A Cup of Leadership CaffeineLet’s face it, there’s much about the world of work for many that is monotonous or at least fairly routine. It’s easy in many roles to get lulled into the rhythms and routines of days, weeks and months.  Wake-up, dress, get on the train, drink coffee, meet, talk, write, plan, meet some more and run to catch the express train home. Rinse and repeat.

Monotony and routine are the natural born killers of creativity and innovation.  Like weeds invading a spring lawn here in the Midwest, these twin killers quickly overwhelm the healthy pursuit of better, new and different.

Good leaders like good gardeners take preventive measures to minimize the opportunity for monotony and routine to take root. However, even the best lawn-maestros know that there will be some encroachment of unwanted pests and other destructive forces.  Being ever vigilant, they are on the lookout for the first signs of trouble and stand ready to spring into action.

7 Signs that Monotony and Routine are Infecting and Impacting Your Team:

1.  Cue the nonverbal cues: people that are engaged, excited and inspired show it in many ways.  Their pace is quick, their voices strong and upbeat and their eyes and faces show interest and animation.  Learn to pay attention to the body language of your team members…these cues rarely lie.

2.  Accountability fades into acceptance. High performance teams impose their own self-policing mechanisms for performance.  When a team member fails to meet team standards or to live up to team values, the group takes action and requires accountability.  When this self-correcting system is not visible…and when poor or incomplete performance is grudgingly tolerated, you can reasonably guess that monotony and routine have taken root.

3.  Fire watching becomes a cultural hobby. I’ve seen this many times in tired environments.  Problems are treated like a fire burning in a wastepaper basket while people just sit there watching it.  “Yep, that looks like a fire,” says one person.  “How can we be certain that is a fire?” asks another.  “Maybe the boss wanted a fire in that can,” intones another.  “Yeah, you’re right. We better not touch it.  Besides, I don’t think we’re responsible for fires,” adds the next. If fires are springing up and burning out of control without anyone take action, something is wrong.

4. There’s a lot of fighting and no playing. Great groups know how to fight and play well together.  Tired, frustrated, bored groups just fight and then bicker about each other.  Be sensitive to the bicker o-meter in your organization and if it starts heading in the wrong direction, it’s time to take action.

6. Beware when failure is met with resignation and acceptance instead of a healthy frustration supported by a redoubling of efforts.  Engaged people and teams fight failure with energy and creativity.

7.  Be concerned when new initiatives and goals are met with a swirl of nothing.  Tired and cynical teams (symptoms of monotony and routine) tend to choose an ignore strategy for new initiatives, confident in the understanding that with a long enough period of inaction, the initiatives usually fade into the ether of other management blah blah.  This passive-aggressive behavior is more common than you might think and is a definite indicator that you’ve got team trouble.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Recognition is the first step on the road to recovery.  Good managers and leaders do more than judge team performance by the numbers in a report. They tune in to the attitudes, behaviors and the myriad of other clues that indicate that monotony and routine have taken up residence.  And then they take action.

Of course, great leaders don’t wait for the visible signs…they are active every day in implementing preventive measures to make certain that monotony and routine don’t have a chance to grab hold and take root.  (If you’re looking for some ideas, I suggest reviewing some of the recent Leadership Caffeine posts here at Management Excellence.)

Isn’t it time that you stamped out Monotony and Routine in your workplace?