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How Do You: Move Your Team from Complacency to Urgency?
How Do You: Move Your Team from Complacency to Urgency?

How Do You: Move Your Team from Complacency to Urgency?

A recent discussion raised the issue of how to move your team, or your organization as a whole, from living a life of complacency, to one of urgency.

Whether as a corporate manager, or as a consultant, it is very common to find large projects fully of busywork.  You know the type, frequent meetings, lots of activity, but the water behind the boat is just foam. The propeller’s cavitating, foaming the water, but not going anywhere nearly as fast as it should.

Back when my book reviews were rather short, I shared my thoughts on John Kotter’s book, A Sense of Urgency.

An enterprise-scale project I discussed with another consultant recently, surrounded his own challenges.  He had spent the past year trying to get the team members to actually ‘become’ even moderately ‘motivated.’

Similarly, my own experience has been that most people, outside of Sales and senior management, are way too removed from the real world. Their lives are lived out in cubicles and conference rooms, doing largely the same things day-by-day.

jtpedersen_321 Ignite_Skylight_Complacency_UrgencySo how do you move your team(s) from general complacency, to having a sense of urgency?

My own best approach, is to do regular, consistent updates with my teams, making sure they understand the revenue, and the strategic, bottom-end impact of their efforts.

The main way I’ve found to overcome complacency, to instill urgency, is to install a ‘sunlight,’ so a dash of real-world light is let in to swirl about them.

Install a ‘sunlight,’ so a dash of real-world light is let in to swirl about them.

Two examples.  In one organization I joined, none of the management team conducted regular update sessions with their teams.  The very idea seemed foreign to the culture.

I started holding quarterly meetings in the boardroom, providing lunch.  Very commonplace, straight-forward thing to do.  I wasn’t sure how my teams would receive it.  Go to the meeting because their managers said to? Come because there was a free lunch?

My presentations were short, less than 30 minutes.  Afterward, I received a range of comments, thanking me for the meeting, letting me know no one had ever done this before, and that they were surprised about everything ‘they’ touched.

Sometimes the ‘motivation’ may come after the fact.  Two developers had spent an entire quarter really hustling to deliver some new product features.  Their director let me know they were feeling like they had wasted their time, their efforts were not appreciated.

In a subsequent meeting, I made specific mention to point out how their efforts had been key to our winning the Big Corp business and the magnitude of impact.

Installing a sunlight, letting your teams know their efforts help make the sun shine, is but one approach toward helping instill motivation, a sense of urgency within.  Make sure everyone knows, and is reminded frequently, the value of –their- efforts.

jtpedersen_321 Ignite_Streaming_Sunlight 640

Image credit(s):
Skylight with Snow – Lois Carroll
Looking Up – Clinton cardozo

Fairytale Forest – Andreas Krappweis


  1. JT,

    I had an almost identical experience with a team I took over that was underperforming. They took ownership of the company goals over a 3-6 month period. We did the following:

    Listened to them regarding issues they felt were keeping us from reaching our goals.
    Addressed each persons written feedback one on one.
    Addressed issues with products, communication, delivery and customer service tools.
    As the problems were getting addressed we provided the “sunlight” you describe with the same type of response. I too was wondering how they would respond but after a few meetings things began to come to life.

    This group os 30 people went from missing goals 11 out of 12 months a year to achieving company objectives 11 out of 12 months.

    BTW – I have a blog titled “Patience and Urgency in a Sales Process Yields More Results. It describes what to stay urgent on and what to be patient with. A little blend of both goes a long way.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Rene Zamora – Sales Manager Now

  2. JT

    Hello Rene,

    Thank you for sharing your own story.  I really appreciate it; good to hear mine is not unique.

    I continue to be amazed just how often communication ends up laying at the foot of so many issues.  Simply sharing, keeping people informed, being ‘transparent’ can do absolute wonders.  Not a cure-all, but certainly effective.

    For fellow readers, the article Rene refers to is here.



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