Written by Patrick Slevin of SL7 Consulting


As a leader, do you feel that you’re too successful? That your day-to-day professional life is humming along so well that it’s simply a matter of maintaining your current altitude to gain more success. Of course not, but the supposition that success can lead to failure is not as far-fetched as you may think. Take it from two well known leaders:

Andy Grove, founder of Intel is well known for his warning, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”

Alabama football coach, Nick Saban shared his obsession over how unchecked success can breed complacency:

“Complacency creates a blatant disregard for doing what’s right. You can’t do what you feel like doing. You got to choose to do the things that are going to help you accomplish the goals you have. When you get complacent, you lose respect for winning.”

How many times have your heard the excuse, “That’s how we’ve always done it.” This is complacency undermining your processes, systems and outcomes, exposing you to failure, or at least less than optimal success.

Don’t let these contentment and complacency psychological traps (silos) stop you from achieving success. Let’s be clear, anything less than playing to win, to dominate in your efforts is failure. It’s a loser’s attitude that Coach Saban warned about and Grove was paranoid about.

The warning signs of organizational complacency are often hiding in plain sight: Deadlines are missed; Benchmarks fall short; Staff turnover; Low morale; Low motivation; Unenthused stakeholders; Static conversion rates; Lower profit margins, Higher agency fees, Indiscernible reports and the list goes on.

The bad news is when this is happening it’s exactly what Coach Saban said, “You can’t do what you feel like doing.” The good news is also in Saban’s words, “You got to choose to do the things that are going to help you accomplish the goals you have.” The latter is how winners keep succeeding. Note: I’m not a Alabama fan, I live in Tallahassee – Go Noles.

Look at what happened to IBM in the 1980s-90s. IBM became a culture of complacency. By the time Bill Gates came knocking on the door looking to partner, IBM was blind to innovation and failing at success.

So how do you ensure future success?

It takes leadership and communications. Leadership, at its core, is about making strategic decisions. Communications is about translating those strategies to influence the mediums, medias and minds of stakeholders who impact your bottom line priorities. The latter accounting for both internal and external audiences.

Complacency is often found jamming up the intersections of leadership and communications i.e. the processes, practices and people. It may be your boss, your staff, other divisions or even your agencies confining your leadership from fully realizing success in communicating action and results.

More and more leaders are seeing how their digital, public affairs, marketing communications, advertising, public relations and stakeholder engagement agencies are complacent, which is why they bring in my firm SL7 Consulting. We are either retained to work with the agencies in a strategic communications role or in a growing number of accounts, work secretly behind the curtain to reestablish leadership and communications processes and results – to help everyone achieve more success!

Leaders don’t let complacent efforts stand in their way of succeeding. They trust us to go beyond topical services to truly solve problems preventing optimal success.

A few months back, I had a strategic meeting at my client’s offices presenting our SEO results for the last last 6 months. At my recommendation, the client let go of two agencies six months earlier , who had been with the client for many years. In the last six months, my team more than doubled the client’s web traffic giving them number 1 ranking in multiple areas. We’ve had so much success that the client’s closest competitor fired their digital media and communications firms to compete with us. Game on.

The client was very happy and pleased – we had success!! However, we didn’t stop there – had we, we would have been complacent. Mind you, many agencies would stopped feeling satisfied. We looked into the conversion rates on the client’s website and found despite doubling the traffic going to the website, the number of applications (end of the sales funnel) did not increase accordingly. Upon some due diligence, we discovered that the client’s web developer failed to install vital infrastructure and add-ins that not only undermined processes, but also compromised data security. We weren’t converting visitors into customers. Fast forward, we are now building a new website for the client.

The point is complacency breeds complacency that leads to failure – every time. Once you decide to move forward to break this pattern, give us a call. Odds are you need comprehensive knowledge, know-how and someone you can trust to jump start the communications that you will need to inspire, persuade and influence the audiences that are most important to your company, causes and campaigns.

We work at HQ as well as in the field on projects across the nation.

I’m not recommending that you become paranoid about success, but certainly there’s more success being left on the table than should be acceptable, so you can trust me, us, SL7 Consulting to up your game to win by overcoming the threats of complacency that leads to failure.

About Patrick Slevin – SL7 Consulting:

SL7 Consulting’s integrated communications engagement services offer clients digital media and marketing, reputation management, corporate initiatives and communications, public affairs, marketing communications, public relations, crisis leadership, stakeholder engagement and alliance development.



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