Choices Disruption Execution Mindset Reflection

Sense of urgency

Sense or no sense of urgency is a heavily inflated and overused term. It’s used so often and has lost its dramatic power.

When are you typically confronted with the term “sense of urgency”?

Most likely, when you, or the person or team you’re in conversation with, do not demonstrate a sense of urgency.

I’ve heard the term many times in my life.

In non-urgent situations, when I was confronted that my conversation partner(s) thought that I was not showing a sense of urgency.

But also in situations where I didn’t witness a sense of urgency with the team, company, or project I was working on.

Sense or no sense of urgency is a heavily inflated and overused term. It’s used so often and has lost its dramatic power.

Dramatic power.

Allow me to illustrate why…

Imagine you’re sleeping, and suddenly you’re waking up and realizing your house is on fire. You have a few minutes to collect your family, perhaps some valuable documents, and those photo albums you created with love and energy.

Would that situation create a sense of urgency?

An example from the business world I often use is a hurricane scare that threatens to make landfall in an area where you’re operating tens of supermarkets.

You have a few days to prepare for devastating winds and rain while still serving customers who rely on you for emergency groceries and household needs.

My last example is a real-life story I was part of.

When this happens, a lot of things become very fluid. Decisions are quickly taken, alignment is a matter of minutes, and execution gets done without too many questions.

Life-threatening situations. Businesses at risk. A real sense of urgency. Dramatic power.

The fire that is approaching you creates urgency.

So does the hurricane that’s about to make landfall in a few days or hours.

Like in a US commercial (read the small lines on the bottom of your TV screen), I’m using dramatic effects to make my point.

And that’s precisely where I want to go.

Houses on fire don’t happen daily. Hurricanes don’t make landfall daily. A sense of urgency does not occur daily.

As human beings, we’re not wired to be in a constant flux of urgency. When the house is rescued, the hurricane has passed, the adrenaline goes away, and our bodies and minds relax.

That’s how we, human beings, function.

There are three messages here:
  1. Don’t overuse the term sense of urgency. You can use it only when there’s actual urgency. People will immediately understand the URGENCY when you only use it for a rare moment.

  2. Explain why there’s a sense of urgency. People understand fires or hurricanes because of their nature. But they don’t always appreciate your sense of urgency coming out of your mouth — especially not when you overuse the term, and nothing happens.

    You need to be willing to give context. You need to be ready to explain to people the consequences of not acting with urgency. You need to convince them that this is a special moment that requires their focus, their utmost effort, their endless energy, and their determination.

    And… then you need to role model everything you’re asking yourself.

  3. Don’t confuse urgency with focus. Things often become urgent because there’s a lack of focus. You should always make tough choices, limit your priorities, and focus on what matters most. If you do that well, urgency often is not needed because you’re doing what’s right.

That is, ladies and gentlemen, how urgency works.

Use it. Infuse it. Please don’t abuse it.

Erikjan Lantink

Your turn: No urgency or lack of focus?

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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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