Challenging what’s normal helps keep mediocrity at bay

No one wakes up each day and says, “I’m thankful for another day to be mediocre.” No one sets out to be mediocre, nor accept it from others. Yet, we do. It is often the path of least resistance. It just seems to happen when our attention is directed elsewhere. It’s often a result of doing what we have always done for too long.

Mediocrity is never far away. It hangs out waiting for an opportunity to show itself, to take over. It is insidious. It often rears its ugly head when we are far down its path. Once we come to the realization that we are accepting mediocrity and overcome the personal Noise that often tags along: denial, blame, anger and so on, and begin to “own” it, we are often left feeling not only humbled but optimistic about the impact improvement will have. This, despite how much effort it will take to find a new way. It often takes an outside event to understand the scale and scope of mediocrity’s presence and impact.

New information due to a change in process or a change in our external environment — technology, competition, a new hire, benchmarking often reveal it. Reading cogent articles or books, conducting and paying attention to surveys, doing market studies are all steps we can take to proactively address and prevent mediocrity.

Mediocrity often manifests as a slow deterioration of results over time and then suddenly we realize how far we have strayed. This may be a result of not accepting and embracing change and instead relishing the comfortableness of normal. If we are not comfortable with uncomfortableness, then the odds are that we are falling behind, and we are accepting mediocrity.

If our organization’s culture discourages feedback, we are handicapping our organization. Indeed, healthy cultures demand and actively solicit feedback. So many times, individuals see a given process not working as intended or being superfluous or being too complicated and they devise a work-around instead of raising their hand to address the real issue. Most people do not like to confront out of fear of
the potential repercussions. A healthy organization must prove that it is OK to raise your hand. It must encourage it via recognition. Genuinely thanking the individual for their suggestion one on one or in a group, even if the decision is to not change, is so simple but so meaningful. Explaining why or why we are not changing demonstrates respect. The magic tonic is no secret: treating others as we all would want to be treated. This fosters caring, loyalty and ownership in the team members we want on our side.

Every organization needs ALL eyes looking for a better way and questioning why things are being done the way they are — challenging normal. This helps keep mediocrity at bay. Will this happen with every team member? No. However, if the organization understands the importance of creating a culture that encourages this behavior, then that organization will be miles ahead of most. Enough will participate to make a difference, create a competitive advantage, and make accepting mediocrity an exception, not a

More to come.

Eric Easter is chief executive officer of Indianapolis-based Kittle’s Furniture.

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