They may sound similar, but there’s a big 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 that CEOs often need to create.
Urgency is often needed in times of change, which may arise for various reasons. Most often, change is needed when management tries to avoid a situation likely to result without the change. Or change may be needed in response to market demand. In either case, urgency must be communicated in order to complete the change in the shortest amount of time.
Competitive pressure is another 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.
In any case, urgency must be done correctly to be effective. When done correctly, urgency can achieve goals in a healthy way.
- 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. Be specific and honest so that your employees are equipped with the right tools to do their best work.
- Lead by example. 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. Exhibit calm and composure; don’t panic or lose self-control when stressed. Don’t shuffle around or rush around the office: demonstrate urgency in your body language by moving with confidence and energy. You’ll show non-management employees that urgency is an important initiative, and they’ll follow your lead.
- Address the naysayers. Change management is a very difficult thing and there will, in almost every instance, be naysayers that are troublesome to get on-board. Be sure to address everyone fairly and give them a chance to change any complacent ways. While it may be tough, management may have to consider slimming down — letting go of employees that could potentially stand in the way of the company’s success.
- Provide incentive or reward. People want to see the potential in their work. They want to know what they are working hard to help the company achieve its goals. Discuss with your team 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.
- Learn from others. Study other companies and learn how they’ve made it happen. Utilize tools that are at your disposal for these exact situations. Check out resources like A Sense of Urgency by John P. Kotter, a former client of mine.
With open, honest, and consistent communication; committed and passionate leaders; a rewarding system; and the opportunity to learn from others, you’ll stress the importance of urgency within your team, and put them on the path to success.