In Action, Change, Leaders

“The easier it is to do something, the harder it is to change the way you do it.” – Steve Wozniak

Complacency is one of those things we always attribute to other people.  On some level, we equate it with laziness, and no one ever admits to being lazy.  We point to people who we think aren’t really working to get better and we call them complacent, and feel good about ourselves for not being like them.

But are we really that much different?  Maybe at a given point in time we might be really working hard to make change and to improve and to be something better for the future.  But are we like that all the time?  Or even most of the time?

The reality is that we all have stretches of complacency, both as leaders and in our personal lives.  When things are going pretty well, or seem to be coming pretty easily, we tend to coast.  I don’t think it’s usually a conscious decision; I don’t believe most leaders purposefully take their foot off the gas.  I think it’s just human nature.

And it doesn’t happen overnight.  I think most complacent organizations didn’t get that way in a matter of days or weeks or even months.  I think it slowly happened over a period of years – probably successful years – and it maybe wasn’t even recognizable.  But somewhere, those organizations lost the edge or lost the drive to be better and improve.  Things are going well, so why change?

Of course, change is a necessity.  At some point, the way you’ve done things for 5 or 10 or 50 years will no longer give you the results that you want.  Depending on your location or your industry, it might take a long time for that complacency to catch up with you, but eventually it will.

One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to make sure the organization you lead doesn’t become complacent.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate success, or that you have to act like everything’s bad all the time, or that people don’t ever need a break.  Change fatigue is definitely a real thing.

It just means that you can’t allow yourself and your team to fall into the trap of believing that the way you’re doing things now is fine, and we can just keep doing what we’re doing forever, and we’ll just keep getting the same results into eternity.  Focus on the future.  Focus on what you’re going to need to become as an organization.  Nothing lasts forever, and if you’re in permanent complacency mode, then neither will you.

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