Leadership Hats: The Fire Chief’s Helmet

Fire Chief Helmet

Every leader has fires to put out. To do it right, you need the right hat. It’s time to put the Fire Chief’s helmet on.

There are many hats to juggle when you’re leading a company or an organization. Some of the others I’ve talked about are the dunce cap and the inventor’s hat. The key thing to remember is that every hat is just as important as every other one. And the real trick is to know when to wear which hat.

There won’t be any confusion about this one. You’ll know when you need to strap it on.

Fighting Corporate Fires

The Fire Chief’s helmet is a little bit about solving problems, and a lot about directing your fire fighting team. Managing a company that’s in crisis mode is tricky. If you spend too much time stamping out spot fires or battling raging infernos, it’s easy to forget about actually doing business.

And that can make the problem a whole lot worse.

It’s not the Chief’s job to carry the hose except when it really needs to be done. But as the Chief, you take responsibility for everything. And through all the commotion and confusion, you need to have the coolest head in the room.

You have to make sure the job gets done right. Here’s some tips to help you do that …

Rules Of The Helmet

  • Sound the alarm. You can only sweep so many problems under the rug before there’s a huge bulge in it and everyone is tripping over it. When you see a serious problem, sound the alarm and take action.
  • Cut a fire line. If the rest of your business fails because you’re too focused on the problems, you run the danger of losing sales or letting costs get out of control. This is fuel for the problems you’re already dealing with. Cutting a fire line means containing the problems and separating them from the rest of the business.
  • Survey the scene. You want to know what you’re dealing with. The last thing you want to do is throw water on a grease fire. And one of the things too many managers do is go overboard and implement a solution to a problem that’s too much. A solution that’s going to be a burden and cost a lot of time and money long after the fire is put out. Survey the scene and apply the right solution in the right measure.
  • Stay on the walkie. Keeping all the lines of communication open while you deal with the situation is vital. You have to direct your team and you also need quick feedback on how the situation is getting better or getting worse. That way you can make the right decisions as they’re needed.
  • Rebuild. After a problem and even during it, it’s difficult to get back on course. The best thing to do is consult your business plan. Sure, a lot of things could have changed, but your original plan is the foundation of your business, what it’s about, and how you go about it. Make the changes you need to make and use your plan to get back on track and rebuild.

Every venture has its problems. Entrepreneurial ventures have more than most because you’re often walking into new territory. And that territory is tinder-dry.

Fighting the fires that occur in business takes experience and even courage. Stand tall. Stand strong. And above all, honour the hat that real firefighters wear.

3 thoughts on “Leadership Hats: The Fire Chief’s Helmet”

  1. This post ties in great with your previous post, “The Simplicity Challenge”. This is great info for a manager or business owner of any level. No matter how crazy or out of control things seem to be, somebody has got to step up and be the chief.

  2. Hey Anthony,

    Yeah, I had “putting out fires” on the brain … so I decided to put a hat on that!

    It’s so important to step back manage a crisis situation properly. And even manage the small problems properly.

    It’s just too easy to get side-tracked by all the commotion and let other things slide. Or not be able to get a handle on the situation and suddenly find your whole business engulfed by it.

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