Have you ever had a job where you thought you had it all figured out? Each day seems predictable, tasks seem routine, answers seem obvious, problems non-existent. Routine, smooth sailing, nothing to report from here. Hmmmm…could a job really be this easy?
Situations like this can actually be dangerous, as too much complacency and comfort in a job can create the potential for an “asleep at the wheel” scenario. The result: substandard work, mistakes that don’t get caught, and a declining level of motivation and engagement. The risks: can vary, depending on the seniority of the role, but should never be acceptable. In practical terms, a lack of role engagement can cause all kinds of problems for companies.
Those who have successfully reached the executive level know that an “autopilot” mentality is never acceptable, as it insulates against what could go wrong, increasing risk to unacceptable levels. Smart executives understand how critical sound risk management skills and awareness are, particularity as the seniority of the role increases, and it’s difficult to detect and manage risk without engagement (risks don’t typically come with signs and banners to announce their arrival!). In order to successfully protect a company from the proverbial “what could go wrong”, its leadership needs to be addressing the situation well in advance of when it arrives.
In this series, we have already considered the importance of professional development, comprehensive reading, clear communication, and consistent reliability as part of a strong executive skill set. Here’s more about why being fully engaged in your role at all times is so important.
Where it Goes Wrong
Simply put, trouble begins when thoughts of “I have this all figured out” start to creep in. Managers who fall into this mindset can become less effective in several directions: missing errors made by staff members; failing to notice risks and challenges emerging within their own role; and being a less effective management team member. Allow this mentality to exist for a period of time and a once effective organization can find itself adrift (and that can be a scary place).
Resist the temptation to become too complacent and less aware of the complexities and issues developing around you. Ensure that you are always fully engaged in your role; here’s how:
- Recognize the benefits of fear. Not all fear comes to harm you; in fact, it can be helpful. Recognize the importance of your role and the consequences of making errors or performing poorly. What could the impacts be to the business? Others? Yourself? This approach keeps it real and should provide the motivation to maximize your engagement level at all times.
- Monitor your engagement level. Check in with yourself on a regular basis to make sure that your engagement level is acceptable and not starting to wane. Turn a declining situation around by setting some goals and/or identifying any tasks that are bogging down your productivity. If your role is truly becoming too routine, talk to your supervisor about taking on some new tasks or increasing variety, where possible.
- Increase your risk management skills. Risk management is a specialized, but interesting area. Understanding more about how to identify and manage risks can provide the tools to help to put your role in context. Seek out training opportunities with the goal of practical application.
- Make continuous learning a norm. Professional development is an excellent tool to keep engagement high, as well as understanding the implications of substandard performance; make it a regular part of your working life.
- Call out autopilot behavior. If you see examples of decreased role engagement in staff members or peers, speak up. The team only performs as well as its weakest link, so raising the issue in the spirit of constructive improvement is fair.
Adopting a strategy of always being a little afraid is not a bad thing; with changing environments, competitive threats, and what the future holds, there is much to be mindful. This fear mentality actually creates comfort, in terms of truly being in command of what’s going on and what’s to come. No asleep at the wheel here.