The Difference Between Sense of urgency or Impatience

I gave some feedback to a client today that was not well received. I said that his impatience was creating tension among his subordinates and having a negative effect on their productivity.

He pushed back pretty hard. Said that I was blaming him for their lack of initiative and that his sense of urgency–not generally shared within the management ranks–is the root cause of problems, not his impatience.

This caused me to reflect on the difference between a sense of urgency and impatience. It also made me think carefully about personal lenses and styles, assumptions, and how we reach conclusions. Reminded me, too, of a quote I read long ago: “A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.” So true.

With the caveat that generalizations are always dangerous but sometimes useful, here’s an abbreviated look at some behavioral differences I’ve seen between a sense of urgency and impatience. I hope it will get you thinking!

Looks like: focused attention on a specific goal. Demonstrated understanding of the goal and the rationale for wanting to achieve it.

Sounds like: purposeful questions related to a specific goal. Genuine desire to learn about anything related to the goal, i.e., environment, feasibility, level of resource capability, timeframe for achievement, potential barriers, support required.

Feels like: interested, competent support for subordinates seeking to achieve the goal. Open dialog, shared learning, and reinforcement of the goal are key aspects of a day-to-day work environment.

Looks like: scattered, inconsistent, and often reactionary attention to factors that influence achievement of a goal.

Sounds like: spontaneous questions regarding specific details (dare I say minutiae?) that may or may not be relevant to overall goal achievement. Testy, often negative, posture in dealing with others.

Feels like: judgmental, sometimes punitive, supervision. Constant quizzing, right-vs-wrong platforms, and fuzzy or often-changing goals are hallmarks of the daily workplace experience.

Leaders, take a look at how the troops are doing. Get some feedback on your behaviors. Though your intentions may be great (they usually are), what you do may be killing any chance of realizing your goals.

Categories: General Advice

About Susan Marshall

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Susan A. Marshall is author, speaker and founder, whose mission is to create a stronger, more confident future, one person or team at a time.  Through personal experience and hands-on work with executives from diverse industries at all levels, Susan has had the privilege of helping thousands of people do the difficult and exhilarating work of growth.