Driving Outcomes by Leading with a Sense of Urgency
Driving Outcomes by Leading with a Sense of Urgency
The only guarantee at any time, or anywhere in business, is change. Leading with a sense of urgency means you keep your finger on the pulse, in a time where the only predictable variable is change, can your business afford being complacent?
Effective leaders know the pivotal role that a sense of urgency plays in their business success. Yet many leaders have trouble getting their people to work with a sense of urgency. Leaders often set up urgent type cultures and are oblivious to the power of working with a sense of urgency that moves things forward purposefully.
Today, let’s examine what it takes to instil a sense of urgency in the workplace and who do you need to be as a leader of that kind of workplace.
Urgent behaviour causes chaos
Can you remember a time when you left something to the last minute because you forgot or were avoiding it altogether? Did you feel dread, panic and stress when you realised that you had to pull yourself together and get it done now?
This is a result of work that was due yesterday, sending us into panic mode.
When a leader fails to keep their eye on what’s required – they cause chaos as they demand that their people jump to attention to fix something that needed to be done weeks before. These 11th hour interventions have people make mistakes, become flustered and produce work that they are dissatisfied with.
When this happens regularly, teams lose focus and people can even switch off completely when the pressure becomes too much. They hang around, on edge waiting for the next disaster to fix!
A Continued Sense of Urgency leads to Long-term Success
A sense of urgency means we are proactive, constantly looking at the present, deciding what actions to take today to ensure the future that we envisage.
It’s a mindset that’s driven by purpose and enhanced by focus. Organisations with a sense of urgency assume that change is constant and go about proactively scanning their competitive landscape to mitigate risks and capture opportunities.
Teams generate speed by developing a deep sense of ownership over their work and they’re driven to find new ways for the business to win and remain competitive. They’re alert, open to challenging assumptions and move with velocity when it comes to their daily tasks.
Unlike urgent, which is reactive and throws people off course, teams operating with a sense of urgency are energised, excited and feel empowered.
How Can You Build a Sense of Urgency in Your Business?
For some people working with a sense of urgency comes naturally. They bring this to everything they do.
Leading with a sense of urgency means there is a requirement for you to keep your attention on the activities and tasks that keep you on track – moving and correcting with velocity.
Leaders who work with a sense of urgency are paying attention to particular things.
- Pay Attention
How many times do you go on autopilot each day? One too many, we bet! A true sense of urgency requires leaders to be mentally present to take in what’s happening around them. This can mean listening closely to what different levels of the business are concerned with, speaking directly to customers or benchmarking your competitors to see how your business measures up.
When leaders are paying attention, they become aware of valuable business and industry information that they otherwise wouldn’t have discovered.
- Focus on the business priorities
A clear strategy determines what you pay attention to, what your approximate objectives are, with the correlating tasks that need to be actioned. Those objectives decide where your focus will be.
A poor strategy has people doing work that doesn’t move the business forward. It took something for us to get clear about our strategy and have the entire business know and understand it, as well as their role in it.
- Hold people to account
Building a sense of urgency requires leaders to empower their teams to deliver. They do this by holding people accountable, providing them with resources and letting them know you expect them to get the job done.
We have done a whole webinar “Leading from the Accountability Zone” – see link (hyperlink to webinar)
Keep these 3 rules in mind when holding people to account;
- Give it a timeline
There is always a ‘by when’ – without it you lose of sense of urgency. This empowers the team – without it you disempower them, leaving them floundering.
- Build in check points
In any project as soon as you miss a small deadline you will miss the big one. The bigger the project, the bigger the knock-on effect. Make sure people meet the checkpoint deadlines and if they fail to do so, ensure they catch up prior to the next checkpoint deadline.
Keeping things on track has great positive consequences. When it goes off track, the consequences could be dire to you and the business.
- Give it a timeline
- Lower your tolerance level
Do you catch yourself rationalising why your people don’t deliver? Whatever excuse you come up with, it doesn’t change the fact that the work wasn’t up to par.
What’s worse is that continuously bad work can mean unmet targets. Once this snowballs, businesses end up creating urgent work to recover their losses instead of concentrating on high-value projects that increase your bottom line.
When leaders lower their tolerances and call out poor performance, people will take notice and act with a sense of urgency to do what they initially promised to deliver.
- Create a culture
Create a culture where everyone can challenge anyone. Answer this question for yourself, who on your executive is unafraid to challenge you? When did they do it last? Now be honest, if it wasn’t in the last 7 days, they are not empowered.
Culture requires Robust Conversations. They are done anywhere, anytime with anyone. When this is happening, your people are empowered and will act with a sense of urgency.
What are the signs of False Urgency?
When leaders ask their people to act with a sense of urgency and they don’t explain what that looks like, you’ll get something like this. They’ll run from one meeting to another, create meaningless Powerpoint Presentations and prioritise inconsequential tasks that they’re good at to appear busy. Leaders who are not paying attention will equate this busyness with productivity.
Over time, teams become overworked and anxious with the constant pressure to do more, with little to show for their diligence.
This false urgency occurs when leaders haven’t clearly articulated their strategy. When strategic objectives are communicated effectively, there’s no time to waste on low value-add tasks.
Complacency: Past Success is Not an Indicator of Future Results
Many businesses fall victim to their past success and fall into complacency.
Happy with the status quo, you’ll see people patting each other on the back for the same work that they’ve done for years. Their eyes are not on new opportunities, market changes and emerging competitors because they wholeheartedly believe in their own invincibility.
It’s ultimately this complacent attitude which sees them being overtaken by more agile competitors, operating with a heightened sense of urgency.
To minimise both chaotic urgency and complacency within your business, leaders can ignite an invigorating sense of urgency which has their people persistently pushing onwards by using the 5-steps that we’ve just described. Leaders are reminded to pay attention to their surroundings, identify priorities, create a strategy, hold teams accountable and use feedback to ensure the business is on the right track.
This way, their people can work with focused attention to execute high priority tasks which move the business forward.
Where Leaders Go, So Do Their People
A sense of urgency is about doing things on a daily basis that moves the business forward purposefully. That sense of Urgency is created by you being present, living in the now, with an eye on the probable future. Correcting with velocity when you notice things are off course.
What I’ve learnt is when I work with a sense of urgency, so do my people. When I go to urgent, they do too – we are responsible for that as leaders.
Stay present, stay clear, fulfil on your strategy and the vision of your business, and keep a sense of urgency about everything that’s going on.
You can watch a recording of the webinar here ..
Jennifer Elliott is the founder and CEO of Integrity and Values, a leadership development organisation that empowers leaders to build responsible teams that produce extraordinary results.
Recognised as one of Australia’s leading executive leadership and behavioural change consultants, Jennifer has worked with teams and individuals across Australia for over 30 years..
Jennifer’s impressive sales and management history is supported by her own experience owning and running successful multi-million dollar companies and through building and leading her own effective teams. She has first-hand knowledge on the business building process, the payroll struggle, confronting management issues and dealing with cash-flow problems.