A sense of urgency

No doubt about it: a sense of urgency helps us make get things happen and get stuff done.

The problems come when we’re urgent about the wrong things:

  • We’re urgent as we approach big deadlines, but not about early thinking, or doing each of the little pieces that together make up the job;
  • We’re urgent about handling the problems in front of us, but far less about fixing root causes;
  • We’re urgent about about new projects or ‘initiatives’ (urgh), but not about running and maintaining the systems we’ve already got;
  • We’re urgent about the crises other people bring to us – and so create crises of our own;
  • We’re urgent about about one-off meetings and launch events, but not about the unglamorous rhythms of feedback and accountability;
  • We’re urgent about financial targets and metrics for our impact (lag measures), but not about the day-to-day activities (lead measures) that make achieving them possible;
  • We’re urgent about big events, birthday parties and anniversaries, but less about making sure that we spend enough good time with the people they’re about;
  • We’re urgent about scribbling last minute notes a before a presentation, but not about connecting with the people we’re there to serve;
  • We’re urgent about controlling our own workload, but not about helping our teams with theirs;
  • We’re urgent about getting jobs ticked off, but not about improving communication and building skills;
  • We’re urgent about work, and sometimes about exercise or leisure, but not about regular rest and reflection, and seeking peace.

2 Replies to “A sense of urgency”

  1. Really helpful. Fascinating to consider what the common drivers are for lacking urgency in the more mundane/routine aspects of life. Some would say it isn’t possible to be in a constant state of urgency – too tiring, if all is urgent them nothing is urgent etc. I wonder if it comes back to overscheduling, busyness, lack of prioritisation and an internal need to look good. This all leads to overloaded diaries and an overly full life. The routine is downplayed and not given sufficient time or consideration and you lurch from one thing to another.
    Another factor from above is the lack of urgency on relationships. It can be easy to see people as tools to achieve an end, or to further your own purposes, rather than seeing developing them and helping them win as an end in itself. That’s level 5 leadership right there.

    1. So true – about urgency (in the sense of busy intensity) being unsustainable in the long run. Maybe urgency is the wrong word for the important (‘first things first’) – but we need to put equivalent pressure on ourselves to do things in service of important, long term things, especially relationships. Would love to hear more of your thoughts on this. For now, today’s post is a quotation from Clayton Christensen talking about the same ideas…

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...