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Successful leaders have a sense of urgency to create positive change and they try to influence others to share their commitment. However, research from McKinsey suggests that over 70% of all organizational change programs fail to live up to their full potential. The reason for these poor results is not because the goals were not clear or teams weren't talented; it's because not enough people had a sense of urgency to do what needed to be done.

The dictionary describes 'urgency' as a condition of pressing importance. When individuals and teams operate with the hustling habit, they take positive action now...not later.

The urgency I'm talking about does not create an unhealthy feeling of stress, but rather a healthy commitment and determination to do whatever it takes to create positive results. When your team operates with this kind of urgency, they feel great about their work and they go home at night feeling energized because they know they did their best to make progress on a mission that matters.

To help others develop a sense of urgency for creating positive change, you'll want to get better at inspiring people before you try to influence them.

The influence skill is essential to the success of leaders at every level, but if you try to influence someone who's not inspired to act, both the leader and the led or the parent and the child will be frustrated.

If you have someone on your team or in your family you'd like to inspire before influencing, try this 3-step process:

  1. Discover What They Want: Help the other person create an inspirational goal that they believe they can achieve. The objective needs to be just outside their comfort zone because no one is inspired to reach a goal that can be accomplished without giving their best effort. However, it's important to encourage them to dream small at first. If the aspiration is too large, their subconscious mind will sabotage their efforts when you leave and they won't take the consistent action required to succeed. Once you have something that excites them, it's time to break that vague idea down into a specific and meaningful goal.

  2. Discover Why They Want It: The next step is to ask open-ended questions about why the goal is important. This line of questioning intensifies the inspiration because you'll be getting them to think about all the benefits of being successful and the consequences of not achieving their objectives. At this phase in the process you want to "make the other person sell you" on why they want to change. Too often leaders lead with their influencing skills and skip the inspirational steps. If the other person is not committed to making a change, you'll get excuses instead of results. You also want to create some tension by identifying a gap between where they are now and where they want to be. Strive to create an inspiration that lasts long after you leave. Once a person has a good reason why they want to do something, they become open to your influence on how to do it. When you're convinced they have a sense of urgency to act, you can move to step three. If they're still flatlining or you sense they're just telling you what you want to hear, it's time to go back to step one and discover a goal that will inspire them.

  3. Discover How They Plan To Get It: Now it's time to help the other person explore options for how they can reach their goal. As their leader and coach, you should help them create a strategy and plan for their success, but it's important for you to avoid giving them a solution. At this phase in the process, the person you're coaching is committed to achieving their goal and they have a sense of urgency to get from where they're at to where they want to be. Your influential questions are more important than your advice. If you do feel the need to offer a suggestion, turn your comment into a question. For example, you could say..."What would be the advantages of doing X?" instead of saying..."I think you should do X." The people you're coaching will be more committed to executing their ideas than yours.

This process may seem like it takes more time. Telling someone what to do is more efficient, but it's just not effective.

If you make a commitment this week to lighting fires in your people, you may find you're spending less time putting client or family fires out.


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