How Safe is Your Team From Your Fire Hose?

20 Success Tips for New ManagersAt one time, you were the go-to-guy or go-to-gal. You were the problem solver, the genius who made it all tick.

Your boss loved you, upper management loved you, your teammates loved you and you loved being the person everyone relied on to fight the fires and fix the problems.

You were so good at your job, your boss and upper management decided to give you a promotion to lead the team. They thought, “Wow, if Johnny can do all this great work and be the man, think about how he can run a team? We could get 10 Johnny’s, all putting out fires and ensuring our safety.”

You loved the idea of being in charge and you had been working hard just to get this opportunity. You knew you had what it takes to lead and you had big aspirations.

Congrats, you moved up to management

You are no longer a part of the team; you are now leading the team. It feels strange at first, but you’re still one of the guys. You just need to do a little budget work, a few performance reviews and its all good.

The day comes when you announce to your team the new promotion. You lay out your vision and the team feels your passion and excitement.

Life is good.

Then you dive in to the work. At first, you are so overwhelmed with the newness, you have no time to see what is going on in your old role. You have meetings with other managers; you are learning new skills and are engrossed with becoming a manager.

You learn about budgets, team development, leadership, performance reviews and status reports. There is a lot to know and your ego is eating it up.

Then after a few weeks, you start to notice the problems and fires. They never really went away and something needs to be done.

You try to let it go and stay focused on your new responsibilities, but people keep coming to your door, they have questions and you feel as though the fire is growing.

Then you can’t take it anymore. You reach behind your desk and pull out your trusty fire hose and your fireman’s hat and you get to work putting out the fires, solving the problems, and then wait for the accolades.

And you of course you get them, you boss says “great job”, your team thanks you and you feel awesome. This is a breeze, managing while still being the hero.


Soon the honeymoon of your new promotion wears off and the real work begins. You are still putting out fires and looking good, but now you have a budget to update, performance reviews to write up and next year’s strategic plan is due.

You get to work and after a few weeks of 10-12 hour days, it begins to feel like you have two jobs, one managing your team and the other still doing your old job.

You start asking questions…

How come my team isn’t stepping up? Why do they keep coming to me for answers? Don’t they know how much I have to do?

Then you start getting a little tired and cranky. Your mood becomes less excited and more irritated. You start to feel overworked and under appreciated.

Then things take a turn and your boss notices you are not getting your reports in on time and your team begins missing deadlines. You start putting off performance reviews because there is too much to do.

Leadership Coaching for ManagersThere are too many fires to put out.

How can you possibly create a strategy for next year, when there is this mess you need to deal with right now?

You start to resent your team. How come I have to do everything? Are they incompetent? Your team feels this, they see you taking over and not letting them do their work. They start to chat behind your back…

A few months into your new role, there aren’t ten firemen putting out fires, there is still only one fireman and ten people being rescued.

Then your boss pulls you into his office…and the news isn’t the best.

So what happened?

Instead of becoming the fire chief, you stayed the fireman. You kept taking out your fire hose and putting out the fires, just like you used to. You held onto your old role, never fully embracing the management challenges ahead of you.

Why did you hold on? Did you like your old job? Did you like the accolades and praise? Were you unprepared for all the new work? Did you feel that if you stopped doing your old job the ship would fall apart? Were you afraid of moving forward?

So now what?

Ask yourself if management is right for you and evaluate if it’s what you really want. If yes, you need to let go of your old role and embrace being a manager. If no, you need tell your boss that it’s not a good fit for you.

Above all else, be honest with yourself. Don’t blame your team, management or the system or anything else for your predicament.

You are responsible. You put yourself here.

So let’s say, you look deep down and decide that you really want to be a manager. It means a lot to you, for your career and for your future. You always wanted to be a manager; you just never thought it would be like this. Well it doesn’t have to be.

Lightbox Leadership - Lead Yourself FirstLead Your Team

  1. Fully embrace your new role as manager
  2. Let go of your old role as the firefighter
  3. Be a mentor and teacher to your team and create 10 little Johnny’s
  4. Empower your team and let them do the work
  5. Trust yourself that you can succeed in this new role.
  6. Get a coach or a mentor to help you move forward (that’s what I did).

Look at it this way. If you create a super star team that can put out fires and excel like you did, you are still the hero. If your team rocks, you still get accolades and so do they.

If the team is successful, management will be saying, “Hey, we should give Johnny the Director role, we could have 100 little Johnny’s putting out fires”.

So hang up your fire hose and hat, let go of your old role and embrace becoming a successful manager.


Images Courtesy: Official U.S. Navy Imagerykevin dooley


  1. says

    Good points for new managers. I like to talk about “What Got You to the Party May Get You Shown to the Door” — when employees are great at their jobs they may be promoted … and then they have to let go of the skills they know and learn a new set of skills. They are moving from technical skills to (hopefully) people skills; part of which is letting team members do their jobs with minimal interference.

    • says

      Hello Gary. Thank you for your comment. I agree, new managers need to develop their own unique people skills to support their team. Letting go of old skills and learning new ones can be a challenging process for anyone, let alone a new manager responsible for a team.

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