This could be the longest post I’ve ever written if I actually listed all the problems with rewarding mediocrity. But in the interest of time I‘ll just talk about the biggest one.
First of all, Authentic Leaders do not, ever, reward mediocrity. They hold their people to a high standard. Not an unreasonable standard but one which will require their people to push themselves from time to time.
Lessor leaders and people who merely occupy a leadership position often do reward mediocrity, even if it is unintentional. They can’t push themselves so the standards they set for themselves are not exactly high either. Since they accept their own mediocre results they are more willing to accept them from others as well.
But that does not benefit anyone. Not the supposed leader. Not the people they supposedly lead. Not the organization where they are working. It especially does not benefit people who already possess the desire, energy and motivation to push themselves towards greatness.
Those people will only tolerate watching the mediocre performance of others being rewarded for so long. Soon enough they take their efforts somewhere else. When mediocrity is consistently rewarded in an organization it results in many of the organization’s top performers heading for the exits at the first opportunity.
Years ago when I was working with the Dale Carnegie Organization we had a company we were working with that was concerned about the disparity in the pay between their top performing salespeople and their poor performing salespeople. So they decided to put all of their commissions into a pool and divide them evenly between all the salespeople.
Their thinking was that it would build a greater sense of team. They believed that the salespeople would hold each other accountable for greater effort. They were certain it would make their sales organization much more collaborative.
We tried to dissuade them from this plan. They were convinced it was a great idea. They could not have been more wrong. A plan like that looks good a paper, I could understand why they thought it could work. But plans made in a vacuum hardly ever survive their first contact with air.
When the company’s leadership introduced the plan the poorer, mediocre salespeople were thrilled. The top performers were dead set against it. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t have predicted that response from the people working their butts off to succeed.
Within weeks of the plan being implemented not a single salesperson who had hit their quota in the past 24 months remained with that company. Mediocrity had been rewarded and mediocrity was all that remained.
If you’re going to Authentically Lead your people you’re going to have to figure out, often by directly asking, what motivates them and then use that information to encourage them to push themselves forward.
You’ll need to hold everyone accountable to the standards of excellence that lead to success. And you can only reward the people who meet those standards.
When you reward mediocrity you will get more of it. If you reward it often enough then one day you’ll wake up to discover that mediocrity IS your new standard of excellence. Except you, and your team, will be a long ways away from true excellence.
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