Mediocrity Kills…

In my upcoming (tomorrow) newsletter, “At C-Level,” I address this topic in some detail. I’d like to cover some additional points, and since this is my forum, I figured I’d just use this…

From leadership and performance perspectives, mediocre performance — particularly among managers or key positions — is certainly a critical situation.

There are three real problems with accepting mediocrity:

First, it slows organizational performance. We know that intuitively, though we frequently feel we can “get past that.” We make processes, even hire people, based on some mediocre log-jam that we seem to accept for no rational reason.

Second, mediocrity breeds mediocrity. In other words, if the prevailing culture accepts substandard efforts (in fact, REWARDS those efforts), then those efforts will continue. A basic tenet of compensation: “That which is rewarded is repeated.” In other words, if bad things don’t come to bad people, you can bet their steadily value-sucking performance will continue.

And third, we cannot even KNOW our capabilities or potential when mediocrity is pervasive in the organization. What we view as a challenge – a ‘stretch goal” – may be child’s play for a high-performing organization, yet we’ve accepted that degree of difficulty as a DIRECT result of our culture of marginal performance. Shame on us — we don’t even have a full grasp of where we could be or how high we could go, merely because we allow mediocrity to add weight to performance scales.

Additionally, mediocrity points to two obvious shortcomings with us in senior leadership:

First, the organization cannot be performing at a significant level with mediocre performers. The financial and productive results, then, are obviously less than the potential. Given today’s scarcity of resources, shame on the organization’s leaders for wasting them this way.

More importantly, the leadership team has proven unable or unwilling to manage performance correctly and effectively for the organization to truly realize its success. We have to ask ourselves, if some members of the leadership team are incapable of eradicating pervasively lackluster performance, what else are they “not” doing? What other gaps do we have, that we may not even realize? How much money has flown through the door unchecked?

Mediocrity, either in terms of absolute performance or at least acquiescence/acceptance, begins at the top.

To borrow from some other cause’s tagline: We can eradicate mediocrity in our lifetimes.

And we should.



Kevin Berchelmann

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