American philosopher Dallas Willard said, “You have to be ruthless in eliminating the hurry from your life,” when he was sharing advice with a colleague.
His guidance struck a chord with me. I was transported back to my younger self when I started out in the corporate world. You might recall that I told the story of how I thought my path to success was running in my own three-legged race. I was in a hurry, and nothing was going to get in the way of attaining success. While I did experience more than my share of achievements, life had different plans for how I would discover a new consciousness about collaborative leadership.
Life was telling me to slow down when it mattered. To have patience. I needed to take the hype out of hurry and recognize the power of hurry’s more intentional cousin, urgency.
If someone’s in a hurry, they run the risk of going through the motions. There’s a potential for shallow wins. London Business School professor Richard Jolly has studied what he calls “hurry sickness” for the past ten years. He found that 95 percent of executives he has interviewed suffer from it. These professionals check their phones multiple times an hour, get a buzz from last-minute heroics on deadlines, and fall prey to other hectic symptoms. In the end, they achieve “little of lasting value for their organization.”
In contrast, urgency can be the antidote to complacency and give you and your team focus. Urgency conveys intentionality and makes room for zeroing in on your why. I like bestselling author John Kotter’s explanation. He says that true urgency highlights the difference between two attitudes: 1) you must have a project meeting today or 2) the meeting must accomplish something important today. Leaders know the first attitude is about checking the box, while the second means more meaningful change.
While Ken Chenault was the CEO of American Express, he abided by a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte, who said, “The role of a leader is to define reality and give hope.” Those who have a true sense of urgency empower others to make any vision a reality. Bonaparte’s sentiment expands on what urgency has the power to convey. We can share a sense of urgency when presented with a greater vision. And that vision often inspires hope.
If you’re in a hurry, it’s time to get ruthless and reexamine your fight. Are you focusing on what’s important in the future or responding to what feels like a priority in the moment?
Stand by your why,
I’m looking forward to speaking at the Denver Scholarship Fund’s Networking Lunch Hour. The virtual event is happening October 7th at 12 PM (MDT). The DSF is a local organization I care about deeply. If you’d like to join the conversation, register through this link. See you then!