Leaders, Flies, and Manure

A leader without a problem to fix is like a fly searching for stink. If you aren’t fixing something, you’re buzzing around looking for something that’s broken.

Leaders love problems like flies love manure.

You love complaining about problems, but you feel lost if you aren’t solving them.

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**The idea of the pyramid originated with, “The Anatomy of Peace.”

Six things that make problems appealing:

  1. Bad is stronger than good.
  2. We naturally look for things that are bad, broken, or not working.
  3. The seduction of fixing is nearly irresistible.
  4. Complaining, gossip, and pointing out problems feels powerful.
  5. Fixing makes leaders feel important. The stink smells good to a fixer.
  6. It’s easier to work on others than ourselves.

Manure is more appealing to leaders than candy.

Everyone chooses to see the good and be energized or smell the stink and be drained. Aggressively turn toward what’s working.


  1. Technical problems or broken processes can’t be ignored.
  2. Focusing on what’s working works best with people and relationships. You go further by helping people do more of what’s working.
  3. Focusing on what’s working often shrinks the size of problems.
  4. Some personal weaknesses or problems are harmful and must be addressed.

Please don’t use the above list as an excuse to spend the bulk of your energy focused on problems. Leaders who neglect what’s working de-energize their organization.


Focusing on what’s working isn’t accepting mediocrity.

Make the good even better. Fixers miss opportunities to maximize strengths.


  1. Force yourself to walk around looking for people doing the right thing.
  2. When you see something that’s working, go crazy with excitement.
  3. Begin meetings by asking one of these questions:
    • What’s working?
    • Where are we winning?
    • What do you love about our busyness/team/customers?
  4. Spend an entire day talking about what’s working.

How might leaders spend more time making the good even better?

What suggestions do you have for leaders who constantly circle the stink?

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