Cultivating Workplace Culture: Instill A Sense Of Urgency

Sense of urgency. Deep down inside every team member wants to work on a high performing team whether they realize it or not. Every supervisor wants to be able to respond quickly when faced with a problem. Teams need to apply the right resources to the right problem. Every manager wants to be able to ensure the benefits are in line with the costs. So what separates the high performers from the poor ones? Sense of urgency. What is the overarching problem? Complacency.

Complacency Is The Root Cause

As a result, observe a team at work and you might diagnose the problem as any of the following.

  1. Living in the tyranny of the urgent. A frantic pace of movement from meeting to meeting
  2. Poor alignment. Applying focus/resources to the wrong problem.
  3. Low commitment to change. The boss wants improvement. The customer feels the problem and complains about it.
  4. Rapid changing missions. The boss says let’s go one direction and changes his/her mind the next month
  5. Poor conflict resolution skills. Instead of addressing the problem it is easier to complain about it

What Is True Urgency?

“Urgent behavior is not driven by a belief that all is well or that everything is a mess but, instead, that the world contains great opportunities and great hazards. Even more so, urgent action is not created by feelings of contentment, anxiety, frustration, or anger, but by a gut-level determination to move, and win, now.” John Kotter

How To Instill Urgency

Consequently, if tasked with instilling urgency on a team you will want to get clarity on 5 very important questions:

  1. What is our mission?
  2. Who is our customer?
  3. What does our customer value?
  4. What are our results to date?
  5. What is our plan?

If your business is in a tail spin, stop what you are doing right now. Gather your team around you and ask these questions. If you are a senior leader go immediately to the lowest level of face to face interaction with customers and ask them. Pay close attention to their answers to questions 2 and 3.

Measure Well. Reward Performance. Fire Fast

High performers want to be rewarded for their results. They also want poor performers off the team. Accountability is absolutely necessary. But, you must measure the right things. Once you have clarity on the mission, ask your teams, “what is a win?” Identify the most important attribute for success. Align your teams behind this idea. Give poor performers a short opportunity to improve. Tell them. Don’t worry, they will improve or get another job. Document your standards, measure everyone to them. Move your poor performers out. This may sound harsh but turnaround situations require tough decisions. Or, you can hire me and I’ll do it for you.

Check out the next part of this series, Tap Into Your Team’s Creativity.