What does BUT WE ARE DOING OKAY really mean?

October 14, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 6 Comments

ambivalentGrowing a business and achieving extraordinary results is inherently dependent on the leader’s current state of mind, sense of urgency, level of confidence, and willingness to step out of his or her comfort zone. As a leadership coach and business trainer, my job is to serve as a guide for implementing change and, most importantly, to push leaders out of their comfy-cozy comfort zones. But when business problems are identified and the leader’s response is a wimpy, “But we’re doing OK,” compromise wins and growth opportunities move further beyond reach.

So what does the response, “We’re doing OK,” really mean? For starters, it means “not now” and offers little insight as to when essential changes will take place – if they take place at all. It also signals that the leader has fallen into a state of indecision. There’s the fear of moving forward with change and the potential unknowns that accompany it. It also begins the process of justifying why status quo isn’t so bad. Lastly, it means that coasting and accepting mediocrity is the better alternative to taking decisive action and moving forward.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to shift your thinking from “we’re doing OK” to “if it needs to be done – get it done”:

  • It’s not about you: As leader, your real boss is the company. You serve the company. It’s easy for you to say that you’re not ready to rock the boat a little … or a lot. But what is your company supposed to do while you sort your personal priorities out and ponder how much stress you want in your life? Companies have a way of grabbing your attention. The more you ignore what your company is trying to tell you, the more it ratchets up the signals it sends. Heck, you can read a company’s pain in its financial reports. Don’t ignore or avoid what your company needs you to do.
  • OK is not OK: If you’re on the relentless pursuit of average, then OK is good enough. But OK companies are a nightmare to run. They’re always springing leaks, tripping from one cash crisis into another, battling employee turnover, and trying to get things done in a pretty crappy culture. OK companies grow broke and burn out their leaders. Leading your company to the next level, inspiring your team, driving critical numbers, and creating profit may be a lot of hard work, but it’s certainly not a nightmare. Here’s the simple truth about hanging on to OK — it’s a bigger risk than implementing change.
  • It feeds complacency: OK means “keep doing what you’re doing.” No challenges, no brass ring … and no vision of going after new opportunities. Everything is dialed back with OK thinking. What is…is. Based on all my years of coaching, I can safely say that complacent leaders and companies are the toughest to get moving. Never accept OK. Never accept that average is good enough. That’s how a company dies a slow death. That’s compromise. Snap out of it.
  • Everyone sees it but you: You may be good with OK, but your employees are not. All too often I hear leaders say, “I can’t find good people.” Who wants to give their best work for an OK company? Who really wants to stay with an OK company? When leaders begin accepting and justifying that OK is good enough, employees follow suit … or seek out other opportunities. More importantly, existing employees are waiting for their leader to show up and engage – to lead them somewhere. It’s classic “fish stinks from the head down” thinking and behavior. Knock it off and get back in the game.
  • Change only gets harder: The longer a leader holds on to OK, the tougher it becomes to get change initiatives moving. The longer a company avoids change, the more resistant the collective thinking and behavior of a company becomes. It’s like waiting for a heart attack to occur before changing your diet and starting a workout program. If there are things you don’t like in your company today, do something about it now. Neilism: Avoiding a problem today only gives you bigger problems to deal with tomorrow.
  • Seize the moment: Business is about winning … not coasting and fearing change. Guess what? Some people may not like the changes the company needs to make and they’ll leave. But so what? What’s the worst that could happen? Doing nothing out of fear or complacency is the most certain path to all the outcomes you really fear. What is your company’s next level quest? What nonsense have you been tolerating for far too long? What are you really in business for? Look to the horizon and see the endless opportunities. Dream again about achieving the extraordinary. Lead your people to that elusive next level. OK is never OK. No compromise.

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Categories: Business Builders , Information Flow , Leadership , Monday Morning Wake-Up , No-Compromise Leadership

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  1. Neil – “Say no to accepting mediocrity” would make a great bumper sticker.
    Thanks for a great read on Monday morning.


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