One-degree past mediocrity

Many an executive may rank staff management as their foremost challenge in running an organization. Some of their employees do not give any impression of hard enough nor show any initiative. They never seem to make good use of their time in the office. They are mediocre, just lukewarm.

Mediocrity transcends the rank and file of many organizations in both public and private sectors. These workers are characterized by a common trait; just do what is necessary to get by. In return, they expect the best of remuneration complete with commensurate benefits…health plans, retirement plans, and promotion.

In a bid to resolve this, management tries to invest in training programs for their staff. There will be an optimistic foray into team building activities. The ambition is to transform these mediocre workers into super-performers.

Improved performance is desirable for a business’ bottom line, organizational service delivery, or optimal resource utilization. However, do we pose to ask why these workers mediocre? There may be need to critically look into their past. How were they brought up?

They may have been inculcated into a world where everything came to a standstill to serve their whimsical needs. These workers may have been ‘wind-assisted’ into mediocrity. Unfortunately, they are in for a big shock!

Wise leaders (parents) expose their children to learning opportunities (adversities). This is not a comfortable place to be, as they have to move away from their comfort zone. “I would never have amounted to anything were it not for adversity.

I was forced to come up the hard way,” said James C. Penney, an American businessman and entrepreneur who, in 1902, founded the J.C. Penney stores. 212° The Extra Degree provides us with a valuable lesson…

At 211 degrees…water is hot. At 212 degrees…it boils. With boiling water, comes steam. And steam can power a locomotive. And, it’s that one extra degree that… Makes all the difference.”

If you are ‘leading’ a team entrenched in mediocrity, perhaps it is time for you to dig a little deeper into their past. They may have already been ‘pre-wired’ to abhor any creativity or any hard work.

Maybe it is time to rethink your training and team-building processes. Leadership is taking the time to understand where each of your team members is coming from. It may help you understand their potential to excel. Only then do you identify a system that will inspire them to better themselves.

This could be individualized training or even getting them a mentor to walk them through the areas they need to improve on. It may prove to be that one-degree that makes all the difference.

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t ‘try’ to do things. You simply ‘must’ do things.” ~ Ray Bradbury

What must you do to take your team to the next level? Remember, you may need disruptive creativity to move the process forward. It may be important to build in some incentives into the process.

Q: When will you start and what are your expected outcomes? Have your say by clicking here.


photo credit: rcbodden via photopin cc

Certified Professional Coach, Communication Specialist & Author

I help motivated but overwhelmed individuals and organizations regain their purpose to lead so they can focus on what matters most to build a transformational legacy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Really enjoyed this post as I wrote one myself a few weeks ago about how “satisficing” is no longer enough. Satisficing is actually a word in the dictionary that describes mediocrity.

    Although, I am optimistic and forward thinking, both come from being saddened by the mediocrity that surrounds us at every level of our lives and organizations. Part of this can be ascribed to what parents model for children, but I would add that we have entire cultures that are mired in mediocrity, entire cultures that speak to the fact that we simply want to survive and get by. We do what we must, but do we need or want to do more?

    I believe that the ability transcending mediocrity hinges on three things: empowerment, engagement and purpose. Parent should be empowering the best in their children, helping them develop an engagement and sense of purpose that takes them forward and helps them strive for excellence in everything they do. However, the best of parents can have children who have a predisposition towards mediocrity or whose peer group for an extended period of time influence and sway them.

    Excellence starts in our heart, in our ability to know that trying to do our very best at any given moment is excellence in action. Our best may not suffice, but it will take us to a whole new level of growth and understand that pushes us forward.

    Excellence can only be a fulcrum for human passion and potential when parents, educators, employers-when those in positions of authority remain resolute in creating communities of learning, sharing, caring-communities of engagement, empowerment and excellence where PURPOSE and our ability to be our best and use our failures to fail forward is embraced and applauded.

    The opportunity to create families, communities, organizations of excellence is before us. May those who lead an those who aspire to leadership embrace our power to use what is to create what can be….with excellence!

    Best, Irene

    • Irene, your comments are spot on. I was especially drawn to “…but I would add that we have entire cultures that are mired in mediocrity, entire cultures that speak to the fact that we simply want to survive and get by.” This survival is proving dangerous, as many of us seem to be operating on auto-pilot. There is need for us to dig our heels in, into a culture of excellence. We need to be human again, and take time to really appreciate and connect at a real human and personal level.

  • This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your fantastic post. Also, I have shared your website in my social networks!

  • You’ve inspired an ember in me on the topic of culture and parenting in the successful outcome of workplace successes. Kudos for the courage displayed and for the opinions espoused in this piece.

