Attraction by mediocrity: Design or by default?
Yes, you read it right- “ATTRACTION”. Mediocrity is undoubtedly a powerful and alluring phenomenon. We all get attracted to it and continue getting enamoured by it in various ways. Not only does it have a democratic existence, but it cuts across young or old, junior, or senior, tenured or a new employee in the organization. The attraction is so potent that we all get enchanted by its simplistic and rationalising virtue. Regardless of our pedigree, experience, position, and role, we tend to fall for it while being unaware of our emotional and mental commitment towards strengthening this one-sided relationship.
What is mediocrity in management, you ask?
In the business context, Mediocrity can be defined as the recorded proficiency level of aptitude and skills put into action, which is consistently recorded at suboptimal levels. It is understood that by way of its sheer nature, mediocrity is not self- perpetrated. However, the use of 'Attraction' as a metaphor in this context is only to demonstrate our innate ability as human beings, to be blinded or be overly infatuated with it. Just as one would be in any attraction, our indulgence is without foresight.
So, what’s the big deal with Mediocrity?
Business numbers are growing, decision making is fast, people are motivated, and leaders are taking ownership, as an organization we are ticking all the right boxes. Most of us confuse ourselves by correlating mediocrity with productivity or numbers achieved. You see, there is no direct correlation between the two.
Depending on defined targets or market potential, the performance output or numbers tend to hover around the expectations set. Because of this, there is inherently a subjective as well as a relative element of perspective attached to it.
But when you begin to measure the quality of action and behaviour, you automatically start to scrutinize the proficiency level of your skill and capabilities into categories of good, mediocre, or poor. Most managers stay away from examining and measuring these traits or calling them out. Doing this would expose a lot of individuals present at various levels of organizations. You see, it is never easy to put yourself under the spotlight and risk appearing weak or vulnerable, especially when the stakes are high.
What compels executives to operate like this is that organizations reward results, and this mantra seemingly becomes a mecca of success to climb up the corporate ladder.
But do we have direct control over it? No.
It’s like saying that the batsman controls the end result of a match. He essentially understands that he doesn’t have a direct control on the end results but what he knows for sure is that he directly controls the kind and the quality of shots that he can execute. Only after giving the best of his skill and capability on the ground, will any preferred change appear on the scoreboard. So, it is never the results that determine or even drive the quality of behaviour, actions and thinking exhibited by any player but it is vice versa.
With the valley of knowledge & skills on one end and a temptation to mediocrity on the other, the ball is in everyone's court.
We are so accustomed to the comforts of “I cannot”, “I do not want to” and “it is too difficult” that we forget to realize when we stop doing things for ourselves and expect others to dance around us, we are not achieving greatness. We have made ourselves weak.
― Pandora Poikilos, author of Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out
Best not forget it for the Law of Attraction is in play.
How to determine if Mediocrity exists in teams?
What initially starts as an attraction, over the years blossoms into romance and with time gets cemented into marriage. As we grow in work, our experience and the bond with mediocrity becomes eternal and engulfs our senses entirely.
It is easier to spot it when you are willing to identify and call it out.
It is unfortunate and sad that mediocrity is so rampant in our day-to-day behaviour, thoughts and the ideas we express. All one needs to identify them is Courage, Open mindedness, and boundless Self-belief.
Some of the symptoms that show up to prove that mediocrity exists are:
- Performance or productivity do not grow in Quantity and Quality together – One of the two gets compromised and that’s a clear sign.
- “We have always done it like this out here and succeeded”
- “We tried in the past but it did not work…..”
- “We are growing at a consistent pace”
- “We will perform better provided we get this support”
Mediocrity breeds mediocrity….
Birds of the same feathers will always flock together and pretty soon an ocean of mediocrity begins to thrive in the organization. If allowed to continue and grow, the organizations also start to turn into Mediocre businesses and that too without any realization. Many years of closely working with and consulting organizations, I have garnered substantial evidence to prove that people/teams across levels & hierarchy romanticize this concept and learn to coexist with it for years together.
Just imagine that Virat Kohli, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, lived their lives being mediocre people. Would they ever be called Greats/Legends in their professional work life?
Similarly, you can think of many names who worked alongside these greats but could not manage to break their romance with “being mediocre” and eventually faded into oblivion
As Phunsukh Wangdu in “3 Idiots” remarked; Focus on Excellence and Success will come running after you.”
In case as readers, you concur with the direction that I am suggesting, then just answer one question to yourself - ATTRACTION TO MEDIOCRITY – Is it by DESIGN or DEFAULT?