Discover how disruptive leaders bust lackluster employee behaviors and strip complacency to change the game and create first-choice organizations.

Complacency is the dirtiest word in business today. Allow it to seep into the DNA of your organization and your business will go down faster than Jack rolled down the proverbial hill.

Whether it shows itself in tired product launches, unmotivated customer service or disengaged employees, complacency is a core malady affecting every company you’ve ever watched flail and drown.

It’s the C-word that is capable of silently infiltrating every level of your organization before you even know what’s hit you.

I know firsthand because I led an organization that was quickly sliding from “top tier” to “also-ran” because the demands of the day were winning out over the need for forward thinking and a stay-hungry attitude — and I was too busy to see it until it was almost too late.

That humbling experience taught me that the front line of defense against complacency is truly disruptive leadership.

Disruptive leadership fosters a culture of game-changing innovation that provides the framework and motivation to generate ideas and execute solutions. It’s an essential skill for any business leader, from a small start-up to an established multi-generational business, with the desire to transform organizational processes and behaviors and ask, “Why haven’t we thought about our business and culture this way before?”

Leaders bold enough to break the rules, redefine the playing field and effectively disrupt the status quo on a daily basis are the most effective long term at engaging their teams and driving results that go beyond what others are satisfied with — from the everyday to the extraordinary.

Ideas, executed well, are the real currency of success in any competitive marketplace. Of course, the demands of the day coupled with constantly cooking up new ideas can put a strain on even the best teams and, as a leader, you’re constantly faced with the challenge of keeping people motivated and engaged while simultaneously asking for both high levels of creativity and excellence.

And that is the twin-headed beast that almost brought me to my leadership knees.

My team was fried — burned out after working endless hours punctuated by a mountain of client requests and motivation-busting revisions. A team that was long known for valuable ideas was now going through the motions of simply getting through the day, focusing only on what had to be done and never wasting a brain cell on what could be done.

The problem was that the more this behavior developed into the new way of doing things, the more likely it was going to sink us long term. Top talent would leave, clients would be ticked off at us and looking around for a better solution, and product launches would ultimately fail amidst mundane strategy and lackluster execution.

I knew gathering everyone together and enthusiastically imploring them to “win one for the Gipper” simply wasn’t going to cut it. We needed a fast moving change of attitude, and we needed it to stick.

So I developed the Deviant Advantage award.

Beginning with the controversial name, the award was meant to shake people out of their complacency fog and push them into embracing the notion that we were going nowhere fast unless we started deviating from what had become the normal way of doing things, and we started doing it toot sweet.

The award was simple enough. A sparkly top hat filled with $5 and $10 prizes awarded on the spot when anyone observed you doing something different. Since anyone could award the prize, everyone was on the lookout for random acts of deviating so they could be the one to grab a bullhorn and announce with great fanfare that a peer, a boss or some random person in the office had the guts to break from the pack and find a better way. Everyone wanted to participate.

Such a simple award had a huge and immediate impact.

First, it created an environment that organically gave people ownership for engaging in, spotting and rewarding small deviations from the normal way of doing things in the quest for better results.

Second, the power of social proof, or peer pressure if you will, reinforced that even busy people have the bandwidth to spark creative energy that feeds on itself within a team. It’s tough to say “you don’t have time” to come up with a better way of doing things when periodic bursts of impromptu fanfare springing up around you let you know that others just like you have discovered a way to make it happen.

The award not only stripped complacency from everyday tasks people were doing on automatic, but it also positioned the team to deviate on a grander scale and differentiate the organization’s results from the other competitors in the pack.

Disruptive leadership is not about being militant or making change for the sake of change. It’s about being solution driven with a fresh approach — it’s about challenging the current way things are done.

This idea of breaking out of normal patterns — both in modes of thinking and practice — is what drives disruptive leaders.

Disruptive leaders stay hungry and develop teams and organizations that stay hungry, which is the fastest and most effective way to jump-start ideas and behaviors that distinguish an organization.

They’re rule-breakers on a mission who refuse to accept the old adage that “near enough is good enough.” They’re confident forward thinkers who aren’t afraid to provoke. And they’re essential if you want to become a first-choice organization among talent and customers alike.

Regardless of industry, it’s creativity that separates you from the also-rans. That creativity might manifest itself in the development of a piece of game-changing technology or simply in finding a new way to optimize your business operations to boost productivity — and thus profits.

As musician Frank Zappa said, “You can’t have progress unless you deviate.”

Disruptive leaders like writing new chapters — big and small — and the optimism and fun they bring to the organization generates blazing creativity, engaged teams and increased market share.

Can’t all that disruption lead to chaos, and doesn’t chaos scare people? You bet, and that’s why the leadership part is as important as the disruptive part.

Disruptive leadership is only effective if it ties to business strategy and goals that people understand. In that way, this entire rule breaking and deviating make sense. It blends a touch of the familiar with this entire boundary pushing, and sudden rule breaking doesn’t seem so risky.

Disruptive leaders make people feel safe in their disruption.

If you’ve ever been called a pot-stirrer or a loose cannon for suggesting something untried, you know the fear that can come from disrupting the status quo.

Disruptive leaders eliminate this fear. They pay attention, they develop an “intuitive muscle” so they know where people’s heads and hearts are, and they support them from that starting place. They make disruption safe.

In today’s competitive environment, first choice organizations know capturing a greater share of market is the lifeblood of long-term success. That takes teams who are fearless in pushing beyond complacency and into disruption that drives business results.

Encourage your team to embrace the positive possibilities — to dig deeper without fear of reproach — and you’ll be amazed by just how far they can go.

Sandi Coryell is a business and leadership consultant, keynote speaker and executive coach with more than 25 years of experience leading disruptive teams and organizations to top tier success. She is the creator of The Deviant Advantage, a program that helps leaders and organizations separate from the pack and distinguish themselves as first choice companies.


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