Killing Complacency

Jaclyn Crawford Foresight, Guest Post, Leadership, Professional Development 3 Comments

The economy can be unpredictable, but you can create predictability in your organization by not accepting mediocrity.

What does it take to beat the global financial crisis? Some individuals are blaming the banks, the lack of credit available or even a run of bad luck, and sure, all of those did contribute in some way to the crisis of the last few years. As a business consultant, I have had the pleasure of networking and coaching some of the U.S. and U.K.’s senior executives. In listening to their stories, some involving the aforementioned contributors, I believe people and coworkers can add to and drive though any crisis.

So, is there an answer? Yes, that most employers have allowed overtime, mediocrity, complacency and inefficiency to set in their organization. This impacts staff morale and how people behave and respond. If you all drink the same poison drink, everyone gets sick, right?

Staff members who are not engaged in your business cripple productivity, damaging reputation, brand and bottom-line income and revenue. When business revenues fall, businesses look to other means to improve the cost-income ratio jaws (i.e., reducing staff, cutting back, borrowing more). The consequence of which is—over time without creative intervention—the business fails, having a knock-on effect to your local, national and global economic position.

I have worked with many senior-level executives, and there is another common error during tough times. When we identify what we perceive to be a “bad” employee, we take corrective action to remove or replace this individual, right?

No, a big no. What happened to the tenacious, hungry and energetic “hires?” They, too, have been infected by drinking from the same poison drinks, and over time history repeats itself. Bearing this in mind, how as a leader can you attempt to stop the cycle?

One answer may lay within a model that I designed by accident whilst working as a senior executive in a blue chip organization. It became a predictable mantra from my leadership team, becoming so entrenched in how we led our teams.

Standards, Expectations & Consequences

Standards. Be really crystal clear as to what your standards are with your team, including their behaviors, results, people development, training and customer support. This building block is essential to ensure that people really do understand what you expect. Then, be restless every day to ensure that, with your support, your teammates are working as closely as they can to these standards.

Expectations. First the “what’s,” and now the “how’s.” How will you and your team behave with all of the people, customers and stakeholders with whom you interact? How will you and your team deliver the results? How will you support your top-performing team members and their customers? And how will you develop your less productive relationships? It’s not about telling either; this is about showing your people how and what you expect.

Consequences. I call this, “What if you do, and what if you don’t?” It’s really important that you share with people in your organization what the journey will be like for them if they meet your standards and expectations, and the benefits of delivering a shared vision. Conversely, we don’t spend enough time being honest with people from the outset about not meeting standards and expectations. This doesn’t need to be “tough love,” but good old honest support in whatever form you feel fit.

With a restless curiosity regarding your team’s adherence to its standards, expectations and consequences, combined with a zero-tolerance policy for mediocrity, you will shine above your competitors, I promise. This will mean you foster great morale, and your staff will energize each other while growing productivity. You will develop a strong personal leadership brand and reputation, and grow stellar revenue and shareholder returns along the way.

What about the global crisis and reliance on the macroeconomic conditions? You can’t foresee the challenges that economic factors beyond your control will bring, but you can minimize the impact that they might have to your business.



Leadership-Cake-Author-Steve-RushSteve Rush is an author and leadership expert whose career spans global firms generating multimillion-pound revenues. He is the author of “Leadership Cake,” which combines his expertise and leadership lessons into a fresh perspective on leadership success. Live testing of “Leadership Cake” with leaders in both the U.K. and the U.S. inspired Rush to share the philosophy on the global stage. For more information, visit

Rush is also Chief Executive Officer of Improov Consulting, a leadership, management and training consultancy based in Vale of Glamorgan near Cardiff, South Wales, U.K. It provides solutions tailored to ever-changing businesses and individual needs in the areas of learning and development; sales skills and buying models; sales leadership; relationship management; marketing; personal effectiveness and change management; communications skills; and financial services exam training. For more information, visit


Comments 3

  1. John Reynolds

    Mr Rush, I like this.
    How often does it happen? How often do we have or make the time to review these key metrics and how do we communicate when they are sailing off-course?

    1. Steve Rush

      John, Thanks for taking time to join the discussion. There’s a few questions in there, so I’ll answer one at a time. How often it happens depends on how strong a leadership is present. We should be constantly be reviewing these principles as if they slip, you get a somewhat mediocre performance. If new tasks or ideas are introduced into your organization, you may need to repeat the process each time change happens. You can tell very easily if they start to set off course if you are close enough to your business and you evaluate results vs. activity. The main problem occurs, when leaders are removed enough not to notice these early signs or if people have become unclear to the consequences and expectations. If standards slip, it’s usually a sign of weak leadership. Just as in Roman times, if the “Standard” Bearer fell, (head of the century of soldiers) it was thought that part of the battle was won. So I guess, keep your “Standards” up at all times.

      1. John Reynolds

        Thanks, Steve.
        I agree – standards are not a paragraph in the business plan; they are living and breathing. Leaders lead from the front in establishing, living and maintaining them.

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