Are You Trying to Drink From A Fire Hose?

It happened again yesterday. An executive was confiding in me that they have so many priorities, are going in so many directions and have so much change being thrust upon them that he and his team feel like they were constantly trying “to drink from a fire hose.” You can probably relate. You may have even said the same thing yourself. The interesting thing is some leaders actually proclaim this like it’s a badge of honor.

It makes me want to scream Stop! Stop putting yourself through that, stop putting your team through that and by all means stop wearing it as a badge of honor. Trying to drink from a fire hose – even a metaphoric one – is not only dangerous it is ineffective.

You’ve got to turn down the pressure and give yourselves a chance to think. You and your team have to step away from the day to day activities and spend time communicating, collaborating and problem solving.

Research in the area of neuroscience is shedding light on some of the reasons constantly trying to “drink from a fire hose” is so ineffective and dangerous to a team and to an organization. If you are constantly trying to drink from a fire hose you are operating under a high level of continuous stress. This raises level of cortisol in the body which signals the amygdala (the part of our primitive brain that controls the fight or flight response) to be on high alert.

In this state of high alert, it doesn’t take much for the amygdala to take control of the brain. When the amygdala takes control the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for reasoning, problem solving, thoughtful decision making, creativity and innovation) shuts down and our only options become fight, flight, freeze or appease. The amygdala doesn’t think. It acts or rather reacts in response to a real – or more often in today’s world – a perceived risk.

An organization where leaders and team members are constantly under the influence of the amygdala can get great results, especially in the short-term. But these results are not sustainable and it always leads to a high level of casualties.

One of the ways that I work with leaders and their teams to “turn down the pressure” are team retreats or quarterly offsites. For many people the idea of a team retreat conjures up pictures of a fun, exciting or terrifying day away from the office participating in events such as paintball games, cocktail mixology classes, or perhaps climbing telephone poles and doing trust falls.

That’s not what I’m talking about. Certainly a social activity where people spend time together doing an activity like preparing a meal can be a great way to kick off a retreat. But if you want to really make a difference over the long-run you are going to have to be open to doing the hard work of exploring the elephant under the rug and tackling a real-life issue you and your team are facing. Developing a high performing team is a process not an event.

If you are willing to do the work, here’s what you can expect:

  • First, it will allow you to switch from reactively dealing with issues to proactively planning and problem solving.
  • Second, it will give you the opportunity to align as a team around a vision, strategy and action plan for achieving your goals.
  • Third, you will emerge from the experience as an even more cohesive, higher performing team with a level of trust that supports you in meeting targets and achieving goals.

For over 30 years I’ve helped build cohesive, high performing teams – as a participant, as a leader and as a consultant – and I’ve experienced first-hand these benefits and many more.

Ready to get started. Commit to a day away from the office and get it on the calendar now. I’m willing to bet that after that first day, it is something you will want to do once a quarter.

  • Are tired of trying to drink from a fire hose?
  • Are you ready to turn down the pressure so you and your team can develop creative and innovative solutions to the challenges you are facing?
  • Do you want to achieve better results with less cost, less struggle and less strife?

Give me a call at 972-701-9311 or email me at to explore how we can design a leadership retreat for you and your team.

Want more tips and resources to help you dissolve barriers to business success by unlocking the potential of your people and harnessing the power of teamwork?

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POSTED ON: Strategy and Vision