Countdowns count

Was there ever something important you didn’t get done in time? Where somehow the deadline just continued moving and you weren’t truly motivated to getting it wrapped up? My guess is that a countdown would have come in handy.

As a leader, sometimes we have to create a sense of urgency. Make a deadline seem important for everyone involved. Get others motivated to follow our lead.

Countdowns are used this time of year for many things – the top 100 best hits of 2021, the 10 worst highway patrol episodes, and so on.

But we can create our own countdowns any time of year. For any occasion we like. As long as the purpose and story are aligned and make sense to those we’re involving.

Different religions and cultures have different calendars of the year – which have become traditions and help create focus, highs, and lows of energy and intention.

The Danes count down to Christmas via Sundays: 4 Sundays before Christmas (which by the way is on the 24th in the evening – why is it again all English-speaking tribes think 25th in the morning makes more sense??). Anyway, this logic makes today the 3rd Sunday of Advent. With no relevance for lots of other people – but our little tribe has made it mean something and it gives us momentum, brings things to action.

We all create our own stories, timelines, and meaning.

And in a culture where it’s rainy, cold, and dark at 3 pm this time of year, it makes a lot of sense to expand on a countdown like this to create focus, warmth, and “hygge” (go Google that concept!) and spark some motivation to get the Christmas spirit happening. So, we light one more candle of 4 candles every Sunday, set in a decoration made of branches of Pinetree, cones, moss, and whatever else you can forage on a walk in the local forest (adding red silk ribbons). Making it the reason for a lovely family gathering those Sundays with Christmas cookies and Gløgg (Google that, too, a kind of mulled wine or Glühwein).

I love this countdown, and our house will be decorated for Christmas before the “første søndag i advent” (that 1st Sunday), even if Sydney’s blue sky and summer temperatures could easily lead you astray – a sense of urgency has been created.

Well, this year Christmas was still in boxes halfway through the countdown in our house…. as we were nervously waiting and doing everything possible to get our daughter into Australia and not experience another failed attempt. We just didn’t feel like getting ready for Christmas if she couldn’t be here to enjoy it with us. So I guess even a countdown doesn’t always do the trick.

Anyway, my Christmas inspiration led me to the conclusion that countdowns count. They give direction, a shared purpose, and a sense of urgency. If I didn’t have the 4 Sundays before Christmas, 8 out of 10 years I probably wouldn’t have started enjoying the Christmas spirit before weeks into December. And what a shame that would have been.

You as a leader can make urgencies up. In a good way. What’s a valuable countdown for you and the team? What’s a period of the year that could do with a new tradition in your business – launched via a countdown?

It is all about creating an aligned purpose and story – then we will make things happen.

PS.: And yes, our Danish daughter did get here and we’re back on track with our Christmas countdown. Thanks for asking.