complacency (Cambridge Dictionary)

  • a feeling of calm satisfaction with your own abilities or situation that prevents you from trying harder:

It’s great to experience feelings of achievement, worthiness and competence when hitting key results and objectives in your business especially financial goals.

But finding yourself in a comfort zone brings its own dangers. Mainly, complacency and the tendencies to over-congratulation one’s self and rest back, safe in the knowledge we have achieved our goals and can now relax a little.

Safety zones can very quickly become danger zones if you don’t remain aware that the hard work is never completely done!

We often use the analogy of the water pump, and it’s still as true today as it was decades ago when first used.

It’s hard work pumping at the beginning, spending what seems endless energy drawing the heavy water up from beneath the ground with hard pressurised cranks of the handle. But once the weather – or your positive results, starts to trickle the pumping gets slightly easier.

When traction and the compound effect kick in, the results come in a much higher volume, all the hard work pays off, we hit the goals and objectives and what do we do then?

We stop pumping! – The water all slowly descends back down the pipe and you’re back to the beginning.

You can almost guarantee that the next time you need to prime the pump with long periods of pumping, your attention is actually needed somewhere else due to the additional business functions you built during the first growth period.

This is where faith in yourself and many great ideas end up in the entrepreneurial graveyard because we didn’t recognise the process and have the self-awareness to observe ourselves becoming complacent.

I recently found myself experiencing this in my roofing business, after winning the biggest contract we had won in the history of the business, we exceeded the sales target for the month, quarter and year with one sale.

It enabled me to congratulate myself and the team, which after 21 years of hard graft, seemed to be completely justified at the time.

For the sake of the team, I’m glad we did that. But allowing myself to become smug about it led me to ignore the KPI’s in the following months when the quality of the leads, and in turn, the sales slowly started to decrease.

I found myself at the end of Q1 at the beginning of a new financial year, 60% down on the results of the previous year because we took so much comfort in the huge order book and the past years results.

In hindsight, I should have quickly gotten over the high and the celebration, and not left it 2 months to realise I had a big deficit.

A huge lesson was learned after having to sacrifice other ideas I was working on to throw myself back into the business and fix the problem. I won’t be making that mistake again!

For most of us, we will have a sales engine in place in our businesses of some form.

Engines need fuel and maintenance.

If we stop putting the fuel in, the engine will run for a while but then eventually stop.

Fuel can be looked at in terms of our own energy, leads, ad spend, product & market knowledge and research, network building and collaboration.

Once we start to neglect those important functions and ease off with the effort we apply, the natural law of Cause & Effect takes place and the engine is headed for seizure.

Maintaining the engine will normally consist of keeping an eye on your metrics and ensuring they don’t fall below the required level for more than a few weeks at a time.

The problem with complacency is that it feels good. We usually tend to go along with those kinds of emotions feeling very successful, until we eventually realise, we have another mountain to climb.

In my case, I had allowed myself the comfort of knowing I had a big order in the bank and justified the lack of sales we experienced for 2 months afterwards.

I took my eye off the ball and focused on other projects assuming I was safe.

One of the most dangerous times in a man (or woman’s) life is when he has just achieved a worthwhile goal

Here are 5 signs that you may be falling into the complacency trap:

1. Far too easily satisfied

What are you missing? Have you dug into the detail enough? Is being lax and satisfied going to punish you later on? Are you satisfied with small incremental amounts of growth that are detached from the bigger goals? Do your celebrations feel a little overstated when registering minor milestones? Re-centre your expectations and results. Strike a balance so you’re not too hard on yourself.

2. Quick to make excuses

Are you finding yourself defending your position? We all do it from time to time. Have you justified an average result instead of taking the time and effort to dive into the details and figure out that it’s not a great one? It’s easy to hide behind an excuse especially when you’re super busy. But busy doing what? – (Hopefully not working on another average result).

3. Busy Fool

Making statements like, “I haven’t got time because I’m really busy with….” can often be a self-justification for not doing something important. It’s essential to be present and aware of the importance of anything you do daily. We can drift off for weeks at a time doing something that started as an easy path away from the harder important stuff. Unconscious complacency!

4. Unteachable

Dismissing new learnings because you are an experienced operator or leader can often be a cover up for laziness in self-education. Do you find yourself clinging onto the old ways that once were valuable but may now be outdated as you grow? Having the courage to always implement new knowledge and education takes effort.

5. Contentment

You had some success and you feel it’s enough. Did you hit your sales target and congratulate yourself? Take some time off? Because you hit that goal, have you stopped pushing?

While it’s important to celebrate the successes, especially if you are leading a team, it’s also important to move on quickly, push for more and exceed your goals by a bigger amount, or re-establish new goals before comfort and complacency set in, making that pump feel harder to prime.

As I write I feel slightly hypocritical, and so I should. Everyone gets complacent at any level.

The more aware and highly effective people notice it much faster and put action into place before it has chance to do any damage.

An old Renegades quote that we all love is: “Nothing is a good or bad as it first seems”.

Don’t over-celebrate and also don’t beat yourself up.

Be self-conscious in your self-congratulations.