HBR – Uniting the Senior Team
February 11, 2019

Complacency and Mediocrity Breeds Misalignment

One of the best college basketball coaches in history Don Meyer, has a quote that transcends sport.

“Complacency is the forerunner of mediocrity. You can never work too hard on attitudes, effort and technique.”

Think about how that quote can fit into your work life as well as in your relationships and how you, and others, attempt to lead through complacency.

Coach Meyer was constantly focused on the processes and philosophies that were the key determiners of winning games. Focusing on doing the right things at the right time brought forth results.

What brings on complacency?

Complacency can rear its head from many causes. Stress and overwork can cause us to cut corners and look to take the easy way out. Lack of accountability (like what was seen over at Wells Fargo in their banking scandal) can cause people to make decisions, without consequence, they see others making. However, one of the most basic, and pervasive, reasons complacency happens is misalignment. One may think it’s a lack of engagement, but that’s only part of the equation.

An engaged person may bring forth the attitude and effort that avoids complacency. However, according to Coach Meyer, technique is also a key factor in complacency. A lack of alignment to the mission, vision and strategic plan will lend itself to behaviors, decisions and results that are complacent and, eventually, mediocre. If we aren’t doing the right things at the right time, we won’t win.

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The leader’s role in complacency and alignment

Leaders create an environment where there is alignment to purpose as well as engagement. They set forth the standards of attitude, effort and technique and hold the group accountable to its philosophy as well as its execution.

Occasionally, over time, dips in attitude, effort and technique occur. It’s natural for it to happen. Leaders need to be connected to when complacency goes on too long or too strongly to the point where mediocrity can occur. Delicately handling those instances is a high-level leadership trait.

However, avoiding complacency in the first place is easier done if you do the right work beforehand to drive high levels of alignment. Such efforts help to effectively move through complacency if it does come. Holding yourself accountable to have the proper attitude, effort and technique regarding leading through alignment is just as important as those in your group doing it.

Leading through complacency and mediocrity is a mix of short-term and long-term actions. Setting up and maintaining an alignment culture, as well as understanding when to insert yourself into situations when there’s a risk of things going south is nuanced. Not many have developed those skills, but they can be learned and practiced – with the right attitude, effort and technique.

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