How to Create a Sense of Urgency

| Published by Mark Akerley under Newsletters |

Getting people “on the bus”, whether that’s employees who work for you or colleagues and service providers who work with you, is critical to you meeting your goals and objectives. You just can’t do it all yourself. As a business leader, you need to be able to count on your team for results and, typically, those team members you can count on have a built-in sense of urgency. However, what if everyone doesn’t have a sense of urgency, or at least your sense of urgency? Do you find new people? Change your goals? Reduce your expectations? Maybe – but if that’s not acceptable to you, try creating a sense of urgency with your team if you find them (or maybe yourself!) procrastinating. It definitely can be done, and here are a few simple steps to do so:

1. Simplify goals and objectives. Your goals and objectives of course make perfect sense to you. You’ve probably thought long and hard about them, and you understand the rewards that will go along with achieving them. If they’re significant, they will no doubt have some level of complexity to them. However, if you’re going to get others to work with you on your goals, you must simplify them, breaking them down into bite-sized chunks that are easily understood and digested. People need to understand what and why they are doing something if they are going to do it well. If you are going to have others work with you on a goal, be sure to have an informative, written, step-by-step action plan associated with it.

2. Set deadlines. When setting deadlines don’t ask, “When can you get this to me?” Rather, state, “You need to get this to me by ‘X’.” After all, if you’re going to complete your goals, you need to have all the pieces come together at the appropriate times. So make no assumptions what others might be thinking regarding timelines. If you haven’t set a specific deadline, there is no deadline. Let people know, tell them, that being on time with a less-than-perfect deliverable is far more important to you than being late with a perfect one.

3. Establish consequences. Every business leader must make it crystal clear that if agreed upon objectives and deadlines are not met, there will be consequences. Now, that doesn’t mean getting out the guillotine to address every missed deadline or marginally performed task. However, there should be a direct linkage between performance and reward. An excellent way to do that is to tell your team members what specific results will meet your expectations, which won’t, and which will exceed them. Appropriate rewards should then be given for exceeding them, acknowledgement for meeting them, and a definitive, corrective, time-limited course of action taken if they are not met. For example, you can reward someone who “exceeds” your expectations by giving them something of personal value (cash, bonuses, gifts, etc). For “meeting” them, maybe a personalized and sincere expression of appreciation (a letter, telephone call, meeting, etc). And for “not meeting” them, perhaps an admonition, warning, or penalty matched to the circumstances.

4. Follow up. If someone else’s actions are critical to an important goal don’t wait for a status report, ask for one. Feedback is crucial to any type of ongoing goal or process and asking questions, particularly open-ended questions, is a good way to get that feedback. For example, what can you tell me about this project? What’s going well? What’s not going so well? What have you learned since you started this project? What should I be telling my colleagues (boss, customers, etc) about this project? Let people know you are as interested in the journey as you are in the destination, and they’ll make your priority their priority.

Everyone agrees that having a sense of urgency is critical to running a successful business or leading a team. If you and your team already have a sense of urgency, great. If it’s missing or needs to be fortified, then these simple steps will help you create it.


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