcome.
  6. Evaluate later: The time to talk about how the fire started and speculate who did it and what we will do in the future to fix it is best reserved for later. Energy and focus need to be applied to the work at hand so we should resist the temptation to fix future problems when the blaze is still active or just extinguished.
  7. Mend the team: Going through a fire can take its toll not only on the employee, but their family too. Be sure that your people know you care and offer whatever help you can to them so they can recover. Saying ‘good job’ may not be enough for them to fully recover.

Fires of some type are occurrences that we should expect to come our way. Having a team that is prepared for action is our responsibility.

Shepherding: The art of becoming the leader others want to follow