Work, Fire Fighting, and Priorities

fire_house_small.jpgA few weeks ago our Management Team had just finished our regular weekly meeting. As we came out of the meeting, other co-workers informed us about a wild fire at the south end of the valley on the mountain side. At first, we thought it was no big deal, even though another co-worker and I actually lived in that area. I wasn’t concerned about the situation because I don’t often think about having my home burn down. A few minutes later, my wife called me to let me know that she could actually see flames on the mountainside and while they were not very close to our home, she was becoming concerned.

Her biggest concern was if the fire authorities decided to evacuate people from their homes, there was no returning to the home until clearance was given by the fire emergency personnel. She asked that I come home for the time being while she ran an errand as a precautionary measure. At first I thought this would not be a necessary thing. I highly doubted the fire would get close to our home, besides I had several urgent things that needed to be accomplished at work. Several meetings had already consumed a lot of my time at work so far and working from home for an hour or two was going to hamper productivity even further. I just really didn’t want to do it; but I thought, “What is the most important priority right now? Is it my work, or protecting my family, home and most valuable items from the potential threat of a real fire?” I immediately headed for home.

It turned out to be a good decision. While our neighborhood was not evacuated, 75-80 homes just East of us were evacuated and we were warned that our neighborhood was next. At that point I was glad that I had focused on this priority.

Does this sound familiar? I mean, how many times at work or in life, do we have “fires” that distract us from the work we need to get done and our priorities. I feel that all too often we allow these fires to distract us and take us off course. I suggest that we turn those fires into a positive action rather than looking at them as a negative event. Just like in my personal experience, when the fire seemed like a threat, it helped me to focus on what was the most important issue at hand. I think we can use this in our daily work life. When there are fires at work, be aware of them and use them as a way to focus on what are the important priorities that you and your team are trying to accomplish. Sometimes in all the daily activity and” busy-ness” of business, we can lose sight of the goal. We get so caught up in doing things and prioritizing our schedule that we often forget to schedule in our priorities. We can take advantage of the fires or the threats that surface to help us refocus and re-energize our teams and our commitment to the end result.

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About the Author

Matt Fankhauser

Matt began his career with CMOE and is a Regional Vice President. Matt has experience in management, marketing, advertising, and sales. He has developed and delivered personnel performance reviews, been involved with hiring, interviewing, and training processes for different employment positions. He has participated in market research and conducted interviewing involved with the research. He has delivered keynote presentations at various association meetings for SHRM, ASTD and others. He has facilitated groups in training sessions involved with the skill development of Coaching, Leadership, Team Building, Facilitation, and Strategic Thinking. He has also been involved with the design and development of Executive Team Retreats, organizational case studies and training materials, as well as the translation of organizational training materials.