TV shows like Scandal and Ray Donovan have glamorized “fixers,” people who swoop in, handle crises and solve problems. However, I have found that fixers don’t always make the best leaders. In fact, CEOs and business leaders that are fixers may be unintentionally creating a dysfunctional team dynamic.
Fixers are focused on putting out fires and are often dead-set on finding the quickest solution to a given problem. They are reactive by nature and spring into action to repair what’s broken or salvage a situation. These might not seem like negative traits to have in a leader, but consider the impact it can have on company culture and you’ll understand why it can be detrimental to have a fixer in a leadership position.
Fixers often come in asking, “what’s the problem?” or “what went wrong?”— which can quickly lead to finger pointing and cause people to become defensive. This can negatively impact team morale, creating a “eat or be eaten” environment that isn’t conducive to collaboration. Instead of focusing on “the problem,” leaders should shift their focus…and language… by asking the following questions:
- Can you help me understand the issue?
- What perspectives should we consider?
- What data or information do we have?
- What do we need to know in order to move this forward?
A fatal mistake
When leaders become laser-focused on fixing problems they can sometimes make the fatal mistake of forgetting that they’re leading people. Their focus is no longer building up the potential of individuals. Teams become dependent on the fixer to make any and all decisions, keeping them from feeling ownership of projects, and ultimately diminishing passion, vision and productivity among the team.
Fix the fixer
Instead of being a fixer, work on your ability to help your team discuss and understand the problems they face more effectively. Avoid offering solutions or asking questions that lead to establishing blame. Empower your teams to have meaningful discussions about how to solve and proactively identify challenges.
For more strategies to help you become a leader, and not a fixer, check out the book ONE Team.
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