No matter how well we plan our projects and define our goals and objectives, sometimes it seems like putting out fires is the most important task in our job descriptions as managers. How well do you handle crises that break up your workflow? Take this quiz and find out.
For each statement, give yourself a ranking from 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree):
1. Crises, interruptions and putting out fires are, indeed, an important part of my job.
2. I do a good job at avoiding interrupting myself, and I typically take steps to make sure interruptions from others are brief.
3. When I'm overloaded, I don't have any problem saying no.
4. I'm comfortable ending conversations that are clearly going nowhere or in circles.
5. I see crises as opportunities to show what my team and I can do; I like to use them as chances to discover shortcuts, better ideas or new methods.
6. When a crisis erupts, the very last thing I do—if I do it at all—is to find out who's to blame.
7. I believe the best time to deal with a crisis is before it erupts, and I spend time and energy trying to anticipate problems and work out solutions ahead of time.
What do your answers mean?
Lower scores are better. If you scored 15 points or less, you're doing a great job—and, hopefully, also doing well at helping your team members build their own organizational and coping skills. (Don't be too impatient with people who don't rise to your standards; use this as a spur to develop your people.)
If you scored between 16 and 26 points, take a look at your individual answers and then at your work habits. You may be quite skilled at putting out fires but not so good at day-to-day time and workflow, or the reverse.
And if you scored 27 points or more, you probably need to invest some energy in developing your skills in both of these areas. Here's some advice from the pros:
Heading off crises. There's no substitute for managing by walking around and talking with your people as often as you can. Get in the habit of building cushions (of time and resources) into your work schedules; crises have a way of breaking out at the last minute or when the budget's running low.
Handling interruptions. Most importantly, don't interrupt yourself; if you're not really good at multi-tasking, do one thing at a time. Keep a log of your outside interruptions for a week or two to see how to best handle them—either by working with your team or by changing your own work habits.