I’m starting a new club. It’s called Firefighters Anonymous. This support group is designed to help business leaders break their addiction to fire-of-the-day problem solving.
Here’s my 5 step plan.
Step 1: Stop denying it – Recognizing you need help is 50% of the battle. Signs that you may be a Firefighting Addict (FA) include:
you haven’t achieved your important goals for the day but you know you were busy
you ignore calendar appointments with yourself for critical activities
taking the time to think through work processes before beginning feels like a waste of time
you frequently cancel important-but-not-urgent meetings to take care of unexpected problems
Step 2: Say it out loud – Tell someone that you are battling FA. Just don’t expect them to be surprised – everyone around you already knows. Do it anyway. It’s therapeutic.
Step 3: Choose a replacement habit – It’s not enough to say stop. You need something compelling to take your mind off the fires that are probably raging around you. Remember, the fires have not gone away. What you’re changing is your reaction to said fires. I suggest reviewing your performance goals.
Step 4: Pick your cold turkey day – A goal without a deadline is a wish with no power behind it. To make it extra effective, tell others what you’re doing and when. There is something very sobering about living up to public commitments.
Step 5: Reinforce your decision – You will need to do this frequently. The people around you who previously benefited from your generosity will be shocked when you don’t take the bait next time around. It’s okay to let them be uncomfortable.
I’m working with a promising book: Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish. In it are tools to capture and distill the essence of a business’ purpose into a one-page strategic plan.
The author has made several downloads available, including a ‘how to’ that will help you through your first run (click on the sections “people”, “strategy”, “execution” or “cash). The planning tool requires a solid understanding of where you want to take the business so that you can identify and drive your top goals. It will even help you flesh those out if you, like me, discover mid-plan that you have some weaknesses in that area.
I recommend the book and its tools. Just for the record, I have no commercial affiliation with the author or the publisher.
Victor carefully examines the charred chair, mentally forming his repair plan
When you read the words “personal brand” what comes to mind for you? Dan Schawbel? Social media? Perhaps you think of Tom Peter’s 2007 Fast Company article entitled The Brand Called You which is often credited for popularizing the term. I know someone who lived and breathed the personal branding message decades ago.
Victor loved words and was keenly aware of their power. He could stun the most learned with the breadth of his vocabulary. He loved to orate - but mostly he enjoyed making connections between things that others might find totally unrelated. His views were not always popular, but they were principled.
In July 1982 his workshop burned down.
He stared past the machinery coated with soot and ashes, and said he wasn’t about to give up. “No, I’m still a young man,” said the 78-year-old Branford resident as he watched firefighters douse smoldering rafters and toss aside the blackened back door to his shop. The Journal-Courier - July 9, 1982
He handed the journalist covering the fire his business card; on it was the motto: ”Where skill is law and honesty the creed“. Each time I pick up the yellowed news page and read that branding line I think about the many hours he would have labored over choosing just the right words. Not the content – that would have come easily. But Victor would have pored over a dictionary full of words in order to convey just the right meaning with as few words as possible. And I can imagine him reciting the possible word combinations out loud to see how they sounded.
This week I’m attending a seminar on marketing. I’ll be thinking about Victor Hofrichter, my grandfather, the man who taught me branding.
Thanks for the inspiration DW – you know who you are - *wink*
Have you ever made a strengths list? Probably not. Most of us can rattle off the top 5 things we admire about coworkers, family members and mentors but we falter when it comes to naming our own abilities. Whether it’s personal humility or low self-esteem, it’s in our best interest to get over it. Why? Understanding your strengths is a big part of being self aware. It’s the basis of your personal brand. Most importantly of all, a strengths list is a tool that can help you power through difficult days.
Today’s workforce is accustomed to sharing and accessing information quickly. Companies can benefit from the collaborative nature of their workers only if they put the right tools in place. Some you may want to consider: