Urgency doesn’t just mean speed; it means speed with strategy. In this episode of Veteran Led, John Berry discusses how the lessons of tactical urgency instilled during his time in the military elevated his performance in the workplace. John explains how incorporating an active sense of urgency can enhance teamwork, decision-making, efficiency, and adaptability to change, ultimately leading to successful business deals and increased personal productivity.
Welcome fellow veterans. From the tip of the spear to in the rear with the gear, I went from active-duty Infantry to reserve-component logistician. I’m your host, CEO, entrepreneur, trial lawyer, and Lieutenant Colonel Retired, John Berry. The military lessons that I learned helped me grow an eight-figure business that has maintained consistent annual double-digit growth, landing on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in America every year for the past seven years, and has allowed me to continue to serve America’s heroes.
Welcome to Episode 4: Move with a Sense of Urgency: Is there any other way to move?
Move with a sense of urgency. This is something we heard from day one. The drill sergeant is yelling in our ears, “move it, move it, move it.” We ran to chow. We ran to the barracks. We ran everywhere. When we were marching, we’d hear “DOUBLE TIME!” And we would double time, right? We would start moving fast. And that sense of urgency carried over into everything that we did in the military. When it was time to go, it was time to go. And so, when we look at how that has shaped our entire careers in the military and why that was so important, it was because the military understood the importance of opportunity and we can go back through several military lessons and understand that there were the prepared and the unprepared, the quick and the dead.
And the sense of urgency that we would get would be incorporated into every aspect of our training. If we went to do a physical fitness test, there are times, right? We have to hit a run in a certain amount of time. The Expert Infantryman Badge, 12-mile ruck march had a time, less than three hours, right? We had time standards for everything. Think about the range, the pop-up targets on the range, right? It was, I’m up, he sees me, I’m down. And so, the target would pop up just like the enemy, and if you didn’t squeeze that trigger within a couple seconds, target was down. And we learned to move with a sense of urgency and to understand that opportunities that are here today won’t be there tomorrow. We also understand that it’s easier to seize terrain if we get there first before the enemy and then make the enemy fight for every inch. If we’re not there first, then we have to fight for every inch to take it from the enemy. And so, the sense of urgency is paramount to all of our military training.
We come off of active duty and it’s real hard sometimes to get up in the morning when there’s no Reveille playing, there’s no drill sergeant yelling at us, there’s no platoon sergeant that expects us to be in formation. We can move at our own pace. We can meander all day long. We can sit on the couch. We can watch Netflix; we can binge watch whatever we want. That sense of hustle, right? That sense of urgency somehow dissipates from our lives. And the key is to get it back, to get back that sense of urgency, to treat life like those pop-up targets on the range. We have to have our rifles loaded and locked, we have to be scanning down range, and we have to have our finger on the trigger ready to go.
We also learn through the military, especially in clearing rooms, that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. And so, a sense of urgency doesn’t mean rushing to fail, but moving with enough urgency to do what needs to be done in a timely manner. And so, if we were going to hit an objective, when we were training and we were running lanes, like ambush lanes, we knew that we had to get to that objective at a certain amount of time so we could set up. So, there was always this sense of urgency because we knew that no matter what we were doing now, that there would be a follow-on mission, and we had to hit our time hack to get to the next mission to be able to accomplish it. And if we didn’t hit our time hack, then it was always bad, right? So, we really looked for those opportunities. And when we moved a sense of urgency, high performers love urgency, low performers hated urgency, and they hate the high performers for making them move faster than they want. And that’s always a dangerous thing in any organization.
As I think back to some of the things I’ve experienced in the business world, number one is time kills all deals. I’ve worked with big deals where I was expecting this great collaboration to happen, but because we didn’t get our due diligence done in time, we lost the opportunity. We let the grass grow beneath our feet, either because we were scared, disorganized, I don’t know, in hindsight, I don’t know what it was. But I can think back to a time when we had a great opportunity to work with a partner and we absolutely failed because we just didn’t move fast enough, and they wanted to move fast.
Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t do our due diligence, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have our antennas don’t go up when someone wants to close a deal really fast. You see that all the time, right? For a limited time only! You know, the great sales techniques that people use to create a false sense of urgency can be confused with the real sense of urgency for people who want to get stuff done; high performers want that opportunity, and they don’t want to work with companies who can’t move quickly. And that doesn’t mean react to everything, but it does mean, respond in a manner that shows you can move quickly; move with a sense of urgency.
