Today's Challenge: Complacency

I love fielding questions. It’s my favorite part of my speaking engagements. I’m always thrilled when the format and timing works out so I can address the audience’s questions. My desire to speak to your issues is why I love the Today’s Challenge series. Today, someone has asked: How do I respond to complacency on my team?

As with most of the questions I receive, this issue can be complicated. However, one thing is for sure – it is the leader’s responsibility to resolve the problem.
First, let’s agree, complacency is a problem. To the leader, and ultimately the team, a satisfaction with the status quo should be unacceptable. The absence of the desire to improve is a silent killer in an individual or a team. There are at least five potential causes (or some combination of these) you should explore before you map out your plan of attack.
The root of complacency could be…
The leader – You’ve got to start by looking in the mirror. Are you fired up about the work of the team? Passion is contagious – so is complacency. Your people will never be more passionate and engaged than you are. Leaders go first!
The team members – Do you have the right people around your table? I’ve seen these countless times over the years. All you need is one or two “bad apples” to spoil the entire batch. You need everyone on the team pulling together. If you discover team members working against you, it’s your move.
The group's purpose may be unclear or uninspiring - When the "why" doesn't excite the team, the "what" rarely will. People want meaning in their life and work. I've written about this before in a post entitled The Power of a 3 x 5 Card. Clear purpose is foundational for long-term team success. It's also a hedge against complacency.
Absence of a compelling performance challenge – Small dreams stir no man’s soul. Teams generally don’t get excited about maintaining things. They can get excited about pursuing something that matters. Do the goals of the team require everyone’s best effort to achieve them? Do you even have goals? Aggressive goals are the barbed wire that keeps complacency at bay.
The balance of consequences may need to change – I’m no psychologist, I sell chicken for a living, however, I know that most human beings are rational – at least in their own mind. When faced with a task, challenge or opportunity, people weigh the effort required against the potential for return. I see this all the time. If people see too much work ahead of them with too little return, they may not engage in the effort. The leader controls the balance of consequences.
Let’s go back to the first potential cause of complacency – you. The truth is, as the leader, you own all the causes listed above. If it’s as simple as fixing you, congratulations. That’s probably the easiest of the five. However, even if you’re not the problem, it’s still your problem.
Here’s my encouragement to you. There are many problems you and I will face over the course of our career we really don’t control. This is not one of them. If complacency exists in your team, own it and solve it.
What warning signs do you look for to spot the onset of complacency? [GLS_Shield]


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