It’s been the second biggest news story of the week – and if not for the horrific disaster in Haiti, it would have been #1. After 47 years in the hands of a Democrat, the Massachusetts Senate seat of deceased Edward Kennedy will now be occupied by a Republican.
This article isn’t about political posturing, ads run and tea party uprisings. But it is about a mistake made – a mistake that all of us are susceptible to, and one that as leaders we must guard against personally and be vigilant of within our organizations.
Staying above the political fray, and certainly not being an expert in the Massachusetts political scene, one thing is clear. One major reason, if not the single most important one, that Scott Brown will soon be Senator Scott Brown is that Ms Coakley thought she had the seat won. This isn’t to say she didn’t campaign or work, but deep down, I’m confident, and this is corroborated by much of the speculation I’ve read, that she and the whole Party thought it was just an exercise, just a necessary step before she made her way to Washington.
Complacency is a dangerous thing.
I have a long time client that has made major strides on some cultural changes. They are doing, by all accounts and substantiated by data, doing exceptionally well. My biggest concern for them now isn’t a lack or failing in competence or commitment, but in complacency. If they become complacent and even stay static, they will immediately begin to lose ground literally and psychologically as well.
Let me bring this a bit closer to home.
- Ever lost a long time Customer?
- Ever lost a friendship?
- Had a working relationship deteriorate?
- Lose sight of a critical strategic issue or initiative after it was going very well?
- Had a strong, committed team member leave unexpectedly?
While none of these will be blamed on complacency on the surface, chances are, underneath the spin and posturing, you will find complacency. Sound familiar Ms. Coakley?
While I have used Ms. Coakley as my example, hear me clearly. I am not speaking to her, but to you (and me). Ask yourself these questions, as a start.
In what parts of your life and business are you complacent?
Where are you letting well enough alone?
Where are things going exceptionally well or running on auto pilot?
What habit or strategy has been very successful for you, but you are now unconsciously neglecting or ignoring?
As high achievers we must answer these questions for ourselves, and as leaders we must consider the cancer of complacency carefully.
I’ll write more about this in the coming days and weeks, about the focus that is required, the balance of priorities, and some additional tools to help us deal with these important factor.
For now, make the two sets of questions I asked above be your leadership activity for the day. Whether you are in executive leadership, a first line supervisor, or aspiring to those roles, consider the role of complacency in your work and the work of those around you.