Is being urgent a good thing?

Well, that depends!  Critical issues and problems more often than not benefit from early attention, and a ‘true sense of urgency’ is usually what is required to break-through barriers, obstacles and resistance.

The real enemies of ‘true urgency’ are ‘complacency’ and ‘false urgency’.  You may be familiar with those imposters.

Complacency is a dangerous state of mind, mainly because people rarely believe they are being complacent (at least until after the event). In this state, people are content, satisfied and cling on to the status quo. They don’t look for new opportunities, they are not great fans of change, and tend to stick with what has always worked for them in the past.

False Urgency can be equally dangerous. People displaying this thinking and set of behaviours, are energized, active and busy. They are likely to be anxious or frustrated. Their behaviour can often be mistaken for being productive and important simply because they are busy and active. However, their activity is often misdirected, lacking focus and chaotic.

True urgency is neither of these things.  People displaying true urgency do not simply do things ‘faster’, or do more. They focus on less, they do what is important, and they do it now.  They are alert to the bigger picture, they are externally focused, and, very importantly, they seek to eliminate irrelevant activities that would otherwise detract time and energy from what is most important.

For a full account of this subject area, see John P. Kotter’s book, A Sense of Urgency.

Kotter’s tips for creating a true sense of urgency can be summarised as:

  • Bring the outside In
    • companies that do not look externally and become too internally focused, either become complacent (e.g. resting on the laurels of past success) or have a culture of false urgency (where anxiety and misdirected business is the norm)
  • Behave with urgency every day
    • Many complex problems can take time to solve, sometimes years, but it is important to act each day with urgency, with that knowledge. This has been called “Urgent Patience” by some writers.
  • Find opportunity in crises
    • Do not simply see crises as ‘fires that need extinguished’ so that we can all return to our status quo (and complacency) but as an opportunity to look radically at doing things differently
  • Deal with NoNos
    • Every organisation has NoNos – people who don’t see the point of changing things, who will always tell you why it won’t work, who will sabotage change activity, and will ultimately kill off true urgency in others if left undealt with.

Coaching is a great way to help you develop a true sense of urgency, and explore ways in which you can become even more effective by developing awareness and skills in this area.

If you would like to discuss how you can become a more effective leader, a leader prepared for the complexity and challenges of our rapidly changing world, get in touch through the Contact Us page.


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