When mediocre is no longer enough…

There’s an expression I have heard in passing that sums up the disconnect that happens ifishes-in-group-leadershipn many industries: “Companies only  pay employees enough so they don’t quit and employees work just hard enough not to get fired”. That’s hardly the formula for an innovative, successful business.

So how do you overcome this standard way of doing business? When it comes to ‘getting what you paid for’ when do you ask for more & owners when do you pay more? There are two sides to this story but in the article we will touch on the owners side and later write about how to become the employee that causes owners to stand at attention for.

It’s hard to imagine a company or program being successful where mediocre work is “acceptable”. And yet it exists with more than a few upholders of “just good enough”.  I honestly believe it starts well before the potential employee even comes in to interview. We are training our youth that if they do not work hard and are failing that we will help them ‘get by’… In many schools there is now a damaging movement of over-rewarding mediocre performances.  This is expanded on in the occurrence of giving a participation award for just showing up or not letting those that step up and really shine receive a higher honor in case someone gets their feelings hurt.  I remain firm in my belief that we are doing more damage than good by doing this.  When we reward the ‘doers’ and give more education to the ones that have yet to learn the benefits of being truly successful in your own right that is when we will start making a real change.  (This soap box needs an entire series – so onto the rest of the story)

Without being able to make a change over the entire planet as to how our youth is or is not being taught, how can we as owners search out for the diamond in the rough and when found what steps can we take to keep them producing with vigor? First do not be afraid to find, teach, and invest in a great employee.  Know that the perceived safety of being average, because you are held back by the fear of training then losing an employee is more of a risk to your business than competitors stealing your customers.

When hiring if you are not a skilled interviewer hire someone for this task! This is ground zero you need to know the right questions, what answers you are looking for, how to read between the lines on a resume, how to understand body language and more… This is a key step to the beginning of building a beautiful team that will want to help you grow your company as long as you reward them for their efforts appropriately.

leadership-development1. Create and communicate a strong company vision – You need to be able to clarify what your “mission” is and what you hope to accomplish now and into the future. What does that mean for the overall business and individual employees? Remember if you cannot put it into words that excite you how can you expect others to buy into the future of it?

2. Set the right environment – Your vision needs to be a vital part of the company culture – Communicate the key principles of your business clearly and create a work experience that supports those values.

3. Stick to your guns – It is your business after all, do not reward mediocre.  Celebrate the behaviors, outcomes and the individuals that support the company vision and excellence – Recognize publicly the people and actions that represent excellence in your marketing and business overall.

4. Set clear expectations of performance with feedback on progress – There should be no uncertainty about what is necessary to achieve success. Dangle the carrot but make sure if it is reached that it is as sweet as promised. Worse thing you can do as an owner is not remain involved, I did not say do the work you are paying them to accomplish.  Know all aspects of the business and keep a finger on the pulse of progress.

5. Provide support, coaching or an invitation to exit – especially for those who do not share the vision, culture or standards of excellenceleadership1 keeping them on will only lower the performance of your other staff members. Leaders must lead by example, act decisively and provide necessary direction and resources. If there is an irreconcilable difference in values, it will likely reflect in work performance.

6. Engage, Inspire, Motivate, Energize – Both yourself and your staff. Sometimes this is done separately and other times in a team environment. Because access to extreme finances, the perfect strategy, or even the best technology are not enough to give you the ultimate competitive advantage. Nothing is more powerful than the fluidity of the rare and invaluable actions of a positive team & visibility! Even single owner businesses can have a team…

7. Meet regularly to assess progress and reevaluate goals set – It takes two to tango and in order for mediocrity to take its place at the bottom of the barrel in terms of company values, the people within the company must play a proactive part. Leadership must provide the vision and the people that are part of the organization can decide whether to work with that vision, against it, or even make suggestions on how to improve it.

8. BE REAL – Make sure to be genuine in your interactions with your staff.  Businesses with a great service or product and high regard in an industry can achieve great things – when members work together as a team.  Employees of the company that think optimistically about their work and the contributions they make are part and parcel instrumental for the success of the business.

9. Provide the training – They did not get when going to school, college or university.  There are things you just cannot learn sitting in a classroom, reading a book to big for its own good and listening to a teacher or professor that has not been in the work field in a longtime.  Bring in outside resources for this, you are awesome there is no doubt but in this area it is kind of like a child listening to a parent tell them to do something for their own good… In one ear out the other.  Then a friend comes along and tells the child the ‘exact‘ same advice and guess what happens? The child sees the light and says, “That is a great idea”!

Leaders managers10. And probably the most important – Attitude is a decision a choice people make on a daily basis. The ability to decide is one of the few things we have control over and those who decide to think beyond “just good enough” serve the interests of their co-workers with better contributions to team efforts and their own interests through more valuable work performance for which they are hired. Know that in this area you set the example first and it trickles down from there.  If you bring to the office your home baggage, you cannot expect your staff to do anything different. If you get easily frustrated and let it show, then how can you expect them to shake it off and keep producing?

Many companies worry about competitors, their product quality and service – and rightly so. But for any growing business, the threat of mediocrity as a status quo is even more dangerous. Leading with inspiration and supporting passion and professionalism with a clear vision and strong company culture can help point people in a direction that supports the success for all involved.

Be the leader that people desire to be great for.  ~K. Kirkland