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Photo courtesy of Anna Popovic

Dealing with the Fires You’ve Inherited

At some point in your executive career, you’ve probably walked into a new role in a new organization only to be met with a total mess and a “Good luck with that” welcome mat. This is where most of us find ourselves at the beginning of our career, and we dive in with every intention of cleaning up the mess once and for all. Of course, with experience comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes the knowledge that not every mess can be cleaned up entirely.

If you’ve recently found yourself in this position, or you’re hoping to plan for the day you will inevitably encounter this problem, there are a few things you should know about inheriting (and putting out) other executives’ fires.

Evaluate the Fire Before You Extinguish It

On a day-to-day basis in any leadership role, you’re going to deal with “emergencies” that crop up and steal the limelight from the good work you’re trying to do. These emergencies and problems are even harder to handle when you’re unfamiliar with them and the organization in general. Because of this, your sense of immediacy when it comes to dealing with these problems will be on high alert. But before you throw your energy into a problem, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Is this the root of the problem, or is this a symptom of something bigger?
  2. Can I handle this quickly and by myself?
  3. Can it wait?

Carl Robinson, PhD, Advanced Leadershipconsulting

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Carl is a business psychologist and leadership development expert who focuses on the development of high performance leaders.

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