The Problem with Rewarding Mediocrity

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.

Want more of LeadToday? I’m changing things up on my Twitter feed for subscribers. On March 2nd I began publishing two videos each week focusing on an element of Authentic Leadership. I’ll post these videos each Tuesday and Thursday morning. They will be about 10 minutes long so we can get into the topic in a more meaningful way. The investment for subscribers in still only $5 a month. That’s for at least 80 MINUTES of quality video content on leadership a month. 

If you’re interested in taking a look head on over to my Twitter profile page. If you’re not a follower yet just hit the follow button. It will change to a subscribe button and once you hit that you’re on your way. You can cancel at any time you’ve decided you have nothing left to learn about leading the people who you count on for your success. 🙂

Here’s the link to my Twitter… 

Just Today

Everybody “knows” that nothing is perfect. Stuff happens, things go wrong, even the best plans don’t always work the way they were intended to. If you ever do start to think that everything is perfect then BOOM something goes wrong. You’re suddenly reminded why everyone “knows” that nothing is perfect. At least not for very long. 


And therein lies a tremendous opportunity. 


To have perfection in your life everyday you don’t need everyday to be perfect. You need only to be great today. If you decide to put in the effort required to make today perfect then you can have perfection everyday. 


Let’s make no mistake about this, the effort required is substantial. But having perfection everyday only requires that you make that effort today. The thought of maintaining a positive attitude every single day is daunting. The idea of giving your 100% best effort every minute of each and every day is overwhelming. The concept of pushing past whatever limits you think you have day after day after day gets tiring just thinking about it. 


So don’t worry about day after day. Don’t stress about every minute of each and every day. Don’t focus on every single day.


Maintain control of your attitude today. Give a 100% best effort only for today. Push past every limit you’ve ever imagined today. 


Don’t concern yourself with how you did yesterday or how you might tomorrow. Today is THE day! 


Every date on the calendar is a today. Each of those “todays” is different and unique. You must have plans to succeed but even a 10 year plan is made up of those individual days. Execute one day at a time. Make every day a best day. Control one day according to your plan without regard for the days gone by or the days to come. You cannot change the outcome of yesterday and tomorrow isn’t here yet.

You only have today to focus on your plans. Don’t worry about being great all the time, be great today. You’re the only one who knows you’re only great today, other people may very well think you’re great all the time. 

The Benefit of Living an Uncomfortable Life

A while back I was managing a program and someone asked me about a decision I had made. I responded that I was comfortable with what I had decided. I also said I was comfortable with the thousands of other decisions I had made for the program too. 


I’d say less than a minute later I realized how arrogant that sounded. It also wasn’t exactly true since I work hard at being intentionally uncomfortable. 


One of the biggest obstacles on many people’s journey to success is comfort. The split second you are comfortable with where you’re at you’re not there anymore. The moment you’re comfortable with all of your decisions is the same moment your decisions become less effective. In the instant you become comfortable doing something your pursuit of doing it better stops.


If I could give anyone advice to help them be consistently successful I’d tell them to live as uncomfortably as they can stand. Actually it would be to live a little more uncomfortably than they can stand. 


The world is ever changing. The marketplace for every business is morphing in ways unthinkable a couple of years ago. Being comfortable, for even a day or two means risking being left so far behind that you may never catch up.  


Comfort is an expense that no organization can afford. If your goals include growing or even if your goals are merely to survive the next five years then you must embrace discomfort now. Virtually nothing works the way it did even a few years ago and it’s likely that what works this year won’t work next year.


As a leader you must push yourself to uncomfortable places. You must help your people get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You must ensure that they are uncomfortable with the mere thought of comfort. 


Uncomfortable people grow, uncomfortable organizations succeed and their success is lasting. Comfortable people are vulnerable and so are comfortable organizations. They are vulnerable to extinction.


If you’re comfortable saying things like “we’ve always done it that way” then I hope you’re really comfortable because those may be the final words ever spoken on behalf of your once successful organization. 


The benefit of living an uncomfortable life is surviving and even thriving in a world that uses old ideas only as a measuring stick against new ones. 

It’s fine to relax so go ahead and uncomfortably relax because uncomfortable is the new comfortable. At least it is for those people and organizations that hope to still be successful in the months and years ahead.

