The destructive power of Apathy

The destructive power of Apathy 150 150 Cypher

The destructive power of Apathy

Apathy is something that can haunt all entrepreneurs and business owners at various stages of their journey-sometimes quite drastically- such is its destructive power.

Now, everyone has ups and downs in their business, but have you considered that perhaps apathy plays a massive part?

Apathy is an emotion that by definition means you lack interest, enthusiasm, or concern; in other words you don’t feel anything, you don’t really care one way or another and that is the problem.

On the Mind Your Business Podcast, we have talked about the power of belief and the affect an entrepreneurial mindset can have and how motivation, inspiration and enthusiasm all provide really powerful energy that help entrepreneurs to act no matter what. It keeps them going forward when the path is blocked or times are hard and brings light and colour to their world. Apathy on the other hand is dullness and emptiness; I can’t be botheredness; a listlessness that can be really destructive when you are running a business.

Check your revs.
One way to view your levels of apathy at any given time is as the speedometer or rev counter in a car. On one end, let’s say near five, maybe six thousand revs, you get action and at the other end- under one thousand revs- you have apathy.

It’s a situational thing for sure; people aren’t generally apathetic about every aspect of their business- if they are then there’s a bigger problem- it’s usually only in certain circumstances that apathy causes our revs to drop. The problem here is that if we let our levels drop – even for one day –maybe as a culmination of events, it has the power to undo lots of good our work. Losing your mojo for a day, without realising that you are having that sort of a day can also have a very negative effect on your team.

Beware Dementors
Apathy is nothingness. It’s like the Dementors from Harry Potter that literally suck the life out of everything. Now that’s an extreme example, but  I think it describes the link between anxiety, which is a burner of energy, and apathy, which is the feeling of emptiness you are left with after you have completely burnt out quite well.

Apathy can also be common in people that have a very negative view of themselves. All of us have heard of impostor syndrome, but negative thoughts and self-doubt view both play into apathy.

Are Entrepreneurs at greater risk of apathy?
There are very few entrepreneurs that haven’t suffered from a healthy- or unhealthy- dose of anxiety. They deal with pressure situations all the time and not everything comes off. So there are bound to be times of doubt. I would say that this leaves them more at risk of this condition called apathy.

Apathy is self-sabotage
Business owners that are apathetic about their business have the potential to do a great deal of self-sabotage. Business owners get in a mindset of ‘what’s the point?’, ‘it’s not going to work’ and the situation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As an example, a client pitched for a massive bit of business, but was sure they weren’t going to win it. Normally they would have followed up two or three times, this time they didn’t bother. Now, they may not have lost the business because they didn’t follow up after the meeting, but they definitely wouldn’t have won it that way either.

When team members are apathetic
There are, of course, super motivated business owners, who are always 100% motivated and driven but they have team members that fall into apathy. Everyone has seen the ability of one person to drag down the whole room. It’s not necessarily their default position but they are having a day where they just don’t care. As leaders we have to recognise apathy for what it is and maybe give that person the benefit of the doubt for one or two days; lots can be going on in the background. But if the apathy spreads it’s time to have a conversation. Be heavy on empathy, let the individual open up but also recognise the effect that apathy can have on your business – and them as individuals.  Remind them of the valuable contribution they make, how their actions can help everyone grow.

But remember, it isn’t their business. It’s not their fourth child, their baby. Yes they will enjoy working with you, enjoy the rewards it brings but it isn’t what keeps them up at night. Now that doesn’t mean business owners can’t have powerful conversations with workers, give more responsibility that can make them feel it is their business. You do have the power to inspire people to go well above and beyond what is in their contract.

Toxic workplaces
In a room of 10 people, you would hope seven or eight are flying and maybe one or two are feeling a little apathetic, that’s just life. In any culture or workplace you cant expect everyone to be on it all the time. If the majority of workers are having off days though then business owners have to dig deeper because there could be a million reasons for it as we talked about in our Toxic Workplace pod

Get moving
There is a clear link in many articles between apathy and a lack of exercise. So doing something that gets the heart rate up, the blood pumping is a great way to stop the funk. If you’re having a rubbish day, go for a walk, go for a run, do something.  The link between exercise and mood is massive!

Avoiding apathy
Apathy can manifest itself in the minds of business owners and their teams. It can be driven by anxiety and can lead to a lack of positivity but also a lack of productivity, which is key. We have talked a lot about the mindset that successful business owners have; they are positive, enthusiastic and driven. If you’re apathetic about your business then 100% it won’t do as well. No successful business owners are apathetic about their business. That’s not how you create a £1m organisation.

The first thing to do to avoid apathy taking hold is to be able to self-diagnose; to understand that it’s natural to have days when you just aren’t on it as much as other days, but once you have recognised that you’re feeling apathetic about your business, get some easy wins. Find some tasks which are ten, fifteen minute jobs that can just be done.  Post on LinkedIn, ring a customer or reply to an email; do something that can be ticked off of a list.

Secondly get active. Stop staring aimlessly at a screen and physically make yourself get up out of your seat.

Thirdly have someone, a coach, a business partner, a trusted advisor, someone that you can talk to who recognises that you’re self-sabotaging and is able to bring you back on track.

Times can be hard, clients leave, pitches are lost but there is never a good time to take your hands off the wheel.

As business owners we have spoken a lot about a positive, healthy mindset; how clarity can prevent a horror story being scripted that doesn’t need to play out. If we recognise our revs are low meaning our apathy levels are high, then we can shift the needle through to action and the power this can generate for a business is huge.

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