Is Your Business A Bit Too Comfortable?

Photography by Elena Kloppenburg on Unsplash.com

If you find yourself a bit too comfortable, in business or in life, it’s likely that you won’t be advancing anywhere soon. There is an edge that causes you to want to move, change and improve. But the vast majority of businesses, and individuals, live in their comfort zone and cannot stir the energy to move. As a leader, you cannot allow this to arise in your business, your leadership, or even your personal life.

What keeps you moving forward?

They Said No.

At a recent team meeting that I was sitting in on, a member suggested a novel way of achieving more sales. The naysayers bagged it straight away, but it was agreed that it would be investigated after some pushing. The person assigned that task went away, made one enquiry and then reported back to the group saying, ‘I asked John, and they said no, it probably wouldn’t work’. And that was it; the suggestion was now effectively squashed.

What I found interesting is that team was led by a CEO who was shouting to their people, ‘to get out there, increase sales, work harder, find new channels in this changing market and not fall back on what they had always done’.

They were asking that team to step out of their comfort zone, but at the very same time, they led the naysayer’s group and were comfortable with a simple no to close out an opportunity.

Some would say that it is always easier to simply do and follow what has always been done before. ‘Surely, no one can expect any more from you’. And there is comfort in doing what has always been done. It’s not very challenging, and you really don’t have to try very hard The other aspect is, of course, things which are comfortable are also familiar.

For leaders, there is a real danger in this space in that these familiar practices are ones they likely used, maybe even created, and therefore ego may also be involved. ‘It worked when I was doing that job, so why won’t it work now? Are you suggesting there may have been a better way back then as well?’

If you allow things to become too comfortable, you may find your business and yourself, sliding backwards especially as everyone else keeps moving forward. But there is a right way and a less right way to create movement, and you should be very conscious of choosing the right way.

Too Comfortable?

In a business, what can lead to it becoming too comfortable? Here are five examples of behaviour in a business that can result in it standing still rather than stepping forward:

  • No Reason To: there is little motivation or energy present within the business. The reason for the business’s existence is likely focused on profit-first, and the people working within and with the business take little pride in their efforts. The customer and their needs are a means-to-an-end, more profit, and very little attention is given to a vision in which everyone could take pride in and contribute to.
  • Why Try: No space or time is allowed for experimentation or creativity; you are required to do what you are told and nothing more. The bureaucracy, systems and process require conformity and any attempt to step outside these established ways are effectively blocked.
  • No Recognition: Whenever a new breakthrough is achieved, and success follows, the people who actually made that happen are not acknowledged; rather someone further up the hierarchy claims the credit.
  • Failure: Failure is punished, and therefore compliance is the less risky path to follow.
  • Culture: The personality of the business is to go with the flow and not stick your head out.

If you discover that your business is getting a bit lazy, then you first look to leadership and then all the systems and processes that have been allowed to take hold, which has likely shaped the culture of comfort.

Forward Edge

There is an edge, a forward-moving edge, that you want to ensure never disappears in your business, your leadership or your life.

I express this forward edge as:

  • In life, you are always seeking to achieve.
  • In leadership, you are always seeking to enable those whom you lead to perform at their very best.
  • In business, you are always seeking to compete where every ounce of potential in your business is brought to bear.

This forward movement is seeded by purpose and motive and then is strengthened through the engine that is built around it. There are two very important exclusions when it comes to seeding this forward movement, never seek to achieve it through profit or fear:

  • Profit: A business that centres itself around profit seeds self-interest, politics and short-termism. Profit as a motive leads everyone to be in it for what they can get out of it today. It does not bring the potential that exists within a business to the forefront.
  • Fear: The use of authority (fear) to demand performance will not yield potential; at best, it will deliver some level of compliance.

We should always remember that the core competitiveness of any business rests in the combined talent and effort of everyone who works within and with a business. And that core competitiveness cannot be squeezed out; it must be given freely and passionately.

There is in every business a competitive engine that sets the floor and ceiling to the competitiveness and success of a business. If that engine is allowed to weaken, then the floor to performance will fall and ‘too comfortable’ won’t come close to how far performance has fallen from potential. And in the individual, there is what I call the Achiever Trait, which becomes the DNA of individual performance.

When thinking of forward-movement, understand that it starts with motive, and it ends with motive. And you set the motive.

Purpose and motive go hand-in-hand and must work in unison. If you understand someone’s motive, then you will be able to assess their capacity, capability, and their likelihood to succeed. In fact, you will know the ceiling to their success.

In business, purpose should be founded in the customer need that you are competing to fulfil, and a vision of what customer value you can deliver in the future.

And if the elements of the competitive engine are in their right character and aligned, then motive is found in fulfilling that purpose and outcompeting all others in your chosen marketplace. Every individual is able to take pride in the personal effort they are able to contribute to that outcome.

If you find that ‘too comfortable’ is a trait you see in your business, or yourself, then movement will only occur through purpose and motive. Avoid short term rewards or demands, seed the right motive, which is to compete and movement will be enduring and compounding.

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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel

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