Settling for Mediocracy

When it comes to job performance, it’s good to always remember that nobody’s perfect.
We want to be, of course—no one likes to make mistakes. But constantly striving for perfection in every aspect of your job can put you on a path toward stress, anger, and burnout.

Obviously, jobs in which lives are at stake do require the attainment of 100% accuracy. But a relative few of us are surgeons, airline pilots, or rocket engineers.

For many of us in sales, waiting until the perfect moment, or until every detail is exactly right, can lead to “analysis paralysis.” We need to always be aware of the balance between getting the task perfect and getting that task done, on time and to a level at which it accomplishes the goal at hand.

But we also need to make sure that when we ease up on the gas, we don’t start coasting.
There’s a slippery slope that leads from a culture of “Excellence” to “Good Enough” to “Just Okay”…and then on to something even worse. And that’s how many folks slip into a state of mediocracy.

“Mediocracy” is achieved when a class consisting of mediocre people become dominant…a system in which mediocrity is rewarded. And that’s what can happen when standards and measures of excellence start becoming compromised in the interest of expediency, cost-cutting, or careless management.

Do you see the performance levels of your organization in danger of slipping into a mediocracy?

Here are some things you can do to stem the tide and get back on a winning track:

  • Keep an eye on your goals. There are few things more important to effective planning than clear and manageable goals. Organizational goals are essential, but defining how they trickle down to the activities of you and your team as individual goals is mission-critical.
  • Setting the bar high on individual goals isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you need to make sure that you don’t need a big red “S” on your chest to accomplish them. But on the other hand, be careful not to make them TOO easily attainable. Growth and success don’t happen when we simply show up; striving for excellence moves your organization ahead, and the structured integration of challenging but realistic individual and department goals into your workflow drives that.
  • Evaluate performance consistently. Don’t laugh–I’ve seen too many companies set impressive and elaborate sets of goals, and then never bother to even see if they’ve been attained. Worse yet, too many organizations don’t even conduct individual performance reviews on a regular basis.

I get it—especially on teams with long-time producers, it’s easy to sit back and simply let them do the job that they’ve been doing for years, and as long as nothing goes terribly wrong, just let them do their thing. After all, you’ve got other fires to put out.

But isn’t that the very definition of mediocracy? There’s nobody who can’t improve. And it’s almost a sure bet that if you dig a little into their normal routine, you’ll find some tweaks that should be made and some shortcuts that have turned into bad habits. Performance review is the only to spot these; don’t be tempted to just hand out “participation medals” for showing up.
Don’t forget the “why.” As you keep one eye on your team’s performance, though, keep the other on that mission statement on your wall. One of the sure paths to mediocracy is getting so caught up in tasks of your daily routine that you completely lose sight of why you’re doing it.

And that reason why is not to meet your daily quota or quarterly projections. It’s to maximize your participation in the true mission of your company and have the vision to see your contributions and evaluate them. This doesn’t just provide a safeguard against mediocracy but also can improve your attitude, and the engagement of your team members. Seeing the good in what you do every day is essential to long-term happiness in your professional AND personal lives.

So, to recap our opening statement, nobody’s perfect, and nobody has to be. But nobody wants to be mediocre, either–and you definitely don’t have to be.