In this post, we’ll reflect on the difference between trying too hard to always be the best at any cost, and happily and consistently being “good enough”. From a people perspective, we hear more and more of over-achievement, burn-out and the unhealthy culture of “workplace martyrs” (Google it, it’s a thing!) For any employer, the alarming increase in mental health absenteeism due to stress, exhaustion and anxiety is likely to impact productivity and potentially profitability. Doing too much, trying too hard, giving more than 100% (not sure that is actually possible?) and ultimately making yourself ill, all in the name of work is not a good thing.
On the flip side, businesses that are happy to sit in the middle, leveraging competitors’ innovation, and always following rather than driving trends are seriously boring. Similarly, employees coast along in their career, assuming with a sense of entitlement that tenure automatically gives the right to promotion, pay rises and more rights over newer colleagues. For these folks, there is no need to over-achieve, being mediocre is just fine, let others take the strain.
I’ve never been a fan of mediocrity. Maybe it’s my outgoing personality, maybe because I’m a bit of a show-off or maybe I like to see distinction and difference in life. Being in the grey space in the middle is just not acceptable for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have my failings, and laziness is right there amongst them – I’ll happily ignore the pile of ironing in the vain hope that my husband will crack first. But at work, as in life, I know where I want to be, what I want to achieve, why I am doing what I’m doing. I don’t expect everyone to feel the same way, but it’s a lot easier being surrounded by like-minded committed and determined people!
For a business, there’s an old story of two rabbits trying to outrun fox. The wise rabbit realised that he didn’t have to be the fastest rabbit in the world, he simply needed to run faster than the other rabbit. Businesses need to use energy as well as budget and skills wisely. Lots of businesses go through phases of intense growth, expansion or transformation activity. Although purposeful, it can take its toll on the people, zapping strength and stamina, and ultimately killing off the passion and commitment they formerly had. A wise boss learns to balance the level of activity and focus on specific areas to outperform the competition. No-one is great at everything all the time.
For people, I look to my own team for inspiration. Each of my direct reports has surprised themselves with their own achievement – Stacey not only took on a whole team, but is managing a huge & complex project, working with people 4 levels more senior than her. David is mastering the art of multi-tasking, expanding his repertoire of skills to exponentially increase the positive impact for customers. Claire has taken on a whole new role, mastering customer experience management, demonstrating every day new learnings. And Angel has stepped up to champion her area, creating business value and efficiency by engaging colleagues beyond her usual sphere of influence.
There is no mediocrity here, only pride, commitment and determination. I’m so fortunate to work with a bunch of people where being good enough is just NOT good enough. So ask yourself, are you making a difference or just delivering something that’s just good enough. What are you going to do about it?!