Frontline managers, like most people, often like to stay within their “comfort zones” (routines) even when it is not making the situation very comfortable for the company.  They become accustomed to certain types of chaos and disorganization.

  • When asked why they do not carry out strategies and tactics they say they are too busy.
  • When asked what keeps them so busy they say putting out fires.
  • When asked why they don’t find the source fueling the fire (pro-activity) instead of hosing down the blaze (reactivity) there is not a coherent answer.

The fact is, for many managers and supervisors solving urgent problems on a daily basis gives them a sense of value and satisfaction.  It also gives them an excuse for not performing less comfortable leadership functions such as performance improvement, employee coaching and deployment of strategies and tactics.

Basically they are saying is; “I am a victim of the environment.  I couldn’t possibly deal with all these fires as well as perform leadership functions and neither could anyone else”.  They do not see their behavior as creating the very environment which is supposedly “victimizing” them = self-inflicted chaos.

More importantly this behavior is often tolerated by the executive leadership.  People are allowed to make reactive choices without any logical consequences for that behavior. In some cases people are affirmed for reacting to a crisis “what would we do without Joe on the frontline”.  This is a reinforcing (positive) consequence for a less effective behavior.

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