Today’s newsletter is dedicated to the Cabrini University Men’s Lacrosse team and their head coach Steve Colfer. Steve is a great colleague and friend, and yesterday his team punched their ticket to the NCAA Championship game. (Cabrini holds a special place in my heart as it’s the institution that gave me my first college coaching opportunity back in 1995.)
Losers, underachievers, the entitled and the mentally weak lack it.
Runner ups and inconsistent teams don’t have enough of it.
Championship teams, first-responders, soldiers and top performing corporate leaders have it in abundance.
It’s how you come from behind, consistently win close games, keep your cool in crunch time, achieve your goals and perform in times of emergency or crisis….
It’s a competitive advantage…
It will challenge you…
It’s the one thing all great teams possess…
It’s also the one thing most teams lack…
What is it?
It is a calm sense of urgency. A calm sense of urgency is something you can feel. You’re right at the edge of your ability, but you’re still calm and centered.
If you’ve ever seen a first responder at work, you’ve seen a calm sense of urgency. It’s not about finding a new gear to kick things into. It’s not about multitasking either. Don’t get me wrong, drive is important but speed isn’t the answer, it’s about purpose, intent and focus. Essentially slower becomes faster.
If you tuned in to the Cabrini vs. Salisbury University NCAA Final Four lacrosse game last night you’d have seen this in action.
What does it involve?
Full effort, simplicity, process-focused action and mastery.
It’s also a competitive advantage. If you can operate with a calm sense of urgency, which is fast but under control you’ll accomplish 2 things:
- Dictate tempo: You can operate fast but accurately and this will force your competition to speed up and rush which causes mistakes. (Mistakes you can capitalize on) Ex. If you’re capable of bringing something to market in 6 months and your competition sees this, they will rush to counter quickly. In the process of setting a pace they can’t maintain, they will make mistakes and cut corners. Advantage YOU.
- “Response-Ability” (Your ability to respond optimally to whatever happens the moment it happens): When you have a calm sense of urgency it enables you to respond to adversity rather than crack under pressure. The team with the greatest “response-ability” almost always prevails.
Much of what I’ve learned about leadership I learned during my career as a college head coach. I studied what won games and lost them, what solved crises versus exacerbated them; and what’s the one common theme? It’s always a calm sense of urgency.
It was uncharted waters for this Cabrini team as it was their first appearance in the national semifinals and their first postseason victory over Salisbury University, a team they’d lost the previous five tournament meetings to.
How do you reverse that trend?
It simply happens as a result of courage, extreme teamwork and a calm sense of urgency. If anyone would’ve panicked that sense of panic would’ve been contagious and the mission would’ve failed. Instead, calm was contagious. Calm is contagious in your work environment too.
If you watch a game where a team mounts a fourth quarter comeback or you witness some late game heroics. The success of the drive, the play or what appears like heroics can almost always be attributed to the team possessing a calm sense of urgency.
Yes what they’re doing is time sensitive.
Yes, what they are doing is pressure packed.
And no amount of rushing, trying too hard or pressing is going to help matters but calm urgency will.
When you’re in the heat of battle often everything appears urgent and when everything is urgent, nothing is. Don’t mistake speed for purpose. But when you’re poised and prepared, time slows down.
How To Make A Calm Sense of Urgency A Cultural Expectation In Your Team:
- Huddle up with your team. Define what a calm sense of urgency means. Ask them to describe important situations and what that sense should look like in those situations. How should they respond? (Individually and collectively)
- Calm is contagious. You want your team to possess a calm sense of urgency, you need to embody it. You can’t give away something you don’t possess.
- Set the expectation that you will all operate with it by manufacturing some urgency. Shorten timelines and accelerate deadlines. Don’t shorten too much. Shorten progressively, too much too fast and quality will suffer.
- Have you made things unnecessarily complicated? Focus on one thing not five or six things.
- Preparation: Practice, rehearse, drill… repeat. Don’t repeat until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.
For those of you who didn’t know, my coaching experience at Cabrini University served as the basis of the story in my award-winning book Seeds of Success (as well as the screenplay Hollywood producer Bob Burris wrote).
This book and teaching its message to organizations and teams is my life’s work. Who’s using it?
- Professional baseball teams
- Over 2 dozen Division One coaching staffs and strength coaches
- Countless small college and high school teams
- The Namibian National Rugby team’s coaching staff in the World Cup.
- Some of Nashville’s top musicians
- A host of Fortune 500 companies
- Small business owners
It’s helped them and it can help YOU.
Your copy is waiting for you right here: