The “First Responders”

I believe the majority of us have great respect for those who put themselves in harms’ way – risking their own personal safety to help others and protect society.

First responders deserve the admiration.

They also teach us an important leadership lesson.

When problems arise at work, leaders need to proactively address the issue; “running toward it, rather than backing away.” But that’s not always what we see. Too many leaders avoid conflict to the detriment of their credibility and the productivity of their teams. They don’t recognize the emergency – foolishly hoping issues will just go away, or that “fires” will burn themselves out. Fires seldom do. Instead, these smoldering discontents can rage just below the surface and have a devastating long-term impact on the organization or work-group.

If you want to see what happens when you let things go – there’s a very public, recent example at Wells Fargo Bank. They had an ethical lapse, which began as a poorly thought-out incentive system. Over time, it resulted in bad behaviors (the opening of thousands of unauthorized accounts) which ate away at their business, eroded the public’s confidence, and tarnishing their bank’s reputation. It was a structural issue that morphed into something much more menacing.

More commonly, leaders will need to resolve conflicts, since people problems represent the “Biggest Leadership Challenge” most leaders have experienced at work. They’re difficult to handle, but doable. Procrastination or avoidance in any form is always detrimental to the morale, commitment, energy, and production of the unit.

If you’re not taking action … you’re not leading.

Look at action as your responsibility. That means setting aside personal convenience, staying on top of things, and getting involved in the clean up when it’s needed. Employees expect it of you. The earlier you respond the easier problems are to identify and solve. Be a good leader – be a “First Responder.”

– Jerry Strom

Twitter: @JerryRStrom. For more information about our leadership and team development programs, please visit http://www.JerryStrom.com . Join the mailing list to receive new articles as they are published. This article is based on research conducted for the *’The Strong Points Survey’ by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Look for short insights on Twitter at #StrongpointsRPT

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