Thursday, June 20, 2013

Management via Panic

I knew a manager once who liked to start the day with her team by saying “What’s on fire!?!”  It was said enthusiastically, expectantly – almost hopefully.

There is a certain “jazz” that some people get from addressing an “emergency” situation.  But trying to “motivate” your team on a regular basis by inflicting panic on them is not a winning management style.

Unless you work in a real ER, then your “normal” days should not be filled with managing one panic situation after another.  If there is too much panic in your work life, then here are some possible causes and solutions:

*Over-reacting to non-urgent issues.  People will bring you issues that they think are urgent.  Don’t fall for this every time.  Take a few minutes to carefully evaluate the situation.  Many times the best response is “I understand, but this can wait.”  Sometimes these issues actually resolve themselves in time.


*Poor systems & SOPs.  This is such a common problem and takes discipline to fix.  Budget time to create Standard Operating Procedures and train staff on them.  Common breakdowns in the system need to be studied and addressed with new procedures.  The causes of constant panic are often systemic.

*Panicy Bosses.  You need to learn how to manage your boss.  The first step is having an agreement with your boss on the most important priorities that you should be working on.  When your boss brings you an “urgent” issue, then make sure to respond positively.  But then make sure that she/he understands the tradeoff involved and how it will impact the other work that the two of you agreed was a high priority.  Let’s face it, sometimes you can negotiate this and sometimes you cannot.

The problem with constant “fire drills” is that it does not give us time to give the thoughtful consideration needed to successfully address the significant, thorny challenges that face organizations today.  And it certainly does not provide time for any strategic thinking.

To learn more, a great book on how to devote more of your time to important issues (vs. regular “panic”) is Steven Covey’s First Things First.

Good luck devoting more time to important matters and less to panic!  As you do this you will definitely be making more of a Mission Impact.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

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