If I asked you if you had a sense of urgency about things—what would you respond?

Most of the leaders I have worked with over the years would vehemently insist that they indeed do. They might even go as far to lament that they wished that the others around them; their work teams and colleagues, families, spouses, etc. showed more urgency about things. From a business lens, “time is money” would be a common shared perspective.

A dynamic that we often fall into with the best of intentions is thinking others don’t share our urgency or value time as much as we do. After all, we pride ourselves for having “go-getter, make things happen” personalities and the last thing we would ever want is to be seen as slow-moving, indecisive, or creating roadblocks.

It’s the others who do that—isn’t it?


Or maybe not.

Did you ever consider that you could be part of the cause of what you perceive to be your team’s lack of urgency?

Take the case of Paul. Could you be Paul?

Paul was the vice-president of marketing for a key division in a large insurance company, at the helm of a 400 person global marketing team. One of the key values he espoused to his team over and over again in every meeting, written memo, and town hall gathering was the need to have a sense of urgency and bias for action in the current marketplace.

“If we wait—we’re late,” was his motto.

Paul was a generally amiable guy with high expectations and a type A personality, who would become noticeably frustrated with his team and colleagues on a regular basis about their slow response and action on what he deemed to be obvious and necessary actions.

“They just don’t have a sense of urgency”, he would complain.

Yet when you drilled down into what really was going on—a different picture of the dynamics at play emerged. Here’s what Paul didn’t realize—90% of the time his own actions were the root cause of the perceived lack of urgency!

How could this be?

Here’s what was happening that Paul didn’t even realize:

His own reactivity to daily fires was slowing his team down… 

Because Paul’s schedule was so busy, changed so frequently, and was managed in a “react to the current fire” manner, he was constantly cancelling meetings with his team at the last minute. They had to wait for weeks to get on his calendar for a review and approval to act and move forward—and often those meetings were continuously postponed and moved around. (Their e-mails did not suffice–they went unanswered.)

Since Paul wasn’t really involved in the details of setting up the meetings on his calendar, and had so many other things going on and other daily priorities, he didn’t even realize this was happening.

Since he had requested to review most things via a meeting and discussions along the way before his team acted–

His current involvement in the approval process and his team’s lack of empowerment to move forward was preventing his team from acting with speed!

While there is a simple way to mitigate this dynamic, it is far too common. What is repeatedly clear is that our intentions and what we say we value don’t always match the impact of our actual day-to-day behaviors. Since we are unaware of an impact that we don’t intend—we don’t really ever stop to think about how we might be contributing to a problem.

So if things aren’t happening as fast as you would like them to—rather than immediately assuming a lack of urgency—take a look at some of your own behaviors.

Could you be creating unintended roadblocks without even realizing it?

Could your team be just as or even more frustrated than you are?

I find that a look in the mirror is always a good first place to start…



Interested in more?  Check out my book, The Cure for practical tips to increase your leadership effectiveness.