Alignment Performance Results

Stop Pants On Fire Management

Posted on 01/28/2019 in Culture/Team Alignment, Featured Articles by Jack Speer

In your career and in your life. It doesn’t have to be that way.

“Pants on fire” management sounds a bit extreme, but we all do it more than we think—we do it at the highest level in organizations.

Here’s an example. As a leader in your organization, when do you put together your best sales and marketing campaigns? Sometimes because of opportunity, but all too often because sales are off, or you’re losing market share, or investors are putting on the heat.

We really wish we had gotten ahead of whatever crisis it is that we’re facing, but the fact is we didn’t see it coming or we just weren’t ready to respond. This is all too often “pants on fire management.” We’re doing a great job, our best job yet, but we’re under the gun and behind the 8 ball. I gotta say it, we have “pants on fire.”

Crisis Management When Teams Falter

I’ve been most amazed that it is at the point that leadership suddenly realizes there’s a problem, they realize that their own issues are at the heart of the organization’s problems.

Cracks in the wall of leadership most often manifest themselves just as the organization is growing quickly in revenues and market share. When an organization “takes off,” it is in its most dangerous position. 

When the organization propels itself forward it is often elated by the sudden explosive growth–and overwhelmed by the lack of the leadership team ability to keep up with the withering demand of delivering products and services, onboarding employees, launching new product, upgrading technology, and investing wisely in new opportunities while at the same time controlling huge new costs.

Leadership Can Be Highly Qualified—Miles Apart

The kinds of teams we deal with are often highly qualified, skilled, and experienced executives. In the earlier formation of the organization, each executive is pretty well running his or her company within the company. They have defined roles from marketing, product development, sales, production, etc.

In the excitement of the company catapulting forward and everything is happening at once, suddenly each person on the team finds his or her fate much more intertwined with each other. Each leader’s outcome is more interdependent. Each person’s success or failure impacts others in powerful ways and determines the fate of the organization.

It suddenly dawns on the leadership team that if they can’t coordinate their styles and approaches the only thing they may do together is to go down the tube.

We find at this point the separate approaches that each leader takes individually can be disastrous to the group. Suddenly there are surprise departures from the team, some willing and some forced, and lots of finger pointing around the table. The sum of the parts doesn’t add up to a leadership team.

It’s at this point when organizations realize that they need an outside professional to help them through their complex issues to make the transition to their next level of success. To do that internally would make as much sense as to learn to code from scratch and install the new IT system by yourself.

When we do our team alignment analysis we often find the following:

  1. Leadership teams often come from widely different educational backgrounds, industry experiences, and management styles. They are playing the game by separate rules and are frustrated by the outcome.
  2. Leaders are not aware of how they relate to others around them and benefit from assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and FIRO-B. Facilitated effectively, these tools are as useful as MRI’s in the field of medicine. They show how leaders move forward.
  3. Leaders are often to a greater or lesser extent, not aware of their impact on teams as a leader. The Delta groundbreaking 360-degree assessment often revolutionizes the effectiveness of leaders with each other and teams.

The Model that Produces Organizational Transformation

The issue with “Pants on Fire Management,” and organizations is that it solves issues instead of anticipating them. Anticipating issues before they happen creates systems that keep problems from occurring so that the problem never comes up.

Kirk Dando, one of America’s great consultants and a great friend, has written a book, “Predictive Leadership.” Kirk’s message to organizations is that it takes much less time and resources to get into the position of predicting problems rather than solving them. All too often, organizations bring us in to solve serious issues that may not be “pants on fire management,” but are certainly reactionary enough to keep the organization off balance working on remedial solutions rather than sprinting forward.

The Delta Organization Transformational Model


The Delta Organizational Model is extremely effective in solving specific issues that seriously impact effectiveness. We look forward to beginning a conversation with our colleagues, friends, and leaders about how teams can best achieve their peak performance.

If you, as an organization, really are facing “pants on fire crises,” we can help. We have worked with organizations at critical moments, and the transformation of their organizations has often been the key to their success.

If your organization is dealing more with opportunity than crisis, there is no better time to begin working on the Delta Transformational model. We would be happy to discuss this model with you, and the impact it can make on your organization.

Visit our MBTI Resource Center to see how personality type tools can help your business thrive.