People are creatures of habit. No matter how spontaneous we try to be, we often find ourselves in a rut of the same routine.
With routine and consistency, comes comfort. With comfort we can fall into a pit of complacency. A dangerous and stagnant place where the most important things get left to the side because they aren’t part of the routine.
If you are challenging this notion, I ask you to play out the following situations in your mind.
- What is the first thing you do after you get out of bed?
- What are the first 3 things you do when you arrive at work?
- In what order do you consume your meals? (Vegetables first? Meat first?)
- What is the last thing you do before going to bed?
My suspicion is that your answers to all of these questions show the routine nature of your existence.
While not every routine indicates complacency, it does beg the question of why? And further, how does this routine nature of our existence creep into our leadership, our relationships and our performance?
Let’s examine further.
Our routine nature naturally inhibits what we accomplish at work. If for no other reason than we as human tend to act like water. More simply put, we take the path of least resistance. While some people do push themselves to accomplish more, even those folks run into a point where they become comfortable and they stop pushing. In order to drive meaningful improvement we have to continuously test the boundaries of what is capable. Which means we have to leave our comfort zone. As we move away from our comfort zone towards greater productivity (and increased risk of failure), we find that our uncertainty is like a magnet back toward our routine.
The funny thing is that routine can be every bit as risky as change. However since change is uncomfortable for most people, we tend to ignore the warning indicators and we just keep on that low resistance path.
Here are some examples of how routine can lead to greater risk. Try to reflect on these and think if YOU are ever guilty of any of these.
- You have an employee that does a mediocre (or worse) job. You know you can do better, but you keep them around anyway.
- Sales are growing rapidly but cash flow is getting tight. Finance isn’t really your thing, so you just figure everything will workout naturally.
- Your business workflow/systems are complicated and/or outdated but people are used to them so you just plow ahead and hope for the best.
All of the above seem like relatively small business problems and their effects are isolated to just a few people. Right? Heck no!
Let’s take the mediocre employee. The decision to continue to employ poor performers is a drag on the entire organization. While it may be hard for you as a compassionate human being to terminate an employee. You have to realize the precedent is too large to ignored. Your decision affects everyone else in the organization as they witness the behavior and if you aren’t careful it can yield an epidemic of mediocrity. Most employees are led by the example of what they see. And if they witness that it is okay to do “Just enough to get by” then they may follow suit.
How about the workflow/systems example? Not only are you littering your operation with potential bottlenecks and other inefficiencies, but you are risking your ability to compete as systems continue to get better. Everyday more innovative ways to deliver products and services are born. Your decision to “Stand Pat” may be more accurately referred to as an early grave.
The list could go on forever, but the message doesn’t change. If you want to drive results you have to take the hard decisions on first. The common man can handle and execute when the routine is set, but the leader will consistently leave their comfort zone if it means making things better for those whom they serve.
So yes, we may all put our pants on one leg at a time, but after that what we do differently, no matter how difficult it may be, is the key to achieving great results.