C-Suite Network™

Fight Complacency

An excerpt from my new book, Ingaged Leadership Meets the Younger Generation

Complacency comes in a variety of forms. You can recognize it in statements like:

  • “Business is good—I’d like it to keep going well, so I don’t need to do anything.”
  • “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
  • “I’m making enough money; I don’t need to make more.”

I actually had someone tell me, “I don’t need to raise my margins. I’m making enough money. I’d rather just give more to my customers.” On the surface that sounds noble, but it isn’t. Profits might seem like greed, but they’re not. They’re about growing and investing in your business. They’re about protecting your job and your employees’ jobs. Every business needs profits.

If you’re suffering from this pitfall and believe your business is so good that you don’t need to grow it, I urge you to shake things up a bit and shift your perspective.

Unfortunately, your competitors probably didn’t get that same message that they are doing well enough. They are innovating and growing their businesses. That is one reason why you constantly have to work to make your business better.

Another temptation to become complacent:

Some people seem to believe that if they work harder, they will destroy their work-life balance. I am a very big believer in establishing a good work-life balance, but the reality is that you want your business to achieve all it can achieve. I like to remember that even in a company that has become wildly successful, it is still possible for people to enjoy time with their families.

To summarize, work-life balance doesn’t mean your business goes on hold so you can attend to personal pursuits. The reality is if your business is on hold, your business is going backwards; some other company is going to outperform you. You will then have a serious issue when your business encounters problems in the future. Leading an enterprise that is going downhill will have a way of doing more harm to your work-life balance than you believed possible.

Cultivate the Ability to “Eat Elephants”

You have probably heard the old question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer: “One bite at a time.”

The answer to that question is a good one to keep in mind every day as a leader and a manager. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of certain critical initiatives or processes that you would like to tackle, simply get started by taking a small step—in effect, by “taking one small bite at a time.”

Those big elephants are the projects that seem so complex you tend to put them off. One could be writing a business plan for a new company or division that you would like to launch, so that you can obtain funding. Another might be studying the efficiencies of the outsourced call centers you are using so that you can decide whether to open an internal call center of your own. 

When we are faced with tasks like those, “taking a first bite” is critically important. That bite could be creating an internal task force to explore an issue or calling some of your contacts to ask for input.

The first bite can be small, but here’s one piece of advice that I can offer: Whatever that first bite will be, try to take it soon. Do it today, if possible.

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