Leadership fire-extinguishers don’t work in a growing business

Steering an organisation on its unique growth journey is one of the biggest personal challenges facing all leaders. Although the end goal, the destination may stay the same, the conditions experienced on the journey will be different within six months, and different again within a year.

Why? Because internal and external issues and events will constantly change the commercial landscape in which the organisation operates in.

Think of your own organisation or any business for that matter and consider the number and variety of issues facing leaders and managers on a daily basis.

Internally, recruiting and retaining talent is important. Engaging employees and keeping them engaged on the journey is a constant challenge. Instilling and sustaining a culture of high performance working is a necessity. Delivering productivity, revenue and profit targets are a daily priority of a growing organisation.

All of these areas have to be addressed against an external backdrop involving competitor, political, financial and other pressures – some within your control but many of which are not.

And by the time you take into account the hundreds of minor but important operational issues on a daily basis – from sickness to holiday cover – you can see it’s not easy being a leader.

Tackling the human performance issues in a bush fire

Many leaders on our business growth workshops compare the management of the human performance issues in their organisation to that of trying to put out a large bush fire with a few hundred office fire extinguishers. It is perceived as a seemingly impossible task.

Extinguishers may be useful in tackling small fires but as everyone knows they will be totally ineffective in dousing the inferno which often occurs.

The workplace is similar in nature with many leaders managing daily performance issues using fire extinguisher-type solutions.

The main difficulty with this approach is that whilst a performance issue is tackled in one area – for example the accounts or sales department – a similar fire could be flaring up in another area in the organisation.

There is also every possibility that one small insignificant fire (issue) can quickly turn into an operational inferno and in a short period of time leaders are faced with the job of trying to tackle the equivalent of an organisational bush fire.

How does a bush fire start in the workplace? A combination of factors – possibly goals, targets, vision, strategy, communication, skill set, service, wastage, sickness, meetings, change, etc, the reasons could be many and the list could be endless.

Organisational fires are often known as ‘growing pains’ but understanding this doesn’t help the leadership fire fighters tackle them. The harsh reality of the business growth journey is that day-to-day leadership fire fighting does not work in any ambitious, forward thinking organisation.

Using the winning (formula) to protect your organisation

In my opinion growing pains can best be tackled by focusing on six strategic and operational areas important to the success of any organisation. Each area focuses on the human performance issues likely to be faced on the journey and more importantly demonstrates to leaders and others how to tackle them.

The six areas are research, strategy, engagement, motivation, development and ownership and every potential fire can be tackled by using what we call the winning (formula)® – our unique and powerful framework designed to help leaders deliver success on the business growth journey.

The framework on a daily basis can be used if needed like a fire extinguisher to handle any small fire in the workplace but its more effective and powerful use is when it is applied as a fire screen for the organisation – or imagine this – as a large foam duvet covering the landscape facing you and your people on the journey.

The framework protects the business from every potential fire threat and at the same time instils confidence, ownership and accountability within the workforce. Everyone connected with your company is able to operate as a personal fire officer.

Also, rather than individuals working in isolation or small groups, the framework is used by everyone employee to understand their role and responsibilities on the journey and to inspire them to perform to their potential and deliver the goals and aspirations for your organisation.


Think about your own journey – no fire risks, no inferno, no bush fire, and no need for small or large scale interventions to tackle any issue or challenge likely to be faced.

Ask yourself ‘How confident would you be putting out a bush fire in your organisation?’ Your answer indicates your ability to lead and navigate your people safely on the journey.

You may find you need additional support – a framework, a protective duvet which will guarantee you success.

Fancy a demonstration? Drop me a line. I would be delighted to present it to you.

Best wishes on your business growth journey, wherever it may take you.

John Stein – Founder of the winning (formula)®


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This entry was posted on Monday, March 11th, 2013 at 3:04 pm and is filed under Leadership Development, the winning formula. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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