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99's On the Go
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Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2015 Brian Remer
Updated July 2015
99's on the 9th
based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.
July 2015 - Always in Crisis: Putting Out Fires
Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.
Always in Crisis
At a local social service agency, each case manager worked with up to ninety clients solving problems and dealing with difficult situations on a daily basis. Their supervisors dashed from one disaster to the next while juggling meetings and paperwork. Everyone wore a buzzing pager. The most common comment was, "I'm in crisis!"
One summer, most everyone took a week off to attend a workshop out of town. During that time, not a single client phoned with an earth-shattering problem. Somehow they took care of themselves.
I have often wondered who really created all the emergencies.
You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.
Putting Out Fires
"People respond to a crisis. If you don't have a crisis, go make one."
That was the advice of the Executive Director of a non-profit service organization. Though it sounds cynical, it does make a certain amount of sense. Consider your own reactions when you hear of a devastating tornado in the Midwest or an earth quake in India. Aid agencies always receive more donations in response to a recent disaster than to on-going funding appeals. Providing help during a crisis, responding with a sense of true urgency, always garners larger contributions than a generic annual appeal.
So, if you don't have a crisis, if the sky has not fallen, but you need funding for your project, what's the harm in inflating your need? If ten houses were destroyed by a tornado, solicit donations for 20 and you'll surely get enough donations with some left over for the next project.
Of course, the obvious problem with this crisis-mentality culture is its impact upon our integrity. When the ends justify our pessimistic means, the donors we value and depend upon will never know whether to trust us.
Many of us don't work in the non-profit world of aid and relief but we still may be submerged in a crisis-mentality culture. When we are surrounded by an inflated sense of urgency, when we lurch from one crisis to another, our personal integrity might also be at risk. Chasing the ambulance from one fire to another, we may only be fooling ourselves. Here are some examples:
- If I look busy and sound busy I must be busy doing important work. With all this important work, I won't be given extra projects or asked to take on responsibilities outside my role. I can be productively lazy.
- If I'm delivering indispensable service I must be indispensable myself. I can indulge my desire to be helpful then congratulate myself because no one else could have been so helpful. I can have job security.
- There is an incredible amount of satisfaction and accomplishment in putting out fires. I can show off my expertise and become a mentor to aspiring colleagues. I can be the hero!
- If I'm dealing with an immediate crisis, I don't have to work on long-term goals or deeper systemic issues that are the source of daily emergencies. I can focus on providing a quick fix that I know has worked before. I can be successful.
Notice that all of these examples of deception are about me and the perceptions I have of the value of my own contribution. Ultimately though, it is my own integrity that suffers.
We can all agree that if the house is on fire, we need to act quickly. But, as the 99-Word Story suggests, some problems are resolved without us. When we wait before rushing in with a bucket of water, other people become empowered to take responsibility and make a contribution.
Leaders are challenged to set the tone, focus the vision, and promote the mission. They are the ones who establish either a culture of crisis or a culture of competence in which team members can determine which crisis is real and which is made up.
For a different interpretation of the 99-Word Story in this article, see the March 2014 issue of the Firefly News Flash. Click HERE.
Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.
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