Interesting. In my newsletter as well as a blog posting here recently, I mention the growth and seeming acceptance of mediocrity in organizations today.
Must’ve struck a nerve.
I’ve received almost a dozen comments on that specific topic, and several emails from current or past clients who believed I was referring to their firm in my example!
This should give us some insight to the general ubiquity of mediocrity in the workplace, and its acceptance as a norm, or at least a tolerable cost of doing business.
One such email, from a highly-decorated senior military officer (edited/paraphrased for length):
Okay, so your management talent musings speak directly to those of us who are forced to hire someone based on how they look on paper and then have only a matter of months before we have to make a decision about whether they can go beyond management and into leadership. Sometimes we strike gold, but only if the individual’s talents were developed before we inherited them. More often than not, we end up with someone who “just doesn’t get it” and have to spend extra time keeping/getting them out of trouble. Too bad most of our informal mentorship efforts don’t occur until late in the process.
To that I must respond:
First, corporate USA doesn’t do much better than the paper instance you describe, even with headhunters, behavior interviewing and “free choice.” In fact, I could argue that they could potentially do worse, as they pull from a pool that doesn’t have a general – albeit sometimes inconsistent – initial standard.
And if my experiences are anywhere near “normal,” the clear majority of executive hires “don’t get it,” and I can’t clearly say I know exactly why. I’m sure it’s institutional/systemic, but nailing down the precise cause is difficult.
You’ve done a good job of paraphrasing “First Break All the Rules.” I assume you’ve read the book… treating everyone the same may be conventional wisdom, but it doesn’t make an organization any more successful than fool’s gold makes you rich.
Treat your good folks like good folks and your superstars like superstars. If the slugs don’t like it, they can improve or move on. Like stratifying on performance reports, not everyone can be #1 or a “top performer.”
Well, I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read the book, but there’s certainly nothing I can add to that last paragraph, except maybe, “Here, Here!!”
Great comments, Kev.
(No, I’m not complimenting myself — the input above came from someone with the same equally distinguished name)
If the topic of Performance Mediocrity is so charged, why aren’t we addressing it head-on??
Things that make you go hmmmm…