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How to Create a Sense of Urgency in Your Team

We Need Both a Can-Do Attitude and a Will-Do Attitude in the Workplace.

One of the toughest things to do in the working world is to create a sense of urgency in others. We all want to be good collaborators and show that we are team players, but there are times where it is difficult to see why others are not on board the same way you are.

We are not talking about the hair-on-fire, crisis mode type of assignments here. We are talking about the solid, systematic and outstanding effort toward the achievement of a goal. How do you, as a leader, get others fired up and moving toward accomplishing goals that your entire team has an interest in?

Communicate strongly and often. Be careful that you communicate a sense of urgency that is equal to the importance of the task at hand. If you get overly excited about every single task, even the minor ones, your employees will become numb to your behaviors and not know when to step it up. It is kind of like the boy who cried wolf syndrome. The more important the project is, the more you should take the level of urgency up. Communicate progress specifically and often. If there is a great deal of time pressure on accomplishing the assignment, communicate more often. Whenever possible, communicate in person so employees can get the entire message – body language, tone and words.

Set aggressive goals and targets. Regardless of what people say, the majority of us like to be challenged when it comes to goals. To help instill a sense of urgency, talk to your employees about what they would perceive as a stretch goal. Stretch goals are goals that can in fact be achieved, but they will require a lot of effort. That challenges people and tends to create urgency around getting the goal accomplished.

Communicate goal progress frequently. Set up graphs and charts showing the goal and progress toward it. Every meeting should include a review of the graphs. Numbers in rows and columns do not communicate urgency. Large, colorful graphs with goals depicted communicate urgency. Talk about progress and involve employees in explaining why progress is good or not so good. Talking publicly about progress on key assignments gives you a perfect opportunity to praise those employees that are showing a true sense of urgency.

Inspire your employees. As a true leader, one of your responsibilitie is to inspire your team members. When people truly feel inspired to accomplish great things, a sense of urgency is a natural byproduct. One of the ways to provide that inspiration is to show your team how maintaining the status quo is bad for the organization and each of them. At the same time, show them how moving in a new direction will benefit not only the company but each of them as individual contributors. Show confidence in them all along the way.

A culture of appreciation. When you see your team showing a sense of urgency and moving in a new direction or accomplishing what you want, show sincere appreciation. In some fashion, let everyone know you are noticing the small things, instead of waiting when the assignment is completed. Noticing and praising incremental steps shows employees that you truly care, and urgency and accomplishment are important.

Focus on teamwork. Major goals are accomplished through teamwork, not by one individual alone. When delegating, make sure you give everyone responsibilities that requires them to be good team players. Assign tasks based on individual strengths, so that team members can contribute what they do best. Again, noticing and praising solid cross-functional collaboration will help your team members hold each other accountable for being a good team.

A solid plan. When people are clear on not only the goal, but the plan to get there, it is easier to have a true sense of urgency. It is your job to make sure the tactics and action plans are specific, well thought out, and clear to everyone involved. If there are gray areas and potential obstacles have not been identified along with contingency plans, people will get bogged down and so will the project.

Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..