It Is Expensive to Do Nothing - The Hidden Costs of Inaction
Updated: Nov 20
The price of doing nothing: why benign neglect of team dynamics hurts so bad.
After my client and I complete a team coaching engagement, I often follow up with them a few months later. In these reflective moments, the team and leader often have a more visceral sense of what changes they created with team coaching over, say, six months.
The Unexpected Realizations
These past clients often now realize subtle returns on their invested time and attention.
“We were able to tackle big things more effectively.” (Sr. Director)
“We did not realize how much the organization watches us, and our positive changes had a positive contagion effect at least one layer below us.” (VP)
“We restored our own humanity.” (CHRO)
Likewise, they often have a sense of regret or melancholy about engaging in this process.
“It took us too long to take this seriously. I thought it was going to be some stupid training.” [VP team member]
“I now realize the long-term price I’ve paid for turning a blind eye to what had been staring me in the face for a long, long time. [CEO]
For me, it’s that last comment that always hits hardest. It can take too long to realize the time has come.
The Risk of Our Denial and the Cost of Inaction
We engage in mental gymnastics to falsely convince ourselves that “it’s not that bad” or “they like it this way,” when in fact, the suffering is visible in every step. Denial is a powerful mechanism that helps us get through the day, but over the long term, it only creates risk.
What are the costs of inaction when we benignly neglect our team and its effectiveness? I often pick up tell-tale clues in our very first conversations: the hesitancy to speak their truth, the disengagement, or the wariness and weariness of trying one’s best in a toxic situation.
As the months tick by, the good employees leave, fed up with the nonsense, creating ripple effects of added cost and instability. Functional walls grow higher as trust declines, making cross-functional collaboration grind to a standstill. [You can’t move faster than the speed of trust.]
When Reality Finally Hits
Yes, it could be you ended up waiting too long.
I recently had a call with a potential client who wanted to talk about team coaching even though this teetering start-up only had four months of cash left. The lack of collaboration between Product Development and Sales functions had frozen them in the marketplace. Customers were confused, and revenues were falling faster while costs increased. They were in the spin cycle headed downward, and team coaching would never fix what ailed them. And to top it all off, their private equity investors knew this and (wisely) had cut ended their investment.
The honest truth is that change takes time. This client didn't have the time to invest in the hard work that could have produced real, tangible change. But, if they had called 6-12 months earlier, we could likely have made significant improvements in cross-functional collaboration, healthy norms, and conflict resolution skills. We’ll never know.
While it might be easier to kick this can down the road, the costs pile up. You can see it in your team members’ eyes, as well as on the P&L. And perhaps in your own sleepless night.
Take a breath. Ask yourself: what have I been willing risk to be pennywise and pound foolish? What does wise action look like now?