dr carl robinson
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The Currency of Success - Interpersonal Intelligence™

5 Ways to Create a Necessary Sense of Urgency

Don’t let yourself be confused by the difference between urgency and emergency. Emergency is an after-the-fact response to an action or consequence, while urgency is a proactive state of performance CEOs often find themselves needing to create.
Competitive pressure is one reason urgency is needed. If a manager is unable to keep forward movement at an urgent pace, it might never be possible to be first-to-market with anything, or provide consumers with the solutions they need, when they need them. Urgency is also needed in times of change. The necessity for change may arise from any number of reasons, but is most often attributed to either 1) management trying to avoid a situation likely to result without the change, or 2) in response to market demand. In either case, urgency must be communicated in order to complete the change in the shortest amount of time.
Creating urgency must be done correctly to be effective, and here are 5 ways to achieve it:
  1. Follow examples. Do not think of yourself as the authority on leadership, especially when it comes to creating a sense of urgency. Study other companies and how they’ve made it happen. Utilize tools that are at your disposal for these exact situations (John P. Kotter’s book: A Sense of Urgency),  (Full disclosure – Kotter and his consulting firm were clients of mine).
  2. Communicate clearly, effectively, and with consistency. Employees need to hear a clear, directive message on a consistent basis. They need to know what is happening, why it’s happening, the deadlines for doing their part to help the company get there, and exactly what the opportunities are in the marketplace. Kotter says, “When people do not see external opportunities or hazards, complacency grows…”
  3. Live it. Just like with anything else within the organization, management must lead by example. Everyone must be committed daily to performing with a sense of urgency and setting that example for the entire workforce. Anything less will signal to non-management employees that the initiative does not carry the weight or importance they were led to believe, and morale will take a hit.
  4. Address the naysayers. Change management is a very difficult thing and there will, in almost every instance, be naysayers that are next to or completely impossible to get on-board. While it may be difficult, it’s during these times that management must make those hard-hitting decisions to slim down—eliminating employees that could potentially stand in the way of the company’s success.
  5. Provide incentive or reward. People want to see the potential in their work. They want to know what they are working so hard to help the company achieve. So, ensure the consistent communication includes discussing the rich rewards that are possible in the marketplace, what they mean for the company, and what they mean for the individual employee. Design a performance tracking system and provide regular progress updates to encourage and motivate employees to continue driving the initiative with urgency.

What it all comes down to is open, honest, and consistent communication that is lived daily by everyone in the organization. Management must believe in it and be able to bring out the passion in their employees. And, of course, the incentive or reward must match the effort, remembering that “For every disciplined effort there is a multiple reward.” – Jim Rohn