Rome Is Burning & Urgency


No one ever yelled “Help, I’m drowning” followed by “take your time, finish your sandwich, I’m fine.”

Or screamed “Rome is burning, save me . . . after you finish your conference call.”

Urgency doesn’t wait; it is compelling and acts without hesitation.

Creating a sense of urgency, and expecting to be saved, doesn’t begin with yelling for help. It begins much, much earlier. It starts with creating (1) strong relationships between people and (2) an unwavering belief in the mission.

To create strong relationships each person must believe that the strength of the team depends on the commitment of each member to each other and to the team as a whole. While it is important for people to believe, trust, and care in their leader, it is equally important that the team believes, trusts, and cares in each other and values the strength and protection that the leader and team provides to them.

To create an unwavering belief in the mission each person must believe that the values and goals of the mission are in alignment with their personal values and goals.

Creating a culture that will respond to a call for urgency takes time, careful focus and intention, just as the care of a vegetable garden. If the urgency is a food shortage, you can’t shove a seed into the ground and expect to eat an eggplant the next day.

While it would be comfortable to believe that a paycheck can create a sense of urgency, the reality is that it does not. A paycheck creates a connection to money, not to relationships or to a mission. Under the paycheck theory, if you want people to work with urgency, you will have to pay them more because their paycheck reflects a normal workload, not an urgent workload. Firefighters don’t risk their lives for a paycheck. They do what they do with a sense of urgency because they believe in each other and in the mission.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Plan ahead and assume that one day Rome will burn and you will need plenty of people to care enough to act with urgency to put the fire out, without throwing money at them first. Be proactive, rather than reactive. Plan for, and invest in, the day you yell for help and need others to come to your rescue.