Disorganized, reactive business owners and other managers often complain of continually being drawn into “fighting fires,” meaning that emergencies and failures frequently demand immediate, ad hoc attention. I find this metaphor comical since real firefighters do not operate in the haphazard, seat-of-the-pants manner so familiar in many businesses. Professional firefighters–well, there’s the answer right in the modifier. The people responding to actual hot fires are professionals. They train, they plan, and they follow proven procedures.
My friend, Brad Mayhew, is the real deal. A former hotshot wildland firefighter, just like the ones in the movie, Only the Brave, which dramatized the tragedy of the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire. Brad also worked on the investigation into why that crew died.
One of Brad’s lessons from the dangerous wildland kind of firefighting can help those engaged in the safe office kind of “firefighting.” During the Coal Canyon Fire in 2011, two firefighters found themselves in a vehicle surrounded by flames. One was soon overcome by the fumes and heat. Hearing their distress calls, Reese, a nearby firefighter, radioed back that the survivor must leave the vehicle immediately and run fifty feet through flames, fumes, and hot ash to reach safety.
Would you accept that advice from a co-worker? How about from someone who didn’t even work for your company, a supplier or client? That firefighter is alive because he took the advice. Here’s what he did, as Brad wrote in Firehousemagazine:
“‘I have a close relationship with Reese. Because of who he is and because it came from him … that was what we had to do.’”
How did they get to know and trust one another? Training together. Agencies in the area hold joint large-scale scenarios, live-fire exercises, simulations and classroom training. Training together builds trust and familiarity across agency lines.
But it had not always been that way between these fire departments. They used to be like the different departments in many dysfunctional commercial enterprises:
Twenty years earlier, agency relationships were described as “very contentious” with “mutual resentment and animosity.”
Local leaders decided to fix this: “We all just finally understood that the old ways and the animosity were getting us nowhere, and that it’s not about ourselves. We were not serving the people on the ground. We weren’t getting the firefighters what they needed. That’s wrong. We … needed to set the example” (SAI Report, D&A). The Report goes on to say, “It took 10 years of deliberate effort to transform relationships among cooperators.”
CEO Executive Coach Tony Mayo has shared a great deal of practical information with business people since re-launching his free e-mail newsletter in 2008. Here is a list of topics covered. Just click on any title to read more.
A quick message from an executive coach on how you can grow beyond the urge to control and micro-manage every action toward acting with confidence in your team and your own ability to respond to every eventuality.
This short podcast describes an important step in the growth of business owners and other leaders, moving beyond the urge to control and micro-manage every action toward acting with confidence in your team and your own ability to respond to every eventuality.
Here is a simple habit that can boost productivity in your organization. One client credits this technique for an 18% increase in annual revenue with a reduced headcount. It takes practice but quickly becomes second nature.
I brought this method into the workplace from my flight training. Pilots and air traffic controllers (ATC) must communicate precisely and briefly while also executing specialized tasks. Misunderstandings in aircraft can have horrible consequences, so specific communication techniques are required. Many of the most serious accidents are caused by failure to follow these practices, including the 1977’s Tenerife Airport Disaster, commercial aviation’s deadliest incident.
Of all the management tools I recommend, one of the most effective is both very simple and very unlikely to be consistently employed—if it is used at all: the written progress report, completed on a consistent schedule.
The power of progress reports to promote results and reduce anxiety is demonstrated daily, on matters titanic and trivial. The U. S. Constitution requires that the President “from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union.” Public companies are required by law to present results to shareholders, at fixed intervals and in specific formats. Schools send regular reports to parents, our GPS tells where we are, and UPS sends a text when a package arrives.
Still, managers and employees resist implementing this simple process.
Who cares about why? Just grow up and start doing a progress report. Declare your goals. Confront your results. Adjust to living in reality. Enjoy the benefits of clarity while the less disciplined fail and fail in a fog of vague expectations and inchoate regrets.
Before I explain how to format and prepare a good progress report, let’s deal with some common excuses questions.
The focus of the book was the importance of compassion and authenticity, while this new chapter is all about implementation, with specific advice on how to be compassionate and authentic in your day-to-day life. The twenty-minute podcast is a simple, practical guide to building better relationships at work and at home, with answers to these reader questions:
What can I do to deepen relationships?
How can I feel comfortable with people of different backgrounds, tastes, and values?
How do I help others feel safe to share their lives with me?
What habits might I establish to reduce loneliness and build community?
Tony recommends these resources for further study and practice.