I struggled with the title of this post, wanting something more eye catching, provocative, perhaps a little less negative.  Complacency is an ugly word.  No one likes to be accused of being complacent.

Complacency is sometimes associated with laziness, though some of the most complacent organizations I encounter are far from “lazy,” but “crazy-busy” with activity.

Reflecting for a few moments, I don’t think any individual or company sets out to be complacent.  Instead, we are seduced into complacency.

Ironically, the greatest seductress for complacency is success!  When we are successful, we want to keep going.  We keep doing what caused us to be successful.  For a while, we continue to grow and achieve our goals, but slowly things change, what worked in the past, isn’t working as well.  We ratchet up our activities, doing more of what we’ve always done, more rapidly.  We fall behind, we wring our hands, but keep ratcheting up our activities, because that’s the way we have always done things.

Tied with our success, there is sometimes arrogance.  Complacency can become an outcome of arrogance.  We think we can do no wrong, therefore we don’t recognize the need to change, when everything else is changing.

Often, complacency is the result of inattentiveness.  We simply aren’t paying attention–we don’t see the signals, we don’t recognize the changes in our customers, markets, competition.  We are somehow on “autopilot,”  busy going through the same motions day after day, week after week, month after month, not really paying attention to what’s happening–or not happening.

At the end of the quarter, we see results are off–we attribute that to bad luck, or some other excuse.  We convince ourselves next quarter will be better, and then the next, until we can no longer ignore the fact that something’s happening, we aren’t producing results.

Complacency is often an unconscious coping mechanism to overwhelm and complexity.  Things just become too much, in order to deal with it, we start shutting down–we filter out, we ignore, we try to make things simpler–usually that’s through going back to what’s worked in the past–which is what got us into the current position in the first place.

Complacency can be masked by efficiency.  We work to become as efficient in our activities, operations as possible.  Soon we are doing activities for activity sake, not paying attention to the fact they aren’t producing the results.

There’s a funny circularity about complacency.

And, of course, there’s laziness.  Those that simple don’t care and couldn’t be bothered—but none of those people are reading this (why, because they are lazy).  I can’t and won’t help the lazy.

Complacency doesn’t happen overnight.  Complacency is patient.  It plays the long game, sucking individuals and organizations into its web over years.

Complacency is seductive because it’s about being comfortable, settling for the status quo.

In our worlds of constant change and disruption, complacency is the enemy.  It cause us to fail!

Everyone can become victims of complacency.  It happens to our customers.  We can create great value for our customers by helping them recognize (though perhaps not point out) complacency.  We can disrupt their thinking, their normal patterns, help them recognize the need to change.

Our organizations become complacent, and none are immune.  It happens in the biggest organizations as well as high flying start ups.

Our people become victims of complacency, falling into routines, on autopilot through their days, not thinking about what they are doing.

We can become victims of complacency.

What’s the antidote?

Growth mindsets are the antidote.  Never being satisfied with where things are, always looking to learn and improve.  Always challenging yourself, your people, your organization, your customers to think differently.

What are you doing to fight the seduction of complacency?

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Photo Credit: sypatigas Flickr via Compfight cc

Automation: Are We Empowering Human Interaction Or Displacing It?

The sales and marketing technology along with the social networking/selling technologies represent a huge amount of the changes that are driving sales and marketing.

They relieve us of many of the tasks that used to take lots of time, enabling us to focus that time on engaging customers and colleagues.  They help us in better understanding our customers, markets, and what’s happening, so that we can engage customers with more relevant insights on more timely bases.  They enable us to extend our reach, beyond our local geographies to the global community.  They help us create greater value for our customers, our people, and our communities.  They help us create deeper relationships with our customers and colleagues, hopefully creating deeper meaning in each of our lives.

Or they don’t.

They help us displace human interaction and engagement.  We set up automated communications streams, that pummel customers with content based on various scoring algorithms.  We  automate interactions with customers, reducing our engagement time, leveraging technology to manage much of that interaction.  Increasingly we leverage technologies like AI, Chatbots, and others to simulate engagement with prospects and customers, that we might otherwise have.

We set up gigantic broadcast platforms, emailing 1000’s daily, even hourly, dialing 100’s to thousands daily, automatically “curating” and broadcasting massive volumes of content that we’ve never reviewed, but it increases our social presence.

The volume and velocity of social and automated interactions skyrocketed beyond our customers and our own abilities to deal with it.  Customers shut down, they don’t respond–simple solution, turn up the volume, broadcast more, more frequently.

We, ourselves, fall victim to overload/overwhelm and digital distraction.  While we should be more productive, we actually become less productive.  We may have all the “bodies” we need in a meeting, but we don’t have the minds and interaction because of the digital distractions we surrender ourselves to.

And we see it in the results.  Despite all the tools, all the technologies, all the ways we broadcast our content and presence, results are not improving.  Sales and marketing performance is flat or declining.  Customer engagement numbers are plummeting.

It’s probably not the fault of the tools we use, but how we use the tools, or how we hide behind sales/marketing/social automation.

Sales and marketing, indeed business, is intensely human.  It’s through people working together, creating, debating, innovating, that we solve problems, invent new things, grow in our world views and our abilities to achieve individually and organizationally.

Whether we are working within our own organizations, or engaging our customers, prospects, or working with our partners and suppliers, at it’s core we are engaged in deep human interactions.

We know our customers are eager to learn.  We know they are dealing with increasingly tough problems and skyrocketing complexity.  We know they feel overwhelmed, distracted and disengaged.

We know top performers are those that engage customers in deep conversations about their businesses, goals, and dreams.  They work closely with their customers in learning, growing, collaborating.  They help the customers figure out what they should do and how to buy.

Within our own organizations we know this about our own people, as well.

We know we get the best our of our people by engaging them, by listening, coaching, teaching and collaborating.

Perhaps it’s time to rethink our automation and social engagement strategies.  Perhaps we need to look at how we leverage these technologies to empower deeper interactions and conversations.

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