It’s one of those days.
It’s not even lunch yet, and you seem to have spent a whole morning, being the office fire warden—putting out fire after fire and dealing with the endless list of things that just some days keep on growing. Some days, things just never seem to go right.
And then it happens. You get the call, or someone is standing beside your desk waiting for you to look up. One little extra thing has happened & now someone’s world has seemingly come to a grinding halt with no idea on how to handle it.
If you’ve ever had situations like this, I’m sure you can re-call some of the colorful language or emotionally fueled outbursts that overtook you.
You probably went through what I call are the 4 stages of ‘Internal Professional Frustration’ or ‘IFP’ for short.
- Target Acquisition, a.k.a. “Who Screwed up?”
- Retaliation, a.k.a. Letting someone have it!
- Aggressors Remorse, a.k.a. “I really didn’t think things through, and shouldn’t have done that” and;
- Resignation and Indifference, a.k.a. “That happened again? Whatever.”
After all, someone is always looking. You’re a leader, and that means you have to keep a handle on yourself.
Flipping out, really just isn’t acceptable. Retaliation is simply unconstructive and divisive.
Problem = Opportunity
What if there was a better way to resolve these things? Turns out, I think there is. And as a leader it gives you an opportunity to get closer to people around you.
Things will always go wrong, but rather resorting to a case of IFP, I’ve learnt that the better thing to do, the first thing to do is to always get every side of the story.
Rather than being a fireman and putting out the fires, you then need to become the forensic investigator, to find out objectively what happened. Most problems typically cascade from something very minor long before the ‘fire’ broke out.
Seeking objectivity, will allow you to come across neutral and allows people to be honest with you. Honesty allows people to talk and connect with you.
After you end up compiling the ‘coroner’s report’ which has all the details about what happened, who did what, and ultimately what went wrong, you have three steps to take next.
- Resolve the issue, and get the wheels turning again.
- Identify the training opportunity.
Whatever was the cause of the issue—there is an opportunity to take corrective actions to prevent these problems from occurring again, regardless of where the problems come from; personal or procedural.
- If changes with people or procedures are made, then the changes can’t interfere with anyone or anything else negatively.
It sounds easier said than done—and unfortunately it is.
Investigation, Communication & Rectification take time, and you have lots of other things to do, not to mention the time it can take making sure that people are revised or re-trained in critical skills if there are short falls.
As a person in a position of leadership, it may not be your responsibility to know how everything around you happens, but having a first level awareness probably is. The employee is the expert, but you have to know enough about what they do to ask valid questions. As a leader you cannot be ignorant! If you are—get yourself educated now!
When a procedure fails there will be a need to identify the fix. When a person fails there is a need to make a correction.
The internal web.
Failures provide an opportunity for improvement, but before you go and start making changes ask yourself, how does this fix interact with other areas of the business? If there is an improvement in one area, does it compromise something else?
You’re going to be looking for the most productive, highest value outcome.
Then it’s down to investing time. I mentioned that you already have things to do, but investing time to make and implement the corrections is going to be time well spent. Making the effort to investigate the appropriate courses of action with minimal negative impacts means that you can go forward and address procedural corrections with appropriate training to everyone who is affected.
It’ll take time, but once you’ve made the changes, and everyone is on-board knowing what the changes are and what their roles are within those changes, you’ll gain time in future knowing that those same fires won’t come up again.