Complacency Stalks Your Workplace

As we live through the 10th anniversary of the Great Recession, many investors appear certain we’re not going to see anything similar in the near or even mid-term future. Continued and often significant gains in people’s portfolios have numbed regular investors to potentially dramatic downside risk. Self-assured investors seem to be willfully ignoring rising economic, geo-political and societal risks. This dangerous complacency ensures that many market players are quite unprepared for the inevitable downturn.

warning complacencyEarlier this month, I experienced the very same symptom during my conversation with two executives from two different organizations. From their perspectives, all was well with their businesses – key business measures related to growth, sales and revenues were being met, staff were engaged, the business was firing on all cylinders. While I don’t remember the exact phrase, they both said something like “I’m really pleased, we’re doing so well, I don’t see the need for much change.” Even their tone of voice suggested that they would carry on as usual and that their business would continue its current trajectory for some time to come.

While it’s nice to consider that your company is at the top of its game, it’s a dangerous belief – it’s also one that the market, your clients and other competitors will be sure to demolish in time. The inclination to take your foot off the accelerator is alluring but this strategy typically has devastating outcomes. Feelings of control and comfort are a sure-fire indication that some kind of challenge or change is going to appear when it’s least expected. And these days, key shifts occur rapidly and with little warning.

To keep your edge, and to ensure that your team members don’t adopt a complacent mindset and approach, there are some key actions you can take:

complacent employee1.) Be Paranoid

  • Assume that threats are going to appear and that they will take you by surprise. This could be from any number of sources, including your competitors, market regulators, the economy or newly emergent technologies. Visualize not only the emerging upside opportunities but also identify those ‘scary things’ that could impact your business.
  • Encourage your team members to routinely ask ‘what if’ questions to uncover key vulnerabilities in your business. Listen more deeply to your customers and what they say about your company; actively encourage them to ask for more from your business. Are there different ways that you can service their needs and make them more successful? Are they struggling in some aspect of their business that a reformulated or new product, from your company, would provide a viable solution?

2.) Encourage Continuous Innovation

  • Recognize that the only way to stay relevant to is regularly reinvent key components of your business model. Incremental improvement is worthwhile but it doesn’t drive the kind of change required to maintain consistent longer-term performance in a changing world. Actively solicit different perspectives and welcome new approaches to invigorate your work and that of your team.
  • Establish measures to gauge your innovation efforts, approaching them in the same way you would for other key initiatives. Cumulative revenues from new products and services is a common metric but don’t just limit yourself to financial measures. Measure the impact on customer satisfaction, employee engagement and brand reputation, for example.

3.) Compete Internally

  • Encourage team members to view successes as part of a lengthy journey, not an endpoint. Be sure to celebrate the wins along the way but don’t let people rest on their accomplishments. Set up healthy competitive tension within your team and organization to ensure that there’s energy and momentum for change. Encourage teams, for example, to set more ambitious targets to improve customer satisfaction and service delivery. Share results across your organization regarding how various teams are progressing.
  • Keep an eye on top performers within your industry and identify the various ways that they’re competing in the marketplace. Encourage your team to incorporate some of these approaches into your own business model.

leader challenging team4.) Challenge Your People

  • Set ambitious yet realistic goals that encourage your team members to reach higher and go farther after each successful outcome. Adjust common patterns so that routine doesn’t become a barrier to change.
  • Ensure effective delegation and appropriate coaching are key priorities for your leaders. Most people want to learn new things and acquire enhanced skills in the workplace. Push the learning agenda so that people feel engaged in their work and challenged to venture in new directions.

5.) Rejuvenate Yourself

  • Ensure that you’re sufficiently engaged and motivated yourself, since everyone else will be looking to you to lead the charge. Demonstrate a sense of ‘managed urgency’ that influences others to stay in motion and avoid coasting on their successes.
  • Remain hungry, stay grounded. Remember what made you successful and what you’ve learned along the way. Never let your current accomplishments blind you to future developments that could have a dramatic effect on your business.

Don’t let yourself, your team or your organization become complacent: the long-term costs are way too high. Ensure you’re never quite satisfied with the status quo, continuously seeking ways to change up your business despite the successes you’ve already achieved.

To learn more about the high-impact conversations that help circumvent complacency, contact me contact me at scott@cygnusconsultants.com or 250-882-8830.

the future

About The Author

Scott Borland, Founder & President of CYGNUS Management Consultants Inc, , is a recognized expert in helping executives host strategic conversations and obtain high impact feedback. He brings insightful perspective and proven strategies to strengthen the alignment between strategy and leadership behaviour. Scott has presented frequently at regional/national conferences and is a regular contributor to online journals/blogs. Follow Scott on Twitter or add him as a connection on LinkedIn.

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