Years ago Diane used to work for a Director who loved dealing with the urgent issues of the day i.e. fire fighting.  He was energised by action and the adrenalin filled day of solving emergencies.  Getting to know him I observed if things were running well i.e. quiet, he would set about creating problems with his team or suppliers so he could then dash off to solve the very same problems.  Effectively he set off fires so he would then have to put them out.  Action and daily fire fighting became compelling, like an addiction.I was reminded of this Director and being drawn in to compelling day to day ‘action’ when working with a team in the summer.  To get to know how they worked I was invited to attend a meeting in an observer role, so I could see what was going on in real time.

The meeting was well structured; the packed agenda covered a similar format it had covered for some time.  It was intense and full on with managers making presentations and then leaving followed by the next manager coming in to present and explain the report they had prepared before the meeting.  The data and detail was impressive and after three hours the team looked exhausted, I certainly was.  On the surface it was a great and intense meeting.  What I couldn’t understand was the purpose; I had read most of this information before the meeting in the pre-meeting pack.

Talking to the team the week after I asked what were the three critical issues (problems) in the business and what were the biggest three opportunities?  Clearly and fluently the team explained these to me.  Slowly the team started to reflect that the meeting hadn’t covered any of these issues.  The urgent business fire fighting had taken over and the agenda had gained a life of its own, the team had got used to the structure of the meeting.  The team were too full on with normal day to day business pressures, fire fighting to pause and ask ‘are we talking about the most important things in our business?’.

Day to day life is full.  The 24 hour society we live in constantly encourages action and activity.  We all have pressures and action to deal with the urgent issues of the day, fire fighting can become compelling, drawing us into thinking this is leadership.

Doing things is not necessarily leadership, doing the right things is real leadership.

Coaching creates the space, intelligent reflection and supportive challenge to re-focus. Supporting you to identify and then act upon the issues that make a difference.


Malcolm Walton

Consulting Partner

Fairstead Development