5 Steps to Breaking Through Complacency

A reader of my last post, “A Foolproof Process for Acting Courageously,” made a humbling comment:

“Good article. One thing I’ve found is that sometimes you can follow the rules in the article and no one cares to listen. I struggle not with the courage part, but with the ability to influence leadership with entrenched and/or complacent views.”

My heart sank, because this is so true. Being courageous is often met with the echo of chirping crickets. People (like me) that get people all fired up to do the right thing, forget the necessary companion to courage: Persistence. Rarely are courageous efforts successful on the first try, or anything for that matter!

Complacency is a close friend of survival, for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s human nature. Our brains instinctively conserve energy by relying on things staying the same as a way to survive. Being complacent is easy. Changing something because it’s the right thing to do is hard.
  2. It’s also out of necessity: we need jobs, we need stability, we need our network. As long as people stand to lose something, blissfully complacent and entrenched we will strive to be.

How do we influence the hopelessly complacent? Here are five ways to make the most of your courage:

  1. Know Yourself: The reader aptly implied that courage requires staying power. Avoid picking battles that aren’t worth your energy over the long haul. Direct courageous where it really matters, to you. You probably have a top two or three values. Stick with those.
  2. Know Others: Try to specifically find what motivates the individuals you seek to inspire out of complacency. Position your point with that in mind.
  3. Lead with facts: State your courageous perspective second. Lead with its impact, or a current problem you’re trying to solve or other relevant data, first.
  4. Get buy in from others: Find others that share your approach or perspective and invite them to share it. If your courageous act(s) take place in a meeting context, look for non-verbal cues of support and reach out to those people.
  5. Be persistent: Repeat your perspective as many times as necessary. Try different forums, look for opportunities where it fits in other contexts.

Sometimes it will take a week. Sometimes it will take years. Don’t ever give up. What are we if we don’t stand for something?

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.” ― Winston Churchill

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