Saturday, May 22, 2010


It seems like when I look back on some of my mistakes, I see that the mistake was at least partially due to me wrongly identifying an emergency. I’m generally pretty good at handling emergencies. I can usually size up a situation pretty well, determine a solution, order a response within our means, and do it all without getting carried away with emotion. Colleagues have told me that they appreciate my ability to lead in crisis situations.

When I error, it isn’t usually because I don’t identify a true emergency as an emergency; the error in this regard usually comes when I treat a non-emergency like an emergency. When I look back on times like these, it is clear that I would have likely handled things better if I hadn’t escalated things to emergency status.

I watched one of these unfold several weeks ago. Somebody did something that they probably shouldn’t have, and the authority went into full emergency mode. While there may certainly be emergency situations that result from bad behavior, ordering the punishment or disciplinary procedure is rarely an emergency. In this case, the authority made a non-emergency an emergency and insisted on dealing with the issue and the punishment under emergency conditions. It resulted in an overreaction and bruising some important relationships. Had the authority realized that this wasn’t even close to an emergency situation, I’m confident there would have been a better outcome for everyone involved. Don’t make a non-emergency an emergency.

I’ve also noticed that we tend to like to escalate situations to emergency status when we are confident that we have the solution. It is fun to solve problems… to ride in on the white horse and save the day. When folk fan the spark of a little issue into a flame of something like an emergency, just so they can be the hero by alleviating the problem, it is really weak leadership. Don’t allow things to become and emergency just so you can have the thrill of saving the day, and certainly don't trump up an emergency for your own satisfaction.


Amy said...

Soemone gave us this marriage advice once; "Major in the majors, and minor in the minors." Which does imply that you slow down long enough to tell the difference.

Hmmm... your post also make me think about the "tyranny of the urgent" could be reframed as "tyranny of the ego."

What does make us panic sometimes?

Dan Neary said...

Tyranny of the ego... Good stuff Amy

I've always liked the way you think!