145 – Urgent! Strategies to Reduce Stress and Increase Productivity | Ft. Dermot Crowley

In his last conversation on the Team Guru Podcast, Dermot Crowley discussed how a greater grasp of friction and flow could optimize organizational output. Of course, the world around us has undergone seismic shifts in the months since. And Crowley has responded to his latest professional challenges with aplomb and inspiration. Today, he returns to discuss the mixed blessing of urgency in the workplace.

Lessons Learned

Understanding Urgency

The value of reaction time is easy to appreciate in everyday life as you catch a glass falling from the table or slam on the brakes to avoid a collision on the road. In an organizational sense, the concept of reaction time represents a collective effort. Crowley opens up the discussion by balancing the productive power of urgency against the difficulty in operating under demanding circumstances. In his view, urgency is certainly necessary in some cases, but the mark of outstanding leadership is knowing how to use it as a tool.

Define an “Emergency”

While Crowley enthusiastically espouses the benefits of urgency when used properly, he also recognizes that it can be an obstacle to lasting progress. If every matter carries the utmost urgency, then none can actually take precedence. In his new book “Urgent!”, he dissects the idea, contending that most everyday matters, no matter how unexpected, do not qualify. Do you mark emails as “urgent” when standard procedure would suffice? If so, you may be falling prey to “fake urgency,” and there are few things less productive.

Under Pressure

For virtually our entire lives, our culture places expectations on our time, focus, and abilities. While some of this is necessary, a disproportionate measure of pressure placed on us is artificial. Crowley identifies inordinate urgency as a learned behavior, absorbed from decades of overly structured schooling and work environments. Within these confines, important tasks are often left until the last minute, where pressure mounts and stakes rise. A central tenet of his book “Urgency” is examining the roots and effects of this phenomenon.

Lethal Leadership

The damaging effects of an organizational culture with too much urgency flow from the top down, impacting everyone in the building along the way. Team leaders often cripple themselves with an overreliance on urgency, employing outmoded management techniques that put undue stress on their talent. Crowley emphasizes the imperative nature of viewing each team member as a human being instead of a human resource. This fosters an environment where people feel comfortable contributing at a pace that works for everyone.

The Hierarchy of Fake Urgency

In an ecosystem bringing together so many personalities and skill sets, the urgency of an issue can sometimes depend on the person raising it. Communications from senior staff members may elicit more urgency around the office, and Crowley points this out as a flawed concept. In times of actual urgency, team leaders are typically engrossed in big-picture, long-term views of the matter at hand. This means we must keep in mind that the most urgent communications may come from team members closer to an issue’s everyday effects.

Leading By Example

As an organizational leader, your talent looks to you to set the tone. Your proactivity or reactivity will filter down through every member of your team and show in the results. For this reason, it is essential to keep in mind the difference between “important” and “urgent.” Although both require a dedicated effort, classifying a matter as “urgent” instantly places your team in a reactive position. While this can be necessary to survive, to thrive is another concept entirely and requires proactive thinking throughout your organization.

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