The Complacency Challenge

 While driving to work yesterday, I was listening to sports talk radio.  They were discussing this past weekend’s college football games and taking calls from fans across the South.  One message that I heard several times from analyst and fans alike was how the season was effectively over now for teams with two losses.  While I understand the likelihood of a team winning a national championship with two losses is very slim, I couldn’t disagree more with the comment “the season is over” or “there is nothing left to play for”. 

 For one, there is this week.  A chance to play and win this week.  There is this week.  A chance to get better at practice this week.  As long as there are days left in a season, there is a chance for coaches and players alike to have an impact in some way to make a difference within their team, their school, and their community.  Success can’t be limited to the team that wins the national championship only.  The old Ricky Bobbi quote from “Talladega Nights”- “If you are not first, you are last” did not even hold true in the movie.  That entire mentality of nothing left to play for leads to complacency at every level.

 I couldn’t help but think about how dangerous complacency really is in our world.  Complacency is defined as being satisfied with how things are and not striving to make things better.  Complacency might be one of a leader’s biggest challenges, both from a personal standpoint as well as in dealing with others.  Whether it’s complacency from a nothing left to play for mentality or complacency from comfortable place of satisfaction, it is a big challenge.

 Ask yourselves these questions:

1.  How do you really feel about safety in your work team or your facility?  Do you really think we can get to the point that we can work without any serious injuries or are you like that individual that told me several years ago: “If you work here long enough, you are going to eventually get hurt”?  Are you as a leader striving to improve every day or are you satisfied with where you are?  Have you had a serious injury this year and given up on the goal of an injury free work place?

 2.  How do you really feel about quality in your work team or your facility?  Do you really think we can get to the point that we don’t have customer complaints?  Are you striving to get better in this area or have you slid into a comfort level of being ok, acceptable, or satisfactory?  Have you gotten frustrated with recent failures and just accepted that as the norm? 

 3.  How do you feel about the operation overall with respect to waste, productivity, and reliability?  Do you really think you can improve from where you are today?  Do the people that work for you believe they can operate with improved results?  Here, later in the year, I wonder if complacency has set in.  Just a comfortable feeling of why even bother may have taken over the work team.

 Just a few thoughts to close with as you battle complacency on various fronts:

 1.   As a leader, be sure you properly define the goal or objective.  While annual goals or objectives are nice for corporations at some level, they really don’t work well leading people on a daily basis.  Just like a team wanting to win the national championship is fine, there is still a whole lot more to play for.  The same is true for your work team or facility.  As long as there is today or this week, there is the opportunity to accomplish something worthwhile.  Find those meaningful, short term wins and go after them.

 2.  Most people won’t buy into goals that have never been achieved.  They may not believe we can work a year injury free.   They may not believe we can go a month with no customer complaints. They may not believe we can run 24 hours with no downtime.  But we can work today injury free.  We can work today without any quality issues, etc.  Just focus on the day and start stacking days on top of each other.  Just win the day. 

 3.  Your real goal as a leader is to influence your work team or facility to reach their potential.  Everyone can win when this goal is our primary objective.  The daily focus of getting better and reaching potential is the focus.  We have different situations, different opportunities, different experience levels, and different challenges, but every group has potential.  Complacency is the number one enemy of potential!

 4.  Realize that improvement will likely require change.  Progress won’t be made unless something is done differently.  Change is tough.  Most people don’t like change.  Change involves risk and can take us places that are unfamiliar.  However, part of avoiding complacency is to continually challenge the norm and look for new, innovative ways to get things done.  As a leader, you have to influence others on the need for change, the basis for the change, and the ultimate benefit of change.  No doubt it is much easier to do nothing, accept where we are, and eventually drift into irrelevance.  Leaders can’t let that happen.

 5.  While it is natural for every leader to fall into this trap of complacency at some point, you can’t stay there.  It doesn’t matter how successful you think you are.  If you are complacent, you may be managing, but you probably aren’t leading.  Furthermore, complacency is infectious.  It spreads and is hard to contain.  If that’s you, you need to get engaged and start leading again.  If you can’t, maybe you need to step aside and look for something else to do.  You aren’t doing yourself any good, and you sure aren’t good for the people you need to be leading.   

Whatever you are going through, remember, you have today….you have this week.  Make the most of it. 


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