They say that a fish rots from the head. Forgive me for likening your business to a dead Barramundi, but this graphic image is helpful for reminding you that as the business owner, you are the ‘head’, and that your leadership habits will influence your team – the ‘body’ – of your business. If you take a casual ‘she’ll be right’ attitude, so too will your staff. But if you want to get things done and done well, you need to create a habit of ‘urgency’. Instilling a positive sense of urgency in your team is central to being a successful business leader.
The urgency habit
Leaders who approach their work with a sense of urgency treat the tasks presented to them each day as matters of great importance. They may appear to be working as if their life depended on efficiently handling their work. They focus on what really matters without being distracted. I call this a ‘habit’ because it is a constant in your leadership style. Leaders with the urgency habit express excitement, expect achievement and welcome contributions from their team.
Lack of urgency – the consequences
A lack of urgency results in complacency and a ‘ho-hum’ approach, both of which characterise mediocrity. Businesses that lack urgency – and in my experience this almost always reflects a lack of urgency in their leader – tend to over-promise and under-deliver. A lack of urgency can stem from ‘resting on your laurels’, when you stop trying because you’re satisfied with your past performance.
It is important to distinguish genuine urgency from the type of fear-based ‘busy-ness’ that borders on the frenetic. This panicked ‘negative urgency’ approach to work is usually based on fear or anger and tends to result in a lot of activity with very few productive results.
3 tips for developing urgency
Here are three ways you can develop the ‘urgency’ habit:
1. Set deadlines
Described as ‘the silver bullet of proactive behaviour’, deadlines represent structure, commitment and accountability. Tasks with no deadline may or may not get done, whereas setting a deadline provides an employee with a time frame for achieving a goal. Even if the time frame is short, it allows them to plan and manage their time towards a specific outcome in a positive way. This is very different from the negative urgency that results if you suddenly drop an extra task on an already busy member of your team.
An essential part of the urgency habit is having the wisdom to recognise that you aren’t personally responsible for all that needs to be done. The advantages of delegating are that you make the best use of the people in your team, you provide important opportunities for growth and learning and you communicate clearly what you want to be dealt with as a priority. When your delegation includes setting a deadline and ensuring the responsible person has access to appropriate time and resources, you both empower your staff and vastly increase the chances of the task being completed.
3. Leverage meetings
As the business leader, you will frequently have the opportunity to convey your sense of urgency at meetings with staff. Ending your meetings with a clear summary of who is responsible for each task, allocating resources to it and indicating the deadline for completion provides clear instruction, another important leadership skill. There can be few more salient ways of communicating the commitment that you expect from your team.
The next step in creating an urgency habit of your own …
… is to recognise the importance of doing so. Then, identify strategies for increasing urgency and communicate these to your team. Implement your strategies, along with regular monitoring and refocusing. Communicating urgency is a hallmark of business leadership.
For more information about leadership in business, and to understand how urgency can influence the financial position of your business including improved revenue, cash flow, profitability, please give me a call.