    However, the notion that organizations are truly invested in people development is another problem implied but, deeper and more complex than the perceived value of professional development and its perceived workplace benefit. Such training is already impaired through a combination of filters attempting to give clarity of purpose and direction through ever clouded discussion and misguided interaction centered on a teaching methodology removed from the issues at hand. When Mr. Welch decided to change organizations the decision to affect so many lives wasn’t based on a model but an assessment of the organization’s current state of survival and what needed to be done. In the end he created loyalty out of respect for his honorable and earnest intentions whether you agree or disagree with his style.

    “Garbage in equals to garbage out”. Mediocrity in the ranks is a by -product of mediocrity in supervision, leadership and organization by those who lead by example. You see it in ENRON, embezzlement of employee retirement funds, failed banking and home loans, fraudulent stock investments, in the hiring and recruitment process and in self-centered political decisions that makes victims of many. Adults aren’t ignorant but rather flexible and as pliable as a willow tree when it comes to adopting, changing, understanding and accepting, there only expectation is reciprocity in compensation and reward. Those charged with leading the charge on organizational development and wellness aren’t necessarily examples or role models of achievement but rather individuals offering a service using an instrument or agenda that validates their cause.

    Mediocrity in the ranks is a by-product of long-term exposure to adults who think they are leaders and just might be by title and decree only. Ever wonder why the informal leaders carry the most influence in workplace settings? The answer lies in their human relation skills and not their titles. While culture and family have a bearing in one’s “Being” essence is acquired and learned over time.

    Mediocrity in the ranks is a direct outgrowth of mediocrity in past and current supervision and leadership that has tarnished the value of its nobleness by creating distrust or even corroborating the organizational and societal problem; and it isn’t the reflection in the mirror. Suggesting the adverse impact of culture and parenting or lack thereof misses the harm done by exposure to incompetent supervision and leadership and nullifies good parenting and solid cultural fundamentals in the evolution of outstanding super-achievers too many to mention in this reply.

    Suffice to say that as a leader, the need for preparation is as important as the need to give direction and instruction. Workplaces are adult institutions of “environmental and societal learning”, what they don’t learn creates resentment and what they see and hear can have an adverse affect on expectations and perception. The solutions to the eradication of mediocrity in the workplace aren’t more instruments, personality tests or leadership training but rather, individuals who are appreciated, regarded, held accountable, inspired, motivated and rewarded for their team-oriented contributions. Stroke the interest and fuel the passion. Thank you.

    • Felix, thank you for your comments and wise words. Indeed we need more people who lead by great example, not just by title. Only then will we have meaningful change. I like your closing words…”Stroke the interest and fuel the passion”. I look forward to learn more from you.

  • Fernando

    Nice one Kimunya, specially since these “soft” topics are often ignored in management speak. I would go further and say that many tend to look at their teams/employees only in the immediateness of the work environment, without considering the deeper context of the individual. Nice one!

    • Spot on Fernando. Many organizations value their hardware more than the human capital that drives them. The engagement only happens 8am-5pm, the employees social environment is irrelevant. When an employee feels valued, then a spark of passion may be ignited. Then, the first beneficiary of this renewed passion will be the employer.

  • My brother suggested I might like this website.
    He was entirely right. This post truly made my day.
    You cann’t imagine just how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

    • Eben,you are very welcome! I am absolutely delighted that I could be of service to you. Let us keep the engagement going… Kimunya

  • Hi Kim,
    Poignant reflection there. We do want our children to excel in all spheres, to be all round. At least I do. Subsequently we make decisions to actualize this: which school or neighborhood or church or… that has which kind of programs, and exposes children to which experiences? And then reality sets in. Cost factor, peer influence, inadequate knowledge to determine what when and how (apparently the eye can only see what the mind knows :(). Spice it up with bad habits already instilled in the mentor/tutor/parent and you have a quandary. Pst Mbevi says we need Jesus in our hearts: I do agree with him because with all the good intentions, its a jungle that I think only God can shine his grace through.

    • You are spot-on Moses. The sooner we appreciate our challenges, the more probable it is for us to take the right action. Keep at it.

  • Wow Kimunya, you really got me thinking on this one my friend. As a Director, I made myself become a manager that took that extra step for ALL my direct reports and was sincerely shocked to find that there were many, not all, but many employees that chose NOT to use the systems I invested so much time, effort and soul into.

    I identified and documented everyone’s top 5, their personality types and preferences, created a Safety Zone AND instituted honoring feedback models. While many staff members were willing to engage, some chose NOT to engage and instead started complaining to HR and my boss about the systems I put in place! Based on my experience, I would say we need to expect staff to put in their best when a manager is doing their best to provide an engaging and safe work culture. 

    • Al, very well put. Interesting how challenging status quo can make your life more complex. People will make any excuse to use something that works. Sometimes, things may be made unnecessarily cumbersome so that they can hide in their mediocrity.

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