Putting Out Office Fires: Do You Fan The Flames?


Are you a Catabolic or Anabolic Leader? Even sometimes?

Catabolic leaders work in crisis mode. They put out fires, and deal with issues as they arise. This reactivity leads to stress, lack of focus, and a non-productive, frenzied type of atmosphere. They don’t think much about where they’re headed, and even if they do, the “big picture” gets lost in the demands of the moment. They often are winging it and hoping everyone is doing what they say they will do.

Anabolic leaders, on the other hand, plan ahead. They know exactly what they want to achieve, and have a plan to get there. Not only do they have a plan (and, as discussed in previous months, share it with others, while participating in the team effort themselves), but they hold the others involved in the plan accountable for doing what they said they will do. They have a process, a structure, meetings, discussions…and action plans!

Let’s take a closer look at those two components of anabolic leadership – having a plan, and holding the people involved in executing it accountable.

It’s often said that “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” The first step in having a plan is creating the vision of where you want to go. That vision is the ideal – but it’s vitally important to realize that getting from where you are to where you want to go may not be possible overnight – to get there, you need a roadmap, a plan of action. What would your team say the vision is if you asked them right now?

Once the plan is decided upon, the crucial aspect of accountability comes into play. The “A” Word! Accountability involves helping people keep the commitments they make. An anabolic leader creates a system of checking in with the people who are implementing a plan, to make sure that they’re taking action. And, if they are not taking the agreed upon action for some reason, an anabolic leader doesn’t blame, but instead works on helping the person get through whatever blocks that need to be broken through.

Need ideas? I highly recommend the book “Getting The Right Things Done” by Pascal Dennis. I have seen this type of approach work tremendously well – it can be adapted to your situation, even simply as a personal guide to meeting your own goals. The keys are clear goals, routine tracking and review, and adjusting action plans to stay on track to your plan.

Another idea? Ask your team. What do they want and need to hold themselves accountable – ask for their advice to you for helping them stay accountable. I asked my 13 year old daughter at the beginning of the school year what she needed from us to help her this year as she started 8th grade. She said, “Please help me have a specific time to do my work – and ask me if I have done my work if you see I am not doing homework during that time.” Well, Okay! We have and we are all on the same page and the “fussing” that used to incur whenever we intervened has been eliminated…related to homework that is (smile).

Get the picture?


Nicoa is the Managing Partner of Holland Archer and President and Chief Relationship Rover of Roving Coach International where she brings 16 years of experience in global corporate communications and strategic human resources (HR). As a strategic business partner and coach, her collaborative approach to innovative problem solving is refreshing and motivating for those working with her. An undergraduate of NC State University, master’s of arts graduate from Ball State University and certified in international business administration from Charles Sturt University (Australia), her career background also includes 8+ years with GE, where she graduated from the GE Human Resources Leadership Program (HRLP). Her 4+ years with Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO) spanned 20 countries and included over 10,000 employees in her client group. And most recently as the SVP of HR for Allscripts Healthcare Solutions where she provided key leadership in the transformation of Misys Healthcare, positioning the company and culture for growth and the ultimate merger with Allscripts — creating the NEW Allscripts (MDRX).

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