The Importance of Perseverance

I read in story in the sports section of my local newspaper. The coach of our Division One NCAA Basketball Team was talking about the importance of getting off to a fast start.


I read another article on the same page of the same paper about the local NBA team. That coach was talking about the importance of finishing strong. 


Is it possible they could both be right? Well, not only is it possible they are right they are in fact absolutely right. 


But here’s what’s more important than both starting and finishing strong: finishing period. 


Some successful people start strong, some successful people finish strong but the most successful people finish what they start….pretty much always. 


I wonder if by chance anyone reading this knows who won the 1968 Olympic Marathon in Mexico. I suppose not but you could always look it up. I have no idea who won either but I do know who came in last….way last. 


His name was John Stephen Akhwari, from Tanzania. Not long into the race John Stephen Akhwari got tangled up with some other runners and took a massive fall. He was pretty banged up and no one would have blamed him for quitting on the spot. But he made the decision to continue on. 


Long after the first place runner had finished, long after pretty much everyone had left the Olympic Stadium one solitary runner entered the stadium. He was limping badly from a seriously injured leg. He was bleeding from cuts to his arms and head and he was clearly exhausted and in severe distress.


The few hundred people left in the stadium realized what was happening and began to cheer this runner on. To the shouts and cheers of those straggler spectators John Steven Akhwari crossed the finish line more than an hour after the race had been won.


He was quite the spectacle as the few remaining media in the stadium surrounded him to find out what had happened to him. Most were bewildered as to why he persisted when the race was clearly over. 


His answer to their qurstions speaks volumes about the heart and attitude of true champions. He simply said that his country had sent him 5000 miles to the Olympic Marathon not to start the race but had sent him 5000 miles to finish it. 


And finish it he did!


Do you have what it takes to finish what you started? When faced with unforeseen obstacles can you remember why you started and re-dream the dream of success that motivated you to begin?


Can you muster the strength to continue when no one would blame you for quitting? Do you have the courage to overcome your fear of failure and the heart to persist when the voices of doubt whisper quietly “you can’t?”


Do you have an attitude of success? An attitude that says it’s not a question of “if” you can finish, it’s only a question of “how” you will finish. 


Success in any meaningful area of life requires that you overcome obstacles, many of which you may not have anticipated. That’s why all successful people have at one time or another demonstrated the character trait of perseverance. 


You really can’t succeed without it, that’s how important it truly is.


Every worthwhile endeavor comes with challenges, some of them seemingly insurmountable. But people with an attitude of success know that quitting is a choice, they also know it’s a choice that can quickly become habit forming. 

So don’t make that choice unless you absolutely have to and if you absolutely absolutely absolutely have to then don’t make it until you have another, better plan to begin again. 

The Importance of Perseverance

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, said, “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” 

Successful people try, the most successful people try harder. Nearly all of the most successful people you’ll ever meet have this trait in common: they did just a little more after they first felt they couldn’t do anymore.

I’m certain that the primary difference between success and huge success is the little “extra” that turns ordinary into extraordinary. The ability to do more than you think you can is not limited to hugely successful people, everyone has that ability, it’s just that the most successful people put it to use.

I’m also pretty sure that persevering people have fewer regrets than those who quit too early. They never have to wonder “what if” I had kept going, and tried just a little more. They know in their hearts they gave a 100% effort and knowing that makes any outcome easier to accept. 

The most successful people also know that persevering doesn’t mean never quitting. It means quitting with a purpose and that purpose is almost always to begin again, only better the next time. They know when “to hold them and when to fold them” and don’t hesitate to change direction, back-up, turn-around or do whatever is required to eventually move closer to their goal. 

Simply put, the most successful people know that sometimes the fastest way forward is to initially take a step or two backwards. Momentum might be slowed but perseverance  is not stopped. 

Now at this point in my blog posts I’ll often ask “do you have what it takes to do whatever I’m blogging about?” I have no need to ask that in this instance however because I know you do. More important, somewhere inside of you , YOU know YOU do. 

So push on, keep going, decide this very moment that you will not be stopped. Once you’ve made that awesome decision anything and anyone that you come across will find it far more difficult to keep you from your dreams! 

One Reason People Fail

I’ve spent the last few days in Calgary, Alberta, working with the great team from Oakcreek Golf and Turf. Calgary is a wonderful city in Western Canada that every year hosts an event known as the Calgary Stampede. Without going into great detail let’s just say that the Stampede is the mother of all rodeos.

It attracts visitors from all over the world. Young and old, they come to see not just the rodeo and the incredible Chuckwagon races but also to experience the “event” and the unique hospitality of the great people of Calgary.

I’ve been to three stampedes and even though I know little about horses and rodeos there is always much to marvel at. This year, however, was even more marvelous then before.

The city of Calgary very recently suffered devastating floods. During my visit the magnitude of the flooding was still very, very apparent. Just two weeks before my visit and the start of the 10 day Stampede event the stampede grounds were under water. Not a little water, a lot of water. Some of the water lines on nearby trees were nearly 6 feet high.

It would have been apparent to any average person that in it’s 101st year the tradition of the Calgary Stampede could not continue.

Clearly, the people of Calgary are anything but average. Led by Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who appears to be more public servant than politician, the people went to work preparing their city and the historic stampede grounds for the impending influx of visitors. While it will take years and millions of dollars to repair all the damage caused by the flood, the stampede grounds looked exactly as they had in past years.

It was impossible and yet there I was, sitting and standing exactly where I was a year ago as if nothing had happened.

Someone forgot to tell the Calgarians and their personable mayor that it was impossible. I heard stories about the effort it took to accomplish what they did. I heard about the hours and hours of work, and the lack of sleep required to accomplish what they did. Calgary has a philosophy of being “stronger together” and the strength they showed was nothing less than Herculean.

What’s happening in Calgary this week is testimony to the power of persistence and perseverance. It is testimony to the fact that ordinary people become extraordinary when they refuse to accept the fact that something “can’t” be done.

One reason why people fail is that they too quickly buy into the concept of “can’t” and they quit. Many people quit when success is right around the corner. If they could have just pushed themselves a little further success would have been theirs.

Most people, yes most, are capable of accomplishing much more than they ever thought possible. They just need to tell themselves nothing is truly impossible until every last person on earth agrees that it is.

Or, they could just act like they are from Calgary and decide they won’t be stopped come hell or high water!

Push Yourself

push_yourself_by_rp31-d3kfhtqSometimes we just need to take it easy. The Eagles even wrote a song about it. They say to “lighten up while you still can.” That’s good advice.

The advice is so good in fact that some people seem to over do it. Some people attempt to take it so easy that they make their life much harder than it needs to be.

As much as I endorse some “down” time, and actually coach people to schedule it into their calendars, I also remind them of that old saying “too much of a good thing.” The rest periods and time away from work are meant to prepare us for our next push towards productivity and success. See that? It says “push” towards success.

The fact of the matter is that in today’s business world we are all pushed. The question is, will we be the ones doing the pushing or we will be the ones pushed by someone else. If we don’t push ourselves, for our own purpose then we will surely be pushed by someone else for theirs.

Most people, sadly, are pushed by someone else. This happens for a variety of reasons but I think one of the biggest is a lack of goals. Goals give people a reason to push. Goals offer us a reward after a long period of pushing. Goals even provide us the fuel we need to continue pushing when we want to stop.

It’s a simple fact of life: goal oriented people are more successful than people who just coast through life without true goals. TRUE GOALS! Those are the kind of goals that have made it onto paper. They are written down along with a time line on when they will be achieved. They also have a very specific plan that states how the goal will be achieved. The plan includes the investment we are willing to make to achieve the goal and that investment is listed in terms of both money AND time.

For many goals the money investment is the easy part, at least when compared to the time investment. If the goal is real then you must block out time to work towards it. All time is expensive, that means there is no free time. That’s why the stuff you plan to do in your free time never really gets done.

When you commit yourself to achieving goals you will push yourself, sometimes you will push yourself well past what you thought were your limits.

So, are you ready to push yourself or will you just sit back and wait for someone to push you? You’re going to be pushed, how and why you’re pushed, like pretty much every other part of your life is completely up to you.