“The future is the most expensive luxury in the world.”

I found that poetic and poignant thought in my fortune cookie years ago and as soon as I read it, I was blown away with the velocity in which it pierced my soul. I placed the fortune into my pocket and once I returned to work, I taped it to the front of my desktop printer. It’s remained there ever since, reminding me that my best efforts, both with work and life in general, must occur in the present and not wait for the future.

According to many business gurus, such as Forbes, the most important factor for business success is urgency. Although experts agree that marketing, leadership, systems management and several other areas are key to success, the importance of urgency rises to the top of the list for many business insiders.

Before continuing, it’s important to note the difference between urgency and emergency. As the article entitled Many Confuse Sense of Urgency With Sense of Emergency says, “ Urgency comes from a greater purpose focused outward, to make good things happen, while handling emergencies is a reactionary inward approach to saving ourselves from the daily crisis.” One way to wrap your mind around the difference between these two is to think of urgency as proactive, while an emergency is typically reactive.

Harvard Business Review interviewed John Kotter, author of A Sense of Urgency, and in the interview, Mr. Kotter made a point to say that “… the faster the world moves, the more you need to change,” which is why a sense of urgency is paramount for a successful business. He went on to say that this sense of urgency isn’t organic for companies, so it’s important that companies hire leaders who understand the impact the correct level of urgency has on employees and the business as a whole.

Why did that last sentence say ‘correct level of urgency’, you may be asking? Well, according to The Business Journals, “The most common intensity problem for leaders is showing too much emotion too often.” If a leader, on an intensity scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being the highest, always treats everything as a level 10, their team will be exhausted and like The Business Journals says, “Emotional exhaustion often yields a quiet cynicism- there he goes again!” And on the flip side, treating everything as a level 5 will cause a leader’s team to question their leader’s thoughts and intentions. If nothing is a big deal at a company, then why would employees of that company ever act with a sense of urgency?

So if it’s understood that the world is moving at a lightning pace and as a result, successful businesses must operate with a sense of urgency that inspires employees to be forward-thinkers and fast accomplishers, how do you increase the sense of urgency in your employees? Career & Workplace Growth Strategies offers six ways:

1. Act in proportion to the urgency

Broken-down: Running out of staples and learning your employees’ paychecks weren’t processed should not receive the same sense of urgency.

2. Specify the task to reduce confusion and improve judgment

Broken-down: Explain the action needed, along with the reason for that action and deadline. A lack of urgency can sometimes be a reflection of an employee’s lack of understanding of the importance of the task.

3. Clarify the consequences

Broken-down: Carry-out consequences. Create accountability.

4. Use urgency to preserve toward victory despite the pain

Broken-down: Push through the pain, don’t wallow in it.

5. Dress comfortably cold

Broken-down: Create an environment that breeds a sense of urgency. (Example: Create agendas to minimize wasted time.)

6. Recognize employees who exhibit a sense of urgency

Broken-down: Reward those who show others how to live in a state of urgency, not in a state of complacency or emergency.

Just like the fortune that still clings to my work printer does for me, I hope something in this piece makes you see the need for urgency in a whole new light. In a world constantly changing and evolving, so, too, must a company be if they’re going to succeed and thrive.

Feel free to post my fortune, or one of these famous quotes, to a place your eyeline catches on a daily basis:

  • You must take action now that will move you towards your goals. Develop a sense of urgency in your life. ~ H. Jackson Brown Jr.
  • The trouble is you think you have time. ~ Buddha
  • Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value. ~ Jim Rohn
  • The most successful entrepreneurs not only have courage and imagination, they also have a sense of urgency. They’re not willing to wait. They have a burning desire to get something done. ~ Malcolm Gladwell
  • Success requires both urgency and patience. Be urgent about making the effort, and patient about seeing the results. ~ Ralph Marston

Life is too short and the world moves too fast. Be intentional with your thoughts and urgent with your actions.

Author: Evelyn Lindell