Do you prevent, extinguish, or cause fires?  Which one should you do? There are varying degrees of this but maybe we need to do a little of each?

The innovative leader has to be an arsonist and a firefighter.  – Paul Sloane

Prevention is important. We want to keep the fire from starting. It might ruin what we have built. It might take our precious memories. It might cause us physical and emotional harm.

We don’t want to cause our customers/employees/stakeholders pain. We want a harmonious environment. We want to prevent issues from happening. We want everyone to be harmonious.

Setting the right foundation of expectations with proper monitoring and escape routes is wise. It doesn’t always prevent the fire from starting but it may minimize damage.

Remember: Only you can prevent fires”

Extinguishers are also critical
. If the trash can catches on fire, don’t ignore it. It spreads quickly. With a little puff of chemicals/counselling/water/listening, we might be able to prevent the spread of the fire. They only treat the symptom, but not the cause of the fire.

Maybe it’s an infectious employee or customer. Maybe it’s a bad boss. Maybe it is a culture of gossip. If we just cool it off, maybe it won’t re-ignite or explode.
If we use the wrong type of extinguisher (water on a grease or electrical fire), we can actually make things much worse. The extinguishers don’t last long (most extinguishers last less than 60 seconds). We can hope for good results in that time but it’s a pretty tight window.

If we extinguish the flames, we might be able to find the cause and prevent it from happening again.

Be an arsonist
. It might surprise us that we should occasionally be an arsonist. We should be willing to (figuratively) set fire to what we believe to be true. We should control the burn and prevent it from spreading to useful areas. We should be able to watch long held beliefs/policies/procedures go up in flames.

We should watch it to make sure it gets us toward our mission. We should be able to see the landscape clearly in the smoldering debris of what burned. It should set off new seedlings that are our future. It should make us susceptible to a landslide of ideas. We can be confident that a steady stream of ideas will establish roots for growth. Some ideas are like gas. They might stink but maybe just need a spark to get going.

Have the courage to prevent and extinguish fires. Have the courage to light a (figurative) fire to long held beliefs. Have the courage to spread the fire to others. Have the courage to spark the new ideas.

Comments, likes, shares are  appreciated.Click for more information about the author: Trent Selbrede or simply click the follow button at the top of the page. See any of the prior posts here.

Thanks to Reid Crickmore for helping me with ideas and some editing again this week.

Disclaimer: Just to be be clear…this post is figurative/metaphorical. Do not play with fire. Thank you to our legal system for making me feel like I have to insult my readers by stating the obvious.