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The Danger of Coasting

Many of you are familiar with the concept of group think. Wikipedia defines it as “a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome.” In other words, group think is the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group, resulting typically in unchallenged, poor-quality decision-making. A successful leader must guard against this in his/her organization to ensure that true innovation, creativity, and strategic problem solving don’t get buried by the group’s innate desire to “get along.” 

Another damaging and deadly group sin is what I call group coast. Group coast is a phenomenon that can surface in just about any organization, but most frequently rears its ugly head when a team is experiencing strong growth and momentum. The easiest way to describe it is to imagine yourself driving your car down the freeway, and taking your foot off the gas pedal. The car continues to coast at significant speed in the direction you are currently heading in, but given enough time, the momentum will be completely lost and the vehicle will come to a dead stop. 

In group coast, certain members of your team “take their foot off of the gas pedal,” relying on the efforts of their colleagues to keep up the pace. Worse yet, the group leader may begin to relax his/her efforts because the team is on track and making strong headway toward their stated goals. Sometimes success can be deceiving, and lure the leader into this sense of false security. 

It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a team to win the game! Every player must be actively engaged in the process, or the results will suffer in the long-term. Just like the impact of taking your foot off the gas pedal isn’t felt immediately, the impact of group coast on your team may not surface right away. But given enough time, it will! 

How do you guard against group coast on your team? Well, you may not like where I am going with this, but as with all things leadership… IT STARTS WITH YOU!  

Take a moment to evaluate the following… 

On a scale of 1-10, rate your current level of satisfaction with your team’s progress success. Write down the number. 

Now, on a scale of 1-10, rate your level of current effort/engagement on your team. Write that second number down. 

How do the numbers compare? If your level of satisfaction is high, but your level of engagement is low, you may be suffering from group coast. You may need to employ some strategies to get back in the game, especially if you’re the one in charge. 

If your level of satisfaction is low, but your engagement is high, you and your team may be working hard, but you’re not working smart. You may be suffering from group think. Challenge your existing processes and strategies, because if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting the same results! 

Group think and group coast can be very costly to an organization’s success. What are you doing to guard against them? 

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