Many years ago, I left my NFL playing days behind and entered what I thought would be the organized, disciplined, team-first culture of corporate America. But then, I was amazed to discover that organizations seemed as if they were winging it for the most part.
That’s right—winging it!
Wasted time, wasted energy, and wasted talent. I found many to be lethargic, directionless, and chaotic, with no sense of genuine urgency to win now.
Mired in complacency, the tenor of many was “they were doing was just fine,” lacking any resolve to take on the competition. I was stunned by this new awareness. Organizations need to get back to the fundamentals of consistent winning by maximizing human performance. Developing, coaching, and growing their talent to go after wins with deep-felt determination.
Complacency is a concept researched for decades by my friend Dr. John Kotter, Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at the Harvard Business School, an author, and the founder of Kotter International. Dr. Kotter calls complacency an all-too-common occurrence in organizations that have achieved success and that knowing how to identify complacency is half the battle in overcoming it.
The origins of complacency are derived from past success, historical success, even antidotal success. A complacency definition reveals why: “Complacency is a feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction coupled with an unawareness of danger or trouble looming around the corner.”
The first word is FEELING. Complacency is not only a thought. It’s very much a feeling. It is usually less a matter of conscious, rational analysis than unconscious emotion. This point is significant because people treat complacency as a state of mind that can be changed solely with the “cold, hard facts.”
The second word is SELF. Complacency is a feeling that a person has about their behavior, about what they need to do or not do. This is important because it is possible to see problems yet be astonishingly complacent. After all, you do not feel that the issues seen require changes in your actions.
Almost always, complacent people do not view themselves as complacent. Dr. Kotter relates, “They see themselves as behaving quite rationally. They can be aggravatingly creative in justifying their point of view. These people can be hard to spot because they look rational, thoughtful, and prudent. Worse yet, they can see themselves as rational, thoughtful, and prudent.”
Dr. Kotter asks some helpful questions to get ahold of complacency. See if any of these strike a chord with you.
Moving people from a position of complacency to commitment is a game-changer. As a leadership keynote speaker and workshop facilitator, many of my talks often center on identifying and removing complacency allowing organizations to move faster with less chaos to achieve success.
If you are interested in having me help your team move toward success, please get in touch today.