Jun 162017

The Urgent Need To Create Urgency In Your Business

If you don’t create a sense of urgency, it’s likely that not much will change.

Humans are programmed to get into a comfort zone, and once they’re there, it’s hard to get them out. That is the basic reason why incumbents (politicians, ideas, approaches, etc.) usually prevail.

Change makes people nervous. It creates uncertainty and a perception of increased risk. Most people, therefore, would like to see things stay as they are.

So, what’s the big deal? What’s the problem with things staying as they are?

Well, in a small business, particularly in an early-stage or even startup business, there is bound to be a lot of change!

And the reality is, that if you and your team are not comfortable with change and tend to cling to the status quo, more likely than not, you will be run over by the very change you seek to avoid.

One of the ways to help people push themselves out of their comfort zone and into taking action is to create a sense of urgency. When there is urgency, usually you will see people at least a bit more willing to take risks, even if it’s just in an effort to make that urgency go away, so they can return to the status quo!

An example of this would be that you and your team have identified another market niche that you should pursue. You’ve determined that, based on the characteristics of that niche, it’s likely to be very profitable for your company. The challenge is that everyone on your team is already busy serving the current niches, and furthermore, no one is putting their hand up to take the lead and thus take the risk of being the leader of an initiative that may fail. Change is scary!

So, what can you do to encourage your team (and yourself) to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and help your business go after the promising new market niche you identified?

The answer, of course, is to create a sense of urgency! Here are six ideas on how to create a sense of urgency.

Ways To Create Urgency

1. Create unrealistic deadlines

A quick way to take the focus off the challenges and concerns and put them on how to get the job done is to put an unrealistic deadline on the table. When you do so, you tend to galvanize the effort and resources of your team in the direction of solving the issue, rather than of thinking of ways this “won’t work”. Be careful not to overuse this, though, as if you do, it tends to become like “the boy who cried wolf” and it loses all its magic.

2. Set important goals

Setting goals is not enough. You need to set goals that matter to you and to your team. If they are not important to you, then they will not get done, or at least not get done expeditiously. Set goals “correctly,” of course, but if you’re going to go through the trouble of setting them, make sure they get your juices flowing.

3. Offer incentives for meeting or exceeding deadlines

You want to hit the tough deadlines you put in place? Offer incentives to your team to get it done right and on time. Treat yourself as well if you hit the difficult deadlines you put in place. What good is success if it’s not enjoyed? That said, don’t go overboard on this, as you’ll want to keep the momentum going. So, take and/or give a quick reward, then keep the ball rolling forward.

4. Have regular updates on what competitors are doing

Get your competitive juices and those of your team flowing. If you and your team keep close track of what your competitors are doing and you get the sense that they are catching up to you or moving ahead of you, that is likely to ignite the competitive fire of many, which will create its own sense of urgency. By the way, you should be keeping close track of what your competitors are doing in any case!

5. Fight a common enemy

If there’s not a common enemy, then create one. This has been a strategy of leaders throughout the ages. History has proved that groups of people tend join forces and move better together in the desired direction if that direction can be tied to conquering a common enemy. That “enemy” may be your competition, it may be a particular problem your customers are facing, it may be the government, or it may be some combination of all of the above and more. Whatever the common enemy is, use it to get yourself and your team more motivated and moving with more urgency.

6. Reward (or at least don’t punish) failure that is well-intentioned

You’d be crazy for rewarding people for failing, right? That is not necessarily the case! I’m not saying that you want to reward people financially necessarily, but I am saying that you need to give yourself and your team some latitude to fail. If you don’t, how can you expect people to buy into trying to conquer challenging problems and helping the company grow? How can you expect them to work with a sense of urgency if all they can think about in the back of their minds is the downside of “failing”?

So, there are some ideas to help you use urgency to your advantage in your business.

Do you have other ideas or thoughts on the importance of urgency and how to create it, based on your experiences?

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.


Paul Morin