Is Fix And Forget The Way You Lead?

           Photo by  Michał Grosicki  on  Unsplash

           Photo by Michał Grosicki on Unsplash

Have you thought (or said) any of these statements in the past 30 days?

  • I thought we had that problem handled.
  • When will I have time to focus on what I need to get done?
  • I should have seen this coming.
  • WOW! That came out of nowhere.
  • I can’t believe we are having to deal with this again.
  • All people ever bring me are problems.

If you said yes to at least three of these statements, you might be in danger of becoming a “Fix and Forget” type of leader. Characteristics of a such a leader are:

Spending all (or most) of their time on maintaining the status quo. Time resources are strained and it’s easier to go from crisis to crisis to fill their day. They fail to carve out time to look toward the future and determine how to best lead their team into it.

Viewing the work of a leader as being in conflict with their own work. As Jack Welch is quoted as saying, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” A fix and forget type of leader wants to limit time spent on anything won’t advance their own personal agenda. They get nervous when team members share ideas because it threatens their comfort zone and ability to control the work to be done.

Fix and forget leaders get nervous when team members share ideas because it threatens their comfort zone and ability to control the work to be done.

Choosing short-term fixes over long term solutions. With a lack of focus on moving others (and team goals) forward, their preference is the most expedient action, regardless of its negative impact on the overall health of the team or their ability to get the right work done.

Failing to reflect on past decisions. “No need to dwell on the past,” they might say. “It’s time to focus on the present.” A partially true statement. But there is always much to be gained from evaluating what went well and what didn’t go as expected. Information that could be used to improve the team’s performance in the future.

Only checking in with team members when there is a problem. They might throw out an obligatory, “Let me know if you need help,” from time to time, but leaders like this really want to be left alone. They have too much work to do and asking too many questions might reveal another problem that needs to be addressed.


If, instead of being a fix and forget type of leader, you want to be known as someone who really wants to grow their team and achieve better results, think and take action like a gardener. This would include:

Talking to your plants.
In my leadership training sessions I like posing the question, “Does it really help to talk to your plants?” I typically get at least one person who offers that it does because you are offering your plants carbon dioxide, which they need for photosynthesis. But no, that’s not the real reason it is beneficial. Talking to your plants works because you notice their condition and what they might need for better growth.

Of course, people are not exactly like plants, and you’re not checking to see if they are dehydrated…unless you are a coach of an athletic team. To find out how they are thriving, have some standard questions you consistently ask them like:

  • “What’s been a “win” for you today or this week?”
  • “What seems hard for you to get done?”
  • “How can I help?”

Pulling weeds when they are small.
Weeds are in competition for resources needed by plants. As you think about your team and their work, analyze the work getting done, and see what might be competing for their attention and energy. If the “weeds” are related to how your team works together, determine ways you can address the issues as quickly as possible. Weeds grow quickly.

Taking frequent walks through your garden.
Use this time to reflect on how you and your team members are growing. What are some areas that need greater attention? What (or Who) is growing that you need to stop and celebrate for a moment? Are there some areas where nothing is growing and you could start something? An even better approach is to have another gardener take this walk with you. Gardeners, like leaders, have different skills and perspectives, and they might see something you’ve been missing.

Making the most of your growing season.
Successful gardeners know there are periods of time when conditions are most favorable for growth. If you aren’t recognizing those conditions and planting the right “seeds,” you limit your ability to achieve what is most important to you. Dr. Spencer Johnson, in his illuminating book, The Present, puts it this way: “What is right now, and what is right now?”

All kidding aside, I do believe A fix and forget mindset in leadership is dangerous. It ignores the need to be strategic in thought and action, inhibits the desire of team members to deliver their best work, and decreases the overall performance of the team.

Maybe it’s time to “forget” that type of mindset and start growing something better.