Complacency – How To Break The Chain


Since the turn of the year there is one challenge that business leaders and sports coaches seem to have mentioned above all others; complacency.


Personally, I don’t see that complacency is the same as over-confidence, but it can certainly accompany it. Complacency often manifests as a lack of urgency. I notice complacency when I hear the words, “I’m sure it’ll be okay”. Those words send alarm bells ringing for me. I have also noticed that there is a pattern, or a chain, that tends to emerge when organisations and individuals become complacent.  


It starts with a belief that “It’ll be okay” or “We’re doing pretty well at the moment”.


This leads to… Assumptions.

We choose to stay ‘comfortable’ and leave conversations on a superficial level. We don’t ask the tough questions, have the uncomfortable conversations or drill down into the detail.


Which allows for… Vagueness.

We don’t get really specific answers. As a result, people don’t commit to tangible actions.  


This, in turn, leads to a… Lack of Accountability.

It’s very hard to hold people accountable for delivering an action that’s vague or ambiguous. Instead of using clear evidence to tells us whether a person has delivered or not, inevitably it becomes a battle of opinions.   


As a result, we see a… Drop in Processes

We compromise the quality of our planning, preparation and practice. We end up cruising rather than pushing. We still run the processes, but we don’t do it with real focus and quality.


Inevitably… Performance Suffers.

We don’t execute the processes consistently well when it really matters.


And ultimately


Results Drop.


Culturally, this leads to a ‘falling tide’, rather than a ‘rising tide’ in standards.


So, what’s the solution?


Several of my clients, in both elite sport and corporate business, have begun to use ‘World Class Reviews’. These incorporate a few simple principles that world class teams employ.


The reviews are highly focused and place the Two Lengths of the Pool & Five Keys front and centre. I work with an elite professional cricket team in the UK at the moment. In cricket this means asking whether we actually scored as many runs as possible and bowled the opposition out for as few runs as possible. What could we do to score more and conceded fewer, or take wickets quicker? If we could save just two runs, we need to know how and commit to finding them. Obviously, we have to want to push ourselves and work hard to gain that extra tiny margin. It has to be important to us.   


We adopt an approach that is used by the All Blacks. Their players make a request of each other. They ask their teammates to “Stab me in the front” (give me your honest feedback). We also embrace the way the Red Arrows Leader starts the review by outlining what they could have done better. The Leader then ask their teammates for feedback. Through the review, we always look to reach a point where individuals commit to changing a process (not an outcome) and are willing to be held accountable by the rest of the team. We all know what they are going to do differently. We know what we will see and hear differently. It’s only when each individual makes a change that we, as a team, can improve our performance.


There is a little phrase that I find helps teams to break the chain of complacency.


“Don’t just do it. Do it with purpose!”


For more on world class teamwork, team performance and reviews, read Stronger Together; How Great Teams Work.