Monkey Puzzle Blog

Band Aid

The CEO Dilemma - how can I stop firefighting and focus on what I love?

We work with many CEO’s passionate about what their organisation does, but less so about the time pressures that come with leadership roles. People have a habit of looking to the top for solutions, so it’s no surprise that many CEO’s discover that people and organisational issues are the real time suckers.

In fact, CEO’s often complain that they have got so caught up with the problems of running an organisation that they have lost touch with the thing they loved. Yet that thing needs their time too - be it production, services, science or tech.

So how can CEO’s change how they and the organisation operates, ensuring the people side is taken care of and that they can focus on driving forward the work that inspired them in the first place?

Spend time now to save it later

We’ve seen the new CEO’s focus on quick wins, perhaps in the hope that the underlying issues go away. But a temporary fix will always come back to haunt and, when the diversion passes, often the same issues remain.

That’s why we recommend setting aside a wedge of your time to really work through some of the complex situations, getting to the root cause of issues rather than batting away one thing at a time. It will take time up front but definitely pay off later when people can resolve their own issues, represent you with confidence, feel more empowered and are clear on your expectations.

Beware the temptation of the quick fix. Our short video below explains why overcoming the urge to go for the quick fix takes effort and focus – but the solutions are often easier than you might think.

Invest in your middle and senior management

If you have a strong team behind you, you will spend less time firefighting. Make sure you have a mix of strengths, preferences, and styles in your senior team and that they are skilled conflict managers and negotiators.

Take time to get to know them and to let them get to know you - can they represent you in any meeting, know what your view on XYZ is and how you like things to be? Explain your thinking so that they can learn how to model what you want and replicate it if necessary.

Take time to review what the theme is in your firefighting

Don’t just treat the symptoms, look behind to the causes. Brainstorm with your senior team all the common themes that need firefighting and ask yourselves what the causes of these could be?

Go beyond the obvious to unpack the set of circumstances or chain of events that led to the problem. Then design some solutions and test them in a low risk way - maybe in one area of the organisation and calibrate the results before rolling it out more widely.

Take back control - and liberate your time

Some CEO’s report spending up to 75% of their time on people related issues. This effectively means being controlled by someone else’s priorities, at the expense of their own.

That’s why we have developed a programme called Time Mastery. It’s about liberating leadership time but also helping other team members understand how they can best use theirs. It goes beyond time management to instil powerful and productive strategies to not just manage time - but master it.

Find out more about our Time Mastery strategies and our practical sessions and workshops here.

For further information

If you want to read more about time management, including how your brain secretly sabotages your best efforts, you might find this article from the Monkey Puzzle blog of interest.

If you’d like to take a deeper dive into our training, coaching and personal development services and free resources, explore the Monkey Puzzle website.


Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

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