My kids know me well. Sometimes they can sense how serious I am, even if I don’t say a word. In fact, the more quiet I get and the faster I move usually tips them off that Mom is more serious. They know I’m focused, concentrating, and they better shape up because I expect that they should be behaving this way as well. They know when things are getting serious.
Likewise, they know when I’m a pushover. I can talk my socks off about how serious I am but they’re good at reading my mood and body language. If I’m too chatty, they know they have time to spare. If I’m dragging my feet, they know there’s room for them to do the same. And even though I may “say” I’m serious, they can tell from my behavior that my words don’t match what I’m really feeling.
I chapters 5 and 6 of the book A Sense of Urgency, we see the importance of how we communicate a sense of urgency that goes beyond what we express verbally. Whether it be how we behave day-to-day or how we handle a crisis, as leaders we set the tone for urgency among the community of people we work with and influence.
On Sunday mornings, I like to be visible as a leader. I walk around a lot—talking to kids, parents, and volunteers. I could easily hide in my office, preparing my notes for Large Group, and then show up when it’s time for me to hit the stage and then quietly slip back to the confines of my office to personally critique how I performed. But what does that communicate to others? What does that say to them about what is important on Sunday morning?
A sense of urgency can start with a single person and move outward. It can be read in what we say to others and in our body language. Author John Kotter describes five ways we can communicate a sense of true urgency every day:
- Purge and Delegate – Don’t let an overcrowded calendar slow you down; purge low-priority items, don’t get distracted, and learn to delegate.
- Move with Speed – Respond quickly to people’s calls, requests and emails. Never end meetings without clarity about who will do what and when.
- Speak with Passion – Talk to others with feeling so others catch the urgency and passion of your message.
- Match Words and Deeds – Don’t just talk about something and then not do it yourself; be real and be an example to others.
- Let Them All See It – Be visible as often as possible to as many people as possible. Let them see your sense of urgency.
There are definitely certain people in life that you want next to you in a time of crisis. We can also name folks that we’d rather be far, far away from when it’s crunch time. So, how do you behave in a time of crisis?
In Chapter 6, Kotter describes how leaders can successfully use crisis to create a positive sense of urgency. Leaders can create a sense of urgency in crisis by thinking of it as a point of opportunity, finding powerful partners in crisis time, and act proactively by making no assumptions about the crisis itself and move forward with action rather than complacency. Be proactive in assessing how people will react in a time of crisis and make sure your plans and actions focus on others’ hearts as much or more than their minds.
Think On This
As a leader, what does your current behavior and body language communicate on a daily basis? What are the calendar items that you can purge from your schedule and what can you delegate to others? How would you rate your visibility today? How can you be better at making crisis moments a time of opportunity and growth?