Do you have the right balance of urgency in the workplace?

by Kayla Crum on Apr 25, 2024

A sense of task urgency at work is often necessary in order to meet deadlines. But as a leader, it can be difficult to manage a mismatch between differing levels of urgency among team members. Too little urgency and opportunities get missed; too much and the quality of the work and the culture suffer in the name of speed.


How can a leader strike a balance between these two approaches, especially when their own bias inevitably gets in the way?


Avoid urgency overload

Some leaders and teams lean into excess urgency. From a personality and behavioral perspective, some people are more likely to feel the urge to get work done as quickly as possible. If a leader exhibits this trait, their team is likely to follow suit.


While this sounds good in theory, in excess this approach can lower morale and lead to sloppy final projects. According to the Harvard Business Review, some signs of this issue on a team include reactive decision-making, burnout, and poor prioritization of tasks.


To combat this, they recommend tactics such as these: 

  • Vetting external requests: Have a filterer for your team when clients or other leaders make requests. Be sure the team gives realistic not just optimistic timelines for completion and discuss trade-offs before agreeing to a new assignment.
  • Ruthless prioritization: Take yourself out of the equation to gain a fresh perspective. Imagine the outcome of your decisions a year from now, or picture how you would advise another leader to approach this task.


Cultivate sustainable urgency

In contrast, leaders with a less task-focused personality may cultivate a culture of collaboration and creativity at the expense of urgency. Team members may find this approach refreshing at first; but unmet deadlines, a lack of long-term planning, and ineffective decision-making can lead to a tarnished reputation and missed opportunities.


Indeed recommends the following techniques for teams that struggle with urgency:

  • Consistent urgency: Don’t emphasize urgency only when a deadline looms. Instead, create a culture of urgency over time by following up on tasks and requests in a timely manner and holding yourself accountable to set goals.
  • Positive reinforcement: Rather than scare your team with potential negative outcomes, paint a picture of the possibilities that could open up if they meet an upcoming deadline with a client.
  • Stretch goals: Plan both a soft and hard deadline for projects. The earlier deadline is the soft or stretch goal, but if your team fails to meet it, they still have some wiggle room to meet the final, hard deadline instead.
  • Post-deadline analysis: When a deadline does get missed, take the time to sit down with the involved team members and deconstruct what went wrong. Brainstorm ways you can offer support next time to help avoid this outcome.


Recognize that urgency alone isn’t enough

Whether you intrinsically have a sense of urgency or not, you’ve probably noticed that your behavioral tendencies as a leader affect the performance of your entire team.


Here at Teamalytics, we’ve worked with thousands of leaders over the last several decades and identified 13 key leadership traits that influence team success. One of those traits is Urgency and Intensity. Our assessments provide leaders with research-backed and quantitative measures of their self rating and their 360-degree ratings.


No one has the exact same mixture of leadership traits, but we help leaders identify where their strengths and constraints lie so they can more effectively lead their team. If you feel you and your team could benefit from an in-depth understanding of how these traits are influencing performance, download our free guide “Know What it Feels Like to Work with You” today.