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Four ways to lead with urgency

More on John Kotter’s new book

Over in Leadership Now’s Leading Blog, Michael McKinney summarizes the four essential things you need to do to inject urgency into the organization, according to Professor John Kotter’s new book, which we previewed below. Michael says:

1. Bring The Outside In
“Kotter offers four tactics to establish a sense of urgency in any environment:

First, bring the outside in. A “we know best” culture reduces urgency. “When people do not see external opportunities or hazards, complacency grows…. With an insufficient sense of urgency, people don’t tend to look hard enough or can’t seem to find the time to look hard enough. Or they look and do not believe their eyes, or do not wish to believe their eyes. Even if seen correctly, and in time, external change demands internal change.”

2. Model it every day
The second tactic is to behave with urgency every day. “Increasingly changing environments create a need for alertness and agility, which demands a sense of urgency that must be modeled by the boss all the time.” A few of the behaviors he details: purge and delegate, speak with passion, walk the talk.

3. Find opportunity in crisis
Third, find opportunity in crises. A problem with a damage control mind-set is often eliminates an opportunity. A properly leveraged crisis can be a valuable tool to break through complacency.

4. Deal with the ‘NoNos’
And fourth, deal with the NoNos – those people that are “always ready with ten reasons why the current situation is fine, why the problems and challenges others see don’t exist, or why you need more data before acting.”

I think 4. is the same as 1. and can be summarized as ‘Challenge denial’. What’s the most powerful force in the Universe? I once heard James Taylor say (no, not THAT James Taylor. This one’s the former CEO of Gateway and co-author, with Watts Wacker of the Five Hundred Year Delta).

Love? Hate? Gravity? Compound interest, as Einstein is supposed to have said? Nope. The most powerful force in the Universe is denial. When I say that in workshops I always expect someone at the back to stick their hand up and say “Oh no, it’s not…” (Think about it).

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