I hear all the time, this nonsense from all these companies that say, “Well, you know, you need to hire slow and fire fast.” Alright, that’s just stupid. It doesn’t mean, you just say, “Hey, you’re hired.” No, but what it means is hiring slow is about having processes in place that you could execute quickly. If you can execute quickly, then you can do your due diligence, you can make sure you do the background checks, you can make sure they’re qualified, you can make sure all the HR blocks are checked before you hire someone, but this notion of hire slow is absolute garbage. No, you have to be ready to hire. Should you have a hiring funnel? Absolutely you should have a hiring funnel. You should make sure that they hit, that you get them through every checkpoint, and that it is the right person. But you must do so with a sense of urgency, or you will lose that star to a competitor. And it happens all the time. The great ones are never looking and once you pique their interest, there are other companies who are interested in them as well. So, when it comes to hiring, hire with a sense of urgency. Like I said, I’m not saying don’t do your due diligence because you got to do that, you gotta check, you gotta make sure it’s right, but don’t wait. Because the right people are never looking for a job, and when you see that window open, that window of opportunity, you have to, you have to jump through it. If you start doing that, you’re going to see a shift in your organization that is going to create a culture of urgency.
And I will tell you that a culture of urgency is absolutely necessary to get and keep customers. And what I mean by that is there have been several studies showing that today when a potential customer calls your company, visits your website. and tries to engage, whether it is through live chat, a text message, whatever, once they try to contact you, they expect a result. And that result should be a response. And if you don’t respond, they’re going on to someone else. They’re not going to wait for you. They Come to your company expecting to get a result soon. And the first thing that they’re going to assess is whether, when they contact you, whether you respond promptly, and if you don’t, they’re going to somebody else. Look, we live in a world now where a lot of our services, and even our products, have become a commodity. So where do we make the difference? In our sense of urgency to serve that customer. And most people believe that the way you do one thing is the way you do everything. If you can’t respond to their first phone call, text, email, however it is they reach out to you, in a timely manner, they won’t expect you to be able to serve them in the manner that they expect. And they’re probably not going to hire you.
That being said, once you establish that expectation of urgency, then when that client or customer calls you, you’d better respond the same day, you’d better have a plan to ensure that communication happens, even if someone is out of the office. Think back to the military, we had this sense of urgency where if anyone was ever gone, God forbid something happened to your squad leader, a team leader stepped up right away. We continued mission, Charlie Mike, with the same sense of urgency, regardless of what happens. And that’s what’s going on in the civilian world today. Customers expect that if the person they need is not available, that they will get serviced by someone else in your organization. And if you don’t have a plan for that, and if the person’s gone and nobody’s getting their emails or their voice messages or their text messages, and all that’s being ignored, you’re probably going to lose the customer. Even if you made a great sale in the beginning, you’re not going to be able to retain them. You’re going to lose the lifetime value of the customer because they may do one deal with you, but they’re not going to hire you again if they don’t feel like you respect them enough to return the communication the same day.
That being said, the culture of urgency bleeds into your organization as well. Think about this, the senior members of the organization, when they get an email, text, phone call from a team member, do they respond the same day? The same week? Do they respond just to say, “Hey, sorry, I can’t get to this today, but let’s set a time to talk next week?” If they don’t, what they’re doing, what those leaders are doing, is they’re killing the sense of urgency in their organization, or in your organization. And is that acceptable to you? And the answer is, it should never be acceptable to you. And I’ll tell you why. Because when you don’t respond with a sense of urgency, it seems like you’re being disrespectful. Think about it, you reach out to your boss for an answer, and you don’t get a response the same day, you don’t get a response the next day, or the next day, and you get a response four or five days later, right? Now you’re thinking, gee, does the boss not like me? Is the boss being passive aggressive? What’s going on here? Why is the boss so busy, or why am I not valued enough, that the boss can’t respond to me the same day? That part of your organization, that cultural piece, is crucial to retention. It’s crucial to keeping the best people because the best people want to feel valued. And if they’re working really hard on a project and they need an answer right now, and you blow them off, or they perceive that you blew them off because something was more important, they’re not going to want to stay in your organization. They’re going to feel disrespected; they’re going to feel that the organization cannot move fast enough for them, and they’re going to leave. And that is the challenge that you face if you do not have a culture with a sense of urgency.
