Urgent, Not Frantic

By Jill Dunchick



“Everyone should have a sense of URGENCY – getting a lot done in a short period of time in a calm, confident manner.”

– Bob Proctor


My first official task at BES occurred at 5:30 am in August, 2012.  I was to hold a bright orange, two-by-three-foot URGENCY sign at the entrance to the elevators at 31 Milk Street and welcome the Fellowship cohort of 2012. I didn’t say much. If memory serves me correctly, I chose from the following phrases, “Good Morning. Welcome. Proceed to the sixth floor. Nice to meet you.”  One by one – and sometimes in groups of two or three – The Fellowship cohort hurried up to the 6th floor to begin a life-changing leadership journey with Sue Walsh.

The task was basic: hold up a sign and welcome people. But as I  stared at that sign at 5:30 am, with minimal caffeine intake, just waiting for people to arrive, I became fascinated with URGENCY.  Over my years at BES, I have thought deeply about what URGENCY is and what it is not. Even today, I spend much of my coaching with Follow On Support and LENS, breaking down the difference between urgent and frantic.

Urgent (adj): (of a person or their manner) earnest and persistent in response to a pressing situation

Frantic (adj):  conducted in a hurried, excited, or chaotic way, typically because of the need to act quickly

Here are two basic scenarios that I coach almost every leader on at least one time during our coaching sessions. As I do when I train leaders, I have broken these scenarios down into urgent leadership presence and frantic leadership presence:


Scenario #1:  Walking down the hallway during instruction

Urgent:  Solid, smooth pace, foot steps with purpose and direction, authentic bright face, eye contact and appropriate approving/disapproving non-verbals (or 2-3 word verbals directives or praises) with students and team members in the hallway, orderly clipboard and comfortable carrying computer and other items needed for the day under one arm with the other arm free.

Frantic:  Walking quickly and uncertain as to where s/he is heading, papers falling off clip board and difficulty managing the computer and other items needed for the day, not aware of other students/team members in the hallway or overly aware of and distracted by students/team members the hallway taking this leader off track from the day plan to be in a classroom,  breathing can be somewhat inconsistent and face may flush.


Scenario #2:  Entering a classroom during an instructional period

Urgent: Holding computer and clipboard cleanly under one arm, slowly opens the door with purpose without distracting students/teacher(s), quickly sees the area in the classroom where s/he wishes to concentrate, is completely aware of all students in the classroom and the teacher(s), gives a clear non-verbal of approval/disapproval to teacher(s)/student(s) depending on what is occurring, arrives at desired location in the classroom while keeping radar strong and with only positive impact on the classroom culture and instruction. Begins real time coaching or taking notes while keeping radar strong, a bright face, a calm demeanor, and an approachable, no-nonsense presence.

Frantic:  Difficulty opening the door or opening the door at such a speed that it causes all in the classroom to flinch, distracting to students and teacher(s), face looks puzzled as s/he is uncertain where to concentrate in the classroom, is unaware of and does not make contact non-verbally with the teacher(s), has difficultly managing the clip board and other items needed for the days work, asks students what they are doing as the leader is unable to decipher from the tasks whether or not the students are on point.  Face shows confusion, may be flushed, and breathing can be somewhat inconsistent.


While the scenarios above may seem trivial based on what you have already encountered at this point in your day, they are two essential situations where you have the ability to distinguish yourself as an urgent leader or a frantic leader.  No matter what life hands out – and in the day-to-day operation of a school we are aware that there are millions of planned and unplanned scenarios we are expected to lead people through – challenge yourself to handle all situations in calm, focused, persistent, insistent, confident, and unrelenting manner.  Be URGENT, not frantic.