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Are you keeping your lines straight?


Do you ever find yourself in that comfortable zone of confidence… where you think, “No sweat, I’ve got this.” 

Except you really don’t?

It’s called complacency.

It happened to me, most recently, a couple of weeks ago.

I’d offered to cut a large parcel of grass at my nephew Jason’s home in the country while he and Kristyn hosted our family Thanksgiving. I looked forward to the tractor time – since moving from our own rural home to a smaller property I hadn’t done any of this. I love the fresh air, and always find it good ‘thinking’ time to process things in life, at home, and in my business.

But it turned out I had more to think about than I expected.

The area I was mowing was bigger than our old property. It had plenty of trees to navigate. And a few tricky slopes. The ground was bumpy and bounced the tractor around pretty good. On top of that, I was out of practice.

All of this put me off my game, and the results were immediate and obvious. My lines weren’t straight. They were crooked and sloppy. I missed cutting some sections. I wasn’t sharp.

I’d gone in thinking, this will be a breeze.  (And fun.)

Until it wasn’t.

Luckily, I was far from the house. Jason had set me up in a distant pasture behind a grove of trees and he couldn’t see me. It allowed me time and space to get my act together. To fix my lines and be more precise in my cutting.  To do the job I was supposed to do.

All of this was because of my own complacency.

And this happens to companies, teams (and brands) of all sizes too, doesn’t it?

Just like me on the tractor that day, we get sloppy. Lose our edge. Start taking things for granted.  But the warning signs of complacency are right in front of us, if only we’re open to seeing them:

  • Sales are leveling off. The customer pool is shrinking, but no one seems worried… or we’re too busy to notice.
  • Our business is “stable.” (Stability can be dangerous for any brand; it often hides the complacency.)
  • We slip into a “we-know-best” mentality. (This sounds arrogant, but it creeps in unintentionally all the time.)
  • There’s much talk of our experience and past success. That’s a bias of preservation rather than pre-emption.
  • We dismiss any concerns of disruptive competitors as “scare-mongering.”

Each of these circumstances might feel benign at the time, but they’re signs we’ve taken our foot off the gas.


So here are three ideas for keeping complacency at bay:

  1. Build a ‘renovation’ pipeline.  Many companies have a long-term innovation pipeline full of sexy new products or services. But few have a ‘renovation’ pipeline, with a near-term plan for reinvigorating the business right now. The James Bond movie franchise is an example of a brand renovating on-the-fly when it injected Daniel Craig to bring a fresh feel to films like Skyfall and Spectre.
  2. Respect the upstarts.  Just because the ‘disruptors’ have a different way of doing business doesn’t mean we should dismiss them. Blockbuster did this with Netflix’s DVD delivery service, and (later) online streaming. And look what happened.  RIP Blockbuster.
  3. Put in your practice time.  It seems obvious. So why don’t we always do it?  Watch the PGA pros before they tee off on tournament days.  They’re the best players in the world.  Yet one thing they all do before their start time is practice making three-footer after three-footer on the putting green. They rarely miss these on the golf course… because they practice their fundamentals all the time and never take anything for granted.

That’s complacency in a nutshell:  taking past success for granted.

We need to show up and be prepared.
Maintain our edge.
Keep our lines straight.

Remember: there’s a reason the fairways at Augusta National look the way they do at The Masters.  The mowers always fly in formation… because they practice that way.

And they take nothing for granted.


So, ask yourself:

  1. What are you taking for granted?
  2. Is your team flying in formation?
  3. Are you keeping your lines straight?