Now, I’ve been in organizations where there’s a fading urgency, a project starts off with a lot of steam, and then a couple of weeks later, the project has less urgency. It’s as if the team has lost the will to win. Generally, the way organizations deal with this is they set 30, 60, or 90-day sprints, right? If it’s a 90-day sprint, there’s this sense of urgency to hit every milestone along the way, and you as the leader should be setting milestones every week to ensure that that project is on task, but more importantly, to maintain that sense of urgency and commitment from the team to complete the project.
One of the biggest challenges that we all face in maintaining that sense of urgency is making sure that people don’t get burned out, right? If we’re moving a hundred miles an hour all the time, the team’s going to feel it. And a lot of the pushback I get as well, you know, we just finished this 90-day sprint, you know, let’s, let’s have some time for recovery, right? In the military, you remember recovery, you’d come back from the field and there would be a recovery. Oh, recovery, I saw this as a lieutenant, awesome, recovery’s on the training schedule. That means like four-day weekends and, you know, we’re not going to be doing much, but the truth is, with the Bradley Fighting Vehicles, recovery meant we had to clean those things, right? Take them to the wash rack, fix equipment. And some of those recovery days were actually kind of long because we had to make sure that our equipment got back to standard and that our organizational readiness rating would remain high. And so, the reality is, even when the mission is done, you need to maintain that sense of readiness, that sense of urgency.
And sometimes the best ways you can do that is to give the team a break. Hey, we just completed this sprint, give them some time off. That’s great, hey, let’s take a four-day weekend. Or, in the alternative, if you have that sense of urgency moving all the time, figure out how the team can work in shifts, figure out how you can maintain that momentum and that drive without burning everybody out. And sometimes that means ensuring that you don’t have people working 12, 16 hours a day, that they aren’t going home at eight o’clock every day.
I can remember at Fort Hood, I always hated this, but it was Thursday was family day, which means you showed up at seven and you had to leave, I think by three, and the problem was if you’re getting ready to deploy or something else, everybody had to be out of the company area. And so, we couldn’t get stuff done. And the other thing I didn’t like about it was we lost a day of PT, right? Instead of doing PT, you showed up at seven. And that’s great, they called it family time and that was important. As a leader, I didn’t like it, but I understand why it was important to the organization. We had a very high op tempo, right? Operational tempo. We were moving fast. We were going from deployment to deployment to, right, you might be going, I remember, look, in the short time I was there, it was from JRTC to Bosnia to NTC, where we just kept going to different training opportunities that were off base, where soldiers had to leave their families, and so we wanted to make sure that we would give them enough time, right, when we’d come back, it would be block leave or we’d put people on pass, but we would ensure that they got enough time off so that they could come back ready to move with a sense of urgency and that they weren’t just dragging. And that’s, one of the key factors in moving with a sense of urgency. It’s understanding that urgency must be intentional, and there must be a start time and an end time. And to really maintain that sense of urgency, you’ve got to be on a timeline. And the team has to understand that when they have to hit that final push to get there, that it’s important. And understand that they will get a break once they get to the end of the mission.
And so I can think through, whether we’re launching a new software program, a case management program, whether we’re changing our sales system, there’s a start time and an end time, and we’re going to maintain a sense of urgency throughout all of that, but once we hit it, we’re going to stop, take a tactical pause, take a knee, drink water, reload, get our logistics straight, and then we’re going to hit the next mission with the same sense of urgency.
Move with a Sense of Urgency After Action Review: first, team members and customers expect hyperresponsiveness. You won’t always have the answer to their question right away, and there will be times when you are busy, but there is nothing wrong with letting the team member or the customer know you don’t have the perfect answer right now, and you’ll get back to them, or that you need to get back to them in a day or two. It’s about making them feel respected and letting them understand that you are top of mind for them. Number two, slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Make sure you have processes and systems in place that allow you to move with a sense of urgency and a sense of purpose. Number three, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” And as all of you know, that is General George Patton.
Now, let’s talk about the three down. Time kills all deals. Whether it’s a customer who wants to buy, whether it’s a collaborator, if you can’t get back to them in a timely manner, they’re going to go somewhere else. Next, hire slow is nonsense. Have systems in place so that you can hire fast. Three, when you have a vendor who is trying really hard to get something done fast, proceed with caution.
Thank you for joining us today on Veteran Led, where we pursue our mission of promoting veteran leadership in business, strengthening the veteran community, and getting veterans all of the benefits that they earned. If you know a leader who should be on the Veteran Led podcast, report to our online community by searching @veteranled on your favorite social channels and posting in the comments. We want to hear how your military challenges prepared you to lead your industry or community, and we will let the world know. And of course, hit subscribe and join me next time on Veteran Led.
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