There are a few buzz words out there these days that employers are using to describe ideal employees. Words like Resilient and Engaged and Agile come to mind; however, there is another one that we’ve heard a few times in just the past week that I thought could use some dissection and discussion.
Employers want employees that can step it up when they need to and who understand when that is.
We work with a mid-size marketing firm; when this firm started out as a teeny tiny venture their distinct difference was responsiveness. They could out-maneuver and out-flank their larger competitors and get the deals done. They could respond quickly and move fast. It was about hustle. This also became their competitive advantage – as a result, they grew. But, there seems to be an inverse relationship between this company’s size and the sense of urgency embedded in the culture. Now the work is ticking along and certainly getting done but that high energy buzz that used to be in the office has dwindled down to a steady hum.
More often than not, small companies have a sense of urgency. Why? Their very survival is at stake. If they don’t move quickly, they get squashed by larger, more established competitors. In today’s market, no one can afford to drift along with the status quo. Once a company passes a certain threshold it seems that urgency dissipates. This isn’t about work ethic or getting the job done, it’s about that fire that moves the team.
Think of it this way: many of us have a background in hospitality or retail. In that environment when you have line up of customers, what do you do? Keep the same place or do you step it up? You step it up! We may not have a line up in our professional offices, manufacturing firms, town halls or other workplaces but we do have a client that is waiting in line for the best service.
Hence employers want to find ways to create a sense of urgency. An atmosphere of urgency will create an atmosphere of achievement. It’s tragically un-hip to procrastinate. A deadline and strong sense of urgency generates energy towards getting results. In short, they drive people to perform.
Activate, Accelerate & Deadlines
Activate: Urgency requires we activate quickly: make a decision; get off the dime, pick up the phone, write the report, book the meeting, and finish the project. As someone very smart once said: “It’s easier to steer a moving object” If you’ve made the wrong decision, you can adjust. But if you wait too long, you miss the opportunity entirely.
Speed can still be our competitive advantage in larger organizations.
Accelerate: Urgency requires more than activation. You have to start quickly but you also have to keep things moving. There quite a few forces that will conspire to slow you down; approvals, budgets, client feedback and the list goes on. Any employee has to identify these obstacles and remove them in order to keep things moving forward to closure.
Deadlines: In an ideal world, behaviour doesn’t depend on deadlines.
Behaviour should depend on values, and one of the values of all high performing people is a sense of urgency. Deadlines represent commitment, deadlines enforce accountability, and deadlines create a sense of urgency. A clearly understood deadline that is shared, agreed upon and committed to is the silver bullet of proactive behaviour.
What specifically can you do to create more urgency?
- Walk faster – show some hustle
- Respond faster to emails and voicemails. Don’t allow yourself to become someone else’s excuse for not getting their work done.
- Get to the point quickly. Clean, clear and concise communication is key.
- Be quick to change your tactics. If something isn’t moving you toward your desired outcome do something else – rewrite the email, evaluate your work. Pivot.
- It’s easy to see a lack of urgency in others, but can you see it in yourself? How can your own mindset help you in creating your sense of urgency?
Why You Need a Sense of Urgency:
None of us can afford to delay our goals or responsibilities. Deadlines create a sense of urgency that help us get things done. Next Monday when you’re looking at your calendar or referring to your to-do list, factor in urgency, it will make a difference.