Teams tend to excel when everyone pulls together to achieve a coveted and hard-to-attain goal. If there's a shared sense of urgency, that's an even stronger motivator.
But managers can call upon many types of urgency--and some are better than others. It's unwise to wait until the last minute to lower a bombshell on the staff ("I've been waiting for the right time to tell you that we must drop everything in order to..."), and it's even worse to create what turns out to be a false sense of crisis.
A smarter approach is to tap reasonable urgency to direct everyone's focus on the goal at hand. Here's how:
Make "if-then" declarations. In one sentence, pinpoint what's to gain by meeting a crunch deadline. Example: "If we rush this product to market by March 1, then we'll beat our competitor's launch date by 60 days."
Provide a choice. Instead of conveying urgency, let your team members decide for themselves that the situation is dire. Describe two or more scenarios or outcomes, invite questions and then have the group elect a course of action. Example: "We can continue on our current path, let this opportunity slip by and risk layoffs down the line. Or we can take on a heavier workload for a few months and solidify our competitive position. It's up to you."
Limit nasty surprises. Urgency is empowering to workers when they feel forewarned of a tough, high-stakes challenge. So give them as much notice as possible of what may await them, even if you're unsure how things will unfold. Example: "We may be under a tight financial squeeze next quarter if fuel prices continue to soar, and that may mean more sacrifice to stay afloat."Bottom-Line Idea
If your employees' egos are getting too big, deflate them by having everyone (including you!) cite an example of a recent mistake. Go around the room so that no one gets a free pass. Inject a little fun into the exercise by having the group applaud each mistake--and give a prize to the individual who earns the loudest applause for volunteering the most embarrassing mistake.