We have all done it. We smell the smoke, search for the fire, do everything we possibly can to put it out, and then fail to ever search for what caused the conflagration in the first place. We spend our careers (and sometimes our lives) moving from one crisis to another without even thinking of doing a root cause analysis. It is exciting, it is exhausting, and it is an excuse that keeps you from truly leading.
Seth Godin believes that we have too many emergency room doctors filling our offices around the world and I agree with him. As he puts it, “It’s a mindset, not just a job.” Truth is, we need people like this. Individuals that are great at stopping the bleeding and prepping the situation for the long-term solution that is needed. But what happens if we just stop at triage? The cut may be closed–we have stopped the bleeding–but we have yet to address what caused the injury in the first place.
Only being a firefighter (or only having the world view of the emergency room doctor) robs individuals (and organizations) of three things:
- You do not take the time to think. If all you do is react–and react quickly–you never take the opportunity to step back and evaluate what is really going on.
- You do not take the time to change. If you do not understand what is really going on, you will never have the opportunity to implement real and lasting change.
- You do not take the time to lead. If you are unable (or unwilling) to challenge the status quo and offer up changes, you will never really lead. You will simply manage.
We have become an instant-gratification society, one that is obsessed with the quick-fix. While this leads to early wins in the battles, it can often lead to long-term losses in the war. Are there times when we can do nothing more than react (both personally and professionally)? Absolutely. Should this be our default response to any and every challenge that comes our way? Absolutely not.