…just as Mediocrity drives the Superstars away”

One of the greatest challenges any leader will face is putting the right team together and positioning them to excel and achieve desired results!  This is true of businesses large and small, for-profit or non-profit, public or private sector.  What I love about the title quote from Jim Hunter’s book, “The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle” is the simple truth it represents for leaders to invest in fielding the right team to realize the Vision, execute the Strategy by achieving their Goals leading to the aforementioned Desired Results.  However, what is frustrating is how many leaders are not addressing the mediocrity and lamenting the inevitable departure of their best team members.  Let’s break down the two issues and address what leaders can do with each one.

Excellence drives mediocre people away ~ Of course the first challenge to this issue is defining what excellence means to the organization.  This may seem easy at face value as one reviews best practices or operations of market leaders.  The biggest challenge I see from my own leadership experience is redefining what excellence means in the current context. What was excellent last year may only be good or average this year.  A refined definition of organizational excellence must be created to evolve with the changing business environment.  Once this new definition is communicated throughout the organization, the leader’s role is to enforce the new standards of excellence and support those on the team who legitimately want to develop to the new expectations. 

Of course, we know not all team members will buy in.  When we raised the standard of excellence for our engineering teams at Sprint, many engineers self-selected out and decided on their own to leave the team.  These were once excellent engineers who, because they chose not to evolve, became mediocre in the current context.  In another example, when a client communicated their new Vision and Strategy for excellence, 65% of the current company left over the next six months.  This gave them the opportunity to hire excellent replacements allowing the company to nearly triple in growth since that time!

Mediocrity drives superstars away ~ The first challenge I see in this situation is recognizing when teams become mediocre.  It is not always easy as leaders are blinded by statements such as, “Jane has been here a long time” or “Chuck is a great person” and other such statements that mask the reality of the situation.  Mediocrity doesn’t happen overnight.  It creeps into the organization until one day they realize their competition has lapped their business because they got enamored with the status quo, one of the surest signs mediocrity has set in.  Had we let that happen in the previous engineering example, all of our superstars would have easily left and joined the numerous web start-ups who were throwing mad-money at good engineers at that time.  But because we clearly defined what excellence was and looked like, many of the superstar engineers stayed.  Hold the team to a high standard and not only will the mediocre people leave, but excellent people will want to work for you

The key leadership challenges in this discussion are 1) How do leaders define and refine what excellence means to their teams, while at the same time 2) How do leaders recognize and react to the creep of mediocrity within their teams?  The secret is creating an organizational culture that engages the leader AND the team to do both at the same time!

What type of people are coming into and/or leaving your organization?

Lead Well!