Look in the Mirror – Five Reasons Why Your Leadership Makes Your Employees Complacent
Updated: Feb 13
Do your employees lack their usual fire? If so, it may be time to look in the mirror and take responsibility for that.
Complacency in the business world is a global issue.
Vince Molinaro saw evidence of this while on tour for his latest book, The Leadership Contract. Molinanro, who is an author and business strategist, specialises in creating accountable leaders in the workplace. So, imagine his surprise when he sat down for a meeting in Eindhoven with a group of C-Suite leaders.
Molinaro shared some data collected from Lee Hecht Harrison’s clients. These surveys pointed out that leadership accountability, or the lack thereof, is a global problem.
When he asked the group about their leadership accountability, one leader responded with this blunt response:
“This session has been extremely valuable as I realised I have not been leading in an accountable manner. I’ve let myself slip and become complacent.”
Molinaro asked him to elaborate, and the CEO explained that he stopped challenging himself daily. He just went through the motions and soon fell into a routine without even questioning whether he was truly stepping up.
Does this sound familiar to you?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of routine.
But that routine can spell devastation for your business.
Maybe you’re like this CEO in Eindhoven…
You don’t even realise that you infected your business with complacency.
This infection may be more serious than you realise, though.
Your Team is a Reflection of You
Your team is simply a reflection of what you bring to the business. Think of your team as different organs in the same body. What you feed your body reflects how your body performs.
So what happens when your body is starving?
The body deteriorates and starts dying.
That’s what happens to businesses that don’t nourish their team by offering anything new or innovating…
Your team reflects that lack of essential nutrients. In the business world, you may see it as a missing spark. That missing spark is complacency and you’re the one who introduced it into your team.
Ken Siegel, CEO of The Impact Group, says that the manager directly or indirectly contributes to the complacency problem.
“If your employees seem complacent, look in the mirror.”
So, what makes a great leader?
Being a great leader comes from inside you.
According to Sigel, “The best managers have an internal conviction and belief in what they are doing and trying to create.”
Leaders that have internal conviction focus on creating teams to share their vision. They’re goal-focused and aspirational. And those managers are there every step of the way to celebrate those goals with the team.
This level of employee engagement contributes to a sense of purpose for the entire group.
Unfortunately, though, leadership attitudes work the other way as well.
Just like the Dutch CEO in Molinaro’s group, you may not realise what you’re doing is wrong. Perhaps it started slowly as you find yourself overworked and heading towards burnout. Or maybe you lost sight of what motivates you in the first place?
Regardless of why, complacency doesn’t happen instantly. It creeps in and grows roots in a business’ leadership. When that happens, ideas stop flowing and the business dries up.
There are ways to get innovative ideas moving again. Before you do, though, have a look at these habits that may negatively impact your team.
Maybe your leadership style worked in the past. After all, there’s a reason why you’re sitting at the top of the leadership team. But somewhere along the line, you developed some bad habits that are now triggering complacency in your team.
Reason #1 – You’re Not Holding Yourself Accountable
Even leaders can lose their passion.
Maybe your organisation faced critical challenges. Or you tried to fix a dysfunctional culture to no avail. When your calling starts to feel like a job, you may find yourself simply doing what you need to do to get through the day.
Some leaders get used to the status quo and are guilty of putting their proverbial “head in the sand” and, when changes happen, they ignore how it may affect employees and try to go about the same routine.
When that happens, employees get frustrated in the face of new rules and expectations without any guidance. When faced with the prospect of having to prove themselves, again and again, many simply give up. They prefer to insulate themselves to maintain some modicum of control in their job, doing the bare minimum to get by.
As a leader, it’s up to you to eliminate possible fears in your organisation. Keep those fears from festering by identifying and acknowledging possible issues. Also, discussing and overseeing specific organisational changes can go a long way to help eliminate fears of change.
Reason #2 – You’re Developing a History of Making Bad Decisions
Bad decisions happen to everyone now and then – even CEOs. But when you develop a history of bad decisions, it erodes your employees’ trust. They stop paying attention to what’s going on around them. Instead, they do the bare minimum so that they can just get paid and go home.
Why this change in attitude?
They may feel like nothing they contribute matters in the grand scheme of things. When a company has a history of layoffs or facility closings, employees may question their leaders’ capabilities. If the leaders exhibit poor leadership skills repeatedly, employees may feel like they aren’t important overall.
If you have a history of making bad decisions, you can turn it around.
Ensure that your team knows that they matter, especially when the business goes through critical changes. Don’t let the words, “This is the way we always do things” get in your way. Instead, open paths of communication by making everything questionable and everyone accountable.
Reason #3 – Your Message Doesn’t Connect Because You’re Not an Example of Following the Message
You may be an “idea person”, but when you lack follow-through on new programs, that may be detrimental to your team. It tells the team that you don’t care about the new proposed programs and that they can’t trust any other proposals you introduce.
Another scenario that falls under this reason might be when you have lots of meetings and talks without leading to any constructive action. You are the point person to lead your team through new ideas and challenges.
But what happens when you drop the ball?
The employees can feel overworked trying to pin down the details of every new program or idea you bring up. And when you don’t follow through, they may feel that their efforts aren’t appreciated.
To save themselves the frustration, they may not put in as much effort the next time you bring up a new idea.
Reason #4 – You Make No Effort to Disrupt the Way You’ve Always Done Things
Do you remember Blockbuster Video, the home video rental giant that dominated the market for a decade?
Almost every household had a Blockbuster card and they put competitors out of business. But they insisted on doing things the way they’d always done it.
Consequently, they missed it when customer buying habits shifted. By the time they tried to jump onto DVD rental by mail, it was already too late. Blockbuster went bust and new companies dominated the industry.
The moral of this story is that you can’t rest your laurels on “what you’ve always done.” Employees who follow the same line of thinking start disengaging from their work. That can spell a lack of inspiration and innovation for the company.
When a company stops innovating, it ceases to compete in the industry.
Instead, try to encourage innovation by using disruptive, inspirational leadership.
Apple did this in the mid-90s. At the time, the company was losing market share and shedding revenues and it turned to Steve Jobs for a solution.
His answer was to challenge the company’s status quo by giving his idea people the freedom to innovate. He disrupted the way his management team had always done things. And challenged them to create something new.
Reason #5 – You’re Not Responsive to Feedback/Issues
Everyone has complaints and issues at one point in time at work - it’s a part of life and a result of different personalities working together. However, when you don’t respond or put off responding to feedback and issues, your employees may feel that they are not important.
Underappreciated employees not only stop offering feedback, they also stop offering innovative ideas that can help the business to stay competitive. Instead, they may slip into a stupor of complacency wherein they only do what’s needed to get paid.
You may not have an answer for an employee right away. If that’s the case, give them a time frame where they can expect to hear back from you. And more importantly, remember to respond within that time frame.
Complacency Starts at the Top
Complacency has a way of slowly seeping into an organisation. You may not realise that you’re contributing to it, but complacency starts at the top and then trickles down from the leadership level.
Your employees take their cues from you. So, if you aren’t holding yourself accountable or dismiss their ideas, they’ll do likewise in their daily work.
Fortunately, you can combat complacency the same way that it enters your business – through practice.
Make it a point to connect with your employees and ensure they feel important to the business. Encourage new ideas and feedback when you can. You never know when the next innovation will walk through your office door.
Did you recognise yourself in any of these examples?
If you believe that complacency may be affecting your team, I would love to help you by discussing how complacency can enter the workplace and what you can do about it.
Contact me today to book me as a speaker for your next event.