Artificial Urgency and Failed Leadership

If we have to create urgency in order for people to come together and solve a problem, then leadership has already failed.

When people do not know why what they do matters in the big picture, or they believe that no one knows they contribute, there is no inherent urgency in individuals, teams, project or companies. No matter how hard one tries thereafter, instilling artificial urgency through other means is superficial at best, and contributes to a hollow victory because people merely followed orders to get a paycheck, but they didn't team.

Want a focused team urgently pursuing goals? Lead them to take up the cause with urgency by giving them knowledge, context and clarity regarding where things are, where they need to be, why, and how each individual contributes to the system level goal. Want puppies? Give them doggie treats and put them back in the kennel; but certainly don't mistake yourself for a leader.

Urgency is not created. Urgency is a by-product of effective leadership.

6 Critical Factors for Creating and Fostering Urgency

  1. Take the time with care to teach, not tell, people what problem needs to be solved.

  2. Take the time with care to teach, not tell, people why this problem needs to be solved and how it is important to the company in the larger picture.

  3. Ensure you spend time helping people see and understand understand their personal value and contribution opportunity in relation to the problem and solution path.

  4. Layout and explain a high-level plan showing people how you'd like to see then traverse what path in order to address the stated problem

  5. Be an active, purposefully involved and ever-present leader. People look for someone who will provide clear goal setting, quick decisioning, keep their hand on the wheel, and a comfort that someone will look out for them and their contributions along the way. In other words, every time they look up from their head's down work, they want to see the leader leading in front of them.

Still struggling with how to create urgency in your teams or company? Consider reading a book titled Good To Great, written by Jim Collins and published in 2001. And what is the premise of the book?

Companies evolve to greatness on purpose.

And how do they do this? Read the book. Summarily however, they are constantly evaluating, validating and changing their business plans, strategic and tactical goals to move where the ball is going to be through active, hands-on, from the front of the pack leadership. The leaders are active, purposeful, and leading from the front of the people. And what does it look like? Goals.

We're not discussing those storied, abstract and arbitrary goals sent down from the ivory tower up on the mountain that people don't really understand how to operationalize or what it really means to them. We're discussing simple goals - that if they aren't so simple that you're a little bit embarrassed about it, then they aren't simple enough types of goals. And when people intuitively understand them, why they care and how they matter, simple goals get operationalized. People are enabled and equipped to get excited about something they understand in terms of clarity and importance. People feel no sense of urgency about something to which they cannot relate.

And what next? Is it so simple that we just need a list of balanced scorecard-like goals in pretty templates and then our teams are hungry for success? No way. Writing up goals that intuitively make sense, give context and purpose, and help everyone understand why they matter and why these goals matter in a measurable, tangible sort of way is usually very hard and very time consuming...and that was the easy part. Now you need to become an evangelist regarding everything about these goals, their application, implementation, contextual importance and potential fruit of labor in terms of individual reward and corporate longevity and strength.

And what will being an evangelist take? Constant, hands-on-the-steering-wheel, active, purposeful, in-front-of-the-people, clear, decisive and swift leadership balanced with a healthy dose of listening to the people just as much, if not more, than talking. It will never suffice to distribute goals, state of the union addresses, and blanket 'Thank-yous" and "Good jobs" and call this leadership as those actions are nothing more than the administration required for you to be a good leader...but is not leadership.

Starting to make sense? If you want urgency on projects, teams and within individuals ... relate to them personally, help them relate to you personally, and provide tangible, clear, attainable, operational ready goals that help them understand why this is important and who they are in relation to why. Urgency is a by-product of leadership, relationship, knowledge and context. If this is too much work, then go get those doggie biscuits we discussed earlier and just pray those cute little puppies stay confined on your premises, never finding a crack in the gate to get loose and move on.