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Leading Change: Understanding Urgency as an Invaluable Skill

Leading Change: Understanding Urgency as an Invaluable Skill

Poised Urgency Business Leadership
Leading Change: Understanding Urgency as an Invaluable Skill
George Nichols III
Mar 25, 2020

In my experience, many people don’t know how to properly comprehend or communicate urgency. It comes instinctively to some, but many professionals manufacture and mishandle it. To scale urgency across an enterprise, it’s important to think through why the instinct kicked in, how the message is delivered, and what steps should follow to keep the feeling flowing.

Urgency is not frantic. Composure and poise are sorely lacking in some organizations. Some leaders think frantic conveys speed and purpose, but instead it causes confusion and chaos. Even if the chaos closes out a short-term project, it breaks the organization’s resolve to continue the long-term mission. Leaders press for urgency without helping their team understand what it means or why it’s important.

Urgency is also not emergency. The first comes with a greater purpose focused forward to create impactful change and reach tangible goals. The latter is a reactive approach that leads to finger pointing that eventually can sap the life from a business.

Urgency is the way you prepare and communicate. As a business leader, I try to think as I would communicate – calmly, rationally, and with poise. I’m not perfect, but I believe prepared business leaders can more easily execute their vision. If you are prepared, fewer emergencies arise. If you have a clear vision, urgency comes across as excitement and determination, and that’s reflected in the way you speak across the organization. Aim for the heart, not just the mind. Look for the motivation that will compel a team to take action. Empowered employees don’t feel stressed by urgency; they buy into it.

Business leaders should also think about communication as more than a town hall or executive retreat. They should convey a sense of urgency in meetings, memos, and emails. They are the spokesperson or organizational role model: lead effectively, and others will follow.

More than anything, urgency is the execution of a well-thought-out plan. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” It originated on a motivational poster produced by the British government to raise public morale in preparation for World War II. Today, it’s a popular slogan calling for persistence in the face of challenge or confidence in a plan, no matter the short-term pitfalls. This is relevant to today’s investment environment. The uncertainty surrounding the global impact of a new illness, the coronavirus (or COVID-19), has caused significant market instability, and in turn, fear in many clients, especially those in or close to retirement. See the results of a flash survey we did with advisors who hold The College’s Retirement Income Certified Professional Designation® (RICP®). A global health crisis is an easy reason to cut and run, thereby locking in losses that could otherwise be avoided.

Now is the time when financial advisors really show their value. How well do you understand emotional investing? Are you following a goal-based approach? Is face-to-face communication your strong suit? Do you have the knowledge to apply theory and data to real-life decisions?

If your answers to these questions are YES, you are equipped to lead with poised urgency: this is an ability to cut through the noise, re-engage on end goals, and shepherd your clients to safety and success without irresponsibly sounding the alarm. If any of your answers are NO, let this situation serve as a reminder that knowing how to execute crisis communications comes from advanced knowledge and education.

Stewardship – whether it be of a corporation’s balance sheet or an individual’s retirement account – requires deliberative thought, consistent messaging, and precise implementation. You can’t accomplish those goals in a frenzy, but you can check off the boxes with a sense of urgency that rallies everyone around a common cause. Keep calm and carry on … with